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Writing on Air by Jim Paredes


Archive for October, 2010


The gift of timelessness 2

Posted on October 30, 2010 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) Updated October 31, 2010 12:00 AM )

The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. — Albert Einstein

I am often captivated, awed and fascinated by the great mysteries, the unknowable, the unanswerable questions that challenge us from time to time. These questions have the ability to stalk and nag us. They challenge us then leave us stumped.

It is almost as if our spirit goes into a fit, screams these great questions and then waits for an answer which is supposed to come from paying attention to everything and anything that happens — the wind blowing, the silence that is deafening, the darkness that blinds our eyes, and the deeper darkness where our soul sometimes finds itself. We can ask for guidance from others who are wiser than us, and it is sometimes given, and we have enough satisfaction to silence our restless spirits — but only for a while.

Often, the answers to these questions are ours alone to figure out. And they demand a lot before answers are given. They want us to feel the isolation and alienation of the dark night of the soul before they are revealed.

To my mind, these tumultuous periods come when our spirit gets bored with our existence and wants the earthly ride it is taking with us to be more exciting.

I once read a description of spirituality as something that is not “suburban” in feel, but more like a “wilderness.” It is definitely not a paved road. And it is not given to us pre-chewed or processed. We are supposed to figure it out ourselves. That is the spiritual journey, and woe to those who are called to take it amid much pain and suffering.

Sometimes, the important questions come rushing at us in the midst of inexplicable, unfathomably tragic situations we find other people (and sometimes even ourselves) in. Tsunamis, floods, calamities of all kinds, great tragedies, senseless acts of violence and hate inflicted on the innocent and undeserving — such cataclysmic events can animate these questions from the depths and stare back at us, wanting answers.

In the midst of chaos and mayhem, we find ourselves asking: Why does God allow such horrible things to happen? And how can God not prevent them when innocent lives are involved? Is there a God? If so, what are all these senseless, crazy tragedies telling us about God?

Throughout history many have asked these questions and have gotten various answers. And always, the answers they have intuited pretty much described, summarized and solidified the core of their belief system and the kind of God they believed in.

There are those who take solace in the idea of a “punishing God.” There are some Christian fundamentalist pastors in the US who subscribe to the belief that tragic events like the World Trade Center bombing in New York happened because God was punishing America for its sins, notably those committed by gays and lesbians, drug users and those who engage in abortion and sexual promiscuity.

Others ascribe to the “explanation” that God’s will is too hard to comprehend because we are only human. As the saying goes, “God writes straight with crooked lines.” We may not understand it but everything happens for our own good. To be honest, I have never found comfort in this. It doesn’t explain anything.

There was a time when, searching for an answer to why bad things happen to good people, I was prompted to write a book that led me to meander into the spiritual world. And yet I only wrote around four pages in which I directly tried to answer my original question.

I do not presume that my answer will provide solace to anyone except myself. But in my own journey, this is how my soul read the configuration that life seems to have presented as “the answers.”

First of all, I believe there is a God. And in my lucid moments I know that there is nothing that is not God manifesting Him/Herself. Why? Because everything comes from God. And this is easier to accept when we don’t judge immediately.

And yes, God allows horrible things to happen. In fact, God may even be causing some of these tragedies. But why does He/She do it when God is love and all that?

Let me just point out that perhaps we have been reading life wrong all along. Human existence is not the main gift that God cares for. As spirit, we have been around, even before we were born as humans, and we will be around after we die — for eternity. Our human life is a mere blip in the field of time around the vast timelessness.

Our lives are like little boats tossing in the ocean and they are not the main thing. The ocean is the big story. But our problem is, we see ourselves in the small boat instead of the vastness of consciousness that is the ocean itself. It’s a case of mistaken identity. The greater gift of God is the timelessness and eternal spirit and consciousness that precedes and follows human life.

This is why life, and all its material goodies, and the physical attributes of the human body are all perishable. They don’t really matter in the end. If they did, they would have been made to last forever.

The great questions are meant to awaken us to our bigger identity — our timelessness and eternal spirit. And these questions often surface when our small earthly self is threatened.

Have you noticed how we become bigger and better persons when tragedy strikes? We share our material gifts as if they are of no value because we wake up (if only temporarily) to the bigger truth that they are really of no value.

