Writing on Air

Writing on Air by Jim Paredes

Nothing lasts forever 0

Posted on September 25, 2018 by jimparedes

Nothing lasts forever

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE – Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) – September 23, 2018 – 12:00am
I am the type of guy who can really get into things that interest me. And when I do, I like to get really involved. I like to totally immerse myself in the universe of my interests. I learn a lot each time.

I have seen myself give my all to many projects I have committed myself to. As a musician, songwriter, singer, performer, producer, arranger (sometimes), I am 100-percent present in the work. I still know every detail of what went into almost all the recordings I have been involved in. I still remember them even decades after.

As a teacher, I totally immerse myself in the subjects I teach. I try to get to know the lessons inside and out. I anticipate questions that may be asked by looking at the material from many angles. I try to present them in the best way possible.

As a photographer, performer, writer, I do the same. It is not so much about being meticulous. It is about savoring and being one with the experience.

No wonder I get a high with almost every class, show, concert, exhibit, or lecture I do.

Last month, I was preoccupied with Eto na, Musikal nAPO, the hit theater production with a story that revolves around APO’s music. I was totally into the present, as I watched it several times. We have all had this happen with certain experiences.

I used to think that I felt good about these moments because they were special moments. Don’t get me wrong: they are special moments. What really makes them special, though, is not because they were extraordinary in themselves but because I paid attention to them. It is I who made them special. The power to make them extraordinary, wonderful or magical is inside of me. In a sense one might say I determine and shape my own experience. It is I who decides what experience to make “special.”

Before the event happens, you prepare yourself and you have expectations. You do what you have to do. Then it happens and it feels like you are going through it. And then it is over. That’s how experiences go. And for every peak experience, there is that depressing, sad feeling that follows.

My son just got home from a trek to the base camp of Mount Everest. When he arrived yesterday, he was still on a high and brimming with stories. He sat me and Lydia down and excitedly told us about the daily experiences they had during the ascent to the mountain and the descent. He was still on a high. There was so much he wanted to share. He definitely had a peak experience to brag about.

The next day, he was back to work. Back to reality, so to speak.

From the sublime experience of trekking up a mountain, he was back in the ordinary world where he must drive himself to work, earn his keep and attend to responsibilities and duties. That’s how it is.

It’s the same for sad, traumatic experiences. They can frighten, upset and horrify. They can really affect us. Yes, they can be considered peak experiences too. And thankfully, like everything, they too eventually end.

When you strip experiences of labels like “happy,” or “sad,” etc. and just look at them dispassionately as mere events that come and go, it is easier to deal with them after. I am glad I learned that early. Nothing lasts forever.

Writers like Ken Wilber like to call experiences “waves of forms” that appear and disappear. They never stay. They are phenomena that arise and dissipate eventually to give way to newer forms that will arise. That’s why a lot of meditators refer to life as a series of illusions that appear and die. The reason for meditating is to awaken to this reality and get a sense of who we are and what is happening around us. Instead of the fleeting experience, we focus on the one who experiences it. There is an untapped universe inside us to explore.

Accepting the impermanence of things will save us from getting attached to them. We encounter and experience them and move on. We must not get so caught up in the fleeting experiences that we lose a sense of the present. Every new moment becomes old after awhile, and it too passes away very quickly. From the time you read one sentence in this essay and get to the next one, some things may have already changed. That’s how it is.

As I said a while ago, the power to label any experience or “wave of form” is entirely up to us. Robert Pirsig, the writer of the book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, wrote that, “The only Zen you find on tops of mountains is the Zen you bring there.”

I think of my son. He did go up a challenging mountain. By his own admission, he said it was hard, punishing, difficult, dangerous in many ways. And yet he enjoyed it so much that he is already planning a more challenging climb to another mountain in Nepal.

One might say it is no surprise he had a positive experience climbing Mount Everest because he is already a positive person to start with. That is true.

But that quote implies more than just being born with a positive attitude. It is suggesting that inside us is the key to practically everything.

Experiences can be hard, easy, wonderful, awful, terrifying, relaxing, etc. They can be anything we want them to be. What is hard is not really the experiences themselves but having the right attitude and mindset to deal with them.


Read more at https://www.philstar.com/lifestyle/sunday-life/2018/09/23/1853717/nothing-lasts-forever#OQuFTfrZjB7QSoSI.99

Rearranging the furniture 0

Posted on September 25, 2018 by jimparedes

Rearranging the furniture

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE – Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) – September 16, 2018 – 12:00am
We have been moving things around the house. Call it spring cleaning. During the last four days, we have been doing a lot of laundry — not only of clothes we have been wearing since we arrived in Sydney; all the blankets, sheets, towels, comforters, scarves, table covers we own were stuffed into the washing machine which ran for practically two days, and then were hung outside to dry.

Luckily we have been having sunny days lately.

Lydia has been cleaning the rooms, carpeted areas, the sofas, bathrooms, and toilets. The vacuum cleaner has been humming many hours of the day. As for me, I have been mopping, sweeping and helping move furniture and chairs.

Some of the furniture had not been moved in years. We moved them all. We had to vacuum, mop, sweep and wipe the spaces they previously occupied to move other furniture into them.

Normally, when you do cleaning like this, some old items, gadgets and things you used to love suddenly reappear. I stumbled upon a very nice, sporty speaker set I bought in Sydney years ago. I remember listening to my iPod on it. I also found some other gadgets — mostly computer accessories that I spent a lot of money on. I remembered feeling then how much I had wanted to own them, only to forget about them after a few weeks.

While we were clearing things, Lydia and I reviewed a lot of old but still working electronic stuff like big scanners, old WiFi stations, mics and camera accessories for old laptops, and bulky disc drives. We could not readily decide to just throw them away.

