Writing on Air

Writing on Air by Jim Paredes

Going against the world 0

Posted on January 08, 2017 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 8, 2017 – 12:00am

I am six and a half decades old. I have learned a lot of things. Yes, a lot! But I have not learned everything I need to navigate through life without pain and hardship.

I don’t think I am even close to knowing half of what I should know to be true, and be sure of by now. Life is simply too big to master. ?Joseph Campbell likened life to entering a movie house in the middle of the movie and leaving before it ends.

What you saw is what life is to you. From there, you draw your own conclusions. It is a good metaphor, but I am guessing it is even more complicated than that. Not all of us may have even watched the same movie.?

One of the most difficult lessons to learn is how to be a good or outstanding human being. It is not easy because all our mistakes and weaknesses come from our being human.

But so do our strengths and blessings. It’s a double-edged sword. You live with who you are and what you are given, learn to accept it and thrive on how your cards are dealt in this life. And hopefully you come out of it okay.?

As I get older, I realize more and more that to be an outstanding human being, one must go against the ways of the world. One must take the uncharted path, and walk and march against the tide, the wind, and the forces of the world.?

The ways of the world are what many see as “the practical way.” Don’t question. Don’t rock the boat. Don’t create trouble. And don’t challenge the order.

Many people can live like this. I find that I cannot.?The rewards of the world — if you follow its ways and value systems — are wealth, fame, respectability, privilege, entitlement, power, authority, comfort and pleasure, and sometimes all these are given in doses way beyond what you can imagine. It must be great to have it all. This must be how it appears to both the rich and those who have barely enough to live on.

?And yet, we hear of people who have most or all of these things but are still unhappy. Something must be wrong with the setup.?What I have learned in life so far is that all these rewards are great when you know how to handle them.

They are wonderful gifts until you obsess over them. Then they become a hunger that can’t be filled, a desire that can’t be quenched, an addiction that can’t be sated.?A person can look at his last P50 and feel rich when he can share it with someone. A man with P50 million may feel impoverished if he just lost P200 million. The thing is to have no attachment.

It is easy to say but it takes some difficulty to actually be comfortable with this attitude.?In my life, I have experienced a modicum of fame, wealth, reputation, authority, comforts and pleasures of life. I have seen my fame rise and fall many times. For all my modest achievements, there will come a day when all my songs will be forgotten.

My youthful looks in my 20s, my energy and health, have dissipated over time. There will come a day when no one will even remember me. ?I have no problem with that. This is one of the ways of the world I have accepted to be true. Nothing is permanent.?

I do have a problem when I look at the world and see how lost we are in our own noise and conflicting visions. We want peace, security and happiness but we are intolerant of others who are different from us. We want a world of abundance yet we wantonly destroy the environment. ?We have given so much value to speed, connectivity, physical beauty, ego, wealth, modernity, convenience, comfort and instant gratification but we have lost our ability to pay attention. We have also lost the wisdom that tells us that true human connections like love, friendship, relationships take time and patience, and that everything we have that is of value took effort and time to make it that way.

How many still see the value of reading the old classics? History? Read our newspapers. How many of us see the importance of changing society? How many are willing to question our leaders about their policies or their integrity? How many really want to understand and have compassion for people who live with less? Or would we rather just be quiet, not question or rock the boat and just accept things as they are since changing things for the better is just too hard??

Apply the same rigor that we use to judge the world to ourselves. How many are willing to get deep down and real below the noise level of the world and question their own motives??

Civilization has moved from savagery to moments of great civility because people have defied laziness, fear, hate, ignorance and cynicism. We have defied physical and moral entropy. We have to do more to keep moving forward. We can easily slide backwards if we don’t watch out.

Entropy, the rule of physics that governs the built-in tendency of things to rot and be destroyed by time and gravity, is way too compelling.?This is where the call to paradox must be followed to. To save the world and ourselves, one must, to some extent, reject its ways. To live a life of meaning, one must be willing to give up a lot, or even lose it. To be a good human being, one must be able to deny oneself, especially one’s ego.

To see hope in a disappointing world, one must be instilled with the capacity for gratitude and faith in humanity.?When you think about it, this is how man has managed to survive through the eons. A few have dared to challenge the ways of the world. It has not always been a forward march. Sometimes, humanity slacked. Let us not forget this especially at this time. Let us keep going against the world.

