Writing on Air

Writing on Air by Jim Paredes


Archive for July, 2017


A dream about to be fulfilled 2

Posted on July 30, 2017 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated July 30, 2017 – 12:00am

I was delaying writing about it until I actually experienced it. But then again, the actual experience could be another article all together.

While I was in Australia last month, Sir Paul McCartney announced that he would be doing a concert in Sydney in December. I eagerly awaited the announcement when the tickets would be available.

I called a friend who I knew was a big fan of the Beatles. He said he would purchase the tickets for us since he was a member of an organization or club that had priority access to concert tickets. On the day the sales were announced, he discovered that he could only get one ticket. Tickets went really fast. We felt really bad.

Luckily, Paul McCartney announced a second concert the next day and yes, we were able to get 4 good tickets.

I grew up listening to the Beatles. A great part of my musical knowledge and instincts were influenced by them, especially Paul. The soundtrack of my life were their songs. I studied and learned practically all their songs including lyrics and chords which I can sing and play to this day. One might say I know their music intimately.

But It wasn’t just their music that influenced me. It was also their boldness in doing things differently. They were daring and progresive. They were fashion and style icons. They even learned mediation in India. They spoke the thoughts our generation could not say. They had wit and pizazz. They set the pace in many ways. And they were really cool. The songs they wrote explained my own inarticulate awkward angst to myself. And they often outdid their previous work each time they came out with a new album.

Every time they released a new record in the market, i bought them and eagerly rushed to the house to listen to them. I would listen to them for hours and hours each time learning something new. I often bought 2 copies of each of their vinyls because I played them so much that they often got too scratchy and began to skip.

Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band was my favorite album. I am not even sure if that is an accurate statement because I loved almost all their albums. Perhaps what I mean is it was the most played album in my stereo growing up.

I saw the Beatles when they performed in Manila on July 5 1966. My brother Raffy and I sat in the cheapest section. We could hardly see them since we were sitting so far. It was all my Ate Tictac could afford to buy for us. Despite the bad sound system, the long delay, and the short show, we loved it.

When the Beatles were beaten up by Marcos goons upon leaving the Philippines because they did not attend an invitation sent by the Palace the day after their show, it was the day I began to look at the Marcoses in a bad light.

Now, some 51 years later, I will watch one of the two remaining Beatles do a live concert. This time we will sit in better seats closer to the stage. The sound system will be infinitely clearer, the lights more dazzling and the show much longer than what we watched in Manila.

To watch Sir Paul McCartney has always been on my bucket list. Finally, it will happen. I have bought my plane tickets this early. I will finally have the privilege of seeing my greatest mentor and I will have the chance to thank him with wild applause and a standing ovation. Sir Paul! I am looking forward to finally watching you in concert. This is a dream about to be fulfilled

* * *

I like surprising myself. One of the ways I do it is by inviting complete strangers to dinner and asking them to talk about what they are passionate about, or what makes them feel alive. I have done these dinners 5 times in the past. They have been great successes. I have noticed that people can find themselves in a comfortable safe setting even among strangers. Why? Because there is no judgment. No one really knows anyone so people become kinder and give each person a chance. Everyone is more open.

I normally post the invitation on social media. I ask those who are interested to write me an email. I read all of them. I take out a few from the list of possible invitees. They are those who I feel come on as too narcissistic, or those who seem to flaunt victimhood, or those who are plain crazy. I do so because they tend to be poor listeners and they end up monopolizing the conversation.

I choose 10 people randomly with the hope of getting a good mix of men and women of different ages and backgrounds. In the past, we have had people fly in from abroad or the provinces. We have listened to stories of a child of an NPA rebel who spent his childhood in the jungle. There was also this jolly young man who had cancer and was undergoing chemo.

One of the things I realized after doing 5 of these passion nights is that everyone has a story to tell. People are indeed amazing.

If you are interested, I only have a few conditions. One is, we must have not met yet. Another is that you are not a stalker.

Please write me at passionnight@protonmail.com. I will be accepting applicants for the next two weeks. The dinner will be held sometime this August. You will be informed of the date and venue via email.

If you are ready for something exciting, unpredictable and new, join me.

25 questions to ask yourself when life seems crazy 0

Posted on July 23, 2017 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated July 23, 2017 – 12:00am

All people go through a midlife crisis if they live long enough. And to clarify, it is not really just a midlife crisis, but crises. And it can happen earlier than midlife.

