Writing on Air

Writing on Air by Jim Paredes

My next 20 years

Posted on October 25, 2008 by jimparedes

Philippine Star
Sunday Life

My next 20 years
Sunday, October 26, 2008

At 57 years old, I find that life continues to be challenging. When I was younger, I thought that the things I worried about would resolve themselves by the time I got older. In many ways, they have, and in many other ways, they haven’t.

A young man usually sets his goals and, if he is consistently focused, he can achieve a good number of them. I was young once and had my own goals and dreams. For one, I wanted to be materially comfortable. I also wanted a job I would enjoy. But what I was obsessed with was writing songs for my generation.

I wanted to give my fellow Filipinos a kind of pop music that did not just speak to them but was also about them. I wanted to write the soundtrack of the lives that were being lived in this country. And yes, I also hoped that it would make me famous as well, if I was successful, which was something I also dreamed about.

This writing of original songs in Pilipino was a rebellion of sorts. While it was true that we were a generation that grew up with Western music, we still saw ourselves as Filipinos even if we could not relate too well to the kundimans and balitaws of earlier days. What was natural to us was Western melodic structure, but the APO decided to break ground by writing our messages in Pilipino.

We were rebelling against the fact that a lot of the music that was being played on radio was foreign, and though it was nice to listen to, we knew the songs were written not for us, but mostly for Americans and Brits. Even if we could identify with and even love the songs, we knew that the composers and those who sang the tunes never really had us in mind. We were not even an afterthought. We were just a fringe market whose existence must have totally surprised the people who marketed the music.

Actually, many other songwriters of my era (the ‘70s) had the same thing in mind. We wanted to break away from the practice of blindly admiring what was foreign and laughing at what was locally made, at least when it came to music. We hated the fact that radio and the rest of the media were ramming all this foreign junk into our ears. We wanted something different. We were tantalized at the idea of singing our own songs, and dancing to our own music.

That’s how the genre of OPM (Original Pilipino Music) came to be. I am happy to have participated in adding this musical genre and component to our popular culture.

And while I continue to enjoy doing this performing with the APO, lately, I have been sensing other possibilities and callings somewhere in the distance.

I may be in my late 50s but I still believe in looking forward and impacting the world in a tangible way. It upsets some people, especially my classmates, when I tell them that the next 20 years are the last good years of our generation. In fact, if I can manage to stay healthy and active and attend to all the other callings I have in this span of time, I would consider myself extremely lucky.

Actually, I still feel like a young man with goals in mind. I am excited about what may lie ahead and what I may surprise myself doing and discovering. But, just like the young man that I was, I am often still fearful, unsure of how to go about doing things.

Some habits, I guess, I will never really outgrow, and one of them is fear. I am both excited and hampered by the fear of cutting a new path in the forest of my life, even if that’s exactly what I have been doing, however unwittingly.

In the next 20 years, I would like to find the energy and focus to do what I feel are important things that still need to be done. A lot of these involve our country, the Philippines. Like so many others, I feel that there are things that we should have done at certain junctions in our recent history but which we failed to do.

I would like to do work in education. I feel strongly about this and I cry at the state of our educational system. There must be a way to educate the young that can make them imagine greater things to do with their lives beyond manning call centers or leaving for greener pastures abroad. I want to help educate Filipinos so they can contribute to our society, and not to some other society. This is an investment we cannot afford to pass up, or the consequences will be disastrous.

I am also looking at ways to transform popular culture into something more liberating and transformative which will awaken our people to our own greatness. After having met so many of our kababayan on countless trips abroad, I have no doubt that we Filipinos have what it takes to rise above the physical, moral and psychological squalor we find ourselves in. The real question is why a lot of us can’t seem to make things happen in our lives without having to leave the country and working somewhere else. We need to awaken and realize the power of self-inspiration.

We need a cultural revolution on top of the political and social ones. I think that if we want to wage real change in this country, one of the most important things we need to do is take control of the media and change its content radically. Our attitudes and self-image are like software that is largely defined by media. As long as our self-image as a people (which television encourages) is an immature, childish and dysfunctional one, that is what we will continue to be in our daily lives.