My big, crazy family greets you a Happy 2017! 0

Posted on January 02, 2017 by jimparedes

My fearless forecasts for 2017 0

Posted on January 01, 2017 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 1, 2017 – 12:00am

I feel the spirit of past eons shaking my body, urging me to act. I hear Nostradamus whispering in my ear, begging me to be his voice in this uncaring modern world.
Yes, it is again that time of the year to foretell what lies ahead in 2017. Once again, I boldly make predictions on what to expect in the new year. To carry out this mission, I meditated for days to cleanse my spirit. I prayed for guidance that I might think clearly. Lastly, I took a small dose of Fentanyl. This last act excuses me from any liability since I am clearly not of sound mind as I write this.
Here goes:

1) The Death Penalty bill and the bill lowering the criminal age to nine years old will not be passed. Because of world opinion, both bills will take a crazy twist and suddenly become an “Abortion law” which will have far more acceptance in the world. Here’s how: the legislators will redefine the definition of a fetus to that of “life up to 70 years old.” Upon passage, the law will stipulate that people who commit death-penalty-worthy crimes will simply be “aborted.”

2) To soften his image and reputation, Duterte’s spokespersons, using “creative interpretation,” will reveal that the President loves Sanrio and Pikachu, and that he actually has an extensive collection of these cute creatures. He will also silence his critics by manufacturing and distributing “Tickle Me Rody” dolls to children of EJK victims.

3) The burning issue of Marcos’ burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani will finally be settled with a brilliant compromise. There will be no digging to transfer the corpse elsewhere, or a change in the name of the hallowed ground where our heroes are buried. The perimeter fence will simply be moved so that the area where the dictator is currently buried will no longer be part of LNMB.

4) Many experts have predicted that the BPO business will slow down because of Duterte’s anti-American policies. What will take their place will be Troll Centers to serve not only the interest of Philippine government officials but anyone in the world who needs to threaten, insult or curse others. Everyone will be amazed at how good Filipinos have become at name-calling, slut-shaming and misogynist speech. These Troll Centers will bring in a lot of foreign currency and will be the new bright star of our economy.

5) Between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, the US and Russia will become one nation. It is still being decided whether Russia will be a state of the US, or the US will be one of Russia’s republics.

6) Donald Trump’s inaugural will proceed without a hitch. The performers who have agreed to participate are the Bolshoi Ballet, the Moscow Circus, and the Ku Klux Klan’s Children’s Choir.

7) The charges against Senator Leila de Lima will be thrown out by the courts. To get back at her, Congress will pass a law making illegal parking punishable by death. The very hour after the bill becomes law, they will block De Lima’s parking space in the Senate and all parking spaces wherever she goes.

8) Brexit has happened. The prediction is Francexit will follow soon. More EU countries will go the same route. After a few years, a new movement will emerge in these countries that will lead them back to the EU. It will be called Fixit!

10) The Philippines will change the design of its flag. It will be red with one big star on the left and on the star’s right will be by four stars arching around it. Red, the color of blood, will supposedly signify how much the President “loves this country.” The big star will stand for unity and the four smaller stars for Luzon, Visayas, Mindanao and the Spratlys.

The government will brush off criticism that it looks very similar to the Chinese flag.

11) China, Russia and the Philippines will proceed with the alliance that Duterte has proposed. As an acronym, it will be known as CRAP!

12) Science will discover that evolution has completely stopped and, in fact, has begun its reversal. Data will show that the rate of “reverse evolution” is accelerating at an enormous pace. What used to take decades and centuries is now happening within weeks and months — but in reverse! Their studies are based on behavioral patterns of the electorate in both the Philippines and the US in 2016.

13) To everyone’s surprise, there will suddenly be a big debate about the name of the planet Uranus. The debate will not be among astronomers but among linguists. Some will argue that the current spelling of the planet is “too millennial” and that the grammatically correct spelling should be YOUR ANUS (with space in between).

The debate will last for years.

14) As the Monkey exits on Jan. 27, 2017, the Chicken/Rooster enters. It will be a great year for congressmen, senators, judges and local officials who are afraid to speak out against the President.

