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Writing on Air by Jim Paredes

Archive for December, 2018

A championship like no other 0

Posted on December 09, 2018 by jimparedes

Ateneo’s Thirdy Ravena cheers with the crowd

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE – Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) – December 9, 2018 – 12:00am

It was quite an amazing scene. This will be talked about for years to come. It’s the stuff that legends are made of. I am talking about the UAAP Basketball Finals between the University of the Philippines and the Ateneo De Manila University.

No, I will not talk much about the game itself. Everyone knows how well the players played and who won the game. The aftermath was far more interesting.

After the last game between the UP Maroons and the ADMU Blue Eagles, it was quite a delight to see players from both sides of the basketball court congratulating each other. They hugged and gave each other high fives. They applauded and cheered for each other. There was a celebratory feeling everywhere. It was a feel-good moment for participants and audience.

The stakes were high. It was not just your typical  championship game. UP’s basketball team, which had not won any championship in 32 years, surprised everyone. For the past three decades, they never even came close to the finals. But this season, they climbed up and beat their opponents and lorded it over Adamson University’s formidable team to qualify for the finals. They had earned the right to challenge the mightiest team in the UAAP.

ADMU was the defending champion. It had been so for many years now, save two years. It was clearly the more superior team. It had a long bench of basketball talent that could overwhelm any opponent.

Any UAAP championship game is always intense. This one was particularly so. The fans came out of the woodwork and showed their enthusiastic support for their alma mater. After all, there is much to gain whoever wins the championship. Winning the games gives the school and its students a lot of pride and prestige.

You would think that students from both schools fighting for the UAAP 2018 championship would have feelings of animosity towards each other. But they did not. While there was a lot of fight and team spirit on both sides — more so with UP because they were closer than ever to breaking their jinx — there was neither consuming anger nor nastiness aimed at each other. No cursing at all. No insults. No jeering. Just a lot of ribbing and funny memes online.

That’s because, in real life, a lot of Ateneans end up studying in UP colleges after high school. There has always been this close affinity between the two universities — so close that the student councils of both schools called for everyone to wear black. This was in protest against tyranny, loss of freedoms and misogyny happening under the present ruling dispensation. Both schools have produced many activists through the decades and have marched together in protest over various national issues.

I must admit that even if I am a dyed-in-the-wool Atenean, I entertained the prospect of a UP win. I could accept the possibility without feeling bad. After all, there was such a romantic narrative to it: the underdog beating the champion through sheer spirit and determination. A David and Goliath story. It is quite a fairy tale that we Pinoys can readily identify with. Suntok sa Buwan, as we like to say.

At the same time, I was in awe at how the Ateneo team had become so good because of years of practice, practice, and even more practice. They had spent a lot of time becoming not just good individual athletes, but had gelled into a really great team. Though not as romantically appealing, I liked them because they did the slow, tedious hard work needed to become a real fighting team to beat. Because of that, it was all paying off, and yes, they deserved to win.

Many of those who attend the UAAP games do not know or remember how dangerous and violent basketball used to be under the NCAA. Sometimes, people were afraid to leave the venue for fear of school gangs waiting outside to exact revenge against the winning team.

During those years, NCAA basketball tournaments between Catholic schools Ateneo de Manila, De LaSalle, Letran and San Beda colleges often ended up in rioting and violence. I remember one particular game at the old Blue Eagle gym along Katipunan avenue. I was a sophomore in college, playing saxophone for the Ateneo College school band. After a very tense game between Ateneo and Letran, many cars with Ateneo stickers were damaged by Letran students because their team had lost the game. With baseball bats, they broke windshields and dented hoods.

The competition between certain schools was quite deadly and mostly ended up being very physical after the games. Gangs fought each other in often-bloody encounters. Everyone was just too partisan and raring to rumble and eager to “correct” what they felt went wrong during the game.

This escalating violence among the teams made ADMU and LaSalle decide to leave the NCAA and transfer to the UAAP. It was NCAA’s big loss, and it never recovered. Its glory days were over.

Basketball in the Philippines has matured a lot. It is definitely more professional and the players and coaches are better than ever. The fans have learned to enjoy and appreciate the sport’s finer points and, to my knowledge, have not engaged in post-game violence in a very long time. Rumbles have become very uncool.

In fact, UP regent Spocky Farolan was castigated on social media for suggesting that UP players hurt some Ateneo players to win the game. People on both sides are quite happy to hear that he will not stay a regent for long.

School sports can get very tribal. All the elements of tribalism are present. There are the warriors, the “leaders,” the elders, emblems, school colors, the cheers, hymns, mascots and the fierce loyalty to one’s own school. But instead of a tribal war where people are killed, it is, thankfully, a sports competition. Like all battles, one loses as one gains. Yet whoever wins, the fact is that hundreds of thousands of people who do not belong to any of the tribes in competition are actually watching the games. It is fantastic to know that school completion can also be a great unifier.

Next year, the different school tribes will be meeting again in the village court. They will be fighting each other until they are down to the best two teams. As it was and will be, a new champion will reign. A bonfire celebration follows.

As part of the audience, all I ask of the teams is to make the games as competitive as possible but without violence. Do your best. Wins and losses in sports make us feel better because it takes us away briefly from the injustice of life where the better forces do not always win. At least in sports, the “good” win and the “bad” lose, clearly and definitely.

