Writing on Air

Writing on Air by Jim Paredes

‘In a place where nothing happens..’

Posted on April 27, 2006 by jimparedes
where’s the news?

My eldest brother Jesse who is the greatest punster I know loves to say that ‘In a country where nothing happens, nothing will happen!’ He would say this at the height of every coup rumor or any destabilization plot floating about while we were still living in Manila. What he meant when he says nothing happens in the Philippines is the seeming impossibility of any earthshaking, meaningful reform or re-structuring occurring that can alter the lives of the majority. So far, he has been proven to be correct. While I do not share his view completely, I do understand where he is coming from and I appreciate the statement for being smart, funny and cynical.

We have been living in Australia for a little over a month now and… surprise! It seems the same statement can be applied here but with a different meaning altogether. My son Mio was laughing at the headlines of our local newspaper yesterday which screamed about ‘stinking toilets in schools.’ He was shaking his head while commenting that ‘NOTHING happens in this place’ so much so that they pick on something like dirty toilets for headlines! For someone used to more ‘hardcore’ stuff, it is so tempting to ask what has happened to ‘real’ news like coups, big-time corruption, massacres, sex scandals, disasters, police brutality, kidnapping, carnapping, etc.. like we have back home? Of course, there are the shootings on the south side and a few other stuff going on but the truth is, they seem so remote. Somehow, I get the feeling that the collective adrenalin levels of our family has been greatly lowered since we got here. I don’t even feel the need to watch the news. Not yet anyway. What for? In a place where nothing happens, nothing will happen anyway. Ha ha!

Road warriors and the hero’s journey

The whole idea and intent behind the strict process of getting a driving license in this country is on the whole quite commendable. They have made things difficult to make sure that one does not take driving for granted and thus will learn the rules and practice them. But what strikes me more about it all is the whole psychological process of earning the right to drive. There is something quite ‘mythical’ about it, similar to going on a quest, or a’ hero’s journey’ (Joseph Campbell’s favorite theme) where one must enter one’s realm of fear, harness the right knowledge and resources and master the rules to be able to conquer it. And only then can he/she earn the right to be on the road.

I think that a shared experience such as the earning-the- right-to-drive ritual’ with its attendant fears, the learning of new skills and the financial costs it entails does something to everyone who goes through it. It helps in the development of a good sense of civics. One feels a sense of belonging, and finds his place in the scheme of things. (If you know for example that you are in your right lane at the right speed and doing correct driving, then you know WHERE you are. You are in your rightful place). The whole thing is compelling enough for a person to, at the very least, go along if not cooperate or even contribute in a positive way to the society that presents a clear ‘map’ for him to follow. A societal bond develops that promises he will arrive at where he wishes to go by following the rules.

Incidentally, I aced my knowledge test!! Next is the harder part–the actual driving test! Wish me luck! If I fail, don’t be surprised if I change my tune and not sound as glowing in my praise of the driving rules here. ha ha!!

If I were President..

The Israelis have their compulsory military service. Other countries have their imposed civic duties. I’ve always been of the belief that college graduates in the Philippines should be required to do service for a month in, say, the rural areas or even a government office. If I were President of the Philippines, that’s one of the first thinfgs I would do. Of course there’s a danger of being corrupted, being so young and all but there’s also the possibility that older people will be inspired to be shining examples to the young they are mentoring.

For the same reason as I stated above, communal rites of passages such as these are important so that young people have a measuring stick to know where and who they are in their society. There is the driving license , the allowable age to drink, which is suppose to do this but they lose a lot of their meaning and effect because they are unfortunately ‘negotiable’ for the most part in the Philippines.

An Incredible Toilet Story

I was quite annoyed yesterday when I asked someone who worked inside a music store where the toilet was, and he answered that he could not let me use the toilet because I was not ‘insured’! WHAAAT!?? He said that only the store staff could use it since they were all insured to enter all the rooms of the premises even as he apologized. I was quite stunned and surprised. I promised him I wouldn’t sue while I gazed around to see if this was some sort of joke set up by Australia’s Funniest Videos or something like that. He was serious. He suggested I walk two long blocks up the road where there was a toilet. Duh??

