Writing on Air

Writing on Air by Jim Paredes


520 weeks 0

Posted on November 10, 2018 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE – Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) – November 11, 2018 – 12:00am

How old are you right now? Are you healthy? Active? How many years do you think you have before you slow down? How far off is retirement? Do you still have things to do? Things to achieve? Places to see? People you want to spend time with?

When you are young, these questions are hardly important. You think you have all the time in the world to procrastinate, delay, and be lazy. You may or may not be serious about your career. You may not be thinking about pursuing your calling which is different from your career. Your calling may not even be clear to you. Life to you is a series of parties, dates, hanging around with the barkada, drinking, vacationing somewhere. Tomorrows are endless. There is time to do everything later. 

But think about this. There are 52 weeks in a year. This means that you have 260 weekends in the next five years. And 520 weeks in the next 10 years. That’s not a lot. Included here are the days when you will not be feeling well, or recuperating from illness. It includes time when you will be sleeping and doing nothing. All this may not mean anything to someone in their 20s, or maybe even in their 40s. But to someone in their 60s, those numbers are compelling.

I remember an older friend who got upset with his dive buddy because he canceled a weekend of diving. This was 10 years go. My friend was in his 60s then. He told his buddy that he just wasted one weekend he could have used up to do something he loved. He really does count his weekends. At that time, he figured he had about 500-plus weekends left before his body got too old to be doing anything as active as scuba.

Seniors have a more acute sense of the passing of time. I mostly groan during days I spend doing nothing. I feel I wasted a part of my life when it happens. More and more, I try to schedule doing stuff I want to do. I just want to fill my days doing or paying attention to things that are worth my time.

As time goes on, many older people may fret and worry. Some of them give in to impatience. They can lose their filters and get very straight to the point when they talk about things. They can speak more directly. They can sound quite abrasive. This may upset younger people. Some of the young will not understand where the oldies are coming from. They may think that the elderly are just being cranky and conclude that it goes with age (while it could also be the start of dementia).

I think the reason why some older people get cantankerous is because there is little time left to beat around the bush, or to engage in things that are a waste of time. There is also a lot of unfinished business. There are regrets. But their pride still gets in the way and they can’t do closure just yet. And so they vent out. They know there are diminishing opportunities left to say what needs to be said or to share what they need to share.

On the other hand, there are old people who are luckier. These are seniors who discover or rediscover their mojo at a late age. It is like they are going through some sort of rebirth. They have found their second wind. An example is Grandma Moses, an American art icon who started painting in her 70s when arthritis made doing embroidery too painful. Or Susan Boyle who joined a TV talent show and won the hearts of viewers everywhere, starting her singing career in her 60s. Then there’s Colonel Sanders (real name: Harland David Sanders) who started Kentucky Fried Chicken at age 65. I could a name a few more.

For these people, age is almost irrelevant. They may feel a sense of triumph and more energy at this point in their lives than they ever did before. They must feel they have defied nature and are proud of it. Instead of mourning the passage of time, they relish where they are because they are doing what they love. They still have a sense of purpose. Their sense of urgency is not because of their age and the time they have left. It is because they have a sense of mission. Time is not a tank of gasoline wasted on driving aimlessly. It is a full tank that they are ready to use to follow the path that calls them. They wish to go as far as they can. Yes, they are using all their time in building their life’s work at this late age. They are building their legacy.

And then there are these remarkable oldies, some of them I have met. They have figured out that the best way to spend the remaining time left is to do nothing and to not strive for anything. Some people may gasp at the idea. How can that be? But I have met happy retired people doing just that. At their age, they have mostly settled their issues. They have forgiven their enemies and have come to accept themselves fully. They have paid their dues and all they wish to do is smell the roses and be in the moment wherever they find themselves. Sure, they have some routines that they do to keep themselves groomed and healthy. A lot of them also meditate. But they have no sense of urgency to achieve or acquire more things. They are more into what can be described as… simply being.

Simon and Garfunkel’s 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy) comes to mind:

I got no deeds to do, no promises to keep

I’m dappled and drowsy and ready to sleep

Let the morning time drop all its petals on me

Life, I love you, all is groovy.