15) The Big Bang theory will be almost debunked by Buddhist scientists. They will spark a discussion when they present a scientific paper that tries to answer the question: “If the Big Bang happened and obviously there was no one there to hear it at the moment it supposedly did, did it actually create a sound?”

16) The Mayan calendar will make a comeback and it will predict that the new end of the world will be on Dec 24, 2017. This will cause havoc during Christmas shopping since people will postpone buying presents until Christmas day itself. If it ever comes!

17) The UN Secretary-General will suddenly resign and the replacement will come from Asia. The contenders will be Kevin Rudd (ex-Prime Minister of Australia), Junichiro Koizumi (ex-Prime Minister of Japan), and Mocha Uson (muse of the Metro Manila Film Festival). The winner will be Mocha Uson. The immediate effect? It will convince Duterte to speak more politely towards the United Nations and stop threatening to burn down the UN building in New York.

19) My final prediction for 2017 is this, and you can bank on it:

The sun will come out tomorrow. Bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow, there’ll be sun! Tomorrow is only a day away.

What Christmas means to me right now 0

Posted on December 25, 2016 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 25, 2016 – 12:00am

If you have lived long enough, you will know that as you get older, things, people and events can change their meaning, relevance and connection to you.

They assume different values at various stages in your life.You may have believed that a character named Santa was giving you your gifts as a child only to find out later that it wasn’t true.

That’s the way things are. We awaken to new truths all the time.In my own life, Christmas has had many meanings and I have gone through different moods and feelings about it.

Today, I would like to share what Christmas 2016 feels like for me right now.It is certainly not a celebration of materialism.

I have hardly bought gifts. I just don’t feel it is what I need to do right now. Another material acquisition will not save us from the hell we are in at the moment.

While I attended parties, I looked forward to talking to people and sharing stories more than the drinking and the eating. Reaching out and getting to know people more intimately is far more enriching than the usual shared drunkenness and stupor.

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Amid the dreary and dreadful goings-on in the world right now, Christmas to me feels like a happy and safe place. It seems like the only real thing I can believe in. The world is in a mess. There is no doubt about that. If you look through the lens of history, it seems that the world is headed for some big cataclysm and tragedy.

This celebration of an event that occurred more than 2,000 years ago seems to be our only hope to console our tired and weary spirits and re-imagine a different, more humane future.

This year, I have contemplated more on the spiritual aspect of Christmas. Sure, it is great being with family, receiving gifts and being greeted with good cheer wherever I go.

But I have delved into Christmas’ deeper dimensions and mysteries more than at any time in my life. And the things I have realized are quite unfathomable.The birth of Jesus with its attendant narratives and meanings has actually riveted and inspired mankind for two millennia.

It has shaped a big part of civilization as we know it, and yet its fruition or goal has not been achieved. We are far from experiencing the peace on earth that was promised and we have not been sharing enough goodwill to all mankind.

This year, I pondered more than ever the paradoxes of Christmas: how a child born without any means was tasked to save all of mankind.

And that the spirit of Bethlehem is meant to be a continuing force that opens us to more than what the world has to offer, and that, in a sense, it tells us to reject the values the material world lives by. I also realized the profound irony of how much God wanted to be man and how much man has always dreamed of being God.

It is fascinating and mysterious why the infinite wants to experience what it is like to be finite, while the temporal wants a shot at eternity. I went whole hog in anticipation of Christmas this year. I set up the Belen, went to Mass as often as I could, restarted meditating and looked for the guiding star to guide me through this crazy time. I fought cynicism and hopelessness and I embraced the promise of peace and love.

I know there will always be suffering in the world. But it is our choice if we want a meaningful suffering that liberates, or a senseless, needless one that leaves us bitter and cold.

In the days heading to Christmas, I purposely went out of my way to do good as I saw it, and even gave up a few things to help others. To me it was less of “suffering” and more of a preparation for a greater experience of the spiritual implications of Christ’s birth.

Now, how could someone like me who has actually been ranting against Christmas for the past several years suddenly become such a big fan? Simple. I went back to basics.

I remembered how a classmate, during a discussion about religion, told me that when things got too complicated, he often went back to the catechism he learned in prep school.

He applies these lessons in his life with the same innocence with which he understood them then. From my family to yours, may you have a Merry Christmas.