My kids would have had no problem getting rid of stuff like this. But Lydia and I come from a time when, instead of throwing out stuff, we often reused or “repurposed” the items before they ended up in landfills. Also, maybe our generation put greater value on such things because they seemed like breakthrough buys when we purchased them. These gadgets transitioned us from the analogue to digital age. That was a big change for us. For our kids, on the other hand, digital was the only age they knew.

I remember one time, my son Mio borrowed my laptop and he saw so many files and apps on it that had not been opened for a while. He was shocked. He gave me unsolicited advice to trash anything that I had not opened in six months. I ended up trashing a lot of things but not all. Luckily, I kept some documents that I needed and will still need in the coming years.

Lydia has very strong instincts about how things should be arranged which, remarkably, makes good sense even in terms of feng shui. She can put objects in places where you can sense a more balanced distribution of energy in the area. You get a sense of the “flow” of the room. It seems more vibrant, open and positive after she is through arranging things. The space becomes not just more aesthetically appealing but also more highly functional. It is amazing.

As for me, I am very easy to please. In every house we have rented, owned, remodeled or built, my simple demand was for some private space for me. I am a low-maintenance person. I really do not have strong opinions about how furniture should be arranged. I do not even have preferences about the colors of walls. I just want a place where I can sleep comfortably. I am happy when Lydia is happy about the house. In matters like this, I give her full control. I let her call the shots since she stays in the house more often than I do.

She likes to periodically remodel our house. She likes adding spaces, repainting, rearranging, taking out walls, adding new corners, etc. I am generally open to that as long as they are done quickly. She likes to transform spaces into areas that are not just livable but also conducive to entertain, and comfortable to be in.

Today, we moved a lot of stuff around in our simple home in Sydney. Some things were light. Others, like cabinets and tables, were heavy to carry. After everything was put in in its right place, we decided to get rid of a lot of stuff that did not fit into the new set-up.

It is good to let go. You actually feel lighter. If you haven’t missed or searched for things you own in years, what’s the point in keeping them?

There is something Zen about throwing things away. I am not just talking about worldly stuff. I am referring to the attitude of letting go, which we should apply to other areas in life. Letting go of fixed ideas, concepts, beliefs, opinions, hurts, people, negative emotions, entitlements, the past — things that no longer serve us — can make us feel that our mind and spirit have been “rearranged” somewhat. Life can suddenly seem fresh, new, invigorating, as you let go of stuff and allow new ideas and experiences in.

Imagine life as a dark house with so much furniture. You must navigate your way through the clutter. Many times, we find ourselves bumping into the same furniture. Maybe it is time to bump into new things.

That’s how we grow.


Read more at https://www.philstar.com/lifestyle/sunday-life/2018/09/16/1851776/rearranging-furniture#rOV2JfiLTqm6Er6o.99

Life in Manila is crazy 0

Posted on September 25, 2018 by jimparedes

Life in Manila is crazy

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE – Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) – September 9, 2018 – 12:00am
It was officially the start of spring last Sept. 1 in Australia. It was not as cold as it was in July at the height of winter. But it can still get cold at night.

I am back in Sydney. It is great to be here. I look at my stays here as respite from my regular life in the Philippines. By “regular,” I certainly do not mean ordinary, boring or uneventful. Certainly not! Life in the Philippines, especially the past two years, has been anything but that.

Living in Manila is crazy. It means being assaulted by traffic daily. There are the heavy rains that bring flashfloods resulting in hastily declared holidays and cancelations of work every now and then. The never-ending crises foisted by the government on Filipinos can actually put you on perennially heightened mode physically and psychologically without your knowing it. It is like we are always unconsciously expecting bad things to happen.

It is only when I go on vacation that I feel my body fully relaxed. I have been having long periods of sleep since I got to Sydney a few days ago. Maybe it is the weather that relaxes me. Or maybe because I am not as busy here. But the change of scene certainly makes me more detached from the goings-on at home, which can eat me up daily since I am too close to the action.

Our home in Sydney is quiet. I wake up to the sound of birds chirping in the morning. The air is crisp and clean. When the sun is out, the sky is blue as blue. You hardly see people walking in the streets. At night, my neighbors have their lights off by 8 p.m. They do not even leave the front door lights on. Only Filipino homes do. You hear no cars screeching or even passing by. When people are walking in the streets, they talk softly. No loud laughter or conversation.

Right now it is only Lydia and I at home for the next two weeks. We will expect visitors every now and then. I look forward to long walks in the neighborhood parks, visits to art galleries, which Lydia and I love to do. We are also looking forward to weekends with our daughter Ala, her husband John and our granddaughter Zadie. Our son Mio, who is currently on a trek to the Base Camp of Mt. Everest with his mates will be home after Sept.16.

I believe in having places of solace. Silence is getting rare in this modern world where everyone is constantly looking for stimulation and titillation. Life has become noisier and faster paced. Sometimes, all you want is peace and quiet. You want to just sit back and watch dispassionately as the world turns.

It is a quiet joy to sit down and read poetry, or just play the guitar, or even do housework. Cleaning the house, doing laundry, hanging clothes to dry, washing dishes, mopping the floor, preparing meals can be joyful experiences. One can get a sense of quiet fulfillment.

Sometimes, my life can get too “large” since I am a public person. There are people who are constantly reaching out and wanting to talk, shake hands, and have photos with me. This happens in both social media and in real life. As a seasoned performer, I am quite comfortable with crowds. I revel in it. While I must admit that I mostly enjoy the interaction with people and have great satisfaction, “me” time can be wonderfully refreshing, too.

When you are taken out of your usual milieu and put in a place where the scenery and the routines are changed, something happens. It can be uncomfortable and unpleasant if you resist it. The best and perhaps the only good way to deal with the situation is to succumb to it. Settle yourself with it and in it. Be present wherever you are. You can’t be in two places at the same time anyway. When you can accept it, the situation opens its gifts to you.

