Writing on Air

Writing on Air by Jim Paredes


Archive for March, 2015


Father hunger 2

Posted on March 28, 2015 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated March 29, 2015 – 12:00am

Screen Shot 2015-03-29 at 12.19.13 AM
This was one of the last photos taken of my dad right before he died in a plane crash. He was 42 then. When I turned 42, I had this photo taken and juxtaposed with his picture.

Last March 17 was my dad’s 58th death anniversary. He died in a plane crash with President Ramon Magsaysay. Yesterday, March 28, was his 100th birthday. My nine sibs and I decided to come out with a limited-edition book for families and friends with our own take on what Dad meant to each of us. Here is my personal account.

March 17, 1957 is largely a blur. I was five years old. All I can remember was there was a lot of activity going on in the house. I can remember Mom’s pained and nervous voice talking to someone on the phone. I also remember one of my elder brothers crying on his desk with head bowed down upon hearing the news that President Magsaysay’s plane was missing.

Our father was on board together with the President and 26 other people. They had left Cebu early morning to return to Manila after the President’s sortie of speeches in different schools.

As a young boy, even if I could not comprehend it fully, I could sense that there was something wrong on that day. But more than feeling scared and worried, the heightened pace of activity around the house made me feel excited more than anything else. As the hours passed by and nearing the evening, people started coming to our house — uncles and aunts, friends, relatives, neighbors, priests, etc. But I did not understand much less know anything of tragedy; I just knew something big had happened.

I can’t remember how long after March 17 a casket with my dad’s remains was brought to the house. It could have been one or two days after March 17. But there it was in our sala, a closed coffin with Dad inside. In my five-year-old eyes, there was something so novel, new and exciting about having this in our sala. It did not take my Ate Lory and younger brother Raffy and I too long to “play house” with it. I remember crawling and staying under it pretending it was a shelter of some sort while people stood in silent prayer before it to pay their respects.

I did not know what death was then. I did not know what it meant that Dad was never coming back.

I have very few memories of my dad. I can remember his raspy voice, his laughter. I remember some moments when all 10 of us siblings would be on our parents’ bed laughing, singing and just enjoying ourselves. I remember my dad playing the piano in my lolo’s house. He liked to play Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue.

Once I was sitting on his lap in our house and he asked me to pull out the drawer on his desk. He said he had a surprise for me. When I opened it, I saw a small bag of peanuts, which he gave to me. He hugged me and just let me sit on his lap while he read the papers on his desk. I remember feeling good and secure in his arms. I also remember having some meals with him at home when he was wearing a dark shirt.

On the morning when my Dad’s casket was going to be brought to the Immaculate Concepcion Church for the funeral Mass, I was running down our driveway and fell and hit my head. The bump on my forehead was covered with Gentian Violet.

There were long Masses. I remember hearing my mom crying quietly when Dad’s coffin was finally buried in La Loma Cemetery.

After Dad died, there were changes in our home. I can’t remember the sequence of events but three of my brothers moved out of the house, leaving a lingering sadness and bitterness. What used to be a happy home built by my mom and dad turned lonely and alienating. Christmases were depressing. And even as we tried to make them happy occasions, I sensed a sadness in everyone. Things had changed. I knew that it was all because Dad was gone.

Two years after Dad died, when I was in Grade One or Two, there was a Parents’ Day at the Ateneo where some of my classmates came with their fathers. I remember that was one of the painful occasions when it fully dawned on me that I did not have a father anymore. A deep pain enveloped me, which I could not identify until only about 12 years ago. It was “father hunger.”

Even if I did not know my dad as well as my older sibs did, I grew up influenced by his reputation and his towering greatness. From the stories I heard, I knew he was a good, kind, principled and brilliant person.

Throughout my life, I have met many people who knew my dad. Many of them were his law students. Some were friends, acquaintances, old priests he had met during his life who almost always instantly accorded me a special, almost revered status upon discovering that I was my dad’s son. His impact on them must have been deep and indelible.