My Christmas wish list 0

Posted on December 18, 2016 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 18, 2016

When my kids were young, they made their Christmas wish lists hoping that Lydia and I, their ninongs and ninangs, uncles and aunts and everyone who gave them presents would get them what they wished for. It is so simple and joyful to be a kid at Christmas.

As a child, I never made a wish list because when I was growing up, we were not rich enough to get what we truly wished for. In a middle class family of 10 siblings, everything is planned, rationed and apportioned. We were thankful for anything we got.

Even if I never made a Christmas wish list, more than ever, I want to make this Christmas wish list now. I will not ask for small items such as gadgets, clothes, shoes and other material things. I don’t need anything for myself. My wish list is actually not only for myself, but for the world and all of humanity.

I am addressing this to God and to every human being. We are co-creators every moment that we are alive on this earth. It’s time we act more lovingly towards each other and the world. Here goes:

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1) I wish for peace and solace for the people of Aleppo and all other places where war is being waged. What has been going on there is hell on earth, or as a UN representative described it, “a meltdown of humanity.” Both the perpetrators and victims of wars have lost a big portion of their humanity. May God restore their spirit to live their lives in peace, abundance and dignity.

2) I wish we would stop spreading lies and falsehood. It does not serve anyone when we post made-up articles on social media to support or defend our opinions. I wish we could all be heralds of the truth.

3) I wish for us to awaken our consciences and innate goodness, to be able to determine right and wrong. Very often, we ignore our conscience to protect our egos and the choices we made. It is time to ask ourselves: Did we believe in extrajudicial killings, cruelty, cursing, demeaning women, lying and violence before we cast our votes in the May election? Can we admit that we made a mistake? Or have we chosen to ignore the inner voice that tells us when something has gone very wrong? We need to stop denying what our conscience tells us.

4) I wish for us to have courage and face our fears. We cannot retreat into our cocoons and ignore the evil forces that are shaping our world according to their own twisted ends. We cannot be complacent. We need to be committed and steadfast in fighting for what we think is true and right for our nation and the world. We must take the lead in protecting our world and not leave it to those who would, in their lust for power and greed, destroy what is good in it.

5) I wish for us to have the will and the stamina to address the environmental concerns plaguing the world. Scientists say that the earth will deteriorate drastically in the next 20 years. The seas will definitely rise a few meters and this will be disastrous to humankind. We are already seeing the weather patterns changing, to the detriment of masses of humanity. We had three Category 5 storms in the vicinity of our country this year. It is time to end our non-sustainable way of living. We must reawaken our respect for nature which we have set aside in our quest for material progress.

6) Lastly, I wish for everyone the peace that comes with humility, discernment, acceptance, hope, and the resolve to bring our world towards a higher evolutionary direction. It is my wish that we can inspire one another to transform ourselves so that we can transform the world.

Some people may find me too optimistic, a resident of La La Land, a certified Pollyanna. I know real change is difficult, but it must be pursued. We either succumb to inertia and fall backwards or push against it. During defining moments in history, it was the dreamers and doers who insisted on the direction where humanity must go. And most of the time, they were right.

The first Christmas happened at a time when the world was fraught with danger. Children were being killed en masse by an earthly king who feared the birth of the messiah whom the people awaited.

Christmas is a time to wish, to hope and work for a newer, kinder world to be born. Mankind has been celebrating Christmas for over 2,000 years. It’s time we took its message seriously.

Let Christmas reign 0

Posted on December 11, 2016 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 11, 2016 – 12:00am

I looked back at the articles I have written about Christmas the past few years and I was quite appalled to find that I have mostly complained about the inconvenience of the season, pointing out the endless traffic, non-stop parties, social pressures, the big expenses, the crass materialism and commercialism that we go through to celebrate it.

I sounded like the Grinch ranting against Christmas.

This year, I vow to be more positive. I will embrace Christmas and savor it in the best way possible. Why? Because I feel it is the only way to survive and remain sane at this moment in our country’s march into a very uncertain future. In these times where every day seems to usher in a new crisis in our country, where people are truly worried about where our society is headed and what the future will bring, it is hard to feel the cheer and joy that usually accompanies the happiest of seasons. There is, in the air, a sense of an impending dictatorship. All this talk about martial law or the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus has raised the anxiety levels of many Filipinos. The Marcos burial has unleashed much anger and indignation.

