( Notes : We emphasize that Ms Louella Docot and her associates in AKLnzPINOYs neither know this Wellington kabayan or have asked us to say anything here, we just want to express our sentiments esp after watching the segment on that NZ national TV newsfeature show, Campbell Live. Kudos mga kapatid ! )
Dear Kabayan :
THROUGH THE EVER-SIFTING sands of hazy time and semi-reliable memory, I can’t anymore remember the first ever Apo song I ever heard, but it’s definitely, definitely between Pumapatak Na Naman ang Ulan and the generically – titled Pagibig.
Back in the 1970s ( and sometimes even now ) it was still tolerated (actually almost acceptable) to slow things down when one faced the prospect of a rainy day, was between jobs or was recovering from a drinking session the evening past. All these elements were present in the first song’s narrator’s kadramahan, and of course, the times-of-your-life, feel-good and timeless quality of the second song made it an all-time favorite of mine . . .
As did probably 90% of Apo songs, for not only me but for a majority of our generation growing up in the 70s, 80s and 90s.
In the span of more than a quarter century that followed, this band of minstrels have taken me through the ups and downs, hills and valleys of life, very ably capturing the aches and pangs of love, anger, confrontation, rejection and reconciliation, in fact almost every emotion on the spectrum of human feelings.
Which was why, when I saw on national TV earlier this week their efforts, I felt, between a lump in my throat and numerous goose-bumps, a combination of awe, empathy and respect for the inspired group of countrymen and countrywomen that have joined hands to bring to these shores that quintessentially Pinoy music group, the Apo Hiking Society.
Awe because no truer gesture of fandom and loyalty may an artist receive from an admirer than to bankroll with his / her own funds a concert, and bring those very artists across far away miles just to make possible such a performance.
Empathy, because while we may not claim to be as rabid a fan of the Apo as Ms Louella Docot and Co., we savor our share of the Apo repertoire and have celebrated many a milestone in life with the accurate lyrical narratives of the typical Apo song. It’s like Danny, Jimmy and Buboy have been there through many triumphs (if at all), heartaches and bondings with friends lovers and barkada of our so-called life.
Respect because not many people will value their convictions enough to put their money where their mouth is. Louella (and her group) is too modest to admit it, but she has put up her life’s savings, two years’ worth of wages for many Pinoys living in NZ, and a small fortune by any standard, except for a very small class of fortunate few and privileged. All for the love of the Apo.
Circa Eighties, when Ewan was on the mental playlist of every adolescent, teener and young adult (no mp3s, iPods or Walkmans then), it served as a perpetual battlecry for us eternal romantics ( sugod mga kapatid !), that no matter how doomed, clueless or nerdy our approach was for the unreachable crush ng bayan, there was still that one sliver of a chance in case she gave us the tiniest benefit of the doubt, namely that precious word Ewan.
Batang Bata Ka Pa served as a club anthem for the youth of our generation, the last of the baby boomers that couldn’t talk back to our elders (still unthinkable then) but could at least respectfully challenge them to a fair discussion of issues, and why couldn’t we do it in the form of a song?
[ Before I ramble any more, please allow me to digress. There may be other, more popular bands in different eras of Philppine consciousness : VST & Co., Boyfriends, Eraserheads, Parokya ni Edgar, we enjoyed at one point or another in our lives, but Apo Hiking Society have not been as polarizing, were truly mainstream, and touched every socio-economic class of Pinoy society. There may have been others more elegant, eye-catching and media-savvy (Side A, The Company, Hagibis) but have not had the consistency, longevity and relevance as The Apo. ]
The trio stayed away from being too politically conscious but you could feel it in their beat, the urgency of their message, and the timeliness of their language. The times they are a changing. It was almost as if they didn’t want to alienate any sector of society with their songs, but at the same time they were surely on the side of peaceful reform, before radical change would hold sway. With the slightest effort, they could make you feel the swell of pride in being a Filipino, purely in the strength of their lyrics and melody, and just as you appreciated the theme of their music, you knew that the change they spoke of was coming.
But can anyone deny that the greatest strength of the Apo is their universal gift of music and their ability to make us connect with their gift, by just making us relate to every phrase and bar of music, every story and fable each song contains, and every pinch of emotion that we feel whenever we hear one of their songs? There will always be greater and lesser bands, but this particular group has encapsulated the life and times of many Pinoys for the last few generations, and it seems hard to believe they won’t be around forever.
And that’s just it, their mortality as a Philippine institution. More than anything else, it’s probably the fact that very soon, they will no longer be singing for millions and millions of Pinoys that drove Louella and her group to make the final decision to bring the Apo to New Zealand, a decision that most in the Filipino community will be thankful for.
At this point we have said more than enough. On their own, the Apo Hiking Society more than deserve our support for being part of our lives for so long. The fact that our neighbors, friends and compatriots are financially underwriting the event, on the strength of their life’s savings makes it all the more worthwhile.
Let’s all attend the Apo concert produced by Louella Docot and her group. As our kababayan, they deserve no less.
Mabuhay ang Pinoy !