I am probably somewhere between the urgent and the driven type, with a little bit of the last one thrown in. To be in the third category, I think I have to work out a few things. It would help if I had money to feel secure enough to not have to do anything. No more striving for things you do not own or possess.

That may be the easy part.

The harder part is embarking on peacemaking with everything and everyone in the past. It also means to come to terms and accept who you are with all your faults and talents, pluses and minuses. It means letting go of guilt, pride and being in that sweet spot where you can appreciate however life shows up. 

I am counting on the next 520 weeks to get there.

Rico J. Puno: More than just ‘macho gwapito’ 0

Posted on November 04, 2018 by jimparedes

image: http://media.philstar.com/images/articles/lif1_2018-11-03_04-47-32.jpg

The author Jim Paredes (right) with (from left) Martin Nievera, Ric Segreto and Rico J. Puno taken about 30 years ago.Rico J. Puno: More than just ‘macho gwapito’

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE – Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) – November 4, 2018 – 12:00am

I was awakened last Tuesday morning, Oct. 30, with the news that Rico J. Puno had passed on. I learned from friends that he had done a gig the night before. After the show he complained of chest pain and went to the hospital. It was there that he had a fatal heart attack.

I was in shock. I was getting and reading texts from colleagues who felt the same way. Even if I knew that he was struggling with health issues the past three years, his death still came as a surprise to me. I guess we tend to remember people as we last saw them. In my case, it’s been about two years since my last encounter with him. This felt so sudden. Death is indeed like a thief in the night.  

Rico was a guy who loved crowds. He loved being around people. He always had a joke to share. Whether he was talking to a huge concert crowd or just a few people in a room, he was the same. He was always full of zest. He often seemed bigger than life itself. 

image: https://video.unrulymedia.com/native/images/in-art-close-icon-128×128-16481b937f87b244a645cdbef0d930f8.png

When I first met him, he was already famous. The APO was still on the make. He enjoyed his status immensely. He loved the trappings of fame. He wore gold watches, bracelets, necklaces. He was often seen in the company of beautiful, sexy women. He enjoyed the mass adulation. For many, he was the embodiment of what a Filipino pop star was if we ever saw one.  

APO and Rico, together with the singers and songwriters of the ’70s, knew we were breaking new ground musically and even culturally. We were making modern original songs strictly for the local audience. We wanted to gift them with songs in the vernacular that spoke of genuine Filipino experiences. We were creating what was to be known later as OPM.   

I was working for a record company called Jem Recording. I would bump into him in the studio where we recorded Hajji Alejandro who was the antithesis of Rico. Where Rico’s appeal catered more to the masa, Hajji’s pitch was aimed at collegialas. They were both talented and they had their own following.

There were many talents who were recording Filipino originals then but Rico’s songs dominated the airwaves. People loved his soulful voice and his songs that talked about the simple joys of love. “Namamasyal sa Luneta na walang pera” was a phrase from the song Alaala (a Tagalized version of Barbara Streisand’s The Way We Were) which resonated with the hearts of listeners everywhere. 

His voice was soulful. He could convey pain, romance, joy, naughtiness, humor and passion with it. His style was unmistakable. When his songs played on the radio, there was no mistaking it was him. He was a brand. He did both originals and famous English songs often translated to Pilipino. Onstage, he had great showmanship. He had command. He also exuded a lot of charm. And he loved to talk. He had great rapport with his audience because of his songs’ popularity. His talking and dishing out jokes enhanced and raised the intensity of the audience bonding to a fever pitch. At the end of his performances, he would often take off his coat and throw it to his audience. He always exited with a bang.

As an older performer later on, he loved to tell green jokes onstage. Sometimes, it would turn some people off. Others loved it. I remember a conversation with him where I asked why he made risqué jokes when he clearly did not need to. He already had the repertoire and the talent and charm to please the crowd. I guess he just liked to do it. He loved to walk the edge and shock his audience. 