I am amazed that in a country like Australia, people can watch high-quality documentaries that teach people how to garden, do carpentry, or fix things. These are shown during prime time! No asinine soaps and childish telenovelas, and no corrupting values being passed on as entertainment in noontime shows. There is not too much shallow or irresponsible newsgathering, either.

It will take a different kind of mindset to bring Philippine media to something close to this. We need a national paradigm that promotes responsibility, accountability and the habit of continuing education. I would like to be among the vanguard that will bring about these changes.

Lastly, I want to help change the structures and culture of the government that rules over us. I am not just looking at the personalities who are running it today but the very system itself which inevitably corrupts and stands in the way of reforming anything. There are better ways to run a country, as many OFWs who live under more functional systems abroad will attest.

All these issues are playing over in my mind right now as I look at scenarios on how to spend what remains of my life. I ask myself often if this is indeed my next calling — or am I just ranting? I also ask myself if I still have the energy and dedication to handle the work involved. Shouldn’t I just slow down and enjoy the next 20 years?
I am not yet sure of my answer to these questions.

Then I remind myself that Mother Teresa’s calling came to her in her late 50s when, as a teacher in an international school in India, she found her life changed totally by a beggar who had collapsed on the street, right at her feet.

She cared for this man, a man of the untouchable class, who eventually died. But it started her on the path of a nun in the service of the poorest of the poor, which is the part of her life where she contributed the most to humankind.

Life is full of twists and turns. Anything can still happen in our lives, no matter how old we may be in years. The one thing I’m sure of is, this 57-year old is not ready to retire — or be an old man.

0 to “My next 20 years”

  1. Dfish says:

    This is very inspiring Jim, especially your vision of taking control of the media and change its content radically. Never heard of this idea before.

  2. Leny Strobel says:

    Jim – I agree re your vision for education reform and of the media as well. You probably have influence and know folks who can do something about changing all the billboards and ads for whitening products and whitened mestizo images with the beautiful brown faces. Imagine the impact of that! Of seeing “brown is beautiful!” It is something that may on the surface look innocent but you already hint at our colonial miseducation. Begin with self-love. I sense that at the core of this desire to be white is a self-hate that is not recognized as that. But it is.

  3. Maria says:

    To my hero!

    I’m so inspired by this post!! I’m really, really glad that you’ve shared these goals!!! I’m 21 with big dreams, but often felt overwhelmed, even paralyzed by them. Like the weight of the world was on my shoulders.

    But that’s changed after reading (just today! how’s that for timing??) from Marianne Williamson’s A Return to Love. What I got from that is that my inspired goals aren’t really MY goals. “We are to do what there is a deep psychological and emotional imperative for us to do.” They come from somewhere higher and it isn’t even about me or what I can achieve. The same place where my talents and abilities come from (God, the divine) are now showing me the way to use them best. The question I try and ask myself now is, How can I be most helpful?

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for inspiring me!!!! & for making me feel more empowered to conquer God’s dreams for me.

  4. Dfish says:

    Jim, i have a short blog-reaction/reflection to your Sunday post…

  5. Quincy says:

    Hey Jim,
    I think your concept of change is terrific.
    The world really does need a transformation.
    I will try my best to do my part along the ideas you expressed
    Keep on humming!

  6. joesi says:

    hey man. u’re an idol. continue writing song, in inglish please 😉 Seriously, iam joining u in this quest of changing the system… through blogworld.

  7. Bass Poet says:

    Hi Sir Jim,

    I am still amazed with your intensity, tenacity and the “boldness and tenacity” to radically transform our beloved country, the Philippines. I always knew that you still have a full tank of gas left to ignite our masses. Excellent ideals and with faith, hope and love – the greatest act of all we will have a better Philippines. I will join you, Sir Jim in your fight because as a fellow Filipino – I want a better Philippines or even grander the Philippines at its best! Maraming salamat po sa inyong walang sawang pagmamahal at kalinga sa ating Inang Bayan!