When I became a dad, I tried to create a composite template from father figures I had encountered while growing up — my teachers, kuyas, Hollywood father roles, some Jesuits. But mostly, I was guided by what I thought Dad was as a father.

As a teen, I related to Dad through prayers. I had my own moments of angst when I prayed to him and asked him to grant my wishes, even if I also blamed him for not being present in my life. It was almost like a real live teen son-father dynamic where I used guilt to bargain for what I could get.

When I turned 41, I went to a photo studio where I asked to have my photo taken, imitating my dad’s pose in one of his classic pictures where he wore a light suit and sunglasses. I asked them to make us appear to be facing each other while looking at the camera.

I dreamed of him often until I was in my late 20s. I don’t dream of him as much anymore, but almost every time I do, he appears on the scene coming out of some kind of smoking ruins by the roadside, brushing away the dust from his white suit and walking with me as we are talking. It always seems like he knows where I am in my journey.

These dreams are almost always in black and white and I always wake up feeling very good. I also notice that almost every time I dream of him, I travel to another country not long afterward.

I still miss Dad. I don’t think I will ever stop even if it has been more than 50 years since March 17, 1957. I wish I could have had him around when I made many of the decisions in my life. But even in his absence, I know that the way he lived his life and the legacy he left is what has shaped a big part of mine.

My daughter’s non-traditional wedding 2

Posted on March 21, 2015 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated March 22, 2015 – 12:00am

Screen Shot 2015-03-22 at 6.59.27 AM

The newlyweds: John & Ala Buencamino exchanged vows at Observatory Hill near The Rocks. Photo by Alfredo Estrella

In October last year, Lydia sent me a Facebook message saying she was preparing dinner in our house in Glenwood, Sydney for friends. I was in Manila then.

After a few hours at about dinner, Sydney time, my Skype started to ring. When I answered, I saw my daughter Ala and her boyfriend John Buencamino having dinner with Lydia and my son Mio. They all had big grins on their faces. Ala and John wore Cheshire Cat smiles that hinted at a surprise about to unfold. After a few awkward moments, John spoke. He informed me that he and Ala had decided to get married. As much as I had a hint that he was going to say that, it still caught me by surprise.

That night after the Skype conversation, I remembered how I had done the same thing. I did not ask for Lydia’s hand in marriage; Lydia and I informed her parents that we were getting hitched. And I also said the exact same thing my father-in-law said to me decades earlier. I told Ala and John that I had always imagined how the experience would be, and here it was.

I mulled over the fact that I had just given my approval for John to marry my daughter via Skype! I smiled at the modernity of that. It did not occur to me that it was a signal of how non-traditional the wedding was going to be.

Last March 15, at 10 a.m. Sunday, the wedding took place. It was at Observatory Hill near the famous Sydney landmark area The Rocks. It was not in a church or chapel; it was in a gazebo in a public park surrounded with huge old trees. There was no priest or judge to officiate the wedding. In their place was a woman “celebrant” (one who officiates weddings) whom Ala and John had contracted for the event.

Her name was Lucy Suze Taylor, a very nice, confident woman who had legally officiated many weddings before. She did her job with love, and inspired a sense of communal feeling and participation from everyone. She was serious when she needed to be but also expressed some levity at the right times. I could tell that she loved what she was doing and gave extra effort and care to make the ceremony meaningful.

The words spoken at the marital ceremony by Lucy were a collaborative effort between the couple and the celebrants. Her statement contained only a few words from scripture (Corinthians 13: “Love is patient, love is kind…”). There was no mention of any deity. In place, there was poetry (“I carry you in my heart” by e.e. Cummings), light humor and deep expressions of love coming from the heart of John and Ala which, strangely, despite the absence of any religious traditions, had the tone of solemnity and sacredness.

One concession to tradition was the use of the cord placed over them during the marriage rites. The rite was touching, simple and had a trueness and authenticity that left almost everyone on the verge of tears. The overflowing love between the couple and that showered upon them by their friends was quite palpable. Their promise to love each other unconditionally was real and spoken with commitment.

