Oct. 31, 2022, was the day his music died.
The musikero Danny Javier (formally Daniel Morales Javier) had mentioned dying before, on June 11, 2011, shortly after his 40-odd years of making music as part of the trio Apo Hiking Society ended in separation. He was 64 then and diagnosed with multiple illnesses: congestive heart failure, hepatitis A, kidney failure, pneumonia, liver collapse, emphysema, sepsis. He had reached that point where, as he narrated in a 2016 interview with Jessica Soho, he had a numinous white-light experience. But, miraculously, he survived. After six months of medical treatment, though still diabetic, he was back on his feet again.
Then completely out of the limelight—“unseen in action,” as he called it—Danny concentrated on health recovery, maintaining and strengthening his body through a proper diet. No more late-night gigs and stressful lifestyle for him—clean living, in short. He also played golf three times a week as part of his regimen. With General Santos City as home base, he traveled to the United States regularly, in part for business. He likewise became an advocate of moringa, to which he attributed his recovery and wellness.
Meanwhile, the two other ex-members of the trio went on minding their own businesses. Boboy Garrovillo (Jose Teves Garrovillo Jr.) continued pursuing his passion for acting, in movies and television, up to this day. The free-thinking Jim Paredes (Jaime Ramon Misa Paredes) dabbled in photography. He also went into teaching and writing books while actively expressing his nationalist sentiments and political views in social media platforms. Occasionally, they performed together as a duet, which made one wonder if it was really Danny who wanted out because it was no longer fun.
The Apolinario Mabini Hiking Society—subsequently called the APO Hiking Society and, finally, APO—began in the late 1960s with a dozen high school members (Ric Segreto among them), all part of the school’s theater group Dulaang Sibol. Then, in college, the members trickled down to three with the inclusion of Danny. And, as they say, the rest is history.
In Jim’s words, APO’s mission was to create the soundtrack of Filipinos in Pilipino. Inspired and triggered by a desire to promote local music, the trio began creating music that touched, entertained, lulled and inspired listeners, most of whom were baby boomers like themselves. From vinyl to cassette tapes to compact discs, they made more than 20 record albums, performed live on stages and halls worldwide, and received tributes and awards.
But the best reward in memory, according to Boboy, was when they heard other people singing their songs.
Seldom do singing groups or music groups endure for long. APO was friendship in the flesh, and each member’s desire to make it whole became its soul. On stage, on television and in films, APO was barkada—a gang of friends.
They “committed crimes together,” Jim said. They made music together, creating “memories longer than the road that stretches out ahead,” as he stressed to his friend Danny, then on his death bed.
Original Pilipino Music
APO’s songs, particularly those made by Danny, reflected the sentiments, travails, dreams and hopes of an era when Filipinos were jaded by years of martial rule. The songs induced, it is said, the birth of OPM (Original Pilipino Music), a term that Danny purportedly coined. Thus, too, began an era of music that reigned shoulder to shoulder with western music on the local airwaves, though temporarily.
It happened in four decades, when APO’s music moved with the times and its essence became deeply ingrained in their fans’ psyche.
“Pumapatak na Naman ang Ulan,” one of Danny’s hit songs that rocked the charts from the late 1970s to early 1990s, became the anthem of those who, during those years, nursed their out-of-school blues and embraced their foibles with its easy and painless words and melody. And who among our friends would ignore the memories invoked when listening again and again to “Kaibigan” and “Awit ng Barkada”? And that poignant song Danny composed for Gary Valenciano, “Di Na Natuto,” that continues to touch and enthrall music lovers to this day?
In that same interview with Jessica Soho, Danny said he had never been afraid of death. It’s everybody’s destination, he said, adding matter-of-factly that if one does not die, then one has not lived: “Kung hindi ka mamamatay, hindi ka nabuhay.” It was surely this awareness of his mortality that was behind his swan song, titled “Lahat Tayo” and arranged by his long-time friend Lorrie Ilustre. With a dash of humor, what is supposedly a morbid topic sung to Doo Bidoo’s playful tune becomes one happy dirge.
In the end, Danny’s passing is “a great loss to OPM.” His daughter Justine wrote: “In life, as in his death, our Pop never stopped fighting for what he loved, what he believed in and what he was passionate about. He left this world with his passion and his strength of will intact and we know he would not have it any other way.”
Actually, it was like a part of our past died with him.
Oct. 31, 2022, was the day Danny Javier’s music died. But it lives, and will live on and on …