Writing on Air

Writing on Air by Jim Paredes

Dads make mistakes, too 0

Posted on June 17, 2019 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE – Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) – June 16, 2019 – 12:00am

It is Father’s Day once more. There will be the usual greetings from children to their dads. Some of us dads may even receive cards, phone calls, kisses and hugs, and gifts from our partners and offspring. Lucky for those who do.

Some fathers may just see today as just another day in their lives. It starts and finishes uneventfully. It comes and goes without fanfare. It does not necessarily mean they are not loved nor cared for. Some families just do not celebrate it with hoopla.

I want to talk to fathers in this article.

The world has defined fathers as multi-taskers. We are supposed to be material providers, physical protectors and defenders, nurturers, cheerleaders, disciplinarians, the big man to run to when you have problems, the final decision maker and arbiter of fights in the house, the head of the family, someone to depend on to help you, someone who won’t fail you; the teacher, guide and moral guardian in life, the pillar of strength, etc. Fathers should be looked up to by their children as role models. That’s how the world has defined what fathers are.

Might I add that fathers are also one of the reasons that children do their best in school and sports. They need to hear validation from Dad (and Mom) that they are worthy and good children.

The job description above is a tall order. They are big burdens that fathers are supposed to carry out the moment they have children. For a father like me and many others, we are expected to do all these with patience, consistency and heart.

In real life, not all fathers are up to these tasks. Some have a hard time being material providers. Some are emotionally incapable of having meaningful or close relationships with their children. There are those who work abroad whose relationship and interaction with their children are limited through video chats or social media and the rare vacation from work when they come home and actually see their children. Fathers are also not shining examples of adult behavior all the time. We trip. We fall. We fail. We are not always mature. We are human.

Each family situation is different. There are many unique circumstances in modern life that make being successful in all of the above tasks impossible. There are also those who are deadbeat dads — those who have abandoned all responsibilities and obligations and have practically cut ties with their children. I pity them both. There is so much they are missing out on.

One thing I know is there are many adults who have issues with their fathers. Perhaps all of us do to some degree, be they minor or major. Some have deep unresolved issues that continue to play out in their adult lives.

I remember being part of a staff of a workshop called “Reparenting the Child Within” that was run by the psychologist Harriet Hormillosa. The aim of the workshop was to help you move on from childhood traumas by reliving them but this time as an adult with the right tools, skills and support to handle them better. The goal is to help you consciously move on from past experiences and be happier. With help from trained workshop facilitators, you can now go through your childhood crises better prepared as you consciously process and heal the pain you’ve carried through the years.

Harriet asked me to be present during one workshop and be a “substitute dad” to anyone who may feel a “father hunger.” In workshops like these, participants can talk to a surrogate father and tell him things they may have wished to tell their own dad, but never did. Or maybe they may want that hug from “father” who rarely showed affection.

Expectedly, there were very emotionally charged moments that I went through with some of the participants. I absorbed their projections and in turn I gave back some validation of their feelings. Some had very angry emotions of abandonment and shame. They were crying, shouting. They were highly strung. Some needed to say things they never got to tell their own fathers, especially those whose dads had passed away. I experienced confrontation, painful confessions, and different types of engagements that they so needed to go through. On my end, I asked questions to help them bring out the pain that had bound them to trauma. I did not defend nor accuse their fathers. I was merely present to what they were going through. I validated what they felt. Some needed a shoulder and a hug while crying profusely. I tried to exude love, compassion and understanding at all times. I hardly said anything. They just had to let it all out. It is an understatement to say I learned a lot from the workshops.

Our connection to our fathers defines us to a great deal for better or worse. They affect our choices in life in practically all aspects.

I am aware of this with my own children. As a father of three children, I have taken great pride and joy in helping my kids with their homework and many other things. I have had many conversations with them about all sorts of things and issues. We have had many happy times. But I also knew that they had some sort of resentment about my being away during long tours. I missed out on birthdays, graduations, etc. They also did not like being defined as children of some celebrity and living under my shadow. I wanted them to live their own lives and make it on their own.

The move to Australia was about giving them a chance at making a life for themselves without my fame or influence getting in the way. That was my gift to them. They always know they can come back home. But through their own efforts, they have built lives and careers there and found happiness and fulfillment.

At a certain point, children stop being children and parents cease being parents except perhaps in name. When kids get older, they begin to live their own lives while their parents try to move into a new chapter without having to tend to their children’s everyday lives. That’s a pretty hard move for parents to do. My children and I are at this point in our family life. We do care for each other but we also have our own lives to live.

As time goes by, more and more changes will happen to our family.

Parents who used to care for their kids will soon be watched over by their own children. Kids will realize that their parents do get older and get more vulnerable health-wise.

Our family is not there yet, thank God.