Well, what if I was some old man with a walking disability or a sick person and I needed to REALLY go? My companion speculated that they probably use drugs in the toilet or something. I just can’t believe such a ‘rule’ exists and how overly legalistic people can get. I was tempted to tell him that in that case, I am not going to buy anything in the store since my money has restrictions against stores governed by idiotic rules and manned by idiotic personnel.

That’s one store I will hesitate to spend my money on–not unless they put up a sign that says “Please do not enter this store if you have any intention to use the toilet unless you are properly insured to do so!’ Or ‘Beware! This store will not allow you use of the toilet facilities and management will not be responsible if you contract urinary tract infection!’


One thing I can’t have enough of here is the sunset. We were in the park yesterday and I could not stop shooting the spectacular colors that the dying sun was showing off! Simply awesome! And it seems as beautiful as this everyday.

Paying Forward

It’s been one party after another. We have been meeting a lot of people lately and I can say that EVERYONE has been wonderful and helpful. I have met quite a varied spectrum from old-timers who have been here 30 years or more, and some who have just arrived a year or so ago, and all those in between. Generally I notice that the veterans will give you a knowing grin and a reassuring ‘you’ll be fine in no time’, while the medium and short-timers will give you a list of what we should do. But whatever, the common denominator is they all offer their help, or to ‘just give them a call for anything’. This is Filipino hospitality that one can find anywhere in the world and it is heart-felt and sincerely given. When more of my relatives, friends and strangers I meet move to this country in the future, I promise to ‘pay forward’ all the good things that have been showered on us. This is the Filipino way that in my opinion, we should keep with us wherever we are and regardless of whatever citizenship we acquire!

32 to “‘In a place where nothing happens..’”

  1. ernie agtarap says:

    Hi Jim, I’m glad to read that you and your family are adjusting well in your new home. 🙂

  2. Doranne says:

    Hahaha! what a funny toilet post!

    If I were President (w/c I hope will never happen) you’d be my Secretary of Education? Nah…
    I’d sequester ABS CBN & GMA… Make you the chairman… and please please fix our country’s TV programming! Nakakabobo eh!:)

  3. del of glenmore says:

    congrats on acing the knowledge test. and you’ll pass the actual driving test. if not the first time, in time. indeed, passing it is like passing a rite of passage. it spelt FREEDOM for me! and what a sense of accomplishment you get from passing a driving test here.

    australia is indeed a beautiful country. and my husband and i say this frequently when we drive to and from work. we are especially amazed by the beautiful and different cloud formations we see in the afternoons. the sun, the sky, the colors just come together so beautifully.

    and yes, this is a legalistic society, if you may call it that. have you heard of that news where a prisoner here was awarded damages ($100,000-something if i recall it right) because he fell from his prison bed. he has complained of the bed before but the authorities failed to take action. so when he fell, got injured and sued, the courts made him rich for his misery. or that thief who got injured breaking into a house? he sued and the owner was made to pay too. this last one though, i am not sure how true but i sure have heard it from a lot of people. funny, huh? we will never hear of these back home.

    good luck with the driving test and hope to meet you one of these days.

  4. Anonymous says:

    if you want to capture really beautiful sunsets, go to ULURU…the place is just magical. locally, you can go to Fitzroy Falls, Kurnell, Woy woy, Hawkesbury River.

    and yes, about the thief, dito bawal manakit ng magnanakaw kahit nasa loob na siya ng property mo unless you were threatened first. sorry na lang pag naunahan ka.

    good luck on your driving exams. practice ka lang ng practice. master the roundabouts, the speed limits anytime of the day (school zones), right of way of pedestrians, etc and you shall be fine. pag may pedestrian na tumawid sa hindi tawiran, sagasaan mo, he!he! (this is not a joke, merong pedestrian na idinimanda ng driver dahil nayupi ang kotse niya).

    welcome to OZ rules

  5. Malu Moraza says:

    That is a great picture of Jesse. He has not changed since the last time I saw him – which was about 30 years!
    The colours of the sky is really quite beautiful here during Autumn and Winter. There are days that are crisp and cool with spectacularly blue blue skies. Look forward to days like this.
    My friend migrated to Spain recently. She seems to be going through the same things you are going through with the driving. It is amazing how similar your experiences seem to be. Don’t worry I am sure you will pass your driving test. Just make sure you follow the rules to the letter. Lets get together soon.