Most everyone I know thinks that midlifing is something that happens as a onetime episode in a man’s life. I’ve heard people say, “Oh, my husband bought himself a red beamer when he went through midlife.” It is a time in middle age when a man seems to “lose” himself temporarily. Truth is, he can stay lost for awhile.

I am definitely past midlife, age-wise, but I still feel lost at times and find life and my part in it difficult to understand. It seems like midlife is when the Pandora’s Box is opened, and all the things inside are actually the issues you will be dealing with for life. Some will be easy to figure out. Some will take time. Many will be left unsolved. That’s how it is.

I am sure this is a common experience. No one is happy all the time. No one has figured out life so completely that practically nothing can bother him. Bliss is real, but like loneliness, it too passes. There are people who seem to find happiness easily and there are those who find it elusive. But what we all share is the experience of facing the unknown daily and trying to reconcile ourselves to what shows up.

I thought I’d share somer questions I ask myself occasionally when going through confusing times. They sort of help me get grounded even if I do not get clear answers. If and when I do, the answers change the next time I ask the questions. But at least they help tide me over in life when I need them.

Some questions may be depressing. But I ask them anyway to get deeper and to understand my own fine print. Here they are:

1) What keeps you going?

2) What are you most passionate about?

3) What parts of your life do you like or not like right now?

4) Who are the people in your circle that sustain you? Who are those that deplete your energy?

5) If you had 48 hours left to live, what do you need to do so you could die peacefully? This exercise is really powerful if you do not trivialize it. I’ve done this a few times. I choose a hard, festering issue and try to get over it; I do it for myself. There are rules I follow: I make sure I hurt no one, nor commit a crime while doing it. I do it mainly for myself to be free of it. And most importantly, I come from love. I have no expectations about how people involved will react if I am dealing with forgiveness issues. All I know is I have done my part in solving the issue. I feel very brave and liberated afterwards. And usually, it turns out beneficial for both sides.

6) What are your real values? If you looked at your life and were asked to put price tags on friends, family, health, hobbies, interests, travel, addictions, properties, career, your reputation and standing in society, which would be the most expensive and which would be the cheapest?

7) What keeps you up at night?

8) Do you believe in God? What or who is God to you? Do you believe in a God who believes in you and that God put you here for a purpose? What do you think it is?

9) Look back at turning points in your life. How do you think the decisions you made in the past have affected you today?

10) What do you like best about yourself? What do you dislike most?

11) Have you ever heard a call to action from a source that you suspect was a Higher Being? Did you think you were crazy? Undeserving? How did you respond? Were you dismissive?

12) What would be a priceless moment to you?

13) If you wanted to change anything in the world, what would it be? With your time left on earth, what steps would you take in that direction?

14) What are the things you do that give you joy? When was the last time you set aside time to do them?

15) Do you have a sacred space? A space where you feel you can rest, unwind and put yourself back together again? A place that revives you not just physically, emotionally, but also spiritually? Do you go there often?

16) Have you loved anyone with full acceptance and without expecting anything?

17) Have you ever given yourself to a cause bigger than yourself?

18) What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?

19) How would you like to be remembered when you die? What would you like your legacy to be?

20) What have you done to build that legacy?

21) Do you think you are a force of good in the world?

22) When was the last time you made someone happy?

23) Have you had experiences when you felt you had no ego?

24) Have you experienced timeless, transcendent moments? When was the last time?

25) What is more important? To be whole or good? If they were not the same thing, which would you choose?

Do not fear the depths. Explore them. Have an engaged weekend!

Life in real time 0

Posted on July 16, 2017 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated July 16, 2017 – 12:00am

I’ve often wondered why people who once held certain jobs or positions long ago are addressed as if they still hold their former titles. Decades may have passed since they held their esteemed positions. For example, a person who was once a senator will always be addressed as “senator.” And so it goes with governors, justices, mayors, attorneys, doctors, presidents, engineers, etc.

I suppose such positions are held in such high esteem that people who once had them would rather keep the title until their death. In one way, I find this understandable. But I also find this rather strange.

To me it seems rather sad, holding on to some distant faded glory in one’s past especially when the person who once held such a title may have moved on to other jobs, expertise or new directions in life.

You may have been, say, a senator or a congressman, but that was way back in the past. You are no longer that. You could now be in another stage of your life and doing something else.