Don’t get me wrong. I celebrate life and all its blessings. But I also understand that all these — including what we call bad and good and everything in between — are manifestations of The Timeless Entity at play in the field of time.

When my wife Lydia was diagnosed with cancer seven years ago, I tried to understand why God would do such a thing to us. After much reflection, I intuited that the physical “us” that was asking the question and complaining was not the bigger entity that is eternal. That epiphany affected me profoundly.

It is a realization that I have to process often to help me cope with all the crazy stuff going on in this vale of tears. But when I am awake, my crazy spirit can shout a hearty “Praise God” with authenticity, in acknowledgment of everything that happens in my earthly existence — the good, the bad and whatever.

I won a new car in a raffle. Praise God! A relative I love died. Praise God! It’s crazy. But it all makes sense in the larger scheme of things, since everything is spirit manifesting in whatever way it wants to. Whatever shows up is coming from the same source.

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1) Photography Workshop in Dumaguete on Nov. 20. Meeting place at AVR-Grade School Dept. St Paul’s University. It will be from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Fee includes lunch, certificate. Please call Chinky at 0916-4305626

2) Advanced photo class in Manila on Nov. 13. This will be held outdoors. It’s a walking class. Venue to follow. Call 426-5375 or 0916-8554303 or write me at emailjimp@gmail.com.

3) Basic Photography Class on Nov. 26, 2010 from 1 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at 113 B. Gonzales, Loyola Heights, QC. Cost is P3,500. Call 426-5375 or 0916-8554303 or write me at emailjimp@gmail.com.

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Matters of fate 3

Posted on October 24, 2010 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) Updated October 24, 2010 12:00 AM

Illustration by REY RIVERA

Most people like to explain away the eerily coincidental, the marvelously synchronistic, or any event, story or person that defies the odds as something that was meant to happen. We like to think that the way certain things play out just “had to be.”

It is “fate,” we conclude, as if a single word can explain why things happen as they do.

In our history as Filipinos, there are many events that look like acts of fate. They seem to be interventions in our national life that were meant to happen and which have changed the course of our history. The saga of the Aquino family that began with Ninoy’s assassination and continues to play out with P-Noy’s presidency, is one such example. In fact, despite the player’s hesitation, as in the case of Noynoy, fate still wins in the end.

There is a saying, “Fate leads the willing, and drags along the reluctant.” Thus, for many Filipinos, especially when they think of how Cory’s death made the people look to her son as their new beacon, P-Noy was fated to be president. We have many stories in our own lives that we explain and classify under the “fate” category — the job that was suddenly offered that made you successful, the person you married, winning the lottery or a raffle, the many circumstance that changed the course of our lives that happened without our doing anything.

Lately, I’ve been fascinated by stories of people that seem to be proof of the reality that is fate.

A wealthy woman I know who was passing through a community center building thought she heard the voice of an infant calling her. When she looked to her side, just a few feet away, she saw a four-month-old baby girl carried by her mother, smiling and cooing at her with arms outstretched in her direction. The woman approached the indigent mother and politely asked if she could carry her baby who had charmed her completely.

Seeing that the baby was sick and a bit malnourished, the wealthy woman offered to care for the baby until she was healthy enough. The mother consented. It was not too long after that the wealthy woman was able to convince the poor woman to let the child live with her. Eventually, the mother gave up her baby for adoption.

That was 38 years ago. The baby, now a full-grown woman, raised and schooled in the best way possible and with kids of her own, has recently adopted an unwanted child because she wanted to pay forward the great blessings that life had showered upon her.

When I realize the lowly station the adopted baby girl was born into, and how wonderfully different life has played out for her, I am tempted to think that there must have been some grand plan that unraveled for her. This could not have been just the luck of the draw, or the universe playing dice. The wealthy woman who adopted her thinks that it was all meant to be.

It is comforting to think of fate as being kind, intervening in the lives of people in a good way. But there is another way to look at fate.

A line in the poem “Desiderata” goes: “…and whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.” I am of two minds about this. First, could it be possible that things as they unfold are really meant to happen?

This view that life is fait accompli can be terrifying or calming, depending on where you are, psychologically and spiritually. It can bring an irrational panic or a deep spiritual acceptance of whatever or however life unfolds. Some people will see their lives as totally out of their control and live in constant fear while some will accept and explain things by charging events in their lives to karmic debt or redemption.

