Being an APO kid

By Ala Paredes – I was going to pass up writing an article for this Sunday. I am still exhausted, physically and mentally, from the APO concert at the Big Dome last Sunday and the opening of my photo exhibit in Megamall last Tuesday. But then I read my daughter’s blog which I felt would make a good last article to cap the topics that I’ve been writing about the last three weeks, all dealing with my life as/with/an APO. Instead of leaving my readers without anything to read, I thought I’d share this wonderful piece written by my daughter Ala who lives in Sydney.

Last weekend, the APO Hiking Society celebrated their 39th anniversary at the Big Dome. I, on the hand, spent Saturday night doing dishes and homework in Sydney, though my heart would have given anything just to be there. I’m pretty sure that the Sydney contingent of the APO offspring were the only ones who weren’t there watching our fathers celebrate 39 years of their life’s work.
Not being there for such a grand culmination of their careers made me reminisce about what it was like growing up as an “APO Kid.” That is what they called us every time we guested on their TV shows Sa Linggo N’APO Sila, Sang Linggo N’APO Sila and, in the case of the Jim Paredes branch of the APO Kids, Tatak Pilipino.

We APO Kids grew up under the misconception that we were related by blood, as first cousins. I only realized we weren’t when I had to do a “family tree” assignment in third grade. I asked my mom where I should write the names of Danny and Boboy’s children and she told me that we weren’t actually related, though we might as well have been. Not only are the APO the ninongs (godfathers) of each other’s children but the APO, the APO wives, and the APO kids used to spend every summer and semester break on holidays together. My childhood summers are marked by memories of Davao, Hidden Valley and other places we all used to visit.

Another reason I thought the APO kids were related was that we shared certain obligations that came with being the offspring of one third of the APO. One obligation was having to come out on TV every Christmas, and every time it was our father’s birthday. Whether it was a live appearance or prerecorded, I remember all too well being squeezed by my mother into my Sunday best and being whisked away to ABS-CBN to stay hidden in a dressing room for hours and hours only to appear on camera for five minutes to greet my dad with a Happy Birthday. Even though we did it every single year, he would still act genuinely surprised and, on some years, even shed a tear or two. One year, me and my sister sang Too Shy To Say with him on one of those song numbers that are supposed to make people cry. Another year, my sister and I were made to co-write a song for my dad, which Ely Buendia of the Eraserheads contributed a melody to and sang onstage (I am pretty sure my memory is accurate and I did not just make that up. Feel free to verify, Mister Buendia).

Then there was that one year when we APO Kids had to sing Give Love on Christmas Day for the big ABS-CBN Christmas Special. The networks certainly capitalized on us on special occasions.

Along with the obligations came the perks. Perk number one was free entry to concerts and automatic backstage passes. Thanks to being an APO Kid, I was able to meet and have my backpack signed by the Eraserheads, and I also met the Backstreet Boys and Alanis Morissette when they guested on their noontime show.

Perk number two was special treatment in certain places such as salons and beauty parlors. The one we used to go along Katipunan would immediately play their APO CD as soon as we walked through the door, as a cheeky way of making sip-sip.

And yet, amid all this, I was not truly aware that my dad was a celebrity until late in high school, not even if I had seen him on stage being applauded by adoring fans countless times. Not even when all my classmates would sing “What’s this, kabayong buntis” every lunch time. Not even when my teachers would ask me for my dad’s autograph. I was such an oblivious young girl, more concerned with doodling and Disney cartoons. I didn’t really know when a new APO single would be out on the airwaves until other people asked me about it.

It never occurred to me that having a dad who was on TV was unusual because it had always been that way for as long as I could remember. I would watch him dress up in the mornings and leave. An hour later, he would be on TV. I was only two years old when I first saw them on TV in a San Miguel commercial chasing a girl in a white dress. I even remember the jingle: “She-boom, she-boom, lalalalala…” But growing up, I was always in school during his noontime show, so I only got to watch on Sundays.

Ironically, what seemed strange and alien to me were my classmates’ fathers, who would all come home from the office in button-down shirts and clutching briefcases. “Normal” to me was a father coming home in a sequined costume, clutching a briefcase full of stage makeup; one who made us listen to Paul Simon and Frank Zappa, and taught us poetry.

We had a recording studio, but it never occurred to me that it was my dad’s means of making a living. To me, it was a playground where I could bang on the drums and play with the synthesizer during long, summer afternoons. When Joey Ayala would record there, I would play with his gongs and ethnic instruments.

I didn’t consciously know any APO hits till I hit college, because to me they were like ever-present background music throughout my growing-up years, something whose existence I knew about but never thought about, like the atmosphere. Sure, I could sing American Junk at the drop of a hat. But I was surprised when I entered college and found that a whole lot of people knew the music of the APO.

I suppose I only truly ever felt like I was “Jim Paredes’ daughter” when I started appearing on TV myself. The comparison was inevitable, and so was harsh criticism, but I’m not the only TV personality to have ever dealt with nastiness. I suppose to many I was just another daughter of a celebrity who probably got into showbiz purely through her last name. But I maintain that I wouldn’t have lasted that long if I didn’t at least have any hosting ability whatsoever.

And, on the contrary, entering the TV biz was something I felt I did independently. It was by no means my father’s idea, and not once did any agent or client contact me through him. He never meddled with my dealings. I wasn’t trying to be “Jim Paredes’ daughter.” I just felt like TV was something I’d know how to do if given the chance. After all, I was always emceeing school concerts and programs, and I even had a high school teacher who once told me, “Bagay sa iyo maging veejay.” (You should be a veejay.)

But as I have found through the years, being the daughter of a famous person means living behind a very long shadow. Sometimes, people don’t see you as anything but an “APO Kid.” Every question people ask you is a dad-related question. Never mind if you just won the Nobel Prize or ended world hunger, they won’t care because your dad didn’t do it.

And of course, there is always comparison if you get into anything that is any way remotely connected to what your father is brilliant at. I think there is a reason why no APO offspring has really broken into the music scene, although there are talented singers and musicians among us. We’re too terrified. People will judge us for not living up to our fathers, or for living up to them too much. It’s a hard battle to win.

And now that I am older and have struggled with finding my own identity, I realize that I will always be my father’s daughter, no matter what. Despite the pains some of us APO Kids might have experienced in coming into our own, I suppose we are all the same in sharing a genuine admiration for these artists who just happen to be our fathers. The APO are not only singers, they are performers. They are not only a singing group, they are the best of friends. I can watch an APO concert and be just as entertained as other non-APO-kid audience members, and I do love their music. Like so many Filipinos, their songs have touched my heart. I am very much an APO fan.

I am resigned to the fact that if I choose to do anything that my dad has done before, be it music, showbiz or writing, my version will always be compared to his (and will most likely come out the “paler” version, because that’s what people always say). But that shouldn’t stop me from doing the things I love just because my father’s done it before. And so, I may be my own person, but I am honored to be my father’s daughter, too.

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