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Out here on my own |

Sunday Lifestyle

Out here on my own


Ihave always been a team player. Being part of a family of 10 siblings and a few cousins who lived with us, I learned early on how to fit in, survive, and even thrive in most setups. Because of the number of people staying with us at home at any given time, I learned to live in a system that was not necessarily tailor-made for me (or for any of my siblings for that matter), and which did not bend backwards to fawn over or pamper any individual. 

It was one treatment for all of us. Everyone was given the same food, cafeteria-style (without the line), and each one managed to meet their individual needs by sharing equally the same meager resources. No one got special treatment unless he or she got sick or was having a birthday. We were a big family living under one roof, and so we had to give in to the collective rules and duties.

Then there was my singing group. My entire career with APO spanned 41 years. It started in high school in 1969 where, at one time, we were a group of 12 — and ended last May 29 as a trio. Again, as part of a group, I naturally shared everything with the members, including our collective career planning and execution. The whole challenge for us was creating a group identity and making it pay off. Luckily, we did quite well.

When young performers ask me what is the secret of APO’s longevity, I have two answers: a funny one and a serious answer. The funny one says the reason for our long and successful association was that we never had sex with each other. The serious one is about how we were able to dissolve our individual egos in favor of a bigger collective one.

It meant we were first and foremost APO before we projected our individual identities. It was the only way we could make it work. I cannot recall ever having encountered an APO fan who said something like: “I really like the song Jim wrote which Danny sang solo while Boboy did second voice.” We were one unit even if there were three different persons in this group each contributing unique gifts. The collective always ruled. Every good and bad thing was an APO effort first before anything else and we jointly shared in the glory and the occasional criticism.

Now, after so many years, I suddenly find myself working alone since APO ended last May. And while I remember how, years ago, I feared that this day would someday come, now that it’s here, I am finding that I enjoy going it alone.

Even before APO retired, I was already doing many things without my two friends. I did workshops and taught in college, and now continue doing these more regularly. These were diversions then; now they’ve become the norm.

Contrary to how I initially imagined it would be, I am surprised to find not just great comfort but amazing discoveries in going solo! For me, it is a chance to tap fully aspects of myself that used to take a back seat. Now I am expressing more and more not my team spirit but my individuality. No collective effort needed. No holding back. No waiting for others. There are only my own thoughts, concerns and passions to consider and fuel my work. It is an entirely new landscape.

Currently, I am doing an album — something I wanted to do for a long time with APO but was unable to. During our last years, I found it more and more difficult to convince my two friends to do new music. There were our individual interests and ventures; golf took up a lot of their time, which I could not possibly compete with.

These days, I find it weird and exhilarating that I am by myself alone in the studio doing all the work getting an album started and finished. I am writing all the songs, working with my arranger Ernie Baladjay, and deciding on the song treatments without having to consult anyone. I alone do all the vocal parts and interpretations, and I am not altering the lyrics or digressing from my creative vision to accommodate anyone else’s inputs the way I used to.

I am now on solo flight. No co-pilots, crew or passengers. I am not even working with a record company. And really, it is a great feeling! It is wonderful to be 100 percent in charge, answerable and responsible for my artistic creation. In the past, I hardly felt this much responsibility since I shared the time and effort doing albums with Danny and Boboy.

Now it is my vision through and through. It’s not that I was ever not responsible for our collective output before, (nor was I ever an “unserious” artist). But the difference between then and now is, in the group setup, one could always pass on any weakness or vulnerability to the collective rather than own it completely. In a solo flight, one goes it alone, one signs the flight logbook and navigates the endeavor alone. I could crash. But then, it is my crash! I don’t know if that makes sense to anyone else, but to me it is an exhilarating thought.

I have written four books and countless columns in this newspaper and another publication in Sydney. I know what it is to express individual thoughts publicly and subject myself to public scrutiny. I know what it feels like to go out on a limb expressing one’s opinions and attracting detractors, and even answering them. In truth, those things were quite easy for me because I’ve always felt that I am a musician first and a writer second, and so the occasional heat that my writing attracts does not matter as much.

But with music, it has always been different. Music is something I have been doing for the greater part of my life. And even if there were periods that I was hardly as engrossed or passionate about music as I should have been, I have always felt that my output matters not only to the followers of APO, but most importantly to myself. Music is my primary expression, my first art, my irreplaceable love.

I am midway into the album work, and like every musical project, it has its challenges. There are some songs that seem to be so easy to do while some are taking me through twists and turns before they begin to show their charm. But from experience, I know that when I pay attention and work on them, they eventually transform as if they had limbs coming to life and wings taking them to flight.

Working on an album always has its surprises and delights. Many times in the past, I was willing to bet my fortune on certain songs which I thought would easily make it big in the market, only to be disappointed later, while other songs intended to be mere album fillers took off gloriously with little effort. That’s really just how it is in this crazy business. Creations are living things and can behave so independently.

But whatever and however this solo project turns out, I am in an inspired mode. Even without the security blanket of APO’s synergy to pull things off, I am feeling good doing this alone. It is a deliberate act of pure joy.

This time, I see no one looking over my shoulder, from my left or right. I am not giving away lines or apportioning lyrics or waiting for my verse to play before I sing my part. I am not asking anyone what they think. I am going by my instincts. I am claiming full paternity for this batch of new musical offspring.

I am out here on my own. And loving it!

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1) Last call for “Basic Photography Workshop” on Aug. 21, from 1 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at 113 B. Gonzales, Loyola Heights, QC. Please call 426-5375, (03)0916-8554303 or write me at for reservations or queries.

2) I will be holding two workshops in Cebu in September:

“Creative for Life Workshop” is a cutting-edge course to permanently awaken your creativity. It will be held this Sept. 17 (Friday) 8:30 a.m. – 6:30 p.m. at the Grand Convention Center of Cebu. Registration fee is P1,000 (non-refundable). Workshop fee is P3,000 inclusive of handouts, snacks and lunch.

“Basic Photography Workshop (The Second Run)” on Sept. 18 (Saturday) From 1 p.m. – 7 p.m. at Mountain View Nature Park. Registration fee is P1,000 (non-refundable). Workshop fee is P3,000 inclusive of handouts, snacks, shuttle back and forth from JY Square. Call (032) 415-8056 or cell no. 0909-1112111. Or write me at for reservations or queries.



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