I would hate to be a burden to my children later on. I am taking care of my health to avoid this as much as possible. Time is moving fast. There are so many things to do and so little time to do them. I have one immediate goal I would like to do and that is to have a family vacation soon. With my children living in two separate continents and having kids and partners in life, it gets harder to plan these things where everyone can spare common time to be together. I am hoping we can pull it off next year.

I know Lydia and I have taught our kids many things. The most important are compassion, kindness, independence, and love for each other. These are essential things to teach your children.

As much as I have loved them, so will they love me back. They have done that many times and continue to do so. And I can only be a grateful dad.

A songwriter’s heaven 0

Posted on June 09, 2019 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE – Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) – June 9, 2019 – 12:00am

Last Monday to Wednesday, I was in Club Balai Isabel in Talisay, Batangas. I was one of the coaches invited to help 29 kids from all over the Philippines who were invited to join the Philpop 2019 Boot Camp. Philpop Musicfest Foundation has held six songwriting festivals. And this is their fifth boot camp. The first four were held in different places around the country.

The aim of every boot camp is to help promising songwriters better their skills. These “fellows,” as they are called, auditioned to get in. Their transportation, board and lodging were paid for by Philpop. They were there to learn songwriting and life lessons from coaches like Ryan Caybabyab, Noel Cabangon, Trina Belamide, Gary Granada, Lara Maigue, Jungee Marcelo, Yumi Lacsamana, Marlon Barnuevo, Jek Buenafe, Davey Langit and yours truly.

The kids were eager to learn. Seminars were prepared by coaches with topics ranging from how to begin writing a song, how to be creative for life, arranging songs, how to write a musical, and so many more. Prior to getting there, they were already given assignments to prepare so that they would already hit the ground running when they got there.

One assignment was to put a melody to a set of lyrics given to them days before. When they presented their songs, we readily noticed how diverse the attendees were. Some leaned towards the blues, others liked rock ‘n’ roll. There were those who liked pop, soul, ballads, dance music, etc. There were those who played the guitar, ukelele and piano. Some came so prepared that their songs were already arranged on their laptops with drums and rhythm sections. But whatever style they chose, most of them were quite bold in presenting their studies.

It is quite important to present songs with energy. Ryan Cayabyab pointed this out — emphatically. Without that boldness and energy, listeners will lose interest within 15 seconds. So it is important to sing loud and make the songs as interesting to your audience as possible.

I gave a talk on how to be creative for life. As someone who has been doing creative work in many disciplines for years now, I gave them a few tips on how to keep creating (not just music) on a regular basis. I taught them how to access inspiration which, in truth, is already inside them. They just need to tap into it. I taught them how to go past the literal level and find enchantment, and write about it. Every time I give this particular talk, I feel I connect to my audience quite personally.

In camps such as these, the kids are given a few hours to create songs and present them to everyone. One specific assignment was to write a song for the 500th year anniversary of the defense of Lapu-Lapu against Magellan’s attack of Mactan. This idea was broached to Philpop by the head of Secretariat of the National Quincentenial Commission Ian Alfonso who joined us and gave a briefing on the project. The commission wanted to introduce a new way of looking at our history by focusing on the Lapu-Lapu narrative over Magellan. They wanted a song that would commemorate this once-in-our-lifetime historical event.

We were expecting only a few of the fellows to submit songs, given that they had less than three hours to do it. Lo and behold, 25 songs were auditioned. Twenty-three wrote solo works while two were collaborations. Some of the songs were very promising. The kids wrote in different styles and approaches. Some even incorporated rap. Hopefully, one of those songs will be chosen to be the official theme.

A big part of any songwriting workshop happens after dinner. All the work for the day is done. People are relaxed. This is the time when coaches and fellows are encouraged to perform and share their music. On the night before I left, Ryan, Davey, Noel, Yumi, Gary Granada, Jek Buenafe, Marlon Barnuevo and I sang some of our biggest songs. We also jammed a few OPMs from the ‘80s which we felt really stood out then. Two such songs were You by Jerry Paraiso, and a song written by Boy Katindig called I Will Always Stay This Way in Love with You. Everyone was singing. I had to stand up. I was so high on the music. We soaked it all in — the music and all the positive vibes and memories that flashed back. What a great feeling!

Soon after, it was the fellows; turn to take over the stage and sing their hearts out. They soloed. They also did duets, and even formed groups as they sang onstage.

Throughout the boot camp, I felt happy for these fellows. They were so lucky to be here getting breaks from foundations like Philpop and learning from and interacting with coaches who have made their mark on the history of OPM. They could present their songs in front of an appreciative crowd. They were in songwriters’ heaven.

I don’t remember being as lucky when I was starting out. We had none of these breaks. We were pretty much on our own, carving our own path to success. Today, the kids have all the support from institutions and even have the gadgets to help them in their songwriting.

Every artist since the beginning of time until now has had to learn to overcome rejection and fear. It will be the same for these kids. That’s part of the struggle. It is painful when your song is rejected. It is painful when you keep writing songs but do not seem to be getting anywhere, career-wise. But at the same time, these negative experiences build character and an intense focus on how to improve your skills and make you ready when the break comes.