Or, is it not so much that things happen the way they do, but that people themselves are meant to cause things to happen?

The practical and the action-oriented will resonate more with this second view as expressed by Siddhartha Buddha centuries ago: “I do not believe in a fate that falls on men however they act; but I do believe in a fate that falls on them unless they act.” People make the world turn. It is people, not the heavens, who dictate the flow of life.

But then, one can argue that it is still the fates themselves that cause men to do the things they do and that is, to achieve the fates’ directives.

How independent can our actions be when we feel “fated” by our religion, nationality, physical attributes, economic conditions, educational attainment, and other extraneous factors? Are we really free agents doing free acts or are we robots programmed to play the cards that fate hands to us?

This debate can run on endlessly. But here’s what I know.

There are people who are able to behave differently from their conditioning. How is it that a man like Nelson Mandela who was imprisoned for 28 years could emerge from prison and lead a nation without persecuting his tormentors? How is it that wealthy people can go against their material interests and selflessly contribute their wealth to the less fortunate? And more recently, in Chile, how is it that men could voluntarily engage in a dangerous situation that could kill them in order to rescue 33 miners trapped 250 meters under the earth’s surface?

There is no talk of fate for such people, but only what and how they intended their life’s meaning to be.

In India, were fate seems to be married to religious beliefs in a way that affects a great number of people negatively, the great Prime Minister Jawarharlal Nehru once said, “Life is like a game of cards. The hand you are dealt is determinism; the way you play it is free will.”

The wealthy woman, who adopted the poor child — and later on, the same child who, as an adult, adopted another poor child — lifted the yoke of fate with their free acts of kindness and compassion. Fate becomes redefined as an act of liberation when it is intentioned and acted upon, instead of just simply being allowed to play out.

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1) Photography Workshop in Dumaguete on Nov. 20. Meeting place at AVR-Grade School Dept. St Paul’s University. It will be from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Fee includes lunch, certificate. Please call Chinky at 0916-4305626 for slot reservation.

2) Advanced photo class in Manila on Nov. 13. This will be held outdoors. Venue to follow. If interested, please call 426-5375 or 0916-8554303 or write me at emailjimp@gmail.com.

Life doesn’t wait forever.. Kailan mo pa gagawin? 1

Posted on October 19, 2010 by jimparedes

On becoming a man 1

Posted on October 19, 2010 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) Updated October 17, 2010 12:00 AM

I am reading the book Wild at Heart by John Elredge who writes about how men today are not being raised the way men should be raised. Men these days, he says, are too soft, too weak of character and too shallow.

Generally, Elredge asserts, men of this generation and all the generations after World War Two, are failing the substance test. Men today, probably because of how their equally weak and lost fathers have raised them, have lost the grit, the courage, the passion and the long-distance runner dedication to be true to the causes they believe in.

This intriguing book, recommended by a psychologist friend, is a very interesting read for someone who is a) a man, and b) a father to a son.

He laments the fact that many boys have been emasculated by the society that has raised them. Every day, schools, families and society in general, assault the rough, strong and active masculine energy that is innate in boys. It is a control issue. There is too much taming and domesticating going on, resulting in boys that are too “nice” because they have been denied an outlet for their innate roughness.

Elredge points out that more than raising boys to be nice and decent, we must also allow them to feel that they are “dangerous,” which, he says, is one of the strong essential points that comprise male energy.

He relates how his son felt when they wrestled and the boy cut his father’s lip. Elredge says that after the initial shock of seeing blood on his lips, and upon hearing him say it was all right, he saw his son strut — not just walk out — but strut out of the room in triumph. And that was good.

There are three symbolic things a man must do to be a man, Elredge writes: “A man must fight a battle, go on an adventure and get the girl.”

Reading this, memories of my childhood role playing came back to me, dressed as Davy Crocket with my air gun, or Jim Bowie with my authentic Bowie knife, I explored the empty lot beside our house in Cubao, in search of wild animals I could kill. I also loved to go camping, building a fire and cooking the small birds I had shot down.

I cut myself a few times while playing with knives as a Boy Scout. I had fistfights in school. I even shot myself accidentally with my own air gun but I never told my mom about it because she would surely confiscate my gun. I also played with dangerous things like firecrackers. I was quite adept at tying knots with a rope, a scout’s skill I took seriously. Once I attempted to swing from one tree to another using a rope and got a bad case of “rope burn” because I could not really carry my own weight. My palms were scraped and raw, and were unusable for almost a week.

