My first APO show

APO virgin (n): Someone who has never been to an APO concert ever, but may already have heard an APO song.  Yup. Up until last Saturday, September 20, I was an APO virgin.

And, as I would soon find out after the show, there were folks watching the show that night (some of them even much, much older than the APO themselves) who were APO virgins as well, which of course is not to say they have never heard an APO song before. But that is getting ahead of the story already so let me first revert to how itwas for me. It was, after all, a very personal experience.

I remember telling myself when we walked in to take our seats in the third row that, if the size of the crowd was a portent of things to come, I was almost sure I was going to be in for a good time. The Big Dome was filled to the rafters! And there they were on stage — Jim, Danny and Buboy, looking larger than life in coordinated stylized track jackets strategically designed with our country’s flag.

The first shock of the evening (for me) was when they sang what they said was their first hit: “There I was… an empty piece of a shell… just minding my own world… without even knowing what love and life were all about… then you came… you brought me out of my shell…” I know that song! But all these time I never knew it was an APO song! And I did not even know the title! That night I found out it was called Till I Met You (not There I Was, as my yaya had made me believe all along). I remember I was a high school freshman when I first heard that, existing in that space and time when the exciting posy-colored world of teenage romance novels like Sweet Dreams and Sweet Valley High was but a new discovery. Being a hopeless romantic I could not wait to grow up and experience firsthand the joys and (imagined) pains of puppy love. And after reading far too many love stories and listening to all sorts of love songs, strangely enough, I felt I already knew exactly what falling in love would be like. The folly of youth! Of course time did eventually teach me that every little girl’s heart falls in love with the idea of love first before the real deal actually comes along.

Even at such a young age I already loved listening not just to the melody, but the lyrics of love songs and I remembered those lines because I had not one doubt in my young mind and even younger heart that it was how not finding your love was supposed to feel. I liked how the words rolled out of my mouth; I liked the melody even more. Oh, the power of a memory; it immediately transported me back to the bedroom I shared with my sister Caren in the second floor of our house in Bonifacio Street, with the yellow lace curtains, the whitewashed wooden furniture and the Menudo posters on our cabinet doors. On hindsight, that would probably have to be my first favorite APO song (instead of Kabilugan ng Buwan which I really, really love); only then, I did not know it was theirs. Now I do.

Throughout the night they sang most of their hits, a huge chunk of which were very familiar to me. And with different songs came different memories — a Valentine’s Day dinner by the beach, nights that stretched into the wee hours of the morning playing game boards with my cousins in Cebu, a field trip, vignettes of my high school and college days. They dished them out expertly one after another with much emotion, as if each song lived in them. You were not quite over the high of hearing one, and another one came right along. Boy, I was having a mighty good time and so was everybody else. That much was easy to see. At some point I even wished I knew what sort of memories the others were rehashing. My husband knew most of their songs by heart and if, for me, my first APO encounter came by way of the radio, he was lucky enough to experience his first APO concert very soon after he came to love their songs.

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It was in the early 80’s, he was still working at McDonald’s North Mall and the APO at the time had a concert in the park with an elevated stage (located where Glorietta is now). Richard remembers climbing to the rooftop together with other crewmembers from McDo just to watch and sing along with them, from a distance.

The second shock of the evening (for me again) came when they sang Show Me Your Smile. As with Till I Met You, all this time I thought it was some foreign song, by the Carpenters, no less! I mean that as a compliment, by the way. I belong to the generation that was made to believe that everything imported was better (thankfully that view has drastically shifted) and that being my mindset, I instantly wrote that song off as another foreign original. I am very happy to have been proven wrong again on that count. So much local talent we have!

Many, many times the audience sang along. We all laughed a lot, too; there was a lot of good humor and if it was all part of a script it was not obvious at all. It all seemed very spontaneous to me. It was an easy night, an easy time.

Richard, being a longtime APO fan, already had more than just a hazy idea of what the concert might be like and on our way there he mentioned in passing that he has yet to be disappointed by any of their concerts. He had high hopes for this one as well. I, for the most part, went along with my eyes and mind wide-open. I already knew I was going to have a good time, Jim, Danny and Buboy being who they are and their songs being what they are. Truth be told, though, I was not entirely ready for just how much of a good time I ended up having. And that is saying the very least. I was floored, bowled over, pleasantly and wonderfully shocked at the sheer genius of these three guys and their wonderful, iconic songs. Where have I been all these years? What rock have I been hiding under all this time? I deeply lament the fact that I have stayed, even if it wasn’t by choice but by circumstance, an APO virgin until that night because, really, when will their next concert be? Please let it be soon.

They are wonderful performers, quite accomplished showmen themselves, bursting at the seams with so much passion and enthusiasm it’s contagious. They have a gentle way of making the audience want more and more.

Their songs are the kind that wrap around you, embracing you and pulling you back to a time that up until that moment, seemed so long ago and so far away. I’m thinking now — who knows — maybe an Apo song was playing somewhere the moment I was conceived?

I laughed so much that night, it was obvious that they were great friends because they constantly ribbed each other about random things: aging, height. They good-naturedly spoofed their idols, poked fun at themselves, pointing out not just once or twice that they were “old.” Hey, guys, you are not old. You are seasoned and great and… sigh… What can I say? I am a fan. Yes, add me to the millions of you already have out there.

It was a long show, yes, but it was well worth the time spent. It could have gone on an hour longer and no one would have cared. They were given a standing ovation, one rightfully deserved. No wonder they have been around this long.

At a time when remakes are the surer, if not easier, way to make new records sell (not that there is anything wrong with that) comes this APO anniversary show, standing solidly on the merits of originality, reinvention and sheer talent. And there I was on my chair, beside my daughter and husband, among thousands of others, just happily chewing into each beautiful melody, every memory that came along with it, too, like it was a McDonald’s Happy Meal I had long been waiting for.

The APO is blessed with vocal prowess (obviously), the sensitivity to write beautiful songs, the candidness to poke fun at themselves and perform with taste and humor, the spunk and creativity to make mundane things fodder for a beautiful melody. That is their magic; that is their strength.

The night left me feeling sentimental, pining for old-fashioned songs, lauding Filipino talent, hoping — yes, sincerely hoping — that the next APO concert will happen very soon. Hey, how about a repeat? Who knows, that possibility might just be around the corner. When that happens, there will be even fewer APO virgins.

Just as a real diamond sparkles even under the dust, it is easy to see that the APO will continue to shine, even when they are really “old” already, as they prematurely claim to be; even after newer, younger talents come along.

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