Upon the pronouncement by celebrant Lucy that they were now officially married, the song When I Met You which I wrote for Lydia played as the couple kissed.

Everything about the planning and execution was both sensible and simple. The couple rightly chose to not splurge on the wedding and reception. They knew that the more important thing was the life after the wedding day. They showed financial restraint, but the few things they spent on were all worth it.

It did not have the feeling of a Manila or a Filipino wedding. No birds coming out of a bell, etc. No long entourage nor VIP table. More than having any visual theme, there was a sincerity and simplicity. It was wonderful in its directness and uncomplicatedness. And love was all over it.

Ala’s wedding gown was something she had found online. It was a beautiful one-of-a-kind vintage re-structured dress from old lace dresses and slips. It was further enhanced in Manila by Lydia’s long-time friend and couturier Steve de Leon who gifted her with an old-fashioned veil and an antique lace slip from his collection.

The “brides mates” were two of her closest “Sydblings” (“siblings” in Sydney), Eliza Hos and Luke Mosely, and two of her closest friends Jenn Simons Castillo and Trina Epilepsia from Manila. The flower girls were her niece and godchild Ananda and her best friend’s daughter, Lucy. Her maid of honor was her sister Erica. Her brother Mio stood as her witness.

The reception was in a pub called Miss Peaches in a quaint old building in Newtown, an artists’ hub in Sydney. Ala made sure there were no long tables with white cloth and the usual formal settings. Instead there were small tables bedecked with colorful paper flowers all lovingly made by her and set in recycled coffee cans she had wrapped with retro brand labels. She also made lace paper buntings which hung from the ceiling.

The guests consisted of a few relatives who were living in Sydney, several relatives who flew in from the US and the Philippines, and their diverse Sydney friends.

There was a lot of animated conversation, wild dancing, drinking (open bar), eating and loud merrymaking. The menu was Southern “soul food” — pulled pork sliders, jambalaya, mac and cheese balls, mushroom sliders, chicken and popcorn in cups, etc. The cake was made by Ala’s friend in Sydney while she made her own cake toppers.

As much as I was an integral part of the whole scene as father of the bride and as an in-law, I was also an observer. I watched how my daughter and her husband John creatively expressed themselves in their wedding and reception. It was clear that the whole thing was their bold expression of who and what they were all about. After all, Ala and John are both artists. She is a painter/illustrator and he is an actor who does Shakespearean plays, indie work, videos and the like. And their playful artists’ spirits danced away.

As the bride’s father, I must admit that I was initially a bit concerned that the whole ceremony might turn out to be rich in new age fluff but with little substance. Or it might be merely modern for the sake of being modern and hip. But as I sat through it, I felt the richness and depth of two people in love. I appreciated how every word spoken during their vows was deliberate and I admired how well thought out everything was. Of course! How could I even doubt? Ala is, after all, a very thoughtful person whose sense of appropriateness is always spot-on.

When she arrived at the foot of the hill, Lydia and I walked up with her only part of the way to the gazebo at the top. She then walked alone towards John who was waiting by the stairs. It was her statement that her decision to marry this man was completely her own.

All throughout the wedding and the reception, my tears flowed quite often. If I wasn’t crying I was always on the verge of it. Undoubtedly, they were tears of joy. I did not feel a sense of loss at all about “losing a daughter” as I thought I would. I actually felt great pride that my daughter and her husband had found their own personal understanding of what love was and what it can do when they commit to it forever. After all, love is the very meaning and purpose we live for. And yes, I had gained a son. John is quiet, strong, perceptive, and adores Ala in every way.

Lydia and I felt a sense of accomplishment, too, at seeing how Ala and our two kids Erica and Mio have turned out to be fine human beings. They are all independent, unconventional, responsible, passionate and lovable.

