Death is a subject most of us would rather not talk about. No one wants to see a loved one go. But mortality is real and something we all have to accept. We’re all going to die one day and, we’ll, that’s okay. This is the message of the song “Lahat Tayo,” likely the last song written by OPM pioneer and one-third of the musical group APO Hiking Society, Danny Javier.
The 75-year-old music veteran died Monday, October 31 at around 5PM at the National Kidney Transplant Institute where he had been confined for treatments, Danny’s brother, George, told ABS-CBN News.
The next day, Tuesday afternoon, after the Javier family confirmed the musician’s death, Lorrie Ilustre—composer, musical arranger, one of the founding members of the Hot Dog band, and APO’s long-time musical director—posted a video on Facebook featuring Javier singing a recent composition, “Lahat Tayo,” wearing the kind of smile we didn’t expect to see.
The musical director said he wanted to ask for prayers three weeks ago when he found out his good friend was rushed to the hospital and was in bad shape. But Ilustre refrained from posting anything on Facebook about Javier’s condition as respect to his family. He instead decided to post a few of his earlier works with the musical trio—the “Iba ang may Pinagsamahan” theme for a San Miguel Beer campaign and his arrangement of Javier’s “Doo Bidoo.” He also arranged and recorded a tune that Danny roughly sang on his Facebook page. The lyrics went:
Lahat tayo mamamatay
Gusto mo bang makisabay?
Saan mo nais humimlay
Pag nawalan ka ng malay?
Ilustre says he first heard the song about five years ago when Javier went live on Facebook. “Nasa golf course siya noon, kinakanta-kanta lang niya yun,” the musical director tells ANCX.
“Hindi naman pinapaareglo sa akin ito [ni Danny]. Even when I visited him at his condo last year, he never bothered me with it,” he says. “But when I got the news three weeks ago that he was rushed to the hospital, I told his brother gusto kong maipadala ang areglo ko ng kanta para mapakinggan ni Danny.” He wanted to do something for this good friend.
Raymund Marasigan’s Caribbean-sounding minus one that Javier was singing to in his Facebook Live video, sounded good, says Ilustre. But he did his own arrangement anyway since he had known Javier for a long time—he was APO’s musical director for a good 13 years (from 1979 to 1992) and had worked closely with Javier in songs like “Doo Bidoo,” “Prinsesa” and “Kabilugan ng Buwan.”
“Pag nag-iisip siya, kahit melodies lang ang kinakanta niya, walang harmony, walang piano, kakantahin lang niya sa akin, alam ko na ang gusto niyang sabihin,” he says. “I did my own version para mas maikuwento nang tama ang kanta.”
Ilustre shares that it took him three days to finish the song because he had to sync everything. “Inayos ko pa ang kanta niya kasi I just picked up [Danny’s] voice from his Facebook page,” he says, adding that he thought no one could sing the song better other than Javier himself.
Sige ako’ng mauuna
Pangako susunod ka ha?
Malungkot ang nag-iisa
Mas masayang kasama ka
“Lahat Tayo” speaks very much of Javier’s outlook in life, says Ilustre. “He looks at death in a different way. Ayaw niyang maging malungkot e. Kaya ang approach niya ganito. Gusto niya masaya lang—barkada, inuman, pulutan,” he offers. “Wag kang magmamadali. I-accept mo lang instead na malungkot ka.”
O sige mauna ka na
At susunod naman sila
Mas masaya kung kasama
Bitbit bitbit ang barkada
Ilustre also feels this is the reason why instead of writing a ballad Javier opted for a lighthearted ditty that everyone can sing along to. The musical arranger says he changed the structure of the song a bit in order to tell the story better.
“Sa umpisa parang classic lang, tapos maya-maya parang circus ang counterpoint ko,” he offers. “Tapos guitar, mala-folk song na. Tapos may kaunting banduria. Hanggang sa naging serious nang kaunti, puro strings lang. Tapos naging bouncy, tapos naging funky nang kaunti. May istorya din kasi ang pag-gawa ng areglo.”
Ilustre says he admires the simplicity of Javier’s songwriting style. This is how “Doobi Doo” started, for example: “Lorie, halika. May idea ako,” he recalls Javier telling him. “Yung unti-unti tayong pumapasok. Tapos meron tayong bote ng mga iniinom nating beer. Tinututugtog natin yung mga tambol na lata.”
What was Javier like as a friend? “Walang kaplastikan pag nakatalikod. Hindi yung doble kara,” says Ilustre. They may not talk or see each other a lot especially in recent years, but they knew they had each other’s back. He says the SMB line “Iba ang may pinagsamahan” aptly captures their friendship.
One thing Ilustre finds most admirable about Javier was that the guy remained positive amidst his health condition. “When I saw him last year, positive pa siya, masaya pa siya. Tawanan kami. Pero mamaya meron ng magche-check ng sugar niya,” he recalls. “Ikinukuwento niya na sa akin na pag natutulog siya kailangan may nagbabantay kasi hindi pwedeng bumagsak ang sugar niya. Tapos nagda-dialysis pa siya sa gabi. To stay positive like that, bilib ako sa kanya.”
The moment he finished the arrangement for “Lahat Tayo,” Ilustre sent it right away to the Javier brothers, who sent it to the hospital for Danny to hear. “It was the nurse who played it beside Danny. Sabi ko, ‘Sumenyas lang yan, ayos na.’ Kasi tinatanong ng nurse, ‘Okey po Sir Danny?’ E sumenyas, nag-nod. That was the only thing that was important to me—makarating sa kanya. [Gusto kong sabihin] ‘Yan ang playlist mo, ang baon mo sa biyahe mo.’”