By Pepper Marcelo
After 40 years in the music business, the iconic Pinoy vocal trio APO Hiking Society has decided to call it a day. The shocking revelation came during a press conference last January, when members Jim Paredes, Buboy Garovillo and Danny Javier announced that they will have a series of “farewell concerts” that will culminate with their final live performance in May of this year.
“What I always believed about showbiz is knowing when to leave; not to overstay your welcome. Forty [years] I think is a very good time,” says Danny.
“Every person in showbiz has an end, sometimes you think things are forever. No, they’re really not,” adds Jim.
Buboy emphasizes that it wasn’t a rash decision to retire on their part. In fact, there had already been talks to end the group as early as last year. “Sa totoo lang, since last year pa namin napapagusapan ito, we decided to pursue individual interests also.”
Lest anyone think it has anything to do with internal friction among the band members, he attributes their decision to the fact that the group, with their differing priorities in life, have not been collaborating as much as they used to.
“Pahina nga nang pahina yung creative process. Sinasabi nga ni Jim, e, yung ginagawa namin together, pahina nang pahina. We are not writing songs together. We are not recording songs as much together,” Buboy said.
“Through the years, parang little by little, pakonti ng pakonti ‘yong ginagawa naming creative process. That’s how APO was created 40 years ago; Sabi namin, ‘Saan tayo pupunta? Ano ba ang sinimulan ng APO noon?’ Ito nawawala nga ‘yong creative process.”
Jim also cites the uncertain climate of the contemporary music scene, with young acts and changing tastes and technologies making it difficult for an older group to find their niche.
“Showbiz caters to a very young market. Yung last albums namin, sinubukan talaga naming i-promote, ilagay sa radyo… hindi kami umabot dun. Hindi kilala ng maraming tao ang laman ng mga apat o limang album namin. For me, that’s a clear indicator. Ayokong dumating ang panahon na wala nang nakakakilala sa iyo at hindi ka na kakawayan ng tao. Kailangan mo nang tuldukan habang sikat ka pa.”
They were also conscious of the fact that they did not want end up a mere nostalgia act, belting out decades-old hits, without creating anything new and fresh. “We still enjoy performing, kaya lang sabi namin kung uulit ulitin lang natin ito at wala naman tayong ginagawang bago, baka maburyong tayo sa sarili natin. Bago tayo maburyong sa sarili natin, let’s put a time table to it,” says Buboy.
The group agreed scheduling their final live performance in May to coincide with the upcoming elections. APO is a firm supporter of Noynoy Aquino’s candidacy.
“Kasi if you want change, you look for somebody who represents change,” says Danny. “Ako, sa bawat araw na nagpoprogreso ang pagkakampanya, ang masasabi ko kay Noynoy, walang halong pambobola, walang kasinungalingan, hindi porma. Nilalait pa nga siya sa kakulangan ng porma. Para sa akin, yun ang kalakasan ng kanyang kampanya, kasi walang halong pag-iimbot sa katotohanan at, siyempre, walang dagdag na pagkukunwari.”
For their current series of concerts, Jim says that they’re performing at their peak level right now, so fans should not miss the opportunity to see them live. “If you want to catch the APO, this is the last stretch. We’re good till the end of May. So, any concert that’s there, panoorin niyo na. To our fans, our followers, everything else – panoorin niyo na.”
APO Hiking Society was formed in 1969 as a huge ensemble vocal group at the Ateneo de Manila University. Paredes, Garovillo, and Javier were the only members who pushed through with their musical career.
The group recorded 22 albums, spawning classic hits such as “Batang-Bata Ka Pa,” “Pumapatak Na Naman Ang Ulan,” “Nakapagtataka,” “Yakap sa Dilim” and “Doobidoo.”
They have also extended their name as able live showmen, with countless concerts at home and abroad. Locally, they made several acclaimed and popular television programs and specials, including the long-running, popular noontime variety show Sa Linggo nAPO Sila.
Internationally, they have performed all over the world, including the U.S., Canada, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Japan, Singapore and Indonesia. They were the first Pinoy group to perform in New York’s famed Carnegie Hall, as well as the first to perform in a public concert in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
In 2006 and 2007, many of the top contemporary bands of the country released the cover albums Kami nAPO Muna and Kami nAPO Muna Ulit, attesting to the group’s iconic status and lasting influence in Pinoy music.
The group assures longtime fans that just because APO is retiring, doesn’t mean that the individual members of the group will stop making music. “Baka akala niyo kapag sinabing magre-retire ang APO, ‘yong mga tao na ng APO [magre-retire din]. Hindi. Ang pangalan ng APO ang magre-retire,” says Buboy.
He adds that although they don’t have plans to release a final record, there’s a strong possibility that their last concert in May will come out as a live commemorative album.
Jim, who had transplanted to Australia several years ago, says that he might write and collaborate with other singers. “I’m a creative person. So under any conditions whether there’s APO or whether there’s no APO; I’m old or whether I’m young, whether I’m sikat or not, my duty is to be creative, so continue pa rin ako.”
Buboy says he wants to continue with not only singing, but being an all-around entertainer. “I do TV shows, I do hosting jobs also, I do some soaps.”
Danny, on the other hand, wants to focus on continuing with his advocacies Mindanao. Recently, it was announced that the group, tapped by the government, will promote a “public dialogue” via TV ads and radio that will hopefully help broker a peace deal in the war-ravaged region.
He doesn’t want to make any definite music plans just yet. “Naniniwala ako sa isang kasabihan na life begins after you make your plans. So, hindi na ako nagpa-plano. I’ll just let it begin.”
Though APO is reaching the end, the three are still positive that the best is yet to come. “Life goes on. If you ask me have each of us done the best in our lives? I think I haven’t,” says Jim. “You have a lot more to hear from Buboy Garovillo, Danny Javier and Jim Paredes.”