Fear stalks the streets of many poor communities where extrajudicial killings happen daily, resulting in close to 6,000 people dead in less than six months. As we put up our Christmas lights, we have a Congress rushing through a death penalty law, and a Supreme Court deliberating on the petitions of people charged with plunder asking to be freed. Somehow, it is difficult to imagine Santa wanting to come here since he may not be safe, and may even be unwelcome.

But thank God, Christmas cannot be moved or canceled for another better time. The world does not and will not stop turning. In fact, Christmas may be all we need to make the holidays a better time for everyone.

So I am going whole hog for Christmas this year. Bring in the decor, the tree, the dancing lights, the mistletoe, the tinsel and Christmas balls, the boughs of holly. Hang them up high to light up our spirits. Bring in the carolers. Play all the Christmas carols that bring back the wonder and joy of Christmas when we were young and carefree.

Most importantly, bring out the Belen. Prepare that special place in the house where Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, the Three Kings, the angels, and the animals are assembled around the manger. A homily I heard two Sundays ago urged the flock to go deeper into the meaning of Christmas. Don’t just go gaga over the happy Yuletide season. More importantly, bring back the “Christ” in Christmas. Bring back that hope that has been so difficult to sustain, much less to find, most of the year. This season, let hope reign. Go back to that seminal moment in the manger when God gave us the greatest paradox of all time — that the Savior of mankind would not be coming from the ranks of the mighty and powerful but from the poor and powerless.

Let the goodness inherent in all of us dominate the fearful social, political, emotional and psychological spaces we are dwelling in right now. Let the light dispel the fears and doubts, the negativity and gloom, and break the spell of evil that has blanketed our country. In the thick of the darkness that has enveloped our country and the world, let the shimmering stars of hope break through in full force.

Let Christmas reign!

This is why I love teaching 0

Posted on December 04, 2016 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 4, 2016 – 12:00am

It was the last day of my “Special Topics in Performance and Practice” class this semester. One of my requirements was that students had to do a performance before the semester ended.

I told them what I wanted, and that was to take me to a place where I had never been before and show me who they really are, what they are passionate about, and reveal a side of themselves I had not seen in class.

This assignment is usually very challenging. That’s because the students have to offer something of themselves. They are not intellectualizing the lessons we learned in class but actually experiencing them. It is all about authenticity and presentation.

It requires the student to, first, show up; second, do it; and third, come from his/her own truth. These are three of the five rules of the creativity topic we tackle in class. But since it is also a performance, they must present themselves to the class, hopefully with surprise and delight!

One student presented her passion for making brownies by sharing the recipe through rap. Another danced ballet to rock music. There were the shy ones whom I never expected to be energetic and creative dancers taking over the stage. Some recited poetry, acted out scenes from plays, sang songs from musicals. Let me say they were all delivered quite impressively.

Some performances were touching in their boldness and honesty. One student sang about his “coming out,” starting the song wearing men’s clothes and by the time the performance ended, he was in a dress and heels. The class broke into applause.

One quiet student did Tai chi and martial arts with great precision. His movements were fluid. We were totally enthralled. A girl shared her success in designing and making bags. Another one shared her creative campaigns in the field of advertising. There wasn’t a performance that left me bored.

After all the honest sharing through their performances, I could sense a feeling of well-being and joy in the room. I sensed that my students felt not just relief but also proud accomplishment. They in turn asked me to perform. I gamely sang a song no one knows about that I wrote years ago. Its melody was too high to sing in the morning without vocalizing. But I did not care. It was an exercise in authenticity.

After I said my goodbyes and posed with everyone for a class picture, I asked all my students to gather in a group hug. I told them how much I appreciated their efforts at coping with this crazy subject they signed up for, and hoped that they learned something in class they could keep and use in their future. I also thanked them for the lessons I learned from them and wished them the very best in life.

Since I started teaching this class, it has evolved a lot. I have learned many things from my students’ feedback as I strive to be a better teacher. Every now and then, I hear from or run into some of them. I have written recommendations for employment. One student invited me to her wedding. Some keep in touch through social media. I continue to bump into those who are in media, especially during rallies, or when I guest on television.

I get a great sense of fulfillment when I see them years later, especially when they bring up the classes they took under me. I am happy to learn that they took a lot of the lessons to heart, and to see them succeeding not only in their careers but also in being good human beings.