  8. prex says:

    We need people who speak and think like you Sir.

  9. jimparedes says:

    I didn’t expect to get feedback like this. I posted this in three of my other sites and got a lot of supportive, encouraging and even impasssioned reactions. That is a good sign, I believe. We may all talk cynical from time to time about our country but deep down, we DO are.

    Let’s start thinking DAILY how we can pull off changing something for the better everyday, first in little ways, then in big far-reaching ways.

    We are not alone!

  10. cha says:

    “After having met so many of our kababayan on countless trips abroad, I have no doubt that we Filipinos have what it takes to rise above the physical, moral and psychological squalor we find ourselves in. The real question is why a lot of us can’t seem to make things happen in our lives without having to leave the country and working somewhere else. We need to awaken and realize the power of self-inspiration.” ———– so why did you and your family migrate to australia?????

  11. milette says:

    Glory to God! I will include you in my prayers so that you will succeed in your endeavour.

  12. jimparedes says:

    cha–I wish I could direct you to my long essay about it somewhere in this blog (Try April 2006).

    In short, I applied when Erap won hoping to sit his administration out. I was very discouraged and felt near hopeless. We did not leave till 5 years later though mainly because my wife got cancer, both her parents died of cancer, etc.. It was a good break for our family. We needed a new scene to recharge.

    WE decided to push through with it mainly to give the kids the chance to live abroad and decide for themselves if they should stay or not.

    As for me, while I love it here and would not mind staying. I just feel that it’s time to give something back. Life has been good for me. Time to pay forward.

  13. xhris says:

    wow! this literature made you forever young. nice post, jim.
    keep the flame idealism burning.
    I am with you in rehabilitation of Philippine media.

  14. In my feeling Jim, this is one of the best posts in a while, whilst I enjoy them all, occasionally the message reaches out and resonates particularly with me. I like that we get to see more of YOU in this post. I am in a similar mindset of late and applaud and look forward to witnessing what the unfolding years have in store for us all. I loved the imagery of “cutting a new path in the forest of my life”. Reminded me a bit of Robert Frosts quote” Two roads converged in a wood, I took the one less traveled by, and it has made all the difference” This is what i strive to do.
    Thank you again.

  15. aybee says:


    i’m glad there’s one man (in the Philippines) who has these visions… many times I am worried of what society, media, government my kids will have to learn from and deal with in the future when it’s their turn to build their lives….

  16. jimparedes says:

    aybee–there are many actually!
    Craig–nice to hear from you again

    To everyone, I did not expect to get this much feedback, many positive, encouraging and even impassioned. I posted this in two other websites and got the same reaction. This is a good sign. We Filipinos may occasionally express pessimissm from time to time but I know there is hope that lies within us.

  17. rob says:

    hi mr jim,
    i’m sorry to say but i’m one of those pessimistic ones. i still read philippine dailies online and i must say that we have some of the best opinion writers around. dissecting every bit of the philippine politics, its problems and even come up with solutions. it’s as though these writers (no offense) can run the country better than any of the current leaders. but that’s where it all stop. our mentality hasn’t changed. we’re still “the third largest english-speaking country in the world”; miss universe sill rules; america’s still the center of the universe; johnny litton and co. still think manila has four seasons (french spring in manila); starbucks is fashionable; mega malls are tourist attraction.
    after more than a decade living overseas, i have given up hope for the country. i’m pretty sure the philippines will get there one day. but not likely this lifetime. i apologise.

  18. Maria says:

    Oh my Lordy, that’s such a sad thing to say Rob. (sorry Jim Paredes, I hope u don’t mind! I just can’t help myself but to say something!)

    I didn’t grow up in the Philippines, but of the little that I’ve heard about it, it already made me sad. There’s another generation of Filipinos I’m sure u haven’t considered Rob. It’s the ones who’ve lived the sweeter life abroad and have become accustomed to certain standards and way of thinking. Maybe when they really understand the state of their motherland, they’ll think “hey,i can help here” and i know first hand of young people who already are helping. My brother doesn’t have money to attend a tour that will build houses for Gawad Kalinga, so his friends are pitching in so he can go. Doesn’t that say something?