Read more at https://www.philstar.com/lifestyle/sunday-life/2018/12/09/1875324/championship-no-other#ZivlUCGsZ0OogyYh.99

Surviving compliments 0

Posted on December 02, 2018 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE – Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) – December 2, 2018 – 12:00am

I am often surprised when people tell me that they read my Humming in my Universe column in the Philippine STAR every week. I am for two reasons: I don’t know many people who still read the newspapers and I am amazed that a lot of them apparently still do; the second reason is every week after submitting my article, I often question whether I wrote something that a lot of people would be interested to read. Apparently, more than a few are.

I have met random people who come up to me at airports, airplanes, churches, meetings, shopping centers, etc, who tell me they read my column.

I like it. And I am honored that they do. But most of the time, my verbal reactions to what they say are awkward.

I have always had a problem with compliments, praise or and accolades. You would think that after decades of being a public figure, I would be completely at ease with them. The truth is, I am not.

About 35 years ago, I remember feeling quite embarrassed when a fan came out to me gushing about a song I made. She expressed profusely how much she loved it and what it meant to her personally. Deep down I felt embarrassed because I thought I was unworthy of the praise.

I have always admired people who were better than I am. I never looked at my own musical works then as really outstanding. When we as APO started having hits with songs I made, my initial reactions as to why the songs became popular were dismissive. I would find reasons except the possibility that they were good songs. I figured that they were hits because of some fluke explanation. Perhaps it was pure chamba. Or I could have been just lucky. Or it had more to do with timing than the virtues of the song.

And because I knew my songs intimately, and remember the recording process, I knew their so-called imperfections and flaws. It wasn’t enough that people liked them for me to completely accept them as good songs because I knew what was “wrong” with them. I could not easily take pride in them. I was my biggest punishing critic.

Don’t get me wrong. I put a lot of work in doing those songs, I did take them very seriously. But I guess I just used to criticize myself way too much.

It is funny now when I think of what used to go on in my mind when strangers complimented me on my work. Half of the time, I would be questioning (and mostly negating) the good things I was hearing. Listening to praise made me uncomfortable. I was always waiting for the criticism part. I even often wondered if the person talking to me was just trying to win my good side and would suddenly change the topic and sell me something after. Tupperware? Insurance? A condo? I know it sounds silly now but I underrated myself too much.

Things began to change when I started taking up Zen meditation. It was also the time I was going through my mid-life crises. Meditation can save you. I know it saved me. Something actually happens when you spend time merely watching the world and yourself without judging. You begin to accept things as they are. In my case, I actually began to understand what it meant to be a creative person. I understood and began to accept the gift of creativity that God gave me. It was a spiritually profound awakening.

I felt that being a creative meant that I was God-like because God was the ultimate creator. From God came everything. And like the Creator, I could create something out of nothing. My talent came from God Herself and I honor Her by using them.

I remember how deeply all this made an impact on me. I began to see myself without all my negative spin. Yes, I was not perfect but I was also certainly not as imperfect and lacking in talent as I used to believe. I was the offspring of the Original Creator and like Him, my work comes to bear good fruits.

Even when I would go to Mass then, I would consciously reword the prayer, “Lord I am not worthy…”before communion. I would instead say, “Lord I am worthy to receive you. Please remind me always that I am your son who carries your creative power and goodness in my DNA.” I was not being arrogant. I was humbly realizing my true identity.

Those were the days of my big awakening, as I like to call it. In a span of six years, I was able to write four books. I felt prolific. I had lots of things to tell and share. I was always inspired.

During those times, I somehow got better at accepting compliments because I had a great degree of acceptance of who I was, warts and all. I forgave myself more easily when I did wrong. I could move on easier. I was happy with myself, as myself.

I still have a lot of self-deprecation when I respond to compliments partly out of habit, and partly because I still cannot take credit for them fully. When someone tells me that they have all of APO’s albums, and that they’ve been listening to them for a long time, I may say something like, “I hope you are not permanently damaged because of this.” They laugh. And so do I. But I now follow it up with sincere thanks.

When people say they like my writing, aside from thank you, I say mostly nothing. I like listening to every comment they make about what they have read. It gives me insight. After they have said their piece, I mostly change the topic. I have listened to more praise than I can handle without feeling embarrassed.

Mason Cooley, an American aphorist perhaps felt the same way when he said, “We are prepared for insults but compliments leave us baffled.” I can mostly agree.

But at the same time, why is it that a single bad review out of dozens of good ones can make us upset? Maybe it is because we all harbor that secret doubt that The Artist’s Way author Julia Cameron talks about. It is the feeling that one is never good enough. I know a true artist tries to be as authentic as possible. Did that single bad review just expose him as a fraud? One can get pretty paranoid.

It is both a bad and a good thing that this feeling exists. It is bad because it can be very discouraging to do anything when you can’t believe in yourself. It is also good because the only way to overcome self doubt is to do what you are suppose to do as an artist. You strive for more authenticity by overcoming scrupulosity, or the indulgence in too much self-doubt and obsessive self-examination. Be kinder to yourself.

So if we ever meet and you compliment me for whatever reason, please know where I am coming from. I may act weird and uncomfortable.

But my gratitude is real.

Read more at https://www.philstar.com/lifestyle/sunday-life/2018/12/02/1873322/surviving-compliments#UpC8pAyBxW0d4xOE.99

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