This morning, I noticed that the leaves of the Jacaranda trees in our frontage are turning yellow. Did they bloom their beautiful violet flowers while I was away? I do not know. The grass has not grown much since July. That’s how it is during winter. Sometimes it turns brown as if it had died. In a few weeks, the grass will look alive again and grow at a faster rate.

It is also good to eat meals slowly and appreciate what has been prepared. Often I eat a meal, and can’t even recall what I had eaten two hours later. That is certainly not a good thing. It means I was not present as I was doing it.

When you get into the silence, your feelings and emotions may express themselves more readily. That’s because you are more in touch with them. No deadlines, schedules or obligations stand in the way. You don’t have to react to so many things.

During moments like these, I can write songs so easily. Inspirations need not be dramatic. Looking through a window or walking in open spaces with so much greenery is enough. With a little coaxing, songs just bubble up to the surface.

Solace is an inner place where you report to yourself and are reminded of where you are and who you have become at the moment. It is an affirmation of basic identity without all the frills and the delusions that modern life tries to make you believe are central to you.

I wish for all of you some solace. We all need it more than we think.


Read more at https://www.philstar.com/lifestyle/sunday-life/2018/09/09/1849783/life-manila-crazy#Bu2gEpIy2rcCufyf.99

Habitual pleasures 0

Posted on September 25, 2018 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE – Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) – August 26, 2018 – 12:00am

When people live past 60 years old, they think that life is pretty much a settled thing. Most of their dreams have been achieved. Milestones have been crossed. They like to reward themselves with simple pleasures. It keeps life going.

Many are already set in their ways and are comfortable with old habits they have acquired through the years. Some of these habits have become part of daily life. It gives them comfort and indulging in them gives them a sense of ritual and structure.

I have friends who can talk about how they like their coffee in great detail. They have cultivated the habit of coffee drinking through decades. They talk about the origins, flavors and how imbibing coffee makes them feel good. They meet together just to drink and enjoy coffee.

Some classmates have formed a group that meets occasionally to enjoy the pleasures of whisky and scotch. No, they don’t go on a drinking binge. They just enjoy their malt.

Some people consume wine with regularity and relish. My wife and her friends just love wine. Wine can be a whole universe in itself to explore and enjoy. There are so many types to choose from. There’s Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet, Bordeaux, Chiraz, Merlot, etc. Then there are the countries and regions where they come from, and the year when they were put in bottles. For many of my friends and members of my immediate family, drinking wine has become a habit when we get together. Unfortunately, I can only take an occasional half glass and that’s about it. Beyond that, I turn red and experience palpitations.

Some people talk about their spiritual and religious practices. Going to Mass, praying to God and the saints regularly, praying the rosary have become part of their daily habit for years and years. They get a sense of purpose and meaning doing this.

The habits I talk about here are routines of behavior. There are habits you do unconsciously. I am talking about habits that are consciously indulged in which bring pleasure and joy in life. They are meant to be enjoyed and savored. These habits can also become passions.

I have engaged in many habits and hobbies and passions throughout my life. There is music primarily. Playing the guitar and piano, listening to music for hours and hours are things I still love to do. I even sing in my mind sometimes.

In my 40s, I got into scuba diving. It lasted quite a long time. I used to go diving every weekend. When I would not dive for three weeks, I would miss it terribly. I only stopped when one of my dive buddies, Redford White, died of cancer. I can still get into diving but at a slower pace now. Maybe I will continue.

When I turned 60, I took up coffee. Yes, you read that right: I drank my first full cup of coffee when I became a senior citizen. Prior to that, I don’t remember drinking coffee except to taste it. My mom, who was a coffee drinker, told me when I was a child not to drink coffee because, during those days, many believed coffee stunted growth. So I had an aversion to coffee for most of my life. At 60, I figured I was probably beyond any physical phase where I would still grow taller. And I’d always wanted to understand why my wife loves her coffee so much.

About once a week, I drink a cup or two. I take brewed coffee. That’s about as adventurous I am with coffee right now. I still haven’t taken to it enough to say that I have developed the habit.

One habit I have fully embraced in my 60s is eating chocolates. Almost every night now I take a square or two from a Lindt bar and savor them with great relish. I especially like dark chocolate. My refrigerator is full of different kinds and brands. Aside from Lindt, there are Frey, See’s, Royce, Godiva, Toblerone, Cote D’or, Tim Tams, among many others. I hardly take milk chocolate; the milk bothers my stomach. On occasion, I take white chocolates but those can taste too sweet. I like the smoothness and the sweetness of all kinds of chocolate but prefer dark overall. I particularly enjoy chocolate with 85 percent cocoa. Every time I travel, I always buy some to make sure I have chocolates wherever I find myself.

Another thing I have started taking interest in is plants. I have a modestly sized garden with lots of varieties of plants, shrubs, creepers, a few trees and herbs that Lydia is cultivating. We even have a few fruit trees like mango, avocado, mulberry, lanka, papaya and guava. Every morning, I walk around the garden to look at flowers, or notice new buds that have sprung overnight. I love the idea of cultivating and caring for living things and watch them grow and flourish.

Then there is my devotion to exercise. I go to the gym three to four times a week and do one hour or so of stretches, sit-ups, pushups, planks, pull-ups and a few machines. I can say that it has become a habit, because I actually miss doing it when I am unable to exercise. I miss the pain and the sweat, and the endorphins that come with exercise. There is that great feeling of personal achievement, and general well-being after.

Habits like taking coffee, alcohol, smoking cigars are okay in moderation. I like to think a little poison occasionally may be good for you. Some habits are still safe in large doses. But the general rule is do not have too much of anything.

Anything in excess is most likely not good.

It has been said that saints are the hardest people to live with. Even too much religiosity may not be desirable. Too much heaven may not be good for mortals!

In matters that give pleasure, the way to enjoy them is to indulge just enough so that it keeps on giving and giving every time.