He recorded Yakap Sa Dilim, one of APO’s big songs, for one of his albums. I saw him perform it live and it was an experience to relish. When he got to the middle part and the line, “Heto na and pinakahihintay natin,” the atmosphere turned electric. While singing he was naughtily thrusting his hips forward and back to the beat of the song. The audience went wild and broke into roaring laughter and raucous applause. It was crazy!

During the past few years, I have been reminding myself to be aware and present with every person I encounter, especially with old friends and colleagues, since it is quite possible that it could be the last time I will see them. When I hear of the sudden death of friends, the moment when we last talked comes back to me. Of course, there is no way of knowing when a person will die. That is why I make it a point now to consciously pay attention so that every conversation I have with anyone will at least have some meaning. 

 I remember being in a dressing room in GMA-7 waiting to be called for a TV guesting and having a talk with Francis M. He opened up and talked about the trumped-up raps some policemen filed against him for extortion purposes. He was upset. I listened to him. I did not know that would be our last conversation. Some months later, he died of cancer. I also remember being with songwriter Snaffu Rigor attending a Filscap board meeting. A few weeks later, Boboy and I did a show with some artists to raise funds for his medical bills. He was soon gone after that. 

I can’t even remember the exact last time I saw Rico. But in life, we crossed paths during concerts, local and foreign tours, recordings, promos, and TV guestings. We weren’t close. But when we saw each other, we would talk about our kids since they were almost the same age. We would exchange a few laughs. We often used the same musicians for our gigs. Our common friends Hajji, Nonoy Zuniga and Rey Valera loved to share stories about Rico’s stage antics. 

He also had his philosophical, serious side. He recorded inspirational songs that were huge hits. Kapalaran, May bukas pa and Lupa were some of them. They were soothing and reassuring to the Filipino soul. 

Rico J. Puno will be greatly missed. And he will be remembered as one among the great OPM legends who defined music and left indelible happy memories in the Filipinos’ collective psyche. 

Mabuhay, ka Rico J. 


Read more at https://www.philstar.com/lifestyle/sunday-life/2018/11/04/1865561/rico-j-puno-more-just-macho-gwapito#L6tCKQziMwWx6gD2.99

Visiting mom and dad 0

Posted on November 01, 2018 by jimparedes
Esther Misa and Jesus Paredes, Jr.

I just came from visiting my parents at Immaculate Concepcion Cathedral. There were quite a number of people in the crypt below the cathedral that it took time for me to find my parents resting place. I had to go back and forth a portion of the corridor 4 times before I saw it. In truth, I was getting anxious. I felt like a lost child who could not find his own parents.

When I got there I suddenly got emotional. I touched their names on the stone and started to cry. I prayed. All of a sudden, I missed their love big time. I opened my heart to them and not to long after, I actually felt their presence. My mind was saying it was just my projection but I truly felt their love. I asked them to pray for all my sibs.

To my surprise, a vision came to me. It was my dad carrying me in my parents room. I was 3 years old. That was new to my memory. I felt his love.

In our conversation, I told them that I had too many questions about life and how I envied them because they already knew the answer. I also said sorry because I may not have lived up to their expectations in many ways. But I have always strived to be a good person. I thought I heard my mom say, ‘Oo naman’ in her reassuring way.

We kept talking. I told Mom and Dad that I did believe in the after life. I asked if they could give me a sign to let me know if I was right to believe. Then I hesitated. I told them that even if I do believe, I do not want to base everything on a sign. I was already sure about it anyway.

I changed my request. I asked them for a confirmation that we actually had this conversation and it was not just my imagination conjuring up all of this. I requested them to let me encounter someone from the past that was somehow connected to us.

I stepped out for awhile and bought 2 strands of sampaguita from a vendor outside. I placed them in the crypt, said a prayer, and bade good bye.

Some 45 seconds later as I walked out of the crowded corridor, I felt someone tap my shoulder. When I looked I saw people’s faces but did not recognize anyone. I thought that it may have been just an accident. Then an old lady called out my name and came close to me. She asked me if I had ever lived in Boston street many years back. I said I did. That was the house my parents built and where I spent a big part of my wonderful childhood. She then introduced herself. Her name was Evelyn Bernardo. She used to live close by next to the De Paz Sari-sari store at the corner of Boston and Lantana where I used to buy soft drinks. She then mentioned the names of our common neighbors, the Lopezes, the Sta Marias.

