SAN FRANCISCO - Whenever in San Francisco, we stay in a lovely 100-year old house. My sister Nikka and her husband Jose live here. Jose, who is an engineer and a musician, has several Alexa all over their home and, often, commands whichever is near to play standards. Frank Sinatra or Tony Bennett or a big band fills the air and this brings a lot of childhood memories of longing.
Most of the wife’s high school classmates migrated to America that whenever they have a reunion, they hold it here because most of them are here. Even her jeprox childhood friends are mostly here. Also, almost half of my own high school classmates are now American citizens.
Baby boomers like us have been steeped in the American cauldron of culture that we wax nostalgic over Canada Dry in bottles, Ivory soap that floats, and the cutest baby in the world in the ads of Bell Telephones. We started to believe that our memories of ragtime and Humphrey Bogart, Elvis and rock and roll, Marilyn Monroe and James Dean, and the Camelot days of the Kennedys were real and ours. Filipinos convulsed with the USA hiccups, the hippies and flower power here in Haight-Ashbury.
I first met Danny Javier of the APO Hiking Society when we performed together in “Hair” the musical at the UP in the late 60s. He was one of the leads together with Joey Smith. This play is set in an American hippie community and this was my introduction to fellatio, pederasty and cunnilingus – the words, that is. It was probably the longest running musical play in the history of UP, but it was controversial everywhere it went because of the profanity, the drugs, the nudity.
Danny’s role was that of a young man who was drafted to fight in the Vietnam War. As college students, we Filipinos empathized deeply with the sadness, the anger, and the injustice in the plight of a friend advocating for peace and love but who, ironically, is forced to join a war he did not believe in.
So it was that Pinoys got caught not only in the American Dream but in American conflicts, such as the Korean War and the Cold War where the allies we chose should be aligned with the USA. When American students started occupying campuses to protest of the “establishment,” we certainly picked up ideas.
Meantime, Danny easily outgrew his role in “Hair” especially when APO found its footing and, with Jimmy and Boboy, came out with scores of delightful songs that Filipinos took to heart because they talked about them.
Danny was originator of the movement called OPM or Original Pilipino Music. He invented the character Pidro to personify his advocacies in Filipino-ness. We worked together again in using Pidro in film plugs to campaign for clean and honest elections. Then our roads diverged.
The wife and I saw two of the APO’S Farewell’s Concert. It was sad, as I am sad of Danny’s passing. But I envy him; he had the opportunity to rifle through his beautiful bank of memories and even write a closure song to them.