How romantic love was born 0

Posted on September 25, 2018 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE – Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) – August 19, 2018 – 12:00am

I read a book many years ago by one of my favorite authors Ken Wilber. It was called A Brief History of Everything. It was a fascinating read. It was as much about history and also the evolution of consciousness and spirit that guided and brought mankind to the stages of evolution in thinking and values.

I wish to dwell on a particular time in history which Ken Wilber likes to point out as that moment when romantic love was born. It was around the 12th century in Europe, particularly in France where it started. This was the age of the Troubadours.

The troubadours were poets and artists and knights and they made a big deal about how loving a woman was an ideal to be sought and pursued. It had two elements that they adhered to. The first was the complete and total ‘‘adoration of women.’’ The second was ‘‘the enablement of man through love.’’ It was certainly not about carnal desires. Carnality made men no higher nor different than animals which are unable to overcome their baser instincts. It was about something much more noble. It was about the elevation of women, and how loving them could also elevate man himself. To quote Guillen Montanhagol, a troubadour then from Toulouse, “Truly, lovers must serve with love all their hearts, for love is not a sin but a virtue which makes the wicked good and the good better, and puts a man in the way of doing good every day: and out of love comes charity, for whoever truly gives his mind to love cannot thereafter do evil.”

It is noteworthy to mention that prior to all this, the main ideal that was pursued was complete loyalty and devotion to the king and the Lord. One might say this was the path to glory.

The socio-political power structure then consisted of the royal families and the Church. The feudal system was all about the royals owning and ruling over vast tracks of land and the peasants serving them. The Church was also part and parcel of the power structure. Mainly, it gave God’s imprimatur to kings and queens to rule over their subjects.

At a time when lands had to be populated, and laborers and armies were greatly needed, it was the friars task to broker unions through marriage. Marriages were mainly utilitarian unions. Royals needed vassals for farming. The priests’ role was to find men and women to match and pair as couples, marry them off so they can bear children with the aim of providing subjects to serve the king. A great majority of marriages were arranged by the church.

Even among the royalty, the church brokered the unions by marriage of kings and queens, princes and princesses to consolidate their power and build empires. Obviously, the priests were very powerful in the community.

This is not to say that love did not exist prior to the time of the Troubadours. It did but it was not a top of mind consideration nor a necessity for marriage.

You can imagine how the troubadours with their glorification and pursuit of romantic love would become a major challenge to the powers that were at that time. It was a new idea that not only introduced a more refined relationship between men and women but also changed the rules between subjects and rulers. For one, it diluted loyalty to the king and the Church. The element of choice about whom to love subverted the existing order. In fact, many troubadours were arrested and killed. One might say, they were martyrs who died for the ‘‘glory of love.’’

I find this particular time in the history of man quite exciting. Clearly, it was a step up the evolutionary consciousness that led to the development of greater freedom and the recognition of free will, to say the least.

Some people say that we live in a post-romantic modern world now. The world of the troubadours is over. Chivalry is dead. Perhaps they are right, but not completely. Valency, a troubadour himself described a true lover in those times as a “woman’s lover, her vassal (an agent of her will who serves her like the vassals who served their king), her protector and champion (of her physical well-being and reputation), and her poet.” The last one probably meant that he wrote poems and sang songs of lofty love to honor her.

A lot of modern men still like to do the whole romantic schtick like giving gifts, chocolates and flowers, and writing love letters and singing songs. The major difference between the troubadours of old and the modern lovers is the casual and not-so-strict adherence to the ideal of pure unadulterated love and the element of secrecy which was valued at that time.

Some historians say the the troubadours gave birth to romantic love which by definition and practice was both sensual and spiritual. Of course, the sensual part of it then was not anything like what we mean ‘‘sensual’’ to be today. A romantic glance, a perfumed handkerchief given to a man, a poem sent to a loved one may have been the typical exchanges. Everything was more refined and proceeded in orderly, defined albeit restrained stages, from the act of falling in love to consummation.

Love has gone through a lot of changes through the ages. It certainly has been evolving since time began.

But romantic love, the act of falling in love and placing a loved one in some sort of pedestal lingers on. One cynical way to look at all this is to judge this as an act by someone unworthy trying to find self-worth in another.

I look at it differently. I see it as the power of love that humbles one person to surrender and devote all his attention, powers and capabilities to his adored one.

We can learn from past history. Perhaps it would make our ladies happier if we men would behave like the troubadours once in awhile.


Read more at https://www.philstar.com/lifestyle/sunday-life/2018/08/19/1843751/how-romantic-love-was-born#TCR4MqQrEQV2kcC0.99

Making a legacy 0

Posted on August 12, 2018 by jimparedes

Making a legacy

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE – Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) – August 12, 2018 – 12:00am

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I felt really wonderful about how the musical turned out. It captured the APO spirit and made people laugh, cry, get nostalgic, and it brought them to a new experience and appreciation of our music.

Last weekend was quite an emotional one for me. It was because Eto na! Musical nAPO, the stage musical, opened at the Maybank Theater last Thursday. Boboy and I, with a few friends, bought the Sunday night showing and invited all our close friends and the public who wanted to join the special night. Old and new friends showed up. Many of the people who were already present early in our career as APO, and fans who have stayed with us all this time, were present. Our relatives, their children were all there to watch the musical that has been getting standing ovations ever since it opened. It was a sentimental night. It reminded us of how long APO has been making music.

I felt really wonderful about how the musical turned out. It captured the APO spirit and made people laugh, cry, get nostalgic, and it brought them to a new experience and appreciation of our music. We wanted our friends to enjoy what 9 Works Theatrical, Globe Live Events and the whole production and cast had done to our repertoire. They made the songs new, fresh, magical and more beautiful than I had ever heard them.

Right after the play, as people were leaving the theater to go to the lobby, two people approached me and asked me how I felt at that very moment. I was taken aback. I had no words. I thought for a while and said that I felt happy that people recognized how APO had built quite a formidable catalogue of songs worthy of becoming a legacy. I was proud but humbled, ecstatic but reflective at the same time.