All of the above, I suppose, are enough testimony to the adventure part of Elredge’s checklist on being a man. The “getting the girl” part was something I did quite well once I got over my initial shyness. I must have kissed my first girl at around nine or 10 years old. Even at that age, I felt I was on cloud nine. A large part of it must have been about “male conquest,” that primal feeling where you sense that you are as manly as you could ever be, even as a boy. If I could shoot a bird, I could get a girl!

And in life, it isn’t just one girl. The whole idea of conquest is mythological and large. The ritual of dating and all that it entails has many implications on becoming an adult male. One is really in search of the woman to whom a man can be a hero.

My “fighting a battle” experience came in college. While it is true that as young boys, we fight many small battles like shyness, discipline and the “devil” as we try to control our urge to sexually express ourselves solitarily, the real battle for me began in college with my political awakening. This was expressed in small skirmishes with authority by joining demonstrations against the Marcos government and speaking out against martial law. The battle was a long one that seemed to culminate in EDSA in 1986, but it continues to this day.

Elredge writes about how a man can retake his manhood and be a more complete person. Every man, he says, is wounded as he is growing up. It is a wound that can slay his true masculinity, the power source, and makes him aim lower, or not at all, cower before the challenge of life, or even fall into addiction.

Pornography is popular, he says, because it is one way a man “gets the girl.” But it is a false promise that, in many ways, a man pays too high a price for because he risks being addicted to it and ends up feeling more emasculated after.

Men are looking for the answer, and they think it is in women. But while a woman can validate a man, she can also invalidate him. And so, he suggests that perhaps women may not be the “one” who can bestow on men the hero status that they crave.

There is a strong Christian orientation to this book. It has a lot of scriptural quotations that do not exactly appeal to me. But I can relate with Elredge’s idea of boys being raised to be too “nice,” safe and not feeling “dangerous” enough. It is certainly something worth pondering.

When sons bond with their fathers, they talk and do more daring, challenging things than when they interact with their moms. I liked the idea of delaying my son’s circumcision until he was 11 because it was a clear initiation, a ritual that separated him from the younger boys. It was a physically painful threshold he crossed and that was good for him. Physical breakthroughs are important because they tell a boy that he has what it takes to be a man.

Since my son was eight years old, we would often race when we saw an open field, and I would beat him, of course. But it was really just a matter of time before he grew big enough and the day he beat me, he had something to crow about. And he sure did!

I remember how he once showed a lot chutzpah in challenging himself to learn the lead guitar parts of the song Ventura Highway on the first day he held a guitar. He still had to learn his first chords and he was already aiming for the hard stuff. He asked me to play it a few times even when I repeatedly told him the song was way beyond his league. To my great surprise, the kid stayed up all night and proudly played it flawlessly before me the next morning!

I would often tell him that physical discomfort, like lack of a heater during brownouts, walking long distances, or missing a meal was good because it helped build character. My wife on the other hand would always make sure all her children were safe, fed and comfortable. I guess that’s where masculine and feminine energies play out differently, as they should. Masculinity is about exploration, extension, conquest, while femininity is about comfort, relating intimately and keeping things within boundaries.

In my view, a man must honor both energies since in truth he possesses both of them. A man needs to be both dangerous and nice, bold and sensitive, and tough and soft, when needed.

In this age when society works to make things very safe for children, it is important that fathers and mothers do not deny their sons their natural expression of masculine adventures. Sure, boys must be guided and disciplined but it is not enough that we raise them to be just moral and decent. We need them to be passionate about life as well. We need bold and tough men (and women, too!) to tackle the bold and tough battles that humanity must face in the new world.

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Workshops

1) Creative For Life Workshop (Two-Day Run). This used to run for six separate sessions. Now it is compressed to two days but still with the same punch and impact you will feel for life. This will be held on Oct. 23 (9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) and Oct. 24 (1:30 to 5 p.m.). Fee is P5,000. Visit http://tappingthecreativeuni-verse.com for FAQ, syllabus and testimonials.

Call 426-5375, 0916-8554303 and ask for Ollie. Write me at emailjimp@gmail.com for questions and reservations.