What a moment! I had a major case of goosebumps. THERE was the ANSWER, THE SIGN. I told the woman what her calling me meant to me. I got emotional. She hugged me in a motherly way and told me not to cry. We talked for a while. She asked about the rest of my siblings. I said that thank God all 10 of us were still alive. I said goodbye with tears of joy.

Dear Mom, and dad. Everything in this world will wither and die. Only love is eternal. Thank you for your continuing love. I love you.

And yes, you also showed me that there is an afterlife.

Lydia M. Paredes Erica Paredes Ala Paredes Buencamino Mio Danger Paredes Paulynn Sicam Lory Paredes Tangonan Barbara Paredes-SumnerRafael Paredes Maruja Paredes Ducky Paredes Aping Paredes

My own ‘True Decalogue’ 0

Posted on October 28, 2018 by jimparedes

SHARESHUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE – Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) – October 28, 2018 – 12:00am

While we may have been too irreverent then for some people, I was in truth an Apolinario Mabini fan. 

I love reading Philippine history. I have a strong affinity for the turn-of-the-century (1900s) Filipinos who fought the war of independence against Spain, and later the Americans. I find many of our heroes quite interesting and remarkable. They were flawed human beings but did their heroic best during their time. Jose Rizal, Andres Bonifacio, Macario Sakay, Emilio Jacinto, the Luna brothers were some of them. But I have always kept a special place in my heart for Apolinario Mabini.

APO started with the name Apolinario Mabini Hiking Society which we used in our first real gig in an inter-school competition. It was a surefire way to solicit a double-take from the audience then. We were being cheeky and ironic. We were also defying the norm of the times when most groups had American-sounding names.

While we may have been too irreverent then for some people, I was in truth an Apolinario Mabini fan. 

He was an intellectual of the highest order. And his heart throughout the struggle was always in the right place. While many failed the test of patriotism under tremendous pressure, he felt deeply for his country and remained true and loyal to his principles. 

I remember reading Mabini’s True Decalogue for the first time in high school. I was floored. It was a call and a guide to being a good citizen of the republic he had dreamed and fought for. It was a call to serve God, country, and our fellow human beings with love and integrity. It called for freedom, egalitarianism, reason and the virtue of work. It was also a call against establishing a monarchy which bred dynasties — a form of governance he was particularly against. 

What a magnificent work, I thought.

A little over 19 years ago, I wanted to write a pop song that embodied my personal code of ethics which I wanted to pass on to APO’s audience. I must admit I was inspired by Mabini’s work. However, I wanted something less ambitious in scope and breadth. I wrote something much simpler. I ended up making a recitation of do’s and don’ts that people can practice in everyday life. It’s a song about how to build character. 

APO did record it. You can find it on YouTube and Spotify. It is on APO’s “Mismo” album. It is a lively, danceable song. The title is Tanggapin mo, Tanggihan mo. I hope you have time to actually listen to it online. I would like to share the lyrics with you here. 

(Chorus):

Tanggapin mo kung gusto mo

Tanggihan mo kung ayaw mo

Wag pipilitin ang sarili

Nang matuwa lang ibang tao

(Verse):

Wag gagawin dahil uso lang

Sundan lamang ang katwiran.

Gamitin mong iyong ulo

Nang hindi mag mukhang gago

At habang ang iba’y nagwawala

Habang sila’y nababaliw

Malinaw pa rin ang isip mo

Alam mo pa rin ang ginagawa mo

(Chorus):

Tanggapin mo kung gusto mo

Tanggihan mo kung ayaw mo

Wag pipilitin ang sarili

Nang matuwa lang ibang tao

(Verse 2):

Patibayin ang iyong budhi

Wag na wag kang pabibili

Alagaan ang pagkatao

Mahalaga ang pangalan mo

Pag hindi ka maaasahan

Wala sa iyong magtitiwala

Salita mo’y panindigan

At yayaman ka sa kaibigan

(Chorus):

Tanggapin mo kung gusto mo

Tanggihan mo kung ayaw mo

Wag pipilitin ang sarili

Nang matuwa lang ibang tao

(Verse 3):

Alamin, kilalanin ang sarili

Nang malaman ang sariling kiliti.