I still remember when we wrote the songs and recorded our albums. I remember the creative processes that happened in the studio. We were not sure of what we were doing; we were often shooting from the hip. We embarked on making a career in “Pinoy pop” without a template even existing then. In a world where the goal was to imitate foreign artists by singing covers, we wanted to do our own songs, and sing in Tagalog!

Our aim was to make songs that Filipinos would sing and love and use as themes of their everyday lives. Unsure as we were, we just plodded on. We felt that if the songs we created pleased us, then they would probably please other people. We believed in our own instincts. Many times, we were proven right.

Not all the songs we recorded became popular. Far from it. We actually had more misses than hits. One of the things I have learned is that a songwriter’s job is to go for quantity. For every song you do not write, you deprive yourself of a possible hit. Don’t wait for outside inspiration. Learn to tap the fire within you. Just do the work. If you have to wait to fall in love to be inspired, you will create very little. Just write. Do not judge the songs. God will take care of the quality.

I have been writing songs for five decades. In the past five years, I did two solo albums. More than for any other reason, I wrote and recorded them because that is what a songwriter does. I try to keep it that simple. In short, I do not put too many conditions when doing what I enjoy doing.

To ignore or suppress the urge to write and bring forth these songs to life would be to commit creative abortion. Songs are creations. They are living things. These creative seeds are entrusted to me and it is my duty to take care and give them a chance to shine and be heard. Even if at times I can be extremely critical of my work and sabotage my confidence, I try to allow the thoughts and feelings that come to simply flow and let them be what they were meant to be.

Every song in the musical is wonderfully received by the audience every show. Before they were part of the musical, they were hit songs that sold well and got a lot of media coverage. Some of them had been interpreted by other artists. Some of these artists even became famous because of them. Seeing these “pre-loved” songs come alive onstage performed by new singers was such a treat for me.

When we were just starting, we never thought we would actually build a body of work like we did. We just did things almost spontaneously. When we thought we had written a batch of songs, we would go to the studio to record them. All in all, we released about 27 albums including compilations of hits.

When we record an album, we often have our favorites that we predict will become hits. We put a lot of effort into them. We fall in love with them. But quite often, these songs we heavily betted on end up ignored. Meanwhile, the unexpected ones, those that we simply recorded without expectations or great effort, end up taking all the glory. This is one of those “mysteries” that no one has really figured out in the record industry. We can only laugh.

I think the secret to building a legacy of any kind is to approach what it is you do with love and passion. Without them, you can’t breathe life into anything. Love is in the details. Always. Passion is the effort you put into the work. You cannot love generally; love is specific. Acts of love are always nuanced. A song is an expression of a unique feeling. As a songwriter, I believe that the more “localized” or defined the feeling, the more people can relate to it. Songs are, after all, emotional “stories.” And people like these musical stories with truthful details written with some poetry.

I do not think I will ever be ready to retire from songwriting and performing. Boboy and I still do shows and events occasionally. I also have been doing solo shows for sometime now. Last month, I did two solo performances for a mostly foreign crowd in Sydney. I sang my original songs in English and Filipino plus a few generally popular songs. Guess what? I got more positive reaction doing my own originals. The newness did not seem to alienate them since I would tell them what the songs were all about. They were warmly received.

The love, passion and authenticity I put into them must have crossed the language barrier.

Read more at https://www.philstar.com/lifestyle/sunday-life/2018/08/12/1841662/making-legacy#DMYyUMVOhwL4sQwp.99

Eto na! Musical nAPO! 0

Posted on August 04, 2018 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE – Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) – August 5, 2018 – 12:00am

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It was not the first offer we had received.

Many individuals had approached the APO with plans to launch a new musical based on the hits we had made through the years. A movie called Idobidobidoo was created some years back which was based on APO’s hits. But APO’s music had never been used in any theatrical production. There were a few people who approached and presented us with rough storylines. Some sought our permission without anything concrete on paper. None of them grabbed our attention.

Around five months ago, Robbie Guevara, Anna and Santi Sta Maria of 9 Works called for a meeting to interest me in a project they had in mind. 9 Works had been doing theatrical projects for almost a decade, successfully producing plays and musicals in English, including popular Disney theater shows. They recently restaged Himala earlier this year to critical acclaim. For the rest of the year, they wanted to do something they had not done before. They wanted to create an original musical and they thought that APO’s repertoire was the right material to play with.

During that meeting, they ran the story by me including how the songs would fit in. Rough as it was, I liked what I heard. 9 Works had also talked to Boboy and Danny about the project. It did not take long for us to agree and give our go signal.

About a month later, Robbie invited me to sit through a reading to see my reactions and give suggestions. The story was simple. It was about a barkada in college circa 1975 that wanted to participate in a singing and songwriting contest. The plot is interspersed with the love stories of the cast amidst the martial law years. Robbie wanted to hear my comments about the characters and the plot and ask me more about what life was like during that era.

The reading I attended featured a slightly modified script that had already been developed from the one they’d sent earlier. It had new elements. I liked it. But Robbie knew it needed a lot more revisions before it was ready for a paying audience.

Some weeks and 21 revisions later, he invited me again, this time to watch the rehearsals. I was so elated with what I saw. The script and the music were a great fit. The story line was clear. The unraveling of the plot was exciting. The characters were distinct and quite lovable, and the few songs they had already arranged were uniquely and beautifully interpreted and performed. The musical was clearly coming to life in a wonderful way.

I’ve always believed that to entertain people is to surprise and delight them. The aim is to let them experience something that is not only new but like no other.

I wished everyone involved good luck and left for Sydney a few days later. I came back last July 31. Three days ago, I finally watched the musical on stage. Before the show, Robbie told me I was about to watch revision No. 33. Quite honestly, I was not prepared to see what I saw. I was more than surprised and delighted. I was ecstatic!