  6. Jim says:


    doranne–Definitely! Something that is practically like a third parent in the house must be more responsible in shaping the moral and intellectual education of our people. Come to think of it, if I were president, I would be quite foreceful and be close to dictatorial in kicking butt! ha ha.

    del–Yes, I hear a lot of stories like those which verge on the funny and hilarious. What a country!

    anonymous–Uluru is one of my top destinations to visit. I am quite enamored by aboriginal culture. Their ‘dreamtime’ idea is awesome.

    malu–Yes, would love to get together again. Every afternoon, I go out of the house and see what the sunset looks like. Yes, am really practicing on my driving. Will get an instructor very soon.

  7. JT of Dural says:

    Tito Jim,

    Good luck on your DART (Driving ability road test). A driving instructor will definitely help you. If you don’t have one already, contact Armando 0414 679 104 who lives nearby. Its $45 an hour for a manual transmission and less for automatic. My brothers and inlaws all took lessons from him and passed their DART in no time! Don’t tell him that you are a celebrity so he doesn’t overcharge you (biro lang po)! 🙂

    I’m going off tangent now. I long for the show “Okay Lang” on the old IBC-13 in the early 70s. Those were the days when you with APO, Tito Vic and Joey and others were upstarts on the show. Those were the days, wika nga! The most memorable episode was the Jesus Christ Superstar one during Lent of that time.

    I wonder if that show is still in the archives somewhere? I know you are indifferent with ABS-CBN aka TFC, but I subscribe to that service to connect me to the old country. No, I don’t watch the news and Kris “May tama ka” Aquino. My ABS-CBN is glued to the Cinema One Global channel where I get to watch the B&W movies of yore. Perhaps ABS-CBN can also air the TV shows of yore; that would be fantastic. Sana po….

    Huwag po sana kayong magsawang magblog ukol sa buhay-buhay dito sa Australia. Napaganda po ng pananaw ninyo sa buhay, e.

    -alias Johnny thor

  8. Ging says:

    Jim!! How you see the sacred in the mundane…like applying for a drivers’ license or dishwashing is amazing…no, admirable. I’ve always suspected you were some sort of bodhissatva disguising as Apojim 🙂
    Thanks for taking us along on yet another exhilarating journey. I’m enjoying the piggy-back ride into Oz! Hugs to Lydia.

  9. jey says:

    sir jim, that sunset pic is absolutely glorious.

    and i am also a believer of paying it forward.=)

  10. Kit of Quakers Hill says:

    Moving to Sydney from Manila is like putting one’s life into “slow-motion” mode where you would really have the time to “smell the flowers”.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts about OZ, next time one of my friends ask me how is it living here, I’ll just forward them to your blog site. It’s like reading my own experiences but just written by another person.
    P.S. I think I saw you at Parklea one weekend but wasn’t sure until I chanced upon this site. What I initially saw was a Pinoy wearing a pro-looking camera on his neck. “Ah, turista!” came into mind then I thought you looked familiar. 🙂

  11. Anonymous says:

    Hi Jim,
    I am pretty sure that you will pass that driving test without any drama, that’s how confident I am in regards to your ability. Good Luck.
    You know Jim it’s only the last few weeks when I started visiting this site that I realise how talented and how nice a person you are. I hope you settle soon as well as your family.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Hello Jim, If you are sick and tired of politics this is the place to be. Voting here was made compulsory to make people go to the polls because they would rather spend their time in sports or in the beach or somewhere else.
    You will notice that when you watch a 30 minutes news on TV 15 minutes is all about local and foreign news and 15 minutes is all sports and the weather forecast.

    Have nice weeekend and God Bless.

  13. banjan says:

    your story about the toilet is weird to say the least.

    as for paying forward, that is indeed a great trait of the filipinos which should never be lost. there is a similar group of filipinos based in various cities of nz helping their kababayans migrate and settle there without expecting anything. the new settlers then continue the spirit of helping newer settlers. great virtue.

  14. benign0 says:

    You will later find that even elections here are non-events. You just go to your nearest school precincts cast you vote, and you have the rest of the day that you can spend at your leisure.