We were once babies, students, apprentices, single, married, etc. Statuses change. Some of us may have even held lowly occupations or nondescript ones in the beginning, but we do move on to do other greater and more meaningful things.

But then again, for some, their terms as political persons or as professionals may have been the most defining moment of their lives, so even when their reign may be over, they continue to bask in, live and enjoy their former identities.

In my life as an adult, I have been a singer, performer, songwriter, musical arranger, columnist, author of books, teacher, environmentalist, diver, photographer, a political animal, a fighter of causes, a public person. I have also been a son, a brother, a father, husband, grandfather, neighbor, Atenean, Filipino, artist, migrant to Australia, and a host of other things.

When people ask me what I do, I often have a hard time explaining myself. People like to simplify other people and give them a handle. They like to reduce the sum total of who we are into some identifiable, common function or core competency. My consistent answer when asked to fill in a form is to put down “artist” as my occupation. The description is so broad that a person who does not know me will have to ask a few more questions to find out what I really do.

People are more diverse than we imagine them to be. Every life is a work in progress. Everything is in constant flux. Change is always happening. Every description we have of anyone is a mere snapshot. We don’t know where or what anyone is evolving into at any moment.

I find it helpful to try and describe people as audio equalizers —those gadgets that we use to arrange different sound frequencies from lowest to highest to help define how we want to listen to music. Imagine each frequency as some sort of “self-identity.” We push some frequencies higher than others. We “shape” our overall “sound” to represent ourselves to the world. Naturally, some identities will come out “louder” than others.

In the world we live in today where change is always happening, we should always be ready to call on identities within ourselves to be adaptable in every situation. In dealing with young children, for example, being an “attorney” may not mean so much. Perhaps we are better at being “father” in such situations. It takes self-awareness to do that.

In the song That’s Life, by Frank Sinatra, the lyrics go:

I’ve been a puppet, a papa, a part, a poet, a pawn and a king.

I’ve been up, down over and under, and I know one thing.

Each time I find myself flat on my face,

I just pick myself up and get back in the race.

That’s life.

The aim is to move on with grace and skill to face life situations.

Have you ever looked at yourself deeply to discover hidden talents and gifts that you possess? Sometimes, it takes tough situations for them to come out and reveal themselves to you. One of my favorite quotes from Joseph Campbell is, “Where you stumble, there lies your treasure.” It is amazing how life is designed to keep us growing and ever changing.

Jimmy Carter, who once served in the US Navy, became President of the United States, then a writer, a humanitarian, an activist and a Nobel Peace Prize winner. He has also just celebrated 65 years of marriage with his wife Rosalyn. He has also given up strongly-held opinions and views about politics, Israel and even his long-standing membership in his church to embrace greater truths as he sees them.

Times and circumstances change. We are constantly in “beta” mode. Trust that we have it within ourselves to go with the flow, and even thrive.

Our greatest contribution to the world is to know ourselves and live courageously as who we are. In real time.

My evolving family 0

Posted on July 08, 2017 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated July 9, 2017 –

When Lydia and I got married in 1977, our plan was to have babies three to five years after marriage. We wanted to enjoy each other and do stuff together first. We figured that a baby would tie us down too early in our marriage. To be honest, I was not too crazy about babies then. I was not in a hurry to be a dad. I knew that once we had a baby, we would have a life-long commitment to care of and raise a human being. We thought we should wait. We were young and we did not like the responsibility of parenthood just yet.

But after just nine months of living as a couple in our small, rented apartment where we cooked, cleaned the house, went out weekly for movies, and did what newly hitched young couples do, we decided to have a baby. We felt that our life together was just too much like “playing house” or, as we say in the vernacular, “nagbabahay-bahayan”. We felt we weren’t really living the “real life.” I guess by then we were ready for a real purpose and direction. And besides, we noticed more and more of our friends were starting their families. We felt it was also time we did.

In 1979, we had Erica. Four years later, we had Ala. Five and a half years later, we had Mio. Lydia actually wanted two or three more kids. I was already content with the three ones that we had. I did not want to work harder than I already was.

In their early years, our life as parents was mostly about raising our kids, feeding them, helping them with school, providing for them and taking care of them in all ways needed.