“Oo” kung “oo” at “hindi” kung “hindi.”

Mas madaling maintindihan

Ang taong walang pag-aalinlangan.

At sa ganun matitiyak mo

Ang uri ng isang tao

Tunay kang tao

Hindi ka malabo.

(Chorus):

Tanggapin mo kung gusto mo

Tanggihan mo kung ayaw mo

Wag pipilitin ang sarili

Nang matuwa lang ibang tao

Tanggapin mo kung makakatulong

Tanggihan mo kung makakasama

lang sayo

Tanggapin mo kung biyayang tunay

Tanggihan mo kungmasisira ang mundo

It was my personal decalogo then. I still believe in it but I would probably add more verses now. I made this at a time when an election was looming. I wanted people to get serious and think deeply about the values and character they would like to see in their leaders, and hopefully in themselves.  

It is election season once again. It is time to assess the character of those we choose to lead us. 

After all, in practically all endeavors in life, especially politics, character will out and it can determine the outcome of everything.APO HIKING SOCIETYAPOLINARIO MABINI HIKING SOCIETY

Blast from the past 0

Posted on October 21, 2018 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE – Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) – October 21, 2018 – 12:00am

My APO buddy Boboy Garrovillo and I did a show last week. It was a fun gig at the Pinoy Playlist Festival  2018 in BGC where 100 artists performed during the last two weekends.

It was an eclectic mix of acts. Artists as varied as Ryan Cayabyab Singers, Noel Cabangon, Nicole Asensio, Glock 9, Razorback, The Company, Shanti Dope, Sandwich, Ben and Ben, Davey Langit, Rachelle Gerodias, and a lot of new and seasoned artists showed up and participated. The shows happened simultaneously in three venues. Two were at the Maybank Theater building, and one was in a big tent nearby.  Each artist’s performance ran 45 minutes long. With a one-day ticket, you could watch many scheduled  artists performing in one day. Or you could get a pass for the entire two weekends. It is impossible to watch all of them since the shows in the different venues happened at the same time.  You had to choose whom to watch.

Boboy and I were very excited to do this. It is a unique festival for artists out to showcase their talents and artistry. And it was in its initial year. For veterans like us, we said yes because it would be a good way to sing to a new, younger audience.  All songs performed were to be OPM.

Our slot was at 9 p.m. Oct. 11 at the Maybank Main Theater where the APO musical ran its first season last August to September. I arrived three days early from a vacation in Sydney so we could rehearse with our two backup singers, Kay and Anthony of the Ryan Cayabyab Singers.

We made a repertoire of our own hits with the aim to entertain everyone. After all, the audience was a mix of  young and old, GenX and millennials, long-time fans, and first-time watchers.

We started the show with a hit song made by Louie Ocampo for the 2nd Metro Pop Festival in the ‘80s.  We were his interpreters then. We won second place. The song Ewan came out to be more popular than the first placer which was Bulag, Pipi, Bingi  sung by  Freddie Aguilar. The audience loved Ewan.  Immediately, we felt a connection.

When we asked the audience how many were watching us perform live for the first time, quite a sizable number raised their hands. I was elated. It is always great to reach out to a new audience.

It was quite funny for Boboy and I as we observed  how the young people were reacting  to our show. We have done countless shows in the past and can almost always predict when a noticeable  audience reaction would happen. The audience at Maybank that night applauded not just in the moments we knew they would  but also during some unexpected ones.

During the show, Boboy and I would once in a while burst into song and dance and do synchronized movements. When we did , we would see the smiles on the audience’s faces as they expressed a collective ‘‘wow’’ while clapping.

