Saturday, May 29, 2010

Me and my APO

31 May 2010

Watching the third to the last APO show at Music Museum last Thursday, I saw my adult life pass before me, in slow motion and in vivid color. As expected, the experience was as tearful as it was laden with laughter.

Actually, it began when I was in college and Jim was in high school, just learning how to play the guitar. With siblings Gabby, Raffy, Tictac and Lory, we sang folk songs and Beatles songs with Jim groping for the right chords on his Lumanog that Tictac bought for him on his 12th birthday. We sang at home around the dining table, in the car during long drives, and later, on stage -- this time just Lory, Jim and me -- after we were noticed by Sonny Joaquin at a bonfire in Cresta Ola, his family's resort in La Union.

Jim was young and generally cooperative, but he had his tantrums and his idiocyncracies. A full moon, for example, could mean any of two mishaps -- he would have a bum stomach, or he would mess up his chords. And on our very first gig in Baguio, he almost walked out when he saw the handmade posters announcing our participation in the show as "The Paredes Sisters". Although Lory and I were having too much fun and we tended to ignore his angst, Jim was the all-important third wheel in our trike without whose guitar-playing we could not perform.

When Jim was in high school, he had this big barkada who hung out a lot at home. Gus Cosio, Sonny Santiago, Chito Kintanar, Butch Dans, Lito de Joya are just a few of the big gang of Ateneo high school kids who, like my family, would spontaneously break into song. I remember them signing "Satin Doll" in many voices, plus choreography. They were delightful.

Somehow, their number whittled on four or five regulars and when I got married in 1970, I asked Jim of he could get his group together to sing at my wedding. At the rehearsals the day before, Jim, Danny, Boboy, Lito de Joya and Chito Kintanar practiced the mass songs they knew from being members of Onofre Pagsanghan's Dulaang Sibol. Fr. Joe O'Hare, SJ, who was the officiating priest, suggested they do "Let it Be" to introduce the Gospel. I loved it. The wedding ceremony went without a hitch, the music was wonderful, I was so happy. Until the end when, as Ed and I went down the aisle, the group broke into a spirited "Suicide is Painless" from the movie MASH.

Since then, I have not been shocked or awed by anything the APO has ever done.

They soon needed a name and my brother Ducky suggested Apolinario Mabini Hiking Society, which was ironic enough for the Seventies generation.

APO has since been a large part of my family's life. Ed, who was a TV director, got them to perform a political spoof in the Gridiron on TV, using songs from Jesus Christ Superstar to pan Imelda and Ferdinand Marcos. They mounted small shows in my Mom's backyard, where the ruins of what was once a set for LVN movies was the perfect setting for moonlit concerts where they performed with the "Two of Us", and other up-coming singers of the day.

When the APO held their first farewell concert at the Meralco Theater in 1972, they asked Ed to be their director. They had graduated from college and Jim was leaving for Turkey as an exchange student. But the APO already had a following and they had to say goodbye. The theater was full on both nights.

Oh, they were great entertainers, four cute guys singing covers and their first tentative compositions and doing gags they have become famous for. Lito de Joya's "What's a G, man" is an enduring memory. The boys were young, good-looking, smart, wise-cracking, talented, and they did the entire show in English. They were Ateneo boys, after all.

A very welcome bonus was the intermission number by the George and Raffy Black Gang Clique -- a rather spontaneous faux circus act by Danny's brother George and my brother Raffy who brought the house down with their stunts.

I watched on the two nights of the show, marveling at how they had recycled and expanded on family jokes and gags from our childhood for the audience to appreciate. On the second night, when most of the family came, I was seated with my Mom and my cousin Nani. I thought they would pee in their pants from laughing. I remember wishing Jim wouldn't leave. It would be sad to see this end. I also wanted George and Raffy to be an enduring partnership. They were so funny.

Well, Jim never got to leave. And the APO continued to be. Martial Law was proclaimed and Raffy went underground. So much for Geroge and Raffy. But the APO endured, with a few glitches here and there, one of which was a letter from the chief martial law censor, Kit Tatad, who said that the band had dishonored the name of a national hero. So, since then, they called themselves the APO Hiking Society.

My children and nieces and nephews grew up thinking Danny and Boboy were their real uncles. When the APO recorded "Love is for Singing" and needed children's voices, Ana, Gina, and Tina Quirino were drafted. And when my daughter Monica, then a first grader at St Paul's in Pasig was asked if she could get her uncles to perform at a school fair, she asked us to bring her to a taping in Broadcast City where, with full sense of entitlement, she asked Danny, Boboy and Jim to say yes, they would do it, for free.

My Mom's 75th birthday party became even more festive, especially for Mom's PWU high school classmates when the APO sang a few songs. And they did me a favor in the early '80s when I asked them to perform at Odette Alcantara's Heritage Gallery in Cubao for the Women Writers' in Media Now's first anniversary party.

At the Music Museum, watching Jim, Danny and Boboy perform for the last time, I sang along with every song and watched people's reactions as I anticipated their punch lines. Although I knew all their jokes and memorized all their musical arrangements, I laughed out loud again, as I have done in every APO show over the past 40 years. Every song they sang brought back a memory -- of a happy shared childhood; of long drives to Baguio and La Union and magical nights singing folk songs at the beach around a campfire; of my hopes and dreams as a young married woman; of births, weddings, anniversaries, home visits by siblings, and deaths in the family; of the children running around Mom's large grassy backyard with its large mango and santol trees; of surviving martial law; of long talks with Danny about life; of loves won and lost; of disappointments and heartaches; of personal, family and national triumphs; of EDSA and our difficult journey towards the return of democracy.

But mostly I thought of Mom who was so proud of her son and his friends. In my mind's eye, I could see her beaming with pride and laughing out loud watching them at a concert; or in her hospital bed at the Heart Center bragging to all the nurses that Jim Paredes was her son; and in her small bungalow in Loyola Heights demanding that Jim come to her birthday lunch and thrill her amigas with his presence.

I shed a lot of quiet tears that night.

As I watched the adoring crowd eat up every line, every gag, every song the APO dished out, I recalled the post-assassination and pre- and post-EDSA concerts that people attended as much to make a political statement as to show appreciation for their music. Those were heady days. I also recalled concerts where, inexplicably, to me anyway, there were many empty seats. In such times, how my heart bled for my three brothers! But they could even crack jokes about an empty house and they always bounced back. The show always went on. What a class act they were.

When Jim first announced that the APO was disbanding, it felt like an impending death in the family, like someone near and dear had terminal cancer and I had to get used to the idea of losing him or her. I went through denial, disappointment, anger, and finally, acceptance. And, having accepted their impending demise, I asked some of my closest friends to help me face it at the Music Museum.

On Thursday night, I tearfully said my goodbye to the APO -- my APO -- and sent them off to the Great Beyond -- to be enshrined in Philippine music history and in the hearts of their countless fans. I have no doubt that their music -- which are part of the soundtrack of people's lives for 40 years -- will live on.

The APO is family and now it is no more. But my memory chest is full. The APO, and everything they have stood for, are alive and well in my heart and mind.

Thank you, Jim, Danny and Boboy, for a great ride. ###