    The ONLY time the Philippines has a chance to change is right now. Even if it doesn’t work the way we had hoped, even if we take another stumble, at least we were headed towards healing. Imagine if EVERY generation thought, “oh it isn’t going to happen now, something will happen later” then that truly is when nothing will ever happen.

    I used to think, Oh who am i this little girl from Australia, how can I help the Phils? What do I even know about it? The truth is, I know absolutely nothing, but I think even just talking about it is a start. And a start is better than waiting for the future to happen.

    I have so much respect for you Jim Paredes for sharing your thoughts. I really do. When I hear people say, “Oh there should be more ppl like you”, it made me think Yes maybe we all need to step up. Including me. Thanks a bunch! You’re my hero! 🙂 🙂

  19. Adam says:

    It’s weird for me to read about people who actually looked at music in the Philippines as deeply as you have (well, maybe I’m not that deep of a thinker). I’ve always just enjoyed the melody, and sometimes, the lyrics of American songs. I don’t believe I’ve actually met anyone in the Philippines who thought that songs should be written specifically for the listeners (Filipinos). I guess I’ve always felt a little out of place in the Philippines, even before the time I decided that I wasn’t going to put up with all the nonsense of the corrupt politicians there and live elsewhere.

    It’s inspiring to see that there are still people out there that can care for the Philippines in spite of all the hardships they’ve endured and the fact that they don’t really have to care (if they wanted to) since they live elsewhere. When I made up my mind to leave, I was determined never to look back. To this day, I have no regrets. Occassionally, when I get bored, I check to see what’s going on in the Philippines. Unfortunately, I’m almost always never surprised. It’s the same old crooked business.

    Unfortunately, what plagues the Philippines is anything but simple to unwind. There are a lot of problems that are cyclical. And then there are also the cultural issues.

    I actually just found out today that you moved to Australia (am I a little late?). But I’m glad that you’re still looking out for the Philippines Jim. Who says you need to slow down to enjoy life? Why not go out fighting? I mean, if you enjoy trying to effect change, why not?

  20. jimparedes says:

    We can all light a candle instead of cursing the darkness. Every country has its good points and its dysfunctional qualities. Our government is dysfunctional and needs a major rethink and reform.

    In the 60’s the IMF WB dismissed South Korea as hopelessly corrupt and beyond redemption. Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew at one time was a rebel who was in hiding. Look at those two countries now. Time and time again, people through out history have changed and redeemed themselves. To the pessimists who think we are hopeless, don’t be too sure. We are not ‘special’ in the sense that we will never change. The great historian De La Costa liked to point out that no people have a permamnent ownership of traits whether they be good or bad. Peoples, civilizations change as times change.

    Not too long from now, greatness may be ours. We may still surprise ourselves.

  21. rob says:

    why does it have to take somebody from overseas to give a helping hand? that’s the problem, maria. its own citizens do not care. everyone can give something little but will that change the country’s economy? africa’s been receiving billions for decades but still has the poorest people in the world.
    the country needs a strong leader. as mr jim mentioned, Lee Kuan Yew put singapore on the map and became one of the riches countries in the world. but how long did it take him? and by being realistic, if the philippines head to that same direction, most of us wouldn’t live long enough to see it grow.

  22. jimparedes says:

    Adam–When you love something, you get to know everything about it, and your motives when you engage it are quite clear to you, Salamat

    Rob–Many people are doing good stuff in our country. We do ot need saviors from outside. The Philippines is a reality bigger that statistics or headlines. There are good things going on there as well as bad things. Control your pessimism. The country has many things going for it inspite of the problems. And please, we ae nowhere near the status of failed states in Africa.

    We may not get ‘There” (wherever that is) in our lifetime, or maybe we will, but today, we can alter the trajectory so we can be headed in the right direction. Cheer up.

  23. Emmanuel Romano Punzalan says:

    Shake and bake Jim!

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