This is why I love teaching!

How I ended up in a destination not on my travel list (and loved it) 0

Posted on November 26, 2016 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated November 27, 2016 – 12:00am

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Nanya rocks offer rugged, dangerous beauty.

I have never been to Taiwan. It wasn’t even on my list of dream destinations to visit. But suddenly, there I was last week with a group of travel writers, bloggers, hoteliers. We flew in on the invitation of Air Asia Philippines which launched its newest international flight destination last Nov. 21.

We were quite amazed how close it actually is from Manila. It took less than two hours to get there. Ably piloted by Air Asia Philippines’ CEO Captain Dexter Comendador, the maiden flight landed smoothly and on schedule in Taipei at 1 a.m., full of excited merry passengers gifted with special souvenirs from the airline.

We checked in at Hedo Hotel located at what they call “the old city” part of Taipei. By 9 a.m., we were off on the first day of our tour.

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The first stop in our tour was at the massive Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial hall, a must-visit complex of impressive structures reminiscent of old empires gone by. It houses a humongous bronze statue of Taiwan’s founding leader Chiang Kai-Shek guarded by two soldiers. Every few hours there is a changing of the guard ceremony that takes place and is a must-see. Solemn and precisely choreographed, it is quite impressive.

Next stop was the National Palace Museum where we saw impressive, exquisitely made art and masterpieces from centuries back. It was just sad that we could only stay a short while because were on a tight schedule. We had our first delicious lunch, a mixed plate with some Sichuan dishes.

We had to rush to the Air Asia press conference by 2 p.m. where the new Manila-Taipei-Manila route was formally announced to the media in Taipei.

We then proceeded to the Longshan Temple which is quite an experience. Intricately designed with dragons and religious symbols, this temple was filled with worshippers chanting and praying almost non-stop.

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The scent of candles, incense, burning joss sticks, food offerings and flowers filled the air. There were personal ceremonies going on at the back of the temple where devotees threw wooden blocks in the air and, depending on how the blocks fell, they would get their answers.

The day closed with another sumptuous Chinese meal. I am not the type of traveler or blogger who takes pictures of food. I just sit down and heartily savor what is on the table. Every meal we had on this trip was what I would call an elevated experience as far as my palate was concerned. Yes, all meals were Chinese food but everything was prepared differently.

The tofu, veggies, mushrooms, pork, seafood, soups, dessert had a touch that I had not experienced in Manila. The meals were scrumptious and heavenly.

The next day we went to the Northeast Coast where we took pictures of the wild sea and its waves splashing on the rocky shores under rain and strong winds. The Nanya rocks are awesome.

The scenery included wild rock formations strewn randomly along a coast as killer waves smashed against them with such fury, it was breathtaking. It reminded me so much of Batanes in its roughness and rugged beauty. We passed by the Golden Waterfall, a series of waterways that, though majestic to look at, are actually heavily polluted with poisonous chemicals and heavy metals. One can only admire — but do not touch or go near the water.

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Lunch was at Joufen Village. It was quite a trek of a few hundred steps before we reached our dining place. But the food was well worth the physical challenge. I thought it was the best meal we had on the entire trip.

In the evening, we meandered around the neighborhood near our hotel and tried out some street food. I always fancied myself an adventurous eater, but I admit to failing the test when it came to the notorious Stinky Tofu, and the ampalaya smoothie. I won’t describe it. I will leave that for you to try out when you visit Taipei. Who knows, you may like it. The fun part is summoning the courage to try something new and edgy.

The next day, we visited Taipei’s premier high-rise tower, an ultramodern and luxurious building called Taipei 101, which boasts the fastest elevator in the world — one that travels 89 floors in 39 seconds. At the top, one can see a panoramic view of the entire city.

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It was an extremely foggy and rainy day when we got there and so we hardly saw anything. More impressive for me was seeing the engineering wonder that could keep this building “balanced” during earthquakes and powerful typhoons. It is a huge damper in the center of the building occupying a few floors held in place by thick metal cables. During earthquakes, the damper moves slightly around balancing the building, however much nature’s forces try to shake it.

We went shopping at a fancy arts and craft store called Eslit where I bought a sturdy dry bag for travel near the sea and during inclement weather. Taipei is a delightful place to visit. The sights are awesome, the food is wonderful and the shopping is nothing short of fantastic.