    My theory is that there is not much sensational news here because our representatives (and they can rightly considered to be so) do the slugging out for us in the proper venue — in the halls of parliament and not on Sydney’s or Canberra’s streets. If there is news about politics, it is more about issues rather than about the foolishness of politicians.

    If you will watch one of those parliamentary proceedings, you will find it as rumbunctious as those in the Philippines. But at least they spare the general public the nuisance of ultra-participatory politics. Politicians do their jobs and we do ours. That’s why this place is so great. Everyone does their jobs properly! Policies are complied to and rules are not mere recommendations.

  15. saving Darfur in NYC says:

    Dear Jim,
    I’m a regular reader of your blog among many others, I’m sure. With your website garnering so many readers and with your celebrity status back home in the philippines, it would be really awesome if you can shed some light to the turmoil and suffering of millions of people in Darfur, Sudan. It has been cited as the first genocide of the 21st century and it has been tragically been going on for far too long. 3.5 million people are now hungry, 2.5 million have been displaced due to violence, and 400,000 people have died in Darfur so far and hundreds of people continue to die each day. Last week, genocidal militias from Sudan even began raiding refugee camps in nearby Chad. Yet without strong action from Congress, the killings will only continue. A lot of people are unaware about the situation in Darfur and it’s heartbreaking to know that this has been going on for almost 3 years now. If people are aware of the facts, one can only hope that many of them will be driven to action. It would only be an idiotic thing to say that the Philippines is also under a lot of suffering so it’s ok to ignore this modern day ethnic cleansing. Darfur is the helpless sibling that can not be ignored because of the millions of neglected and starving children and the hundreds of thousands of dead bodies it will produce. I think everyone no matter how small a contribution, can stop this tragedy. Anyone can make a difference 🙂 http://www.savedarfur.org

  16. Anonymous says:

    Hi jim,
    just a tip for your driving test, when you come to a RED OCTAGONAL STOP sign, make sure to do a complete stop (step on the brake pedal and don’t let the wheels roll kahit konti), look to your left and right, then in your mind count “one thousand and one, one thousand and two, one thousand and three”, then proceed driving if the road is clear.
    Funny no? But this is where a lot of people fail their driving test -when they come to that red stop sign they let the wheels roll while counting one-two-three na mabilis.
    Good luck!

  17. balikbayan_box says:

    ….This is the Filipino way that in my opinion, we should keep with us wherever we are and regardless of whatever citizenship we acquire!

    Tama ka talaga neyburhud, no matter how much we dye our hair into blondes, undergo many nose lifts to lift our famous “pango” nose, bleach our “kayumanggi” skin. Hospitality is a skill Filipinos mastered through tradition.

  18. Swipe says:

    Excellent pic of the sunset. I always think of it as fire in the sky.

    I just haven’t been lucky to get a pic of it yet.

  19. Jim says:

    jt of dural–The show OK lang was not an ABS-CBN production but an IBC 13 one. Chances are, there are no copies of them. Station have the bad habit of using vieotape over and over again and so I am sure wala ng kopya. OK lang was a great show that is now just somewhwere in memory.

    ging–glad you are enjoying my blog. I actually feel that you are a bhodisattva yourself! You seem to exhude a calm and a positive vibe each time I see you.

    jey, swipe–salamat.

    Kit–that was me!

    anonymous–I hope you are right that i wll pass the test. Thank you for your kind words.

    anonymous and benigno–yup. tahimik talaga dito.

    banjan, balikbayan box–it’s one of many good things about being Pinoy!

    saving darfur in NYC–feel free to use my comment box. It IS an important issue. Empathy is something we can DECIDE to have and extend. We do not have to wait to ‘feel like it.’ I admire you for your dedication.

  20. Anonymous says:

    hi jim, unfortunately you will find that your toilet story or similar is not an isolated one. before the new legislation kicked in, nsw was the second most litigious state after california usa. i agree some anecdotes sometimes borders on lunacy. consequently, the effect of trying to avoid situations wherein an entity will be exposed to a public liability claim has filtered down to almost every business unit. they are just trying to keep their insurance premiums down. that might explain the attitude of the sales person. good luck. ag

  21. Anonymous says:

    hi jim,

    Is that you that I saw at Wynyard “Asian Eatery” having noodles for lunch. My family and friends enjoy reading your site since you came here in Australia. We can relate what you are experiencing.