The fellows I met in this camp seem open to learning new things and determined to meet the challenges ahead. I could see that glint in their eyes. There are songs to be made, auditions to join, albums to record, festivals to compete in. I am quite sure that in the not-so-distant future, we will be hearing amazing songs from some of them.

I would like to end this by saying thank you to the Philpop organizing team members Dinah Remolacio, Nini Santos, Gab Cabangon, Jared Kuo, and Luisa Hermida. The OPM team was comprised of Barbie Quintela, Danica Villaflor, Red Denoso, Alvin de la Pena. They took care of the sound system and video support. Co-presenters of the workshop were Maynilad, Meralco, Smart, National Quincentennial Commission and National Commission for Culture and Arts.

If you are a songwriter, watch out for the next Philpop Boot Camp. You may be one of those lucky enough to get in and have an amazing four days of learning and — who knows? — a big break could happen in your career.

This thing called depression 0

Posted on May 26, 2019 by jimparedes

This is my full article for my Humming in my Universes column on PhilStar. Unfortunately, I sent only half of it and that was the one that appeared on print.

I went to a wake three nights ago. It was that of a relatively young man who had ended his own life. He was bright, handsome, creative, intelligent, but very troubled. He was an artist.

When I heard about his death, I was saddened and felt a heaviness in my heart. It was so painful to be there but I felt the need to go. The deceased and I shared common relatives. I hardly knew his family but I did not hesitate to express the deep sorrow I felt to them. No one will completely understand what other people are going through. But I felt I had to give my share of comforting to those he left behind. I needed to do it too for myself. If you could measure my sorrow objectively, (which to me was very intense) it was nothing close to what they were going though. The heavy rain that was pouring outside could hardly match the tears in the room.

I had encountered him once before because my wife had asked for his services to create standing lamps for our new home. They turned out quite nice.

I stared at his photo near the urn which carried his ashes. His mother lovingly put her hand on it as she openly sobbed. There were no words. But you could feel the unimaginable loss she was feeling. It was so palpable. Her love and the pain of losing her son could be seen in her hand movements.

The world is so sad. Too many people are suffering from depression these days. To be more accurate, it has been like this for the past two decades and it seems to be on the rise. I don’t know why. I was talking to my brother Jesse who is now 82. He said that in his entire class, there was only one person who died due to suicide. He was in his early 60s when it happened. In my own class, I am not aware of anyone who had taken his own life. I am not saying there was no depression then. For sure there was except that they were most likely very rare and totally undiagnosed.

Today, it seems like an epidemic affecting many young people. No one knows why. Could it be genetic? Is there something about modern life that is causing it? I have met many young people who have told me that they are depressed or bi-polar. As a teacher during the past few years, my department always gave me a list of students in my class who were undergoing treatment for depression.

A lot of depressed kids may seem normal and carefree but are going through some private hell. We should always be on the look out.

So far, almost all I know about depression was what I learned from my own daughter Erica who has gone through episodes of it. I remember being so concerned every time she went through it. Lydia and I would spend many nights awake worrying about her. We made sure she got professional help. We even attended sessions with her to see how we may be contributing to it.

As a very concerned father I remember telling Erica that I completely understood what she was going through. I advised her to try to be more positive, to pray, be strong and I reminded her that I was always there for her.

She answered me pointblank and said, no, I did not understand what she was going through. She said I had no idea what she was feeling. No way. My advice of trying to be more positive, or praying more may be well-meaning but ignorant advice. Almost in exasperation and through tears, she said it was something she could not even describe much less explain.

That opened my heart to completely accept the situation even If I did not comprehend it. It was something alien to me. She was in a mental state that was so difficult to be in that the idea of ending one’s life becomes a palatable option to free one’s self from it. I just vowed to do my best. I readily conceded to her that I did not understand depression. But I had empathy for her suffering. I told her that we loved and cared for her so much. I begged her to pls call me anytime if she needed to talk for to see her.

And thankfully there were times she did call until she got out of it.

Erica has also learned a lot about her bouts with depression, too. She has openly written and talked about it. A lot of kids actually write her asking for advise which she answers with the advice that above all else, they should consult a doctor since every case is different.

The mother of the deceased said she had no idea her son was going through something. Sometimes, even the closest people of the depressed do not see it. And when they take their lives, they are all shocked because no one saw it coming. Only at hindsight do they realize that may things were already pointing in that direction.

There is a tendency among those left behind to blame themselves for the tragedy. Every person who dies elicits this kind of ‘I-should-have-done-more’ attitude among the living whatever the cause of death. When people die of suicide, this ‘guilt’ is probably much more intense. While it is understandable, I don’t think it is fair at all. Depression is so personal and so complex. If we really understood it, no one would want to willingly cause it on anyone. We would certainly make sure it does no happen.

