In the ’70s, when people walked down the streets in bell-bottom jeans or batik tunics paired with Chuck Taylors, a group of juveniles rocked the airwaves with songs so catchy, so witty, so Pinoy.
They call themselves the APO Hiking Society.
Composed of the remarkable trio of Danny Javier, Jim Paredes and Boboy Garovillo, the group was among the pioneers of the movement pro-Original Pilipino Music or “OPM,” a term which Danny, himself, was said to have coined.
The group’s legacy has endured in the hearts of couples growing old together to the tune of “Panalangin,” college students doing the boogie to “Blue Jeans,” and all the people that grew up on the wisdom of “Batang Bata Ka Pa.”
In an interview, Jim believes APO’s main purpose in the industry was to produce songs that would encapsulate the experience of love, friendship, and humor in a Filipino context.
“That’s why we made sure that the lyrics (of the song) were simple but authentic,” he said. “We actually avoided using words that are too deep, too flowery, and preferred to use our everyday language. We wanted our songs to be the soundtrack of memorable moments in people’s lives, to be part of their stories to tell.”
Not only that, some of APO’s songs imparted messages of hope amid dark times particularly in 1975, when Martial Law was declared in the country. The iconic song “Handog Ng Pilipino Sa Mundo,” which is inscribed on a wall of Our Lady of EDSA Shrine, was reportedly written by Jim himself in a span of three minutes, after he was inspired by the so-called People Power.
“Our songs reflect the reality. We captured in songs a lot of what it is like to grow up in the Philippines and how we remain steadfast amidst all the hardships and struggles. We all know that music has the power to uplift people and that’s what we are doing until now, until our words and melodies remain in the heart of everyone,” Jim said.
While we know Apo Hiking Society’s songs by heart, there are some fun facts about the group that could actually surprise us.
APO was formed at Ateneo de Manila High School. The group was then comprised of 14 members namely Lito de Joya, Sonny Santiago, Gus Cosio, Renato Garcia, Chito Kintanar, Kenny Barton, Bruce Brown, Butch Dans, Kinjo Sawada, Ric Segreto, Goff Macaraeg, Doden Besa, Jim, and Boboy.
The original name of the APO was Apolinario Mabini Hiking Society, which came from the name of our hero Apolinario Mabini, the brain of the Katipunan during the revolution against the Spaniards.
Prior to that, they thought of naming their group “Jose Rizal Bulletproof Vest Company,” “Kataas-taasang Kagalang-galanggang Kombo,” and “The Purple People.”
As they advanced to college, Danny joined. However, majority of the members left the group after the graduation in a wish to pursue individual careers. Danny, Jim and Boboy were the ones who held onto their mission in the music industry.
For over four decades, APO has released at least 200 songs and 27 albums. Two hugely successful tribute albums were produced in 2006 and 2007 by its management group, featuring numerous young bands reinterpreting APO’s expansive repertoire.
In October, 1987, during their annual US tour, the APO became the first Filipino pop artists with Marco Sison to perform at the Main Hall of New York’s prestigious Carnegie Hall.
The song “Handog Ng Pilipino Sa Mundo” has an English version, “A New Better And Way” launched in Australia.
And as they say, the rest is history.
Comes a musical
Can’t get enough of the nostalgia? Well, why not experience APO Hiking Society’s songs through musical titled, “Eto Na! Musikal nAPO!”
Speaking to its director Robbie Guevara, he shared it was Boboy who initiated the idea of bringing APO songs into a musical.
“It is Boboy’s fault,” he quipped. “I think in 2014, Boboy and I did a musical. So we talked every day very casually then there was this one time wherein he tapped me and said, ‘Hey you know guys, you should do a musical of our songs.’
“At that moment, I was already screaming inside of my head because I already have more or less an outline. But I only said, “Ah yeah, that’s a good idea. From there on I knew that’s what I wanted the musical to be about.”
What took them long to finally pursue the musical? Robbie shrugged his shoulder and said, “Well, I think this is just the perfect timing.”
“We are really fortunate enough because when I spoke to each and every one of the members, they expressed support and gave us the blessing to come up with this project. Things just fell into place,” he added.
Set during the era of Martial Law, “Eto Na! Musikal nAPO!” is about a motley crew of students getting ready to take on a singing and songwriting competition. Their lives are seemingly carefree at first, allowing them to focus on their music – which is undoubtedly good, but yet to be discovered. However, their idyllic youth doesn’t last for long. Even if their passion for music burns bright, life gets in the way. Despite the hardships, they emerge from their struggles to prove the power of friendship and solidarity.
Here’s the twist: Instead of focusing on the three remarkable members of APO, Robbie shared the story primarily revolves around those who left the group.
“The only thing common that I decide to keep is the premise of bunch of friends growing love for music and how they ended up with only three members,” he said.
As to what fans could expect from the musical’s repertoire, the director said they will give the songs a fresh twist, new arrangements and harmonies.
In a press release, musical director and arranger Daniel Bartolome said, “I personally wouldn’t want to touch the original arrangements. The songs are already perfect as it is. But considering that it would be used in a musical, changes have to be made. Because it’s not going to be staged as a concert. But with a story. The music is part of the storytelling. I carefully chose which to omit, which to keep and which to change to best serve the staging or the scene.”
Boboy expressed excitement over the matter.
“Learning about this musical is really exciting for us because there is nothing more pleasant than to have your body of work through four decades be staged by a successfully-known production company, and be given new life in a medium that we as a group have not quite immersed ourselves in,” he said.
In the cast are Mark Bautista, Rita Daniela, Jon Philippe Go, Jobim Javier, Alfritz Blanche, Jet Flores, Jon Abella, Vyen Villanueva, Marika Sasaki, Sab Jose, Raul Montesa, Noemi Gonzales, Gian Gloria, Shalee Vicencio, Peachy Atilano-Guevara, Anton Posadas, Jourdan Bartolome, and Derrick Gozos.
Produced by 9Works Theatrical and Globe Live, “Eto Na! Musikal nAPO!” will be shown at Maybank Performing Arts Theater, Bonifacio Global City, on Aug. 3-5, 10-12, 17-19 and 24-26, 2018, at 8 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, and 3 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.
Tags: APO Hiking Society, Apolinario Mabini Hiking Society, Ateneo de Manila High School, Boboy Garovillo, By ‘APO’-pular demand, Chuck Taylors, Daniel Bartolome, Danny Javier, Jim Paredes, Manila Bulletin, Manila Bulletin Entertainment, Marco Sison, mb.com.ph, Robbie Guevara, “Eto Na! Musikal nAPO!”