From the last rehearsal I saw a month earlier, it had transformed into a wonderful stage musical with amazingly beautiful and solid musical arrangements by Orly de la Cruz and Daniel Bartolome. The choreography by PJ Rebillida was delightfully brilliant. The entire cast showed great singing, acting, dancing and wonderful comic timing. There were so may highlights in the show. Everything worked flawlessly. There were no scenes or performances that were lacking. The whole musical was superb. Overall, there was that feel-good quality served in generous servings that knocked the audience off its feet.

I felt that the whole creative universe that we in the APO had inhabited through the decades when we were performing and writing our songs was explored to the fullest. The humor, angst, wit, lightness and seriousness, the bold spirit and originality of OPM, the Filipinoness unfolded magically on stage. The audience responded with a standing ovation.

Alas, I must stop right here since I am obviously a biased source. Instead, let me quote reactions from members of the audience.

“As I watched everything unfold, I could not help but feel sentimental and emotional as the songs of the APO has been an integral part of our lives. It is a show that cannot be missed.” — Franco Laurel, actor

“Eto Na! Musikal nAPO! is jukebox musical done well: infusing the very soul of APO Hiking Society’s music in its storytelling. Superbly takes the period piece route instead of relying on nostalgia. Offers plenty of surprises, including a breakout performance from Jobim Javier.” — Nikki Francisco, Theater Fans Manila

“Just saw Eto Na! Musikal nAPO! and it was such great fun and I’ve a renewed appreciation for the music of APO Hiking Society. So much fun!” — Wanggo Gallaga, writer

“Got to watch the technical preview of this musical and I loved it. Really enjoyed the story, comedy, acting (Sonny was my favorite) and to top it off the amazing songs of APO.” — Sam Milby, actor

“I went down memory lane tonight through APO’s music, the soundtrack of my youth. I really enjoyed watching friends hamming it up, prancing about and being emotional on stage. Benta ang mga jokes! Saka yung scene ni Raul Montesa sa huli, panalo! Iba talaga ang music ng APO. Magaan sa tenga.” —Raymund Concepcion, theater actor (father of actor Sam Concepcion, and Red Concepcion, the new “Engineer” in the US touring cast of Miss Saigon).

After the show, a millennial told me, “Frankly, I did not expect to connect to all the songs” (since most were written before he was born). “But I did.” It was a delight to hear that.

I want to give special thanks to the Globe Live Team for being co-producers with 9 Works amd suppoting creative endeavors such as this. I thank 9 Works’ Santi and Anna, Robbie Guevara and Jon Jon Martin and the entire effort that brought all this to life. The musical runs all weekends of August. Tickets are available at Ticket World. There are matinees and evening shows on some days.

Do not miss this! You won’t be sorry.


Why I believe we will overcome 0

Posted on July 29, 2018 by jimparedes

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HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE – Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) – July 29, 2018 – 12:00am

“One of the big things we need to do is to simply behave in our country the way we behave abroad.”

In this article, I will attempt to write about aspects of who we are as a nation and race. The subject matter is a hard one. It is like describing something you do not see, like air. We were born and largely raised as Filipinos and have taken that for granted and therefore we may not be objectively and consciously aware of what we are like.

I have been a Filipino for 66 years. To write objectively about being Filipino is like searching for God. How can you search for something that has always been already present? How can I step out of being myself to describe who I am?

Let me start by stating what the mythologist Joseph Campbell said many years ago. He said that every people and race in the world thinks they are the “Chosen” race. We are no exception.

We pride ourselves on being the only Catholic nation in Asia and this supposedly makes us special, maybe even blessed among all nations. Even when we do badly we explain our behavior with the catchphrase “only in the Pilipins” to berate ourselves, but often also to put a positive spin on our blunders and rebrand them as “uniqueness.” Recently, I heard some people claim that the term “Pilipino” is supposedly derived from two Tagalog words — pinili (chosen) and pino (to refine or smoothen) — oblivious to the historical fact that our country was actually named after King Philip of Spain whose name was Felipe in Spanish.

I have encountered many of our countrymen abroad and in the Philippines and I have observed certain commonalities we all share as a race. I speak generally but at the same time I am aware that there are exceptions. Here are some observations:

1) We love beauty contests. We take great pride every time a Filipina wins an international title. Beauty contests also happen in every barangay in the Philippines every year. We love pageants of all sorts. We also hold contests for Mr. Philippines and Ms. Gay Philippines. In almost every Filipino community abroad, it is not an uncommon occurrence.

2) We like things “small.” In Nick Joaquin’s essay entitled “Heritage of Smallness,” he observed that we have a penchant for downsizing things and making them less big. Instead of going for the bigger solid enterprise, we like to cut things up into smaller parts. When a province gets big and prosperous, we like to divide it into Norte and Sur. When a city becomes bigger, we want it halved into two. This is also obvious in these little geographical enclaves called subdivisions. Aside from the main entrance gate, it is not unusual to see other gates in many streets inside further subdividing the area.

In almost every nation abroad, it is hard to find one big united Filipino organization. Instead, you will see a host of organizations subdivided along ethnic and provincial groupings reflecting the way things are back home.

3) We love titles. We are status conscious. If you were once a president, a senator or a congressman or a judge, you expect to be addressed as such for life. The joke among our countrymen abroad is that if there are one hundred Filipinos, there will be 101 organizations because everyone wants to be president or a head of something. And of course, there must be an umbrella organization to unite them all.

4) We love the underdog. We identify with them. Almost every success story is framed in such a way that a “humble beginning” is always the way they all start. More than examining the elements that make something a success such as hard work, diligence, foresight and a methodical approach to goals, we like to focus on the odds that stood in the way of succeeding. Redemption stories are more inspiring when laced with a little extra drama.

5) We are genuinely kind and hospitable. We like to share whatever meager resources we have with visitors and guests, especially when they visit our homes. We genuinely want them to feel at home and be part of the family to a point where we forgo our own comforts and offer the best amenities we have to our visitors. We are also generally kind to foreigners. We are amused and pleased to no end when foreigners speak our language or adopt our customs.