Today, there is a lot of talk about mental and psychological health awareness. No longer is it a stigma to be depressed, or be bi-polar as it used to. There is a kinder attitude about it. People are less condemning and more understanding about it. There are numbers to call for help.

In our own circles, let us look after each other. Check on how everyone REALLY is. It is best to bring up the topic to remind people that there is always help if they need it.

Father Alex, a young enthusiastic priest who sang all throughout the mass at the wake gave a very gentle homily. He reminded us that whatever has happened or will happen to anyone of us, we must not forget we are all God’s children no matter what. And God has unconditional love for ALL his children.

His kind words eased the pain somehow. When I left, the rain had eased a bit.

The fight of our lives 0

Posted on May 10, 2019 by jimparedes

In 3 days, the nation votes. I have worked hard campaigning for the candidates I believe in. I am voting Otso Diretso and my Partylist is Magdalo.

If that first paragraph has turned you off, then proceed no more. You will probably be deaf to everything else I will write.

My dear Filipinos, I define this election as a battle between democracy and imminent dictatorship. The Senate is the last bastion that can stand as a check and balance to the President’s control of EVERYTHING. If, as the surveys say, the President’s candidates will dominate the entire slate except for Bam Aquino, then Duterte will have a super majority in the Senate and he can install federalism without a referendum, continue his failed war on drugs that have resulted in the death of thousands, commit the Philippines to onerous loans from China, give away islands to Xi Jin Pin, continue the Train Law, etc.. In short, he can practically do whatever he wants. Th senate is the last infinity stone that will make Thanos invincible.

If that scenario is OK with you, then go vote for the President’s candidates.

For me and many others, it is not OK.

We are disturbed by the direction this country has taken. Our Senate has become a rubber stamp largely run by politicos who don’t care about anything except to stay in power. There are only a few good men and women there. They need more people on their side to fiscalise.

Today, our government institutions are supporting whatever the President does even when he is clearly wrong or acting unlawfully. No one is brave enough to stand up to the President–not DOJ, not congress, not the PNP nor the Armed Forces. He is running a one man show. He issues threats almost daily now to his critics through clumsy matrixes, and dubious and laughable intel sources. But he has serious intent. There is clearly the desire to the repress our freedoms as evidenced most recently by the threats towards media and a free press. All this is unconscionable.

This election is a major battle for the future of this nation. For many who believe in democracy and the rule of law, this is the fight of our lives. That is why I am for the opposition.

When you look back at how the campaigns were conducted, the contrast between the Presidential slate and Otso Diretso was too stark to ignore. The admin candidates had unlimited resources. Their TV ads were flooding the airwaves. Mind you, every 30 second ad costs close to a million pesos. They had huge billboards, collaterals, etc. Their rallies were well organized with big entertainment personalities as come-ons. Local government backed them. The crowds were often given meals and transportation and even pocket money.

Meanwhile, Otso Diretso candidates could not get permits to hold rallies in many places. They campaigned mostly in public markets, schools, bus stations, and wherever people gathered and they could only cover one third of the country due to lack of funds. There was very little money for collaterals. The whole effort was run by unpaid volunteers who made their own posters, leaflets and went door to door to ask the people what they were concerned with and introduce the mostly new candidates to the community. People engaged strangers in conversation in taxis, transport hubs, churches, offices and campaigned for Otso Diretso candidates.The opposition hardly had any TV ads to reach out to the entire nation. Too expensive. Their supporters used social media for exposure. Ordinary citizens made their own songs and jingles, posters and put them online. There were some who organized events like concerts, shows, lugawans etc. to raise funds. But clearly, there was hardly anything to go around. In short, the people who believed in them financed their campaign in anyway they could.

The list of candidates on the President’s side had old known names, plunderers, people accused of killing, scions from political dynasties, possible drug lords, etc. Many were involved in environmental anomalies.

Meanwhile Otso Derecho had candidates without any bad reputations that tainted them with corruption murder, crime, or any anti-people issues. They were mostly newbies who had done well in their fields of public service expertise.

The President’s men largely refused to attend debates on television or talk about issues. None of them expressed any opinion on the encroachment of China on our sovereignty, human rights, the Train law, drugs, and all the other major issues that plague our nation. The latter wanted to challenge the ruling party to debates and to expose their platforms in public. It was clear they were more transparent and had a better grasp of the issues that needed to be faced and dealt with.

Sometimes, I ask myself in frustration why good values and good candidates are such a hard sell to the electorate. Sociologists have said that we as a people are not issues-oriented but are attracted to personalities. That is why a plunderer or a murderer with name recall, a nice smile and a few millions to throw away will get the votes.

But I believe people can change. As much as there is so much vileness going around today in public discourse compared to before, I also believe that there were times when there was also so much bayanihan spirit and goodness that was present in our country. Nothing is permanent. Everything is in flux. The world keeps turning.