Whether you are a high-end or low-end traveler, shopper or eater, Taipei has something for you. And oh, yes: the people are quite friendly and accommodating to visitors.

On my last day, not far from the hotel, I discovered a small home gallery displaying old photos of the early days of Taiwan. They were nostalgic photographs of Taiwanese life before prosperity transformed it into an economic miracle. Despite the communication gap, the owner and curator welcomed his few guests warmly as we appreciated the artworks.

I felt that this was my short fleeting moment of a personal encounter with a local in this place I had visited for the first time. It was a good way to end the trip. I will surely come back.

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Air Asia Philippines flies daily to Taipei from Manila at 11:05 p.m. From Cebu, it leaves at 6:35 a.m. on Wednesdays, and 10:20 a.m. on Fridays and Sundays. Photos by JIM PAREDES

Rage against the dying of the light 2

Posted on November 20, 2016 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated November 20, 2016 – 12:00am

I have been avoiding writing about this. Too many people have expressed their views about the political situation in the world, most especially in the Philippines and the United States. For the life of me, I have tried to stick to “safe,” non-political subjects, but there is no escaping from the realities of the day.

Duterte, Trump, the Supreme Court decision on the Marcos burial, daily EJKs are all upon us. In the US, discrimination against women, race, gender rears its ugly head, leading to violence.

We can’t help being affected by the Nov. 8 elections in the United States. From the time I was growing up, the US has been the center of the world as I know it. We learned to speak English from the Americans, we watched (and still watch) US sitcoms, we listen to American music, and we like their way of life so much, many of us aspire for all things American.

The recent events in our country and the US have redefined reality for many Filipinos. The presidential elections in both countries have changed everything. The shape of the new reality is still a blur but the details are getting clearer by the day, and it is not pretty. It is a departure from the way we used to know and feel about that country and ours.

Questions arise on how we should react. Should we just accept these leaders — Duterte and Trump — simply because they won the elections? After all, isn’t that what “Vox populi vox dei” is about? Or is this a case of vox populi vox crazy? What I know is, while there are those who are happy with the outcome, there are many of us who feel physically and emotionally threatened by the results.

I see myself as a liberal democrat and I am in a quandary. Has democracy played a joke on us?

It was Plato who pointed out the irony that tyranny actually emerges from a democracy. We have seen this in the history of the world. In Germany, Hitler rose to power using the legal route, albeit coupled with cunning and intimidation. Duterte and Trump were both voted into power, but they are extremely polarizing figures. They are dictatorial, with views that many of their citizens not only disagree with, but find abhorrent and threatening.

To complicate matters, our President is not a unifier. He goes out of his way offend the Catholic Church and isolate those who did not vote for him through the machinations of his paid trolls in social media. His rabid followers threaten, insult and intimidate those who criticize him. I have been the recipient of death threats, too many to list down.

What should we do when the words and actions of the President go against our moral compass, what we hold true and sacred? Should we just grin and bear it, live in denial, be apathetic? Should we just shut up because our views are against those held by the majority at the moment?

My views have changed drastically these past four months. I am no longer interested in giving an ear to political strategies, or explanations and justifications on why a leader behaves as he does. I have no patience with the spin doctors who are trying to save Duterte from himself. I don’t need them to tell me how to think. I believe my conscience is quite reliable and accurate in sensing what is right and what is wrong. I don’t dabble in shades of gray or moral ambivalence.

Right is right and wrong is wrong. Injustice is injustice. Murder is murder. The “clarifications” of paid spokespersons of government do not impress me. In fact, they strengthen my resolve to speak out and call a spade a spade.

An article in the New York Times pointed out that during Hitler’s rise in power, some people actually believed his anti-Semitism was only a “joke.” In another article, Liel Leibovitz, whose Jewish grandfather survived Hitler’s wrath, gave advice to citizens of regimes that sow hate and violence:

“Treat every poisoned word as a promise. When a bigoted blusterer tells you he intends to force members of a religious minority to register with the authorities — much like those friends and family of Siegfried’s who stayed behind were forced to do before their horizon grew darker — believe him. Don’t try to be clever. Don’t lean on political intricacies or legislative minutiae or historical precedents for comfort. Don’t write it off as propaganda, or explain it always as just an empty proclamation meant simply to pave the path to power. Take the haters at their word, and assume the worst is imminent.”