6) We love socializing. We celebrate birthdays, christenings, baptisms, weddings, First Communions, house blessings, fiestas in honor of patron saints, graduations, Christmas, New Year, the birth of new enterprises, anniversaries, Valentines, Halloween, Mother’s and Father’s Day, the Feast of the Black Nazarene, etc. Even when there is no reason to celebrate, we look for one. We are party people.

7) We are generally optimistic and hopeful regardless of the situation. We collectively know that we as a people have gone through many trials before. We can overcome almost anything.

8) We are slow to anger but once we are collectively incensed, watch out.

9) We are daring and extremely adaptable. You can find Filipinos everywhere in the world working and raising families under all kinds of social and political systems, cultures, religions and weather conditions.

These are just some observations. The Jesuit historian Horacio Dela Costa once wrote that the characteristics that describe a nation or people are not permanent. They change over time. Many of their virtues are born out of historical necessity.

We are a very young nation. Our people are talented. As such the Philippines is full of promise but, at the same time, it is fraught with danger. We have so much to learn. Like a child, we have not learned to think and plan for the future. We still have to learn discipline, discernment, and to focus our efforts towards a direction of irreversible and continuous progress.

We have been colonized by the Spanish, the British (very briefly from 1762 to 1764), the Americans, and the Japanese. But so have many other countries. Many of them have moved past their colonial history and no longer use it as an excuse. We still have to fully overcome this once and for all.

During these times when, once again, our democracy and our institutions are threatened by dictatorship, I am hopeful that we will rise to the occasion to do the right thing and evolve. I believe there are enough people who can be motivated more by love for country rather than fear in collectively solving our problems.

You may ask why I am optimistic. I am because I have seen Filipinos survive and thrive in societies that are modern, progressive and run under the rule of law.

One of the big things we need to do is to simply behave in our country the way we behave abroad.

What good memories are made of 0

Posted on July 22, 2018 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE – Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) – July 22, 2018 – 12:00am
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Last weekend, Lydia and I, my son Mio, my daughter Ala and her husband John Buencamino and their baby Sadie went on a short land trip to Turon Gates at the outer Blue Mountains in Capertee to live in a cabin for two nights and three days. We wanted to have bonding time.

It was a leisurely two-hour drive outside of Sydney. It was also a beautiful day. We stopped in a few places for lunch and coffee on the way up.

Turon Gates is surrounded by mountains and rolling hills. To get to our cabin, we had to drive through some unpaved roads. The landscape is quite majestic. It was mostly brownish in color with sparse but beautiful touches of greenery, and fallen trees not uncommon during winter. We saw a few kangaroos, wallabies and wombats running around

The cabin was quite spacious. It had two rooms, a moderately sized living area and a sala with a fireplace to keep the house warm, two bathrooms, and a big balcony. The cabin ran on solar power. It was not connected to the electric grid. The solar panels generated the electricity. We had to be mindful of our power consumption knowing that we could run out. The oven in the cabin was gas-run.
It was a cozy setup. Well, it was supposed to be except for one small thing. The weather forecast that weekend was a high of 18 degrees Celsius and a low of -4 degrees.

When we got there, Ala, Mio, John and I took a walk near the river. The weather was nippy. The terrain was interesting. We walked beside the river and saw some wildlife that tried to avoid us. Interestingly, we saw skeletons of small animals, probably of wallabies, which we picked up and brought to the cabin.

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That night, dinner was adobo with rice — comfort food that Lydia prepared the night before we left.

It was cold. In fact, we were freezing in bed. I had layers of clothing on and four blankets over me. Aside from my thermals and sweaters, I had to wear a beanie to keep my head warm. Apparently the fireplace was not big enough to heat up the whole cabin. It only warmed the sala where my son Mio slept.
When we woke up around 8 a.m., we saw a thin film of frost covering the rocky brownish landscape. The trees that covered the hills were frosted too. We also discovered that no water was coming out of the tap. Apparently, the pipes were frozen.

I called the main office and told them about the water situation. The manager assured us that water would be resumed soon. He advised us to keep all the taps open. Once the ice had thawed, he said, water service would resume. In about an hour and a half, water came back just in time to wash the plates and cooking pans we had used for a hearty breakfast.

None of us seemed to mind the minor inconveniences. We were just happy to be together. We spent a lot time sitting around the table and just talked, laughed, reminisced. We took photos, cooked and ate.

Most of my family were there except for Erica and Ananda who live in France. We all just felt great being together even if we were incomplete. Since we now all live apart from each other, we had a lot of catching up to do.

Our apo Zadie, Ala and John’s daughter, was the center of attention and delight. She just loved the cold and the presence of her Tito Mio, Lolo and Lola. We showered her with affection. She seemed to have discovered that we are all close and connected and that her family was actually bigger than she thought.

That afternoon, we drove around Turon Gates and stopped by near a river. We spread a blanket to sit on and took some photos. Ala brought a ukulele and played and sang. Everything was picture perfect and pleasant.

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Ala and John on the way up.
We went home early and set a fire and drank some wine. As it got dark I played the ukulele and sang a few songs. Mio turned on his phone and we went live on Facebook. It was such a unique moment that we wanted to share with friends.

After dinner, Mio and decided to brave the freezing two degrees Celsius weather and drive out to a hill we had passed earlier. We wanted to take photos of the stars. The sky was awesomely beautiful. The heavenly bodies were showing off in a grand way. They were fabulous and countless. Without much effort, we could see the Milky Way spread out across the sky. We climbed the hill guided by a torch that lit the way. We could see a few kangaroos staring at us. It scared me a bit but we figured that we were safe as long as we left them alone.

Since we did not bring tripods, we balanced our cameras on rocks and tree stumps to shoot the night sky. It was such a special moment. There we were, out in freezing weather and almost unmindful of it, totally absorbed and awe-struck by the greatness of God’s creation.