2) Basic Photo Workshop in Dumaguete on Nov. 20. A day in the outdoors! Call 0916-4305626 for details and reservations.

Render unto Caesar 9

Posted on October 10, 2010 by jimparedes

Render unto Caesar.
HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) Updated October 10, 2010 12:00 AM


What a weekend it was.?In just a few hours, cyberspace was abuzz with comments on the issue of Reproductive Health. The President’s expressed support for family planning, which he affirmed at a town hall meeting in the US, put the Philippine bishops on DEFCON 3. They were angry, armed and ready for war.

Government’s desire to curb population growth has always been met with outright hostility from the Catholic Church. Each time the issue has been brought up, the entire cabal of Church spokesmen from the CBCP and the clergy are ordered to read pastoral letters spewing threats and imagined dire consequences about the Filipinos’ impending moral decline if any method of birth control, apart from the natural, is encouraged.

P-Noy’s insistence on challenging the stand of the Philippine church and doing the practical thing is the proverbial straw that has broken the camel’s back. And they have attacked him with everything they’ve got.

How dare he support something so unconscionable and despicable? Doesn’t he know it is against the law of God? Why doesn’t government give our people jobs instead of condoms? Besides, do we really have a population problem? They even delved into conspiracy theory. This, they said, clearly has something to do with the CIA and the $400 million Millennium Development Fund he received from the US government, which supports its own pharmaceutical companies that make all these evil birth control devices to control the fertility of third world countries.

In short, they threw everything, including the kitchen sink, at P-Noy. They also threatened mass actions and a civil disobedience campaign against the government. And finally, the head of the CBCP casually dropped what must have been intended to stop the President in his tracks: the grave threat of excommunication.

Almost simultaneously, as the chatter built up in cyberspace, rising like the floods of Ondoy, tour guide and artist Carlos Celdran pulled his stunning “Damaso” caper right before the CBCP hierarchy during an ecumenical service at the Manila Cathedral.

At this point, cyberspace, TV news, and everyone’s conversation became riveted completely on the topic and the conversation reached fever pitch.

The series of events that transpired last weekend was a deadly brew boiling in a piping-hot cauldron with three of the most potently explosive ingredients one can think of — politics, sex and religion thrown in together. What could possibly come out of this toxic mix that would provide nourishment? At best, it produced the most painful and acrimonious discussions among the faithful, many of whom expressed disappointment at the simplistic argumentation of the men of their Church.

People throughout history have gone to war many times over politics, religion and sex. From the Crusades to the World Wars, civilizations have clashed over these issues. Which is not surprising at all since these topics which can be reduced, at their basic essence, to one word: power. It is life’s greatest obsession.

In this case, P-Noy is exercising the power granted him by the people to create measures that will ease aspects of our lives, specifically outcomes relating to our sexual activities, and their relation to poverty and environmental ruin.

The Church, on the other hand, is using its power by flexing its muscles and threatening P-Noy to make sure he toes the Church line so government does not offer the people any choice with regard to their own fertility control, except the natural method that the Church propagates — albeit half-heartedly. For as long as family planning has been debated here, I have yet to see a full campaign by the Church to disseminate information on natural methods in the scale that it is well capable of doing.

The people, whom government and the Church claim to help, protect and nurture, are also exercising their power. At this juncture in our history, they are clearly appreciative of government finally standing up to the Church on the issue of family planning. If you don’t believe me, look up the results of the surveys, both scientific and anecdotal, that have been conducted in the past five years.

In the age of people power, greater democratization, and unbridled, open information, it is patently dictatorial, even fascistic, to deny people the right to judge for themselves what is best for their own individual life situations. It also smacks of a medieval mindset to deny the science and effectiveness of, say, condoms in preventing pregnancies and protecting people from HIV.

I really wonder how the Pope could proclaim that condoms are porous and thus ineffective, in effect using his moral authority to propagate misinformation and thereby condemning the populations of HIV-infected poor countries to the risk of infection. It is not rocket science to see that there is something factually wrong with this statement. It also doesn’t take a psychiatrist to recognize the unbridled exercise of moral power at work here to instill guilt and fear among unthinking and unquestioning people.

While I respect people who follow the Church line on natural family planning, I have a problem when they cannot respect the rights of those who disagree with them, and then seek to deny those people the right to choice.