When Erica started being a teen, parenthood changed a lot for us. It was time to accept that our firstborn was growing up, and fast. Our family was getting older. I could feel a change in our family dynamics. As parents, we used to have easy authority and control over our kids. But now, Erica, being the strong person she has always been, had started to question our parental authority and flex her muscles. She was pulling away from us, but we were also pulling back and also giving her some slack so she would not rush to be independent. Even if we were not strict as parents when they were growing up, we knew this would eventually happen. It was disconcerting but inevitable. The tug of war went on and on during her teen years.

Ala and Mio, our second daughter and only son, went through the same phases but in milder ways. But by then, we had learned a lot about how to deal with teenage angst, thanks to our experience with Erica.

When we moved to Australia, the two girls had already graduated from college while Mio had finished his high school. Mio took graphic design in the University of New South Wales; Ala went back to school and took up an art degree.

In Australia, they were all miserable at first. They all started with jobs they did not like. They felt they did not belong. They missed home. Erica and her daughter Ananda actually returned to Manila after a few months and rethought the move to migrate.

But soon enough, Ala and Mio started to have friends. They also started dating and that changed their feeling about Sydney. They had gotten better jobs and had started earning their own money and doing what they wanted.

It has been 11 years since we moved to Sydney. Ala, now 34 years old, is married to John Buencamino and they have a new baby. She is also an artist-illustrator who has had exhibits and is joining another one in a few months.

Mio is now 29 years old, employed and a motorcycling warrior on the weekends. He has a serious relationship with his girlfriend Kaylee.

While we were in Sydney, I talked to Mio a lot and he told me about his life there and how he much he had changed and surprised himself. He told me that he had never imagined he would ever become the person he has turned out to be in Australia. He was proud.

He figured that if he had stayed in Manila, he would have been living a predictable life, and it would be that of an upper middle class, white collar employee, “just like everyone else.” He had opted for the road less traveled.

In Australia, he learned independence and the value of manual labor and hard work. While he works in an office now, he went through other jobs where he learned a lot and discovered his curious, adventurous side. He is well-read and has learned a lot of life skills. He is friendly, charming and gets along with everyone very easily. He can also be very generous with his time and resources.

After a few months of being with Ala and Mio, Lydia and I returned to Manila a week ago from Sydney.

Four days ago, as I was lying in bed ready to sleep, my daughter Erica who lives and works in Paris suddenly walked into our bedroom. It was all unexpected. She had come home because of the death of a friend’s relative. While it may have been a sad circumstance that brought her home, it was a welcome surprise reunion between Erica, her daughter Ananda and us.

As I am writing this, I can see a lot of activity going on in our home kitchen. Erica, a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu’s famous culinary course in Paris, and trained at the Michelin-starred Robuchon restaurant, is cooking up something with her daughter Ananda.

I can smell delicious, sumptuous food emanating from where they are. My wild, restless firstborn who was our most high-maintenance child seems to have found her bliss in being a chef at age 38. I am happy about that.

Since we are spread out all over the world, events like Christmas can be problematic. Everyone seems to have their own plans right now. It is entirely possible that we may not be together for the first time this Christmas. Lydia and I may have to spend it alone.

Our family may have grown up but it continues to evolve. As our children start living more of their lives and dreams and create their own stories, Lydia and I are moving towards being empty nesters. Our family members may not be living under one roof anymore, and not even on the same continents. But we feel bonded and united as one. More than ever.

As grandparents, we enjoyed helping Ala and John in Sydney take care of their baby Zadie so they could catch up with their sleep. Ananda, now a teenager, is under our care for the moment until she joins her mom in Paris soon.

Our children may have come into this world as undefined humans. We raised them as best as we could and continue to be around to help when they need it. They are all grown-up now. We are grateful to see how much they love each other and actually enjoy each other’s company.

We see them as fine human beings who know how to love, and be loved. They are compassionate and kind people. They will hopefully contribute positively to the world.

Sometimes I feel our work as parents may be over. The kids are grown up and two of them have children of their own. I hope they give us more grandchildren.

Mother Teresa once asked the rhetorical question, “What can you do to promote world peace?” She answered it by saying, “Go home and love your family.”

Funny! This is what we have been doing without expecting to save the world.

The outdoor life 0

Posted on July 02, 2017 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated July 2, 2017 – 12:00am

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Early

I really enjoyed camping as a young boy. One of the most exciting things we used to do was camp in an empty lot near our house. My brother Raffy and I together with the sons of our household help would pitch a tent, build a fire, cook and stay up at night telling stories. I became a boy scout when I got older and learned a lot of cool stuff that were handy for outdoor living.