I felt especially blessed. I thought to myself, How many fathers can claim to have had a night like this with their son? I smiled in gratitude. Mio and I were totally enjoying each others’ company as we tried to go for the best shots. There was no effort to even connect. We just connected naturally and seamlessly. It is a night I will always remember.

The next day, we drove back home to Sydney. It was great to be home.

That night, we all exchanged photos via internet to relish the weekend we had. We will probably do this more often.

This is what good memories are made of.

Read more at https://www.philstar.com/lifestyle/sunday-life/2018/07/22/1835559/what-good-memories-are-made-of#plwthOEdbq6zBRwj.99

Bar life down under: Footy and a beauty contest 0

Posted on July 15, 2018 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE – Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) – July 15, 2018 – 12:00am

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I have been to Sydney many times and have seen and experienced a lot of what comprises Aussie living and social life. I have done a fair amount of what the locals do. I have gone hiking in the forests, gone to the beach many times, gone camping, had numerous barbies (barbecue picnics), celebrated ANZAC day, Australia Day, visited national parks, owned a house, had a job, paid a mortgage, taken countless train and bus rides.

I have also gained Aussie friends, and I feel comfortable with them. They are very friendly and accommodating. “No worries, mate” seems to be one of their national mantras.

Last night, I had a minor experience in acculturation. I went to a bar, watched Footy there and took photos of a modeling contest. This is quite unprecedented for me. I hardly go to bars; I don’t even drink. I’ve never sat and watched more than five minutes of sports on Australian TV. Footy, a very physical contact sport similar to American football but with Australian rules and without the protective gear, is very popular here. But I still have to learn to like it enough to care to watch it. I do not know the teams people cheer for, nor the mechanics of this strange sport called Footy. And as for the modeling pageant, while I have attended and judged a beauty contest here in Sydney before where Filo-Aussies competed, I had never witnessed a beauty pageant with an all-Aussie cast until last night!

Two close friends of mine, Paul and Rissa McIness, brought me last night to the Ettamogah pub here in Western Sydney. We have been there before to eat. The pub/bar is a popular family place because it serves good meals. It is a huge complex. A portion of it is a bar where people just drink. Rissa, an active member of the Filipino community and the Lions Club in Blacktown, was invited to judge the modeling contest. Paul and I tagged along.

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The modeling contest started during the break in the game. The judges, a mixed group of ex-winners, beauty queens and civic leaders, were looking for a Miss Photogenic, a Miss Personality, a Miss NSW, a Miss Queensland, and the big winner who would be crowned and given a sash with “Face of the Origin winner” written on it.
Inside the pub, I could see TV monitors everywhere. People dined and drank while watching the sports match between New South Wales and Queensland. Each time the NSW team scored, the noise level in the bar would escalate so loud with cheers. When the NSW team would lose the ball, people would shout in frustration. It was quite interesting to observe. While we were watching the game, Paul patiently explained everything that was happening. It is a fascinating game. Actually I can understand now how most people can get quite involved and carried away watching Footy, thanks to Paul.

The modeling contest started during the break in the game. The judges, a mixed group of ex-winners, beauty queens and civic leaders, were looking for a Miss Photogenic, a Miss Personality, a Miss NSW, a Miss Queensland, and the big winner who would be crowned and given a sash with “Face of the Origin winner” written on it.

As their names were called, each of the 17 contestants came out wearing skimpy sports clothes. They were all bubbly and gung ho as they presented themselves to the judges. Like most girls who join contests like these, many find the limelight and attention thrilling, maybe even overwhelming. They loved the spotlight and gamely posed for anyone who wanted to take their photos. I could feel their excitement.
I have watched many of these contests before in the Philippines. I noticed a general difference in how Filipinas and Aussie girls presented themselves on the ramp. The Aussies seemed to be more energetic. They had bigger movements. They seemed bolder on the ramp. Some of them actually stretched their arms when they presented themselves. They appeared less shy and seemed more comfortable with their bodies.

I am speaking generally, of course. I have seen some of our own girls back home parade with great confidence, too. But they do it with less “loudness,” if you get what I mean.

After about 40 minutes of the pageant, the game on TV resumed for another 40 minutes. When the game finished, the contestants reappeared on the ramp in bikinis. The pub area was suddenly filled with more people.

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Ettamogah was a curious experience. There is still so much to discover about Australian life. Watching Footy and a modeling contest in a bar may have been just trivial things, but interesting nonetheless.
In my limited observation, nudity and body exposure are not as big a deal in Australian culture compared to ours. There are nude beaches here and no one makes a big fuss, save perhaps for a few tourists. I remember shooting a model with some photographer friends of mine at Bondi Beach. The model made no issue about changing outfits right there by the beach without cover. No one stared, and no one cared. Undressing and dressing in the outdoors is so ordinary here.

Personally, I find it quite healthy when people are more accepting of partial or even full nudity. There is a confidence and even a wholesomeness when people have few reservations about their bodies.

There are so many locations here that are very scenic. The beautiful outdoors can make people feel more carefree. Semi- or full nakedness can be celebratory and liberating.

Ettamogah was a curious experience. There is still so much to discover about Australian life. Watching Footy and a modeling contest in a bar may have been just trivial things, but interesting nonetheless. I opened myself to a new experience and it was good. I even had half a beer. (That wasn’t meant to be a joke.) My understanding of Australia and its people expanded a bit.

I have spent quite some time here over the past 12 years. I like watching politicians debate in Parliament. I still have to experience Aboriginal cultures and ways outside of what I’ve seen in museums and read in books. I also have to get bolder and explore a bit more of the outback and the rest of the continent, among many other things.

Acculturation is when you learn something new from another culture. I love it. It is a never-ending process. The more you learn, the more you understand a bigger chunk of the world and its people.

You also understand yourself better.

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