Flashback: Reliving the bittersweet good old days with the APO
Nenet Galang-Pereña (The Philippine Star) - January 4, 2010 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Kaya pApo Nila, the Apolinario Mabini Hiking Society’s latest caper at the SkyDome, was the superkalifragilistic way to relive the bitter-sweet years of high school, which for our generation, was definitely in the distant past — two scores and so many moons ago.

After the voice-over cited traffic as cause of delay, the show (deferred, as it was first scheduled on the Apo-calyptic day Ondoy struck) finally started. Danny Javier, Jim Paredes and Buboy Garrovillo bounced on stage, a vision that seems to have defied the ravages of time. Garbed in the tricolors of the Philippine flag, they sang their hit makers from 27 albums of their discography, complete with signature moves and inimitable banter for three solid gold hours.

Imagine Kabilugan ng B’wan reinvented by the unflappable triumvirate. First was Buboy, cavorting in marching band tempo, complete with a whistle and baton, uniformed like the Ateneo Blue Babble cheering squad for the UAAP. Then came Danny, dressed like a samba queen for a Latin mardi gras, sashaying to the mambo and cha-cha beat, complete with fruit laden hat and ruffled sleeves. Last was Jim, caped like the King, gyrating to the rock and roll pandemonium that scandalized the puritan ethic of America in the late ’60s .

Di na Natuto, Tuyo na ang Damdamin, Ewan,  When I Met You brought back dimming memories when we were simply youth quarreling over our bakya idols. The three-generation audience raised their cellphones, the backlights swaying to the familiar melodies of love lost and found when the faces of Guy and Pip and Vi and Bot were silk screened on terrycloth T-shirts.

They have patented their old trick of changing the lyrics of balitaws and kundimans, prefaced with the Pinoy pasintabi:  Bato-bato sa Langit, kung tamaan, buti nga. They updated old favorites like Mahirap Magmahal, changing 30 sentimos with call card so that the generation who calls their syota (our eldest son Nomer considers this slang offensive), “babe” can relate to it. 

Maginoo pero medyo bastos, Apo is not above a green joke or two. Buboy was complaining about his inability to make his hair stand like the bagets who gave him mud (our youngest, Tim keeps a tin of this in his survival kit), when what he knew was po-mud-a and Danny commented: Sa edad natin, hindi lang buhok ang di na tumatayo. The audience loved them all the more for their irreverence, in particular the older generation trying hard not to succumb to Apo-plexy while laughing their guts out.

But no Apo concert is complete without the three’s political commentary. Fault the Atenista for his arreneo accent but not for fence sitting during what our middle son, Noel, learned  in law school as “times that try men’s souls.” Adapting strophes from Mr. Swabe, they wedged their victims between a rock and a hard place. Taking a pot shot at the beleaguered president, they sang OK lang magbyahe, wag na lang siyang uuwi. Taking a pitch for their kandidatong walang pera, they tweaked at his desperate need for a make-over: Buhok nya’y di mahati, then segued to the inevitable Noy-noynoy Noy-noynoy refrain. Of course, the trio wears their hearts in their sleeves for the Noynoy-Mar team — fellow Atenistas.

What is outstanding with Apo is their genius for making the Filipino proud of  his culture — warts and all, the unique confluence of the east and west. They earned international recognition for Jim Paredes’ anthem on the bloodless Philippine revolution in 1986, Handog ng Pilipino sa Mundo, which was recorded by 15 Filipino artists in April 1986. A few months later, the English version A New and Better Way was launched in Australia. The lyrics of the song are inscribed on a wall of Our Lady of Edsa Shrine, where the first People Power erected a citadel for this third world country in the global village.

When they made their encore, my husband and I saw our mirror images — hair streaked with silver, feet leaden with fatigue, and eyes hazy with the years of pursuing a profession while raising a family. We uttered a prayer for the heroes of our youth who sympathized with our teen-age confusions with Blue Jeans, chastised us for our colonial mentality with American Junk, and simply made us smile with Do Beedoo. They have come a long way from the Katipunan Canteen where they first jammed, to the Carnegie Hall which they jampacked in a tour of the east coast.  May they continue to make ExApo-lidacious music together.

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