There is so much breast-beating in the Church about being “pro-life.” But I sometimes wonder if they are really “pro-life” or just “pro-birth”? Aside from the charity work the Church does, there is hardly any talk coming from them about real solutions to national problems relating to hunger, homelessness, malnutrition, lack of educational opportunities, joblessness and environmental degradation that a runaway population has wrought on us and continues to do so.

While it is true that corruption in high places has and continues to ravage our poor, it is intellectual dishonesty, and a militant denial of reality, to be dismissive and say it is all the government’s fault that so many people are poor and live wretched lives, and then condemn government when it explores solutions that will empower people to ease their lives through family planning.

The “Damaso” incident at the Manila Cathedral sheds a lot of light on what has been going on since the time of Rizal to the present. There is something Damasonic about how the bishops are handling this issue of reproductive health. And we, the Filipino people, are caught in a religion which on one hand manifests as oppressive, medieval and superstitious, but also open, and humanly liberating on the other — depending on the issue. Many of my younger priest friends are pained by the pronouncements of the bishops and have quietly expressed this through texts and veiled and cryptic Facebook and Twitter messages. I can only wish that more of them were handling Church policies.

I have often wondered why the Church can be so open and enlightened on many social issues but so irrational when it comes to sex. I do not want to open a can of worms here, but the pitched Internet chatter over the weekend makes one thing clear — that there is great wisdom in the principle of the separation of Church and State. As someone wise and compassionate once said: “Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and render to God what is God’s.”

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Announcing the following workshops you may want to attend.

1) “Jim Paredes Second Songwriting Workshop.” What makes a good song? I will teach you the basics of songwriting and actually challenge my students to try their hand at it. Students must play an instrument such as guitar or piano. Workshop is on Oct. 9 and 10 from 1 to 6 p.m. Fee is P5,000. Address is 113 B. Gonzales, Loyola Heights, QC.

2) Are your pictures a hit-or-miss experience? Learn everything you need to know about your camera so you don’t just point and shoot. Must have a DSLR Camera. “Basic Photography Workshop” is on Oct. 16 from 1 to 6:30 p.m. Address is 113 B. Gonzales, Loyola Heights, QC. Fee is P3,500.

3) This used to run for six separate sessions. Now it is compressed to two days but still with the same punch and impact you will feel for life. “Creative For Life: The Two-Day Run” is on Oct. 23 (9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) and Oct. 24 (1:30 to 5 p.m.). Fee is P5,000. Visit tappingthecreative-universe.com for FAQ, syllabus and testimonials. Call 426-5375, 0916-8554303 and ask for Ollie. Write me at emailjimp@gmail.com for questions and reservations.

Lessons from Batman 2

Posted on October 02, 2010 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) Updated October 03, 2010 12:00

A bustling city teeming with millions of people and cramped into a small space. It is a land of contrasts. Every part is full of life as people go about their business. There are the few rich people who glitter as they cruise luxuriously on the streets with their big cars. One also sees the working class wage earners and the students packed in trains, buses and all manner of transportation on their way to work or school. But one sees more of the plain drab and dirty poor people who loiter around selling stuff, any stuff, begging or doing whatever is possible as they try to eke out a living in any way they can.

There is perennial traffic and it is almost always heavy, tiring one’s patience as it saps a lot of one’s energy while sitting and waiting for the lights to turn green.

These are scenes we see in our cities daily. I’m not talking of Manila per se, mind you. This could be happening in many other cities — Mumbai, Rio de Janeiro, New York, New Delhi, Bangkok, etc.

Consider that in the past few weeks, Manila’s residents were shaken by the bus hostage crisis, the rioting that followed the demolition of squatter homes at the North Triangle and southern end of EDSA, the law exams bombing at La Salle on Taft Avene. Last year, there was Ondoy. On a smaller scale, we are unexpectedly harassed by seemingly insignificant events such as sudden flash floods, Baclaran day, “midnight madness” mall sales. etc. that also cause some havoc in our daily living.

When things like this happen, it seems like every Filipino and his mother are jolted out of their comfort zones and are forced to watch or listen to all forms of media — radio, TV and the social networking sites — to adjust their schedules and lives accordingly.

In a way, big cities all over the world have become very much like Gotham City of Batman fame. The run of daily life can and often gets disrupted, altered, shaken, stirred and disturbed in many little ways but sometimes in big shocking ways.