During my speech as father of the bride at the reception, I told them that marriage was like signing a blank check not just financially but also psychologically, physically, emotionally, and in all ways. Unlike a regular love affair, which is not really always meant to last, marriage is a decision of two people to experience this lifetime as one, and on to forever. It is not easy. It is both an ordeal and a privilege.

One might say it is a shot at eternity. And it can only be done with commitment, passion and the sense of adventurous exploration that brings people to ever deeper, greater love.

To John Buencamino and Ala Paredes: May you be great partners in pursuing your dreams. May you have children. May you prosper. And may you always live with passion and discover the secret dimensions of love allowed to a few who do make it to eternity.

Screen Shot 2015-03-22 at 6.59.09 AM
Photo by Alfredo Estrella

Fate or coincidence? 0

Posted on March 07, 2015 by jimparedes

By Jim Paredes

Every person has his own unique set of circumstances in life. From the outset, there are things that are pre-ordained.

I refer to one’s starting position in life when a person is born, and the many things that happen and will happen in the future beyond his or her control.

For example, you may have been born Caucasian, rich, handsome, athletic with a whole set of great genes that give you an edge over most everyone you know.

Or you could have been born a woman in a domineering, harsh, male chauvinistic culture, and you are small, frail, handicapped, plain, and living in some God-forsaken place where to have a life that you want is nearly impossible.

In both situations, you hardly had a choice. You were simply born into your situation.
It is painful to see and read about persecuted people, or those who are very sick, handicapped, helpless and extremely poor. I remember the lyrics of a song I learned as a boy that goes, ‘There but fortune go you or I, you or I’, and I ask why others have circumstances that are so difficult and so different from mine.

Was it simply luck, or what they call ‘the roll of the dice’? Could it be Fate? Karma? Destiny? Are there really such things? I will never know.

I may not understand God’s will and why He allows many people to suffer lives of want and others to live in abundance. No one can be certain how and why each person’s life is somewhat pre-ordained with his own unique set of circumstances.

More than knowing the answers to how and why, I prefer to think that each person has a mission to fulfill. And the circumstances we find ourselves in play a part in that mission.

Think of the parents, family, community, nationality, social class we were born into. Is it possible that God chose the parents who would give us the set of genes we need to physically meet the challenges of our mission? And think of the place, time and our social standing in society. Could they be crucial or strategic to the mission? Could the moral upbringing, psychological nurturing, and the education we went through have been ‘pre-planned ‘ to help us find resonance with the mission orders we are about to discover?
Think about it.

For example, why does it happen that a man and a woman from very diverse backgrounds suddenly, accidentally meet, and in the few hours they share, opt to make love and right after, the man quickly skips town never to be seen again, leaving the woman to fend for the infant just conceived in her womb? Could it be that God created the opportunity for them to meet because they happened to have the right genes to produce the right person to be born for a specific mission?

Could the man’s mission in that situation be as simple as being simply a sperm donor? James Hillman, author of ‘The Soul’s Code’ who gave this example, thinks it could be so.
Think of people and events as ‘interventions’ that happen at different stages of our lives. There are people you meet who change you in different ways, some you meet accidentally – the happenstance of being in a certain place and time where an event happens that changes you and points you to a different life direction.

This has happened to a lot of people throughout history, among them, St Ignatius, the soldier who, after an accident, found his true calling in a life of prayer. There is also Mother Teresa, a school teacher in an expensive foreign school in India whose life changed completely when a poor Indian beggar belonging to the lowest caste suddenly died in front of her. In her attempt to save the man, she discovered her calling in charity work.

Some of us live huge parts of our lives without having an inkling of what our own individual missions are. Missions are something we awaken to. There is suddenly a yearning for meaning that unmistakably calls us and we know we are being led to the right place. We are drawn into a new purpose. It can happen accidentally. It can be an easily recognizable call or a rude awakening.

Some people refuse to imagine the possibility of divine forces moving behind the scenes in their lives. I believe there are. The circumstances alone of where and how we are born already set the course of our lives in some direction. The divine and human energies that appear throughout our lifetime are there to change or refine our direction from time to time, to bring us closer to the mission at hand.