    God Bless you and your family. Hope you settle soon.

  22. oralcgatap says:

    Hi Jim, it’s good to hear you passed the knowledge test. One tip lang when you do the practical driving test, always make sure you look at your shoulder, importante ito and not just relying on your rear or side mirrors, dito bumabagsak ang karamihan. Sa ‘pinas di kailangan ito, basta’t nakanguso ka, ok na. sabi nga no’ng isang blogger, make sure you stop doon sa solid line (without rolling your wheels), dito ako nahuli noong araw and guess what, I was fined $195!! di raw kasi ako umi-stop ng 3 seconds sabi no’ng pulis patola. good luck!

  23. sophie says:

    hi jim!

    today i came across someone who read your inquirer explanation re migrating to oz. she was saying she could not grasp how someone goes from super patriotic to super cynical and unaffected.

    and while i completely did not agree with her, i could not defend you. i didn’t have the words. i understand how someone can feel the need to strip off old selves in search of the kind of growth that has nothing to do with the race you were born into. i understand your move and support your family.

    if anything, i hope i had the same opportunities.

  24. Jim says:

    anonymous–it wasn’t me. sorry.

    sophie–Thank you. I think you know where I am coming from. We are more complex than we think. May we all discover the wonderful aspects that live inside each one of us… and express them. Part of finding oneself is to stop having to live according to other’s expectations. To that person who could not understand, well..too bad. We all have our own journeys. May he/she also find her’s.

    To everyone, thanks for all the advice.


  25. sachiko says:

    Hi there Jim..

    Just like the others,it’s nice to know that everybody in your family is adjusting well and im sure not for long we’ll be reading of the Paredes’ new goals and achievements in the land of the aussies. the kids must be rarin to go and do something new now that they have settled a bit. 🙂

    Please kindly change my URL. It’s

    Thanks and regards. sachiko.

  26. ~C4Chaos says:

    good to know you and your family are having fun even if “nothing is happening there.”

    maybe in the next OFW video we’ll see you taking your driver’s test. if you pass that’s cool. if you fail then that’s funnier!

  27. Swipe says:

    I just remembered your post about the place where nothing happens because of the news that’s reported every 30 minutes on the TV.

    It’s not that I’m not sympathetic to the plight of the trapped miners but the fact that’s it the only thing that’s going on and that everybody’s reporting on is about to drive me insane.

  28. Jim says:

    sachiko–I missed you! For a whilke I could not find your blog. Anyway, I’ve adjusted my links to you already.

    c4chaos–haha! That’s not just funny, it will xost me 41 dollars to take it again! Ouch!

    swipe–I know what you mean.

  29. Julia says:

    well jim, Australia is proud to have ‘nothing happening’ in it, because we actually have a beautiful country in contrast to the crime and corruption in the philippines, so don’t be so arrogant. go live in macquarie fields if u want some action.

  30. Jim says:

    Julia–I was being ironic and was actually paying OZ a compliment..I’m afraid you missed it.

    One can live in a beautiful place and not have to be arrogant about it by dissing other countries (as you are). You don’t have to feel good about where you are by painting others as bad. That is ‘cheap happiness’. Some graciousness is called for.

  31. roan says:

    hi! i’m 18 years old and i dont know much about you. but based on your blog entries, i found out that you have high hopes for our country. in your recent post, “If I were President”, made me imagine, what if you really ran for president? being an artist and all, i know that a lot would say, “Artista yan, ano alam nyan sa pulitika?” it made me realize that being a president doesn’t only need academic learning, and experience. it also needs conviction to serve the country and one should also be strong with that conviction. it made me think twice about the other artists in the government. i know that they are a lot different from you, but maybe they also have that will to help the country. maybe…

  32. Jim says:

    roan–hmm.. You just gave me an idea for a future blog. You are right. being a politician is not supposed to be easy, especially if you want to be one in the service of the c ountry in a meaningful way.

    Artista or whatever else one is pa, when one joins politics, it becomes one’s duty to educate him/herself to the task of being a leader of substance.

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