Whatever the outcome of the elections, one good thing I see is that the people who believe in democracy and rule of law have been united and have become more organized. Many people I know who were apolitical then have awakened to the issues facing our nation. They are concerned. They are angry. Most especially, it is evident that our youth as shown in the results of mock elections held in many universities are bucking the trend in their voting preferences. They are solidly opposition.

There are many battles ahead. We earned our chops during this brutal campaign. We are in a better position now to pursue the democratic agenda compared to last year.

Leaders of large religious groups have given their list of candidates for their faithful to follow. In truth, I believe that a person’s conscience should be the ultimate decider on whom to vote. You and you alone should decide whom you wish to vote for. No one else. If you are being dictated upon, maybe you should question your leaders. Look at them. Are they really people of faith, or power hungry players enslaved by greed and ego who want to ingratiate themselves to the impending dictatorship? It is time to be honest and ask them tough questions. Your future and the state of your soul are at stake.

As you go out tomorrow and vote, I wish you a strong clear conscience to choose the candidates who will serve our country best. You are free to choose plunderers, thieves, corrupt yes men who will serve and legitimize everything wrong in this country. But you are also free to choose candidates that will reflect the good aspirations, the dreams you have for yourself, your children, our nation and future. They will fight for you.

Do the right thing.

Don’t 0

Posted on April 13, 2019 by jimparedes

Do not argue or engage with any person who has very little or no control of his mental faculties, and who has been suffering from insanity for sometime. Pray for him instead.

Is That So? 0

Posted on April 02, 2019 by jimparedes

Zen is always amazing. It takes a special mind to like it.

The Zen master Hakuin was praised by his neighbors as one living a pure life.

A beautiful Japanese girl whose parents owned a food store lived near him. Suddenly, without any warning, her parents discovered she was with child.

This made her parents angry. She would not confess who the man was, but after much harassment at last named Hakuin.

In great anger the parent went to the master. “Is that so?” was all he would say.

After the child was born it was brought to Hakuin. By this time he had lost his reputation, which did not trouble him, but he took very good care of the child. He obtained milk from his neighbors and everything else he needed.

A year later the girl-mother could stand it no longer. She told her parents the truth – the real father of the child was a young man who worked in the fishmarket.

The mother and father of the girl at once went to Hakuin to ask forgiveness, to apologize at length, and to get the child back.

Hakuin was willing. In yielding the child, all he said was: “Is that so?”

Statement 0

Posted on April 01, 2019 by jimparedes

This is very difficult for me to write, and for many of you, it will
be painful to read.

The video was real. It was private, and not meant for public
consumption. I do not know how it became public. I can only surmise
that in this ugly season of toxic politics, muckrakers determined to
neutralize my influence by violating my privacy and digging up dirt on
me are at work.

When I saw it on social media, I was in a quandary how to respond. But
after mulling and praying over it, I decided to come clean. There are
already too many lies and liars in this world. I do not wish to be a
part of that cabal. I have chosen to be truthful because I know that
painful as the truth can be, it will eventually set me free.

I have never tried to project myself as perfect. Of all the sins in
this world, I believe sex is the most human of all. I am not saying
this to excuse what, I regret, was broadcast on social media. I have
always expressed my feelings freely. Today, I wish to express my
truth. I am a flawed person, a human being, much like everyone else.
I made a mistake, I was irresponsible. And I am truly sorry.

I know many of you have judged me and condemned me, and those who held
me in high esteem are disappointed in me, to put it mildly. I
apologize for my irresponsibility. But most especially, I stand in
bottomless sorrow and contrition before my family who are reeling from
the hurt and aggravation, and the embarrassment and shame, that should
only be mine. I pray that they be spared any more wicked trolling by
those who would revel in their pain. ###

The art of traveling that I have learned 0

Posted on March 31, 2019 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE – Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) – March 31, 2019 – 12:00am

We were the world and the love that was everywhere was coming from us and spreading to every space. It was a blessed moment.

I have been traveling or 16 days now. I have been on the road with nine women who are all past 60 years old. My sister-in-law Rosanne had invited Lydia on this tour. Lydia had been convincing me to go. I wasn’t sure I would enjoy being with nine other women but I finally said yes about three months ago. I was the last to sign up. Actually, I am quite glad I did. It is fun to travel with women who have strong caring instincts. Often, I feel that they are looking out for me.

The first leg of this travel was eight days in Portugal, a beautiful country — very picturesque, quite affordable with very nice people and tons of history. The 10 of us arrived in Lisbon and wasted no time enjoying the food, the sights, and going around for two days even before the tour we signed up for started.

When the tour formally started, we all hopped on a bus, this time with other tourists from South Africa, the US, Ukraine, etc. and visited many cities like Porto, Viseu, Belmonte, Evora, and many others. We spent a lot of time visiting chapels, churches, Basilicas, fortresses, museums, shops, universities, wineries, monuments, while enjoying sunny Portugal’s great weather. Our seasoned tour guide, Pedro Graca, a native of Portugal, proudly introduced us to the many wonderful things that his country can offer.

