APO charm transcends generations

Community News & Features May 1, 2004 at 10:19 am

TORONTO–They are at their best when they perform together. Their voices may seem unfamiliar when heard individually. But in harmony, their culture-based original Pinoy music cannot be mistaken for anybody else’s but distinctively APO.

With three different personalities equally strong and significant to the group, they chose not to avoid those disparities, working around them as they create their act on stage. This is APO’s formula for a successful show.

“We have taken male bonding as far as it can go,” says Jim explaining how their threesome remained solid for 37 years. Their common affection for things uniquely Filipino is what binds their friendship and inspires them to create powerful music that lasts for as long as they have been in the industry.
Building a legacy of Tagalog compositions known across the world is what APO strives to attain as their own contribution to world music. Once doing a show overseas in a venue where many foreign artists like Julio Iglesias and Frank Sinatra have performed, they insisted on putting up a show their own way, singing in the native language. Despite the audience’s international composition, the show was received with great enthusiasm.

“We would like to keep on performing while we can and create a real wave of music in Tagalog that will be accepted in different parts of the world.

“What makes an artist different is his contribution to world music, to be what we really are,” said Danny Javier.

APO’s recent show is only their second in this city, the first one was almost fifteen years ago. Held on April 17th at the International Centre in Mississauga, the concert kicked off the trio’s spring tour through North America entitled, APO Strikes Again. Succeeding shows will be held in major U.S. cities like Los Angeles and San Diego in California, Manhattan in New York, and Miami and Orlando in Florida. Geneva Cruz guest starred as front act and later performed a song with the trio.

Produced by Astralias Productions, the APO show was generous enough to share the spotlight with some of the most promising local singing talents such as Michelle Cuyugan, Rene Montero, Grace Rodriguez, Michael Magali, and the ACS Star Kids.

They wanted to put a smile on everyone’s faces through their performance, and they did. Boboy Garrovillo, Danny Javier, and Jim Paredes – the trio that made APO Hiking Society a legend in Philippine music industry – gave Filipino-Canadians a show they have not seen for a while, and will probably remember for a long time. A mix of music and laughter is what makes an APO show uniquely interesting and always a pleasant experience.

For 37 years, APO’s hits have stood the test of time evidenced by the enthusiastic reactions of the crowd to their 20-year-old songs like Ewan, Panalangin, and Kabilugan ng Buwan. APO’s mass appeal is constantly unwavering, judging by the make up of the audience that came to witness a performance by these legends of Filipino music.

From Baby Boomers to Generation Xers, and 20-somethings humming on tunes older than they are, the APO charm seemed to have transcended time and place. Why not, they are the same songs these youthful generation grew up listening to as parents play them in the car during those long drives and family trips. “We will bring you back to the Philippines without having to pay for plane fare,” was Boboy’s promise during a press conference held before the show.

Headed by musical director Boyet Pigao the APO band jump-started the show with an instrumental medley of their greatest hits like Anna, When I Met You, and Batang Bata Ka Pa, with visual accompaniment showcasing the highlights of their career.

The Apolinario Mabini Hiking Society trio (as they were originally called) entered the stage clad in Mindanao-inspired ethnic attires, reinforcing their goal of sowing the seeds of Filipino culture to their kababayans in North America through their original Tagalog compositions.

In addition to singing their familiar compositions, APO took the audience back to the time of the Kundimans, Harana, and Balitaw, the great grandparents of Filipino music, as they arranged the music to blend with current beat and appeal to the younger crowd.

They may be best known for their timeless compositions but APO is also famed for their patriotism and their own contribution to Philippine democracy. They are distinctively remembered as among the EDSA freedom fighters that overthrew the Marcos dictatorship in 1986. Their strong patriotism provided a familiar face that reassured the Filipinos at a time when there was much instability.
Their political beliefs have also found a place in their performance. In the guise of humorous skits and one-liners, APO always manages to throw in a few punches of political satires, such as the current Philippine presidential campaign starring Her Excellency Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and action king Panday FPJ.

Not surprisingly, their personal opinions on current issues speak well of their intelligence and depth, not only as artists but also as citizens.

“In a democracy everybody has a right. We have all these privileges but we also have an accompanying responsibility to stand up to the position that we are aspiring for,” Danny said on the issue of celebrities without qualification but winning an election due to popularity.

Jim, a graduate of the Ateneo de Manila University, believes politics is about details and having the necessary experience and education to do the job.

One other thing this writer finds admirable about the group is their professionalism. While it somehow became common phenomenon that concerts almost always begin an hour after its advertised schedule, the APO show refused to follow that route and started on time. It certainly left a positive impression that lasted throughout the concert, and even beyond that.