They probably found our few choreographed numbers quite novel and charming.  They even applauded them.  The right word to describe their reaction to our act was they found it  “quaint.”  Maybe because of our age, they did not expect us to do them. But when I think about it, not too many young performers these days do much in terms of unison movements or even choreography during songs. Bands basically just stand there and maybe do the usual head banging while playing something fast and loud. They mostly do not put effort into doing footwork or body movements.

Since our songs are quite well known, they always elicit positive reaction from the audience. We made sure we performed the big ones.  Among them were Pumapatak ang Ulan, Mahirap Magmahal ng Siyota ng Iba, Yakap sa Dilim, When I Met You and a few more.  We only sang one song that was not familiar to them. It was the song Giliw, which we recorded late in our career. It is only available in CDs sold during APO’s live performances. It was never released under any record company.

It is always a challenge to do an unknown song. I was so surprised when people started to applaud within the first 30 seconds of the song. Usually, material heard for the first time does not elicit much of a reaction other than a quiet appreciation and polite applause when it ends. At other times, people can even be oblivious to it, often talking while an artist is singing new unheard songs. This kind of boorish reaction shows that the song is not connecting to or engaging its audience. Thank God, they liked Giliw.

Sometimes, I marvel at how songs can move people in different ways. The song Batang-bata can make some people cry because they remember their parents singing the song to them. Or maybe it is because they sang it to their own children. Or maybe there are other reasons.

Hit songs are powerful, magical creations. They can bring you back to times and places and make you relive events long gone. They are the soundtrack  of emotions and memories that you can play again and again. If the performers are good, they can get inside an audience’s head and heart through songs and make them feel warm and wonderful. They can transport you to happy memorable  places without you having to leave your theater seat.

View post

As performers, I would like to think we still have some years to go before we seriously have to hang our coats and retire. In truth, I can only even speak of retirement theoretically. I can’t imagine ever retiring. Why should a person stop doing what makes him happy and fulfilled? It sounds nonsensical.

Granted that we continue to have good health, we want to do this as long as we can.  I will probably conk out with my boots on, so to speak.

But before that happens, there are more shows to do, songs to sing and audiences to be entertained. Catch us when you can.

APO HIKING SOCIETY 

BOBOY GARROVILLO  

PINOY PLAYLIST FESTIVAL 2018 

Dear visitors, 0

Posted on October 15, 2018 by jimparedes

I started this Blog in 2003. I have been at it for 15 years now. My clicks have actually surpassed 2M but since I have changed hosts 3 times, I have lost actual count. And now under my new host,  my visits are below 300,000. Don’t ask me how that happened. It was  probably caused by techno-clumsiness.

I reviewed some of my entries randomly and I actually found some of them interesting. I can’t even remember how I wrote some of them. Feel free to jump in and wade through the archives.  And comment freely. This blog will go on very active mode very soon. 

Imagined lives (and how to make them real) 0

Posted on October 09, 2018 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE – Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) – October 7, 2018 – 12:00am

I was a daydreamer as a young boy. I could be in a classroom or anywhere and whenever anything caught my fancy, I would imagine myself in made-up situations and scenarios. An open window in a classroom with a view of green space would make me feel I was running around carefree or riding a horse at great speed. Seeing a fire truck pass by while looking out the window of a car, I would become a fireman riding on it. Being a fireman — someone who knew how to deal with dangerous situations like houses on fire — was one of my ambitions then. I would imagine extinguishing blazes and rescuing people.

Sometimes, while walking in school I would be in a daze because I would imagine seeing the animals and wildlife roaming the campus before it was built. I remember being in second grade, walking along the corridors of the Ateneo, imagining what the area was like before the mortar, brick and cement structures came into being. Was this a wild forest once? Were there lots of tall trees with vines? I imagined swinging from one tree to another. 

I still daydream to this day. The only difference is I do not get so lost that I have to be called back to reality. I love playtime. The habit of allowing my imagination to run where it wants to go is something I still regularly engage in. I am glad I have not lost that habit.