This is not the first time we’ve experienced dictatorship. We should have learned our lessons by now. I know I have and I refuse to accept the present situation as “normal.”

It is far from normal when people are killed without due process. This is an aberration, a monstrosity and a blatant abuse of human rights. If we accept EJKs and stop pointing them out as wrong, the entire value system that has made us tolerant, fair and compassionate to each other will crumble.

I am 65 years old. I lived two decades of my life under the Marcos dictatorship. I am angry that issues that we thought were already settled a long time ago have resurfaced, this time giving legitimacy and even hero status to a torturer, murderer and plunderer, by our dictator-in-the-making.

I end with the words of Dylan Thomas that inspired me as a young man during the martial law years: “Do not go gentle into that good night… Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

The soundtrack of our lives 2

Posted on November 06, 2016 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated November 6, 2016

Screen Shot 2016-11-06 at 11.56.06 AM

Illustration by IGAN D’BAYAN

As I write this, I am listening to the music of Simon and Garfunkel and other artists of the ‘70s. My iPod is on a playlist that I made of songs that mattered to me then. I was just in my teens when I first heard these songs. They still touch me to this day.

They defined many of my thoughts and feelings, which I could not figure out, much less express, by myself. They sang about the pains and joys, the anger and frustration, the angst of young people of that time, and the new world our generation dreamed of.

The songs were beautiful and the artists were cool as cool could ever be. They were expressive, opinionated, talented, novel, rebellious, experimental, chic, crazy, daring and they were making different kinds of music the likes of which the world had never heard before.

They were breaking from tradition in all ways. They did not look like their elders. They dressed very differently, they talked differently and they sang of love that was raw, real and honest. They also sang about politics, peace and changing the world. They moved my generation and touched us deep to the core. We could quote from the verses of these songs the way the religious can quote from the Bible.

It was a great time to be an artist and to make music. It was a time when artists understood what was going on, and the producers and executives just followed suit even before they could figure out the scene that was unfolding.

Having cut my musical teeth on the Beatles, Bob Dylan, the Byrds, Fifth Dimension, Simon and Garfunkel, The Who, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, the Bee Gees, etc., my attitude and taste in music is wide, eclectic and very open. Memorizing hundreds of songs and being able to actually sing and play them was such a great education and achievement for me. My knowledge and familiarity with the chords and lyrics of these great songs of the ‘70s allowed me to express my emotions easier and gave me the template for writing my own songs.

While my generation was musically influenced by Western pop music, many of us consciously opted to write Filipino lyrics at some point. The rebellion in music was happening here, too, and it was tied up with the battlecry called “Filipinization.” In the campuses, the students were demanding more relevant education. By this they meant they wanted an education that was more in tune with the needs of the nation. Overnight, speaking in Filipino became the norm.

Some 40-plus years later, here I am listening to these artists-catalysts who shaped me as I grew up and led me to the same career that they were in. It is an exhilarating feeling actually.

Many of the singers on this playlist have retired. Some have even passed away. There are some who continue to perform. The music they recorded ages ago is still full of freshness, passion and genius.

Some years back, I used to mock the idea of one day becoming a “nostalgia” act. I felt it was a trap I did not want to fall into. That is why I continue to write new material. I just released my third solo album a few months ago. Yet, I must recognize that some songs I’ve written are as meaningful and “defining” to some people as the Western songs of the ‘70s are to me. I must respect that.

When I sing my old songs, I imagine that they must have been the theme songs of couples that trigger special memories of their youth, the musical background of many pledges of love they made that continue to touch them enough to renew their life-long commitments to this day.

More than listening to them as songs trapped in some era, some songs become timeless, and will always be relevant. These songs are shared with their children and even grandchildren who grew up listening to them, too, as the soundtrack of their lives.

I am proud of the music of my generation. Those songs were instrumental in developing our consciences and made us appreciate and even fight for universal values such as peace, equality, woman empowerment, tolerance, spirituality and yes, love!

If the world could just pause for a while and people would stop rushing to move to something new, if we could set aside the endless quest for new thrills and just listen to the music of my generation, we could hopefully re-learn what “cool” is really all about.

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