I’ve always loved history. As a Filipino, I knew a little about Spanish history and how we were colonized. And it was so fascinating to hear and see how this Portugal, which was once a great superpower that rivaled Spain, went through its own history.

Most amazing of all was knowing about Portugal’s heroes like Vasco De Gama, their kings, poets and writers from past centuries and how they are still so relevant and much part of their society today.

I have made a promise to myself to visit Portugal again and stay longer.

Cyril Marc Erica, the author Jim Paredes, Ananda and Lydia
I am in Paris as I write this. I have been here before. I spent Christmas here in 2017 to visit my daughter Erica and my grandchild Ananda.

Paris is a very charming city. One can say that it is one of Europe’s most beautiful, scintillating and exciting destinations. No wonder so many people love Paris. Paris is a world center. If anything is happening here in the arts, fashion, the world of ideas and politics, it affects the rest of Europe and perhaps the world.

Today, I watched the Van Gogh presentation at D’Atelier D’Lumiere. It was an immersive experience of Van Gogh’s paintings projected in many huge walls and even the floor. The paintings projected everywhere moved, blended and bled into each other. Truly mesmerizing. The audience was part of it. I would say it was the best thing I have seen on this trip so far.

After the exhibit, we ate at Robuchon, a famous one-star Michelin restaurant that my daughter Erica trained in as a chef after her stint at Cordon Bleu. It is the second time I have eaten there. The appetizer (amuse bouche) was made of foie gras, and some other ingredients put into a very small glass. It is meant to excite the palate before the entrees are served. To put it mildly, it was spectacular.

It left us talking about how wonderful it was for the next 10 minutes. Robuchon is an expensive place to eat. But if you want the true French experience in dining, you must eat in all kinds of restaurants from the cheap to the expensive to savor a good representation of French cuisine.

I am quite amazed how my apo Ananda can now speak fluent French after 10 months of classes. I heard her in conversation and she seemed quite eloquent. Her pronunciation and vocabulary are pretty good, according to Cyrille, Erica’s partner. She will be transferring to a regular school soon. Am happy that she has adjusted quite well.

During travels, I find myself being both a participant and spectator at the same time. As participant, I get into the food, enjoy the sights, the experience. I soak in as much as I can. As a spectator, I try to analyze and look for commonalities with my own background and culture.

Sometimes, I go way more than that.

Lydia Paredes, Lorna Ejercito, Tita Villanueva, Kathy Burke Millie and Doris Ozaeta, Maricar Sobrepena, Malen Carlos (not in photo) — my female co-travelers
A while ago as I waited in line to get into the Van Gogh exposition, I felt surrounded by “foreigness” everywhere. I was actually not uneasy. I just noticed how much diversity there was. There were people of different colors, nationalities, ethnicities who spoke languages from everywhere. I marveled at how colorful humanity is and how easily everyone can now experience cultures beyond their specific origins. As much as there was diversity, there were also a lot of shared commonalities like art, food, fashion, music, etc.

I noticed an American family beside me in line comprised of a dad, a mom, a daughter and a special child who was in a big stroller. I noticed how lovingly the family attended to the young boy who was in quite good spirits. He smiled a lot at me.

I suddenly had an epiphany. I was moved at how this family loved the special child so much. I was getting quite emotional at how much they affectionately attended to him. Then something suddenly crept all over me. It permeated my whole being. From the boy’s smile, I felt love emanating that seemed to fill the whole space we shared. I was touched to the core. It was such a great Zen moment. I felt that at that instant, our individual origins did not seem to matter.

We were humans that became indistinguishable from each other. We were the world and the love that was everywhere was coming from us and spreading to every space. It was a blessed moment. It seemed like time stood still. I took it all in. I know I was awake because I still felt the pain on m legs caused by days of walking. Everything around me, every feeling, including the physical pain there but wrapped in love.

I smiled and thanked God for that moment.

I still have a few days here before I head home. There is still so much to see and experience. But I do not feel frantic or anything. What you can experience depends so much on the state of conscious awareness you can muster.

You can be in the most beautiful places in the world and still have a lousy time if you can’t take it in with the right attitude. By the same token, awareness can make the most mundane places an extraordinary experience if you pay full attention to them and how you are processing everything. Like everything of value in life, there is an art to it that one must learn.

I am glad that I have learned enough about the art of traveling and I am enjoying it now more than ever.

Still bonding after 50 years 0

Posted on March 16, 2019 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE – Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) – March 17, 2019 – 12:00am

It will only happen once in our lifetime.” That was the mindset we all had when Ateneo de Manila Class 69 gathered last Saturday, March 9, to celebrate our 50th year since graduating high school.

