A life beyond existing: OPM icon Danny Javier; 75
The Philippine music industry was dealt a heavy blow on Oct. 31 by the passing of Daniel “Danny” M. Javier, lead singer of APO Hiking Society and one of the country’s most respected hitmakers whose songs have become part of the soundtrack of generations of Filipinos.
In his 41-year career with the iconic group APO Hiking Society, Javier wrote such songs that have since become classics in Filipino pop music, such as “Pumapatak Ang Ulan,” “Pag-ibig,” “Kaibigan,” and “Lumang Tugtugin,” (those four songs from their landmark 1978 album “Pagkatapos ng Palabas”) as well as “Kabilugan ng Buwan,” “Show Me A Smile” “Doo Bidoo,” and “Di Na Natuto,” among many others.
These tunes reflected Javier’s trademark wit, humor, and uncanny insight into the lives of ordinary Filipinos — which endeared him not just to fans but also to his grieving colleagues in the music industry, many of whom knew that he had been suffering from serious ailments for some time.
Still, they were not quite prepared for the stark reality of his death at 75 years old.
“’Till we meet again, my brother,” read a Facebook post by a “shattered” Jim Paredes, who said he had been crying “rivers of tears” upon learning the news of the passing of his longtime APO Hiking associate.
Boboy Garrovillo, who completed the APO triumvirate, also posted on Facebook, saying: “Just feeling the loss of an old faithful who knew what is love, although sometimes it just doesn’t show.”
“My friend lives on in his music,” Garrovillo said.
Through APO Hiking Society, Javier helped usher in a golden age in Filipino popular music in the 1970s.
Javier, Paredes, and Garrovillo — schoolmates at Ateneo de Manila University — created a “different mold” that purposefully shone the spotlight on Filipino pop, with Filipino lyrics, in complete contrast to the foreign pop song renditions that pervaded the local airwaves until the 1970s.
“We decided to cut a new mold, by performing all-original music, together with the likes of Hotdog and Juan dela Cruz band,” Javier said in a 2015 interview.
He is widely acknowledged for coining “Original Pilipino Music” (OPM), which became the catch-all term for the songs and recordings of that golden era and onward.
As singer Hajji Alejandro recalled, “Danny coined the word/acronym OPM specifically for my  album ‘Strictly OPM.’ Since then, all the DJs picked up on it and used it to introduce the once-every-hour Filipino song on their time slot as mandated then by the KBP (Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas).”
Javier went on to push for the formation of the Organisasyon ng mga Pilipinong Mang-Aawit, soon after the 1986 Edsa People Power Revolution, which became a venue for artists to collaborate and help each other.
“[OPM] was Danny’s beautiful idea,” said singer Celeste Legaspi, who remembered how Javier called her up, all excited about the idea of getting singers to work together.
Javier’s dedication to music was seen by friends as an extension of the activism that he and his APO colleagues demonstrated in their unique way.
Although APO Hiking’s songs were not overtly political, the group’s original name, Apolinario Mabini Hiking Society, was initially rejected by the Philippine Constabulary in the early 1970s—in what was perhaps an early instance of “Red-tagging”—which prompted the group to somehow rebrand its identity.
Amid their pop success from the late 1970s to the 1980s, they associated themselves with the rising protest movement against the 1983 assassination of former Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr.
But three decades since that time, Javier openly supported the presidential candidacy of Rodrigo Duterte and went separate ways politically from Paredes. It was only in 2021 that Javier came full circle, returning to his political roots as he and Paredes backed the presidential candidacy of then Vice President Leni Robredo.
Paredes, who saw Javier some two weeks before he died, said of their friendship: “I told him, quoting The Beatles’ ‘Two of Us,’ you and I have memories longer than the road that stretches out ahead.”
Javier even penned a final song before his death, “Lahat Tayo,” which confronted his own mortality—not with self-pity but with humor, defiance and an affirmation of life.
The composer himself performed that song in a video that has gone viral.
His daughter, singer-songwriter Justine Javier-Long, wrote on Facebook: “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 strength of will intact, and we know he would not have it any other way.”