I like turning things around, upside down, right side up in my head. I like mixing letters to find other words and placing commas and periods in sentences to create new meanings. I enjoy matching things that don’t naturally go together; making scenarios in which random things that were never before connected suddenly fit or co-exist in a new order. I like puns a lot. On certain days, I try to find humor or irony in everything. I imagine the kind of lives strangers live with the little info I know about them.

Daydreaming is creative pursuit. Essentially, it is making something out of nothing. As an exercise, I can be having dinner in a restaurant and I try to imagine who cooked the fish I am eating. And I can go deeper and ask whom the supplier was who brought it to this resto and who the fisherman was who caught it. What were they like? Do they have families? Where was the fish caught? All this can be going through my mind while I am eating. And I know I am just scratching the surface here. It makes dinner a more engaging experience.

In a creative class that I run, I ask my students to come up with a list of imaginary lives they would have wanted to live but cannot due to age, gender, race or any other circumstances. The list of imaginary lives usually includes astronaut, princess, king, spy, rock star, very rich people, superhero, etc.

I then ask them the reasons why they wanted to be those people. Most people who choose “astronaut” say it is because they wish to travel to space and explore new worlds. I then ask them to think of an activity they could do now that would give them a chance to literally explore a world unknown to them. Many mention scuba diving. The idea is to get the essence of what it is you fancy and look for a similar but doable experience that can give you the thrill you are looking for. Basically, you look for its substitute or parallel. It is a very empowering exercise. Many of my students end up pursuing new hobbies that make them feel more alive.

This is one of my favorite modules in the workshop. It forces people to escape from literalism, from the cut-and-dried packaged experiences that the world offers. It makes them imagine and explore wildly. In the process, they get to know themselves more and come up with creatively doable alternatives.

At 67, I still imagine lives I want to live. I still wish to be an explorer, a world teacher, an author of at least 10 books, a hiker, a cook, a philanthropist, an ambassador, an influence for good — among other things.

I am at present engaged in some activities that make me feel and experience the essence of my ambitions above. An explorer likes to venture into unknown territory. I fulfill that impulse by going to destinations unknown to me, going native, eating different types of food and immersing myself in the culture of the place.  I may not traverse big mountains or wild forests but I have the same mindset of one who does all those things.  Come to think of it, this also parallels some of the things that an ambassador or a hiker would be doing.

When I say yes to invitations to talk to varied groups of people, I get a kick — even if on a smaller scale — similar to what a world teacher must experience. I get out of my small world and share myself with new pockets of humanity. I touch people in ways that give both my audience and I something to learn from.

I still have to do more about my wish to become a cook. I have to go beyond just cooking adobo and other easy dishes. It is not enough to simply know how to fry things. With ambitions like these, you can’t live it in your head. You literally have to do work.

A philanthropist wants to help people by giving money to help others live better lives. Someone who wants to be a force of good in the world can actually be doing the same thing. I often give a chunk of my time and attention to those who are in need. I have sent random kids to school. I try and lend an ear to strangers I encounter when I feel they need someone to talk to at that moment. I have initiated dialogues with strangers whom I sense really needed someone to talk to but are too lost in their pain. I may have prevented two possible suicides by doing this.

 I may be doing philanthropic work in a very small scale right now but I feel I am on the right track. Someday, who knows, I may suddenly come across a large fortune. I will be ready to help in a bigger scale when it happens.

So when somebody belittles your ambitions and mockingly tells you to “dream on,” think of it as good advice. Keep dreaming and embark on doable parallel activities that will nourish your soul. It starts with dreaming and imagining. But acting on it must follow. And then before you know it, the dream has become real!AMBITIONSDREAMS

An old-fashioned pleasure 0

Posted on September 30, 2018 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE – Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) – September 30, 2018 – 12:00am

I have no problem with Kindle, but I still prefer looking at words printed on paper. I also like feeling the texture of the page. Some avid book readers I know like the smell of the pages.

Last week, I did something pretty old-fashioned but quite radical in this day and age. I went to a bookstore and bought a book. 

Yes, you read it right. I actually bought a book. I went to downtown Sydney to the Kinokuniya bookstore — a readers’ paradise with quite a selection of books for all types of people. I spent a lot of time at the Australian history section and bought a book called Girt: The Unauthorized History of Australia by David Hunt. It is a delightfully humorous narrative about unknown snippets of Australian history. 