Many classmates came home from abroad, some of them two weeks early. Before the actual night of the grand celebration, there were individual class section meet-ups and get-togethers for lunches, dinners, golf, outings, etc. Classmates who had settled and built lives in Davao invited their Manila and overseas classmates to spend a few days there to party and bond and have a great time. There were also the one-day excursions to Pampanga arranged by Tito Panlilio and at Sandy Javier’s farm in Rosario, Batangas.

High school class ’69 had seven sections. My section was 4E when I was a senior, although I spent the first three years of high school with another batch. Thus, I had the distinct pleasure to be part of two classes. My old 4E group and class 4F, which was my section when I graduated.

It’s an understatement to say we were all quite excited to see each other since the past three years had driven home the point to us that we were all aging faster than we thought. Quite a few in our class have succumbed to strokes, heart attacks and other sicknesses that required expensive hospitalization. It was beyond wonderful to know that many had generously contributed to gather funds to help those in need. Our classmate Joey Zuniga also passed away last year. We are all aware now that time is indeed moving faster at this stage of our lives.

All this bonding intensified when we formed a Viber group almost two years ago. A lot of classmates came on board and friendships were revitalized. Everyone got to hear and reconnect with everyone else. Since then, there have been a daily-dose jokes exchanged, prayers and spiritual insights shared. Another Viber group we formed is reserved for political discussions.

March 9 was a busy day. Some classmates gathered as early as 3 p.m. to visit the old high school. At 5 p.m. we gathered at the Singson Hall at the Grade School to attend Mass officiated by two classmates Fr. Bingo Nespral of Opus Dei, Fr. Ben Alforque of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, and Fr. Norberto “Kit” Bautista S.J. Fr. Bingo gave a light, nostalgic, humorous sermon. He ended it by saying that love for each other brought us together.

After the Mass, Ed Garcia, our former teacher, friend, guide, organizer and spiritual adviser in high school gave a short talk about how special our class was. He ended it by asking us to choose three classmates to thank for being part of our lives. All of us started thanking and hugging practically every person in the room.

Many of us brought our wives, and some came with their new partners in life. After brief introductions, most of the girls gathered together and left us boys alone to talk and laugh as we reminisced about the good old days. Old nicknames and jokes resurfaced. Stories of shenanigans, and crazy stuff and “initiations of passage” were shared amid loud raucous laughter. There were also serious conversations about how our lives had turned out through the years.

Boboy Garovillo and the author Jim Paredes. Photo by Elly D. Carig

Boboy and I were the special guests tasked to entertain. We were not surprised that many of our classmates had never seen us perform live. We teased them that they never watched us because none of them wanted to pay to watch old classmates sing. We prepared a repertoire that showcased what 50 years of APO was all about. I think we amazed them. All night, classmates congratulated us for the 45-minute gig we did.

Two bands played the night away. The Flintstones and The Mixed Emotions had us dancing all night. Eddieboy Rodriguez, a classmate who became a doctor, played the guitar, drums and percussion and sang with The Mixed Emotions while Malu Fernando played drums for The Flintstones, a band he had formed many years ago. It was amazing to hear them play. I thought of how therapeutic it must be for them to still being engaged in their passion for music at age 67. I know, because I am still pursuing my passions.

We all sang the old songs with passion and gusto. We shouted the lyrics out loud as we danced and drank and laughed. Wave upon wave of nostalgia flooded over us — memories of old girlfriends, proms, parties, carefree days of youth, high school life, teachers, special school events, class nights, the awkward teen years, pranks we did on each other — it all inundated us even as we were regaling. It was a magical experience. We felt like we were briefly back in our mostly happy place on the Loyola grounds where we felt the exuberance, strength and invincibility of youth. Even as we were going through some growing pains then, we understood very little of life and the world. Innocence was, indeed, bliss.

We ended the night with warm goodbyes, hugs, carrying our loot bags as we jokingly promised not to wait another 50 years before we saw each other again. The organizers — Greg Cancio, Ed Santos, Tito Panlilio, Monchito Roco, Dodie Limcaoco, Jess Birosel and many more — did a great job. We thanked them profusely. Maybe we should also thank everyone who came for making the night a truly amazing one. As our batch president Greg said, it was a group effort.

I would like to end this by going back to a valedictory speech given by Dr. Tony Dans to a high school class at ADMU a few years back. He told the graduates that many of their high school friends would be playing important roles in their future lives. From their batch, they will find doctors who will take care of them, lawyers who will defend them, professionals they will consult for many things. There will also be classmates who will be living in other parts of the world who will house and feed them when they visit. They will also find friends who will walk with them through the dark tunnel of personal struggles. These friends will go through the darkness while cheering you on all the way.

This is so true. We are all connected in more ways than we imagined we would.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said that, “It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them.” Whatever our failures in life will matter little to those who love us. Were we not surprised that night, how easily we picked up where we had left off, even after decades of not seeing one another? We were young pups when we were in school. Now we are old dogs, but not old enough to stop playing, running and discovering new playgrounds. And we will always be a comfort to each other.