Think of Rolando Mendoza, terrorists or any villain of the moment, and then think of Gotham City’s various nemeses — The Joker, Riddler, Penguin, or any other villain that Batman has to fight, and you will see the striking similarities. Think of Osama Bin Laden bombing the World Trade Center with passenger planes in New York City, or Timothy McVeigh launching his deadly terrorist assault in Oklahoma, or extremists blowing up trains in Madrid and London. Imagine Tokyo paralyzed due to Sarin gas poisoning in its subways perpetrated by some religious cult.

“Holy crap!” one is tempted to exclaim, like Batman’s sidekick Robin would probably do in real… er… reel life.

The sheer size of the city and the number of people one can affect by doing something disruptive like a hostage taking or a bombing is a setting for the perfect storm desired by publicity seekers. As the Joker said in the latest Batman flick, The Dark Knight, “Gotham City always brings a smile to my face.” Why? Because it is a megalopolis sprawled out and set up for the shocking, the jarring and the diabolical intentions and acts of any committed villain!

In this age when the lives of the great masses of people can be severely affected by a few dangerous loonies, like Gotham City residents, people are looking for leaders who can offer quick deliverance when great disruptions happen. These are powerful, skillful operators who are daring enough to take chances to normalize situations. For sure, the SWAT team and the PNP are not the people I am talking about, as of now. Neither are Mayor Lim, USEC Puno and the other incompetent clowns who mishandled the hostage crisis. They will need a lot more training, commitment and a greater sense of personal responsibility to be able to untangle messes such as the Rolando Mendoza caper, with dispatch and accuracy.

For sure, the extreme negative reaction of the public to all that bungling is pointing to a clamor for a new type of governance. And this is where P-Noy and his people should be paying attention.

Everyone knows that our new president is a nice, decent guy, and that is a good start. But what most everyone is expecting is that he should also be able to solve problems immediately and satisfactorily. In other words, not only must P-Noy be of good moral character, of which there is already a consensus, but he must also be decisive, efficient and fearless. Nice is nice, but he should be more.

I notice that for those who rabidly campaigned for P-Noy, it’s a roller coaster ride every few days. When the President does something good, they cheer and praise him with much enthusiasm. But when they feel he has made a wrong decision, or there is perceived inaction or fault on his part, there is much criticism and disappointment. He is, for all intents and purposes, the hope that everyone is looking at right now. Just like Batman in Gotham City, the citizens’ expectations of P-Noy to succeed are very high.

And with practically every aspect of life in the Philippines begging for major reforms, people expect much and are ready to support a leader who will be fearless in doing what needs to be done. The President is getting much support on the issue of family planning by standing up to the age-old opposition of the Church and declaring that it is government’s duty to offer choices to the people. But on the De Lima report, it remains to be seen whether he will show real leadership by ordering heads to roll — including those of his closest friends — as he has promised, or cave in to friendship and be soft and forgiving. His fans await a principled decision with bated breath.

But here’s some advice from the TV Batman as he made his closing statements during the trial of The Joker, which might be good for P-Noy to heed: “In the interests of law, order, justice, good fellowship and the flag, you must convict them to keep our streets safe from evil persons. Thank you.”

Truly, it is hard to run Gotham City and please all of its residents all of the time. But P-Noy has promised a lot and people believe in him. Is he the Batman that will deliver us from the craziness that engulfs our Gotham existence? Let us hope he and more people like him can free us from the dark night. As a citizen of Gotham once said, “Bless you, Batman. Every law-abiding citizen of Gotham City goes with you today in spirit.”

That’s what a lot of our people pray every day.

* * *

I am offering three workshops this October:

1) Jim Paredes 2nd Songwriting.

Workshop on Oct. 9 and 10 from 1 to 6 p.m. Fee is P5,000. Address is 113 B. Gonzales, Loyola Heights, QC. Visit

2) Basic Photography Workshop on Oct. 16, from 1 to 6:30 p.m. Address is 113 B. Gonzales, Loyola Heights, QC. Fee is P3,500.

3) Creative For Life: The Two-Day Run on Oct. 23 (9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) and Oct. 24 (1:30 to 5 p.m.).Fee is P5,000.

Call 426-5375, 0916-8554303 and ask for Ollie. Write me at emailjimp@gmail.com for questions and reservations.


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