I don’t subscribe to the zodiac, and I still believe in free will. We are still free to answer or not to answer the call.

The person who awakens and answers will intuit the forces that are leading him. And he may even be blessed with the privilege of answering the ultimate question of why he was even born into the world at all. ###

Fate or coincidence 0

Posted on March 07, 2015 by jimparedes

By Jim Paredes

Every person has his own unique set of circumstances in life. From the outset, there are things that are pre-ordained.

I refer to one’s starting position in life when a person is born, and the many things that happen and will happen in the future beyond his or her control.

For example, you may have been born Caucasian, rich, handsome, athletic with a whole set of great genes that give you an edge over most everyone you know.

Or you could have been born a woman in a domineering, harsh, male chauvinistic culture, and you are small, frail, handicapped, plain, and living in some God-forsaken place where to have a life that you want is nearly impossible.

In both situations, you hardly had a choice. You were simply born into your situation.
It is painful to see and read about persecuted people, or those who are very sick, handicapped, helpless and extremely poor. I remember the lyrics of a song I learned as a boy that goes, ‘There but fortune go you or I, you or I’, and I ask why others have circumstances that are so difficult and so different from mine.

Was it simply luck, or what they call ‘the roll of the dice’? Could it be Fate? Karma? Destiny? Are there really such things? I will never know.

I may not understand God’s will and why He allows many people to suffer lives of want and others to live in abundance. No one can be certain how and why each person’s life is somewhat pre-ordained with his own unique set of circumstances.

More than knowing the answers to how and why, I prefer to think that each person has a mission to fulfill. And the circumstances we find ourselves in play a part in that mission.

Think of the parents, family, community, nationality, social class we were born into. Is it possible that God chose the parents who would give us the set of genes we need to physically meet the challenges of our mission? And think of the place, time and our social standing in society. Could they be crucial or strategic to the mission? Could the moral upbringing, psychological nurturing, and the education we went through have been ‘pre-planned ‘ to help us find resonance with the mission orders we are about to discover?
Think about it.

For example, why does it happen that a man and a woman from very diverse backgrounds suddenly, accidentally meet, and in the few hours they share, opt to make love and right after, the man quickly skips town never to be seen again, leaving the woman to fend for the infant just conceived in her womb? Could it be that God created the opportunity for them to meet because they happened to have the right genes to produce the right person to be born for a specific mission?

Could the man’s mission in that situation be as simple as being simply a sperm donor? James Hillman, author of ‘The Soul’s Code’ who gave this example, thinks it could be so.
Think of people and events as ‘interventions’ that happen at different stages of our lives. There are people you meet who change you in different ways, some you meet accidentally – the happenstance of being in a certain place and time where an event happens that changes you and points you to a different life direction.

This has happened to a lot of people throughout history, among them, St Ignatius, the soldier who, after an accident, found his true calling in a life of prayer. There is also Mother Teresa, a school teacher in an expensive foreign school in India whose life changed completely when a poor Indian beggar belonging to the lowest caste suddenly died in front of her. In her attempt to save the man, she discovered her calling in charity work.

Some of us live huge parts of our lives without having an inkling of what our own individual missions are. Missions are something we awaken to. There is suddenly a yearning for meaning that unmistakably calls us and we know we are being led to the right place. We are drawn into a new purpose. It can happen accidentally. It can be an easily recognizable call or a rude awakening.

Some people refuse to imagine the possibility of divine forces moving behind the scenes in their lives. I believe there are. The circumstances alone of where and how we are born already set the course of our lives in some direction. The divine and human energies that appear throughout our lifetime are there to change or refine our direction from time to time, to bring us closer to the mission at hand.

I don’t subscribe to the zodiac, and I still believe in free will. We are still free to answer or not to answer the call.

The person who awakens and answers will intuit the forces that are leading him. And he may even be blessed with the privilege of answering the ultimate question of why he was even born into the world at all. ###


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