To all the women of the world 0

Posted on March 10, 2019 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE – Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) – March 10, 2019 – 12:00am
Last Friday was International Women’s Day all over the world. I have lately been thinking of all the women that have somehow affected me and shaped me as a man.

They have inspired me, broken my heart, served me, enslaved me emotionally, hurt me as I have hurt them, seduced me and pleased me as I have done with them, taken care of me, raised me, intimidated me, taught me life lessons only women can teach, educated me, refined me, shaped much of my values, and elevated my tastes in many ways.

For all of the above and more, I admire and adore women. And I salute them.

My mother Ester Misa gave life to me. She had 10 children. I was the ninth. She was a beautiful mestiza who knew how to take charge. She was both soft and hard. Her embrace and reassuring words were more than enough to make me feel all was right with the world. To a son, a mother’s love is the most wonderful thing there is. Mom was a teacher, protector, nurturer, and the hearth of all things reassuring and beautiful. At the same time, she was tough when it came to defining moral character, which she wanted to instill in us. She was extremely honest, responsible and modeled adulthood in the best possible way. She showed courage of conviction, forgiveness, compassion, extreme generosity with the little resources that she had. She took in strangers who needed help. She had very few vanities.

She was very practical and strict at the same time. I once wrote a song called Basic Love that was about her. I described her as uncomplicated, straight-talking and pure. What you saw was what you got.

Our yaya, Ustang Baje, a sweet, caring, loving Ilocana from Abra, Bangued who liked to smoke cigars, attended to us sibs when we were kids. She cooked for us, bathed us, and kept us close to her so we stayed within her orbit of safety. She told us stories. She loved to laugh out loud. As a young boy, the smell of Vicks and cigars defined her reassuring presence to me. I remember sleeping beside her in a banig, and just being beside her was such comfort. She was pure love.

The woman I married is Lydia Mabanta. We dated, and fell in love even before we knew it. When she left for the US to study, I thought my world would fall apart. I called her by phone and asked her to come home to marry me. She was 20 years old and I was 25 when we marched down the altar 42 years ago. We have grown together and I must say that a great lot of what I know about how a woman thinks and feels I learned from her. She continues to both baffle and thrill me to this day. She is both yin and yang. For men, marriage is a life-long course on understanding, loving and appreciating a woman. In a big sense, it is a man’s surrender to fate. Through thick and thin, for richer or poorer till death do us part. Amen.

Lydia is my wife, companion and partner for life. She is loving, caring and a great mom and lola. We have experienced the whole spectrum of emotions together and have been each other’s teacher. We love, laugh, cry, fight, and continue on the path we took decades ago. Oftentimes, when I look back at fights we have had, I liken it to sandpaper that we apply on each other to smoothen our rough edges into something more defined and more beautiful.

I have four sisters — Babsy, Tictac, Meiling and Lory. They are all older than I am. From them, I learned a lot about young women. I saw young men visit and court them. I witnessed them having boyfriends and from them I learned how they wanted to be treated. I’ve seen men appreciate them and also break their hearts. It was educational for me to hear their points of view about what made someone a good man or woman. Everything I heard from them taught me to respect all kinds of women, whatever they were or where they came from. Sexism had no place in our family.

I have had women teachers who taught me well and helped me discover talents I never knew I had. I remember Miss Sandoval, my teacher in Grade 4. She chose me to represent the class in an elocution contest. I was initially mortified. I had no confidence at all. Daily, she taught me how to deliver the piece with the right enunciation, subtext and force. I ended up winning first prize, much to my surprise and delight. There is nothing more encouraging when a woman believes in you. It was life changing.

To the girlfriends I loved and who loved me back, to those who broke my heart, I learned how to be brave and risk loving and when the time came, face the pain and recover from the loss. I actually learned a lot about myself. I couldn’t have been the man I became without having my heart broken a few times.

I have two daughters who are now mothers. They gave me much to worry about when they were growing up in a world that was changing too fast. I raised them without a rear-view mirror. I did not know then if I was too liberal with them. Much to my relief, they have grown to be beautiful, wonderful, independent and strong women. I know they will impact the world in their own ways.

Women hold up half of the world and yet they are underpaid, abused and disrespected many times. To all the women of all shapes, sizes, sexual preferences and races all over the world, let me express my deep respect, love, admiration and gratitude for being the more loving and enlightened half of humanity. I am with you in your march to equality and liberation.

It is very possible that, as a man, I may never really understand the depth of women’s pain, their thinking process, the phases they go through as human beings and everything else unique about them. I am 67. My education about women continues and will never stop. And that’s how it should be.

In my life, my muses have been mostly women. They are Goddesses in my life that keep me inspired, fascinated and forever creative. I can only be eternally grateful.

Read more at https://www.philstar.com/lifestyle/sunday-life/2019/03/10/1900029/all-women-world#jJhUvu8JHeKoD6sS.99

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