The last time I was in Sydney months ago, I also went to the same bookstore and purchased a book written by an Aboriginal writer. 

Two weeks ago, as we were doing spring cleaning at home, I came across a pile of children’s books which I used to read to my kids when they were very young. These were mostly books by Dr. Seuss. I read a whole bunch of them many times to my kids. Dr. Seuss classics like The Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham, One Hand Drumming on a Drum, The Birthday Book, There’s a Wocket in my Pocket, I’ll Teach my Dog 100 Words, to name just a few, were books that I shared with my kids.

It is such a delight to read Dr. Seuss. He has simple rhymes and very unique drawings that can really delight anyone’s imagination. They are perfect tools to get the very young to love books.

I started introducing books to my kids even before they could talk. I would sit next to them, open the books and read everything on the pages while pointing to the letters with my hands. I would read aloud — not just the title and author of the book; I would even read the page number, copyright and publishing info. I would read aloud everything on the pages. I wanted my kids to know that all the letters and numbers on the page meant something. 

Throughout their childhood, I was reading to each one of them. For them, books were easy to like because I made reading very exciting. I read stories and poetry to them. Even if we had a television, I raised them away from it except for Sesame Street and a few other shows. Instead of them vegging out in front of a TV screen for hours, I would read and spend crazy times with them and invent games to play. Sometimes I would read certain books three times in a row since they loved the stories so much. 

I am just so glad that, in this internet age, where people’s attention spans have shrunk to very short stretches, I still see my kids reading novels. I feel proud of them. And I feel affirmed that I raised them well in this respect.

My wife Lydia uses a Kindle. I have read a few books on such devices. It was okay. I have no problem with them, but somehow I still prefer looking at words printed on paper. I also like feeling the texture of the page. I like flipping pages. Some avid book readers I know like the smell of the pages.

The disadvantage of books though is they can weight a lot and occupy bigger spaces than Kindle and similar gadgets, especially when traveling. Outside of that, I love seeing stacks of good books on bookshelves. Occasionally I go to my bookshelves and reread books I have enjoyed before. 

I have also gone through phases in my life where I read a whole number of books by the same author one after another. I get the feeling that I know the authors quite intimately after. I got so carried away with the Conversations with God series of books by Neale Donald Walsch that I actually invited him to visit the Philippines and give talks. I had the pleasure of spending a lot of time with him and his wife in between scheduled book signings and lectures. It was an unforgettable experience talking to a famous author about his works while riding the car, having dinner or drinking coffee. 

I’ve written to a few authors whose books I have read. I contacted Paulo Coelho via email and he answered me back very quickly. He even responded to questions I asked about certain characters in a particular book. I specifically mentioned a female character in his book The Valkyries and asked if she was a fictional or real person. He said the character was based on a real person. I also got a sense that she was a woman Coelho had known and loved.

The invention of print made the sharing of ideas and stories universally possible. We can say that print is probably among the top greatest inventions of mankind. We must thank Johannes Gutenberg for that. It is amazing to read that in Europe during the 17th century, people were already reading books. The most popular books during that time, next to the Bible, were travel stories written by explorers who had successfully crossed the oceans and visited undiscovered islands and peoples and had returned.

In this modern world where almost everything is available online and can be ordered or accessed from one’s phone or laptop, there are certain pleasures that I prefer to still experience in the old-fashioned way. Talking person-to-person live, going to bookstores, silence, learning a handicraft, listening to music while not doing anything, meditating and reading books are only some of them.

I am hoping that many millennials try being “old-fashioned” once in a while and hang around libraries and bookstores. Better yet, I hope they spend money buying real books. I am pretty sure they will enjoy the experience enough to want to do it again and again. Who knows? They could collect books and build and share personal libraries just as many do with comic books and video games.

AUSTRALIABOOKSHISTORYPhilstar

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.

EXPERIENCESLIFEMUSIC

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.

FURNITURE

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

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