When I got to high school, I pretty much stopped camping. The next camping experience I had was around March 2013. Lydia and I, together with our “senior” friends, braved Mount Pulag, the second highest mountain in the Philippines. After a five-hour climb, we slept a few hours at the mountain camp before the final trek to the peak early morning. It was super cold and damp, and Lydia told me that it was the most miserable night of her life.

My son Mio and I have always enjoyed outdoor activities. He likes to take me on long drives to destinations that he has discovered his motorcycle sojourns during weekends. We usually go around with our cameras. One night last month, we went to a national park here in New South Wales, Australia to take long-exposure shots of the Milky Way. We drove for an hour and a half, walked briskly in the cold and dark to the viewing deck and looked for the best positions to shoot the stellar attractions. Even if we forgot our tripods, it was a great night. The heavens did not disappoint. We were ecstatic and vowed to do it again.

About two weeks ago, Mio and I planned on taking Lydia, my granddaughter Ananda and Mio’s girlfriend Kaylee camping. We knew it wasn’t the best time to do it. It was winter and the forecast was heavy rain for that day and the following days. We wanted to move it to a better time but schedules had been rearranged and it did not look like we would be able to do it again soon. So it was all systems go!

We drove to a property in Glenworth, a big acreage with lots of tall trees, open spaces and more than 214 horses. We did not have to pitch a tent since we were provided with a big teepee. It was so big 10 people could fit inside. We could stand inside the tent without bumping our heads on anything.

Ananda and Kaylee immediately went horseback riding and son after played Skirmish laser tag. We stayed behind and pitched a portable gazebo beside our teepee so we could have a place to eat and leave our muddy shoes before entering the tent.

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I ventured outdoors with my camera. I could hear birds chirping everywhere, especially the strange-looking Kookaburra, Australia’s iconic bird which gives out a loud laughing sound. I spotted it on a tree about 100 feet from where I was but it immediately flew away. An hour later, it perched on a piece of wood about 50 feet from the tent. I approached it slowly while taking photos.

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I have this theory that if we “talk” to animals in our minds and assure them that we come in peace, they will allow us to get close. This happened to me in Tubbataha reef during a dive. I “talked” to a huge manta and a giant turtle. The manta, which had passed me by, actually turned around and got close enough to be touched. I was also able to hold the turtle, which even took me for a short ride. (I know these are against diving rules but I could not resist. Sorry).

I was inching my way towards the Kookaburra slowly, and soon enough, I was just three feet away, clicking my camera. It did not fly away. Later on, it even went near our tent!

Late in the afternoon, we took photos of the horses running down a hill to an open field on the way to the barns. Then, we returned to camp, built a fire and started heating the adobo and rice Lydia had previously cooked in the house for our dinner. We also had crackers with cheese, prosciutto, dips and chips, marshmallows, strawberries with chocolate dip. Not exactly Spartan or hardcore camping. But we did all these amidst torrents of rain that poured down sporadically.

The toilets were a minute and a half away from the tent. They were provided for by the campsite management. They were basic but clean enough, thank God. If we had to relieve ourselves in the rain, it would have been a disaster.
After dinner and some campfire conversation, we retired to our airbeds inside the teepee. It was hardly a relaxing night. The cold ground permeated the heavy blankets and thick clothes we wore. We were freezing! Not only that, the airbeds kept losing air and I had to pump them twice in the middle of the night.

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We woke up early, cooked breakfast and left camp in the morning in high spirits. We were happy we pushed through with it despite the rain.

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Camping is almost an Aussie tradition. There is so much outdoors — mountains, hills, lakes, oceans, forests, parks to enjoy. There are also many stores where you can purchase tons of camping gear for all types of adventures.

My son and I plan to do more of this. I am so glad I have not become a high-maintenance, sickly 65-year-old, and can still enjoy roughing it a bit. I have not lost my Boy Scout spirit and love for nature. Camping nourishes both my body and spirit.

I have two quotes from Baden-Powell, the founder of the Boy Scouts movement, to share with you. One is, “The man who is blind to the beauties of nature has missed half the pleasure of life.” The other goes, “A week of camp life is worth six months of theoretical teaching in the meeting room.”

I can only agree. There is so much more living to do out there than just being comfortable indoors!

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Bird calls: Kookaburra


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