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Writing on Air by Jim Paredes

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Pepe Smith: A legend on steroids 0

Posted on February 03, 2019 by jimparedes

A few of Joey “Pepe” Smith’s favorite things: A jacket, boots, a guitar and a model airplane box

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE – Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) – February 3, 2019 – 12:00am

Joey “Pepe” Smith was a legend, an icon, a rock symbol, etc. I am not using these words lightly here. Pepe Smith is really all that. On steroids.

I first came across him as a singer of The Downbeats, a band that front-acted for The Beatles in 1965 at Rizal Sports Stadium in Manila. He had an immediate impact on the audience. At that time, he was a Mick Jagger wannabe doing the song Satisfaction, complete with the Jagger shuffle.

The next time I saw him was in UP around 1971. I was in a room with other artists and Pepe dominated the scene with his bigger-than-life presence. He was tall, lanky, with very long hair, a loud voice, a dramatic style and an overwhelming charisma. He had that star quality that was different from every artist at that time. He was a rebellious, wild, outrageous, loud, confident person who at the same time possessed charm. To some, he was very likable. To others, he seemed menacing. Either way, he had a personality that riveted everyone’s attention towards him.

I also saw him perform one of the leads in the musical Hair, which may have been the first theatrical production in the Philippines that showed some onstage nudity.

Once you met or saw Pepe Smith, he was impossible to forget. He made an indelible impression on you, for better or for worse.

Early in his career, he sang with different bands until he joined Juan de la Cruz, the first real original Pinoy rock band. The group was not just amazing. It was revolutionary. I remember half-laughing and shaking my head in admiration when I first heard the song Rock & Roll Sa Ulan with Pepe reciting the lyrics. It had a mocking irreverence and cheeky defiance to it. It was so free it even challenged what everyone thought rock at that time should be. And soon after, on and on came the hits. Titser’s Enemi No. 1, Balong Malalim, Beep Beep, Himig Natin, No Touch, Langit, etc. flooded the airwaves. It is an understatement to say that they hit it really big.

Beebop, Sanya, Daisy and Delta

A vivid memory I have of Pepe Smith and the Juan de la Cruz Band was a concert at St Mary’s College in the early ’70s. I remember singing our versions of foreign hits and our own compositions in English. We actually got a pretty good reaction from the audience. But the reaction we got was nothing like what Pepe and the JDLC Band got. The audience actually went wild, loudly sang along and had a great time. It was a turning point for us as we watched from backstage. No, we were not going to turn into a rock band. We realized that the way to go was to write and sing songs in Pilipino. It sounded more authentic and real. It definitely changed the direction of APO’s career. And we thank Pepe and Juan de la Cruz Band for it.

I went to the wake last Wednesday night to pay my respects to Pepe Smith and to hear stories about him. I realized I knew so little about this legendary figure who was my OPM contemporary. Pepe was the son of an American pilot named Edgar Smith and a Filipina. Pepe’s daughter Daisy said he hardly talked about his dad because they did not get along. He has other sibs from both parents. He was 71 when he passed on.

I talked with Rose Cruz, the mother of three of his five children, and his companion at the time he died. She narrated the moment of his death. Pepe had put some of his many guitars on their bed and was changing the strings of his new favorite Washburn acoustic guitar. He was in a light mood. Suddenly, he told Rose that he was not feeling good. Rose asked him if he wanted to go to the hospital. He declined. Soon after, he had a stroke (his third) and died quietly in her arms.

I met four of his five children at the wake, too. The youngest and only boy is BeeBop who was named after the Gene Vincent song Beebop-A-Lula. He is tall and also is a dead ringer for his father. The youngest girl Delta was named after Delta Force, a type of airplane that Pepe liked. I also learned that Pepe actually wanted to be a pilot like his father. He was into model airplanes. Daisy was named after the poem “Desiderata.” Sanya, a daughter by a different mother was named after the word “Sannyasin,” a Sanskrit term for spiritual seekers who have managed to renounce all materialism. The oldest is Queenie, also by a different mom. Unfortunately, she was not there when I visited and I was unable to speak with her.

The four sibs described their father as a happy person who could change their moods when they were having a rough time. They all smile when they remember him. He was playful and mischievous. He was ridiculously funny. And he was a loving dad. They told jokes and anecdotes about Pepe with fondness. Daisy, who resides in Australia, said he was planning on visiting her in Queensland but tragedy struck too soon.

His hat, a bottle of Wild Turkey bourbon from Australia and a tiny flashlight Pepe liked bringing along.

There were stories of his wild and reckless behavior, too. Pepe spent two years in a Quezon City jail until he was acquitted of drug charges. Rose also narrated how Pepe, during one of his stays in the hospital as a patient, was walking around the corridor with a dextrose feed connected to one hand and a Jim Beam bottle held in the other. He was outrageous. She laughed when she remembered this. There was never a dull moment with him. When I mentioned the word “controversial” to describe Pepe to his family, they all laughed. I laughed too, because the word is too mild to describe him.

Pepe’s mantra, philosophy and religion, to be very simple about it, was “Rock ‘n’ Roll.” He led the rock star lifestyle with all its attendant highs and lows. He lived a life of excess. In the public eye, he was party town personified.

Pepe will be remembered by all of us as an OPM giant whose songs will stay with us for the next generations. Pepe in his own way was a mover and shaker. He and the Juan de la Cruz personified Pinoy Rock and made a real music genre locally. He dared to live his life without any reservations or compromises.

He will be missed by his family and friends who knew him better than we, the public, will ever know.

Goodbye, Pepe Smith. ’Til we meet again. And we all will. Meanwhile, enjoy jamming with Jimi Hendrix and the rock greats in Rock and Roll Heaven.

Daydreaming 0

Posted on January 27, 2019 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE – Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) – January 27, 2019 – 12:00am
What if you could gather 10 Filipinos (dead or alive) for dinner, who would they be? What if you could be witness to 10 events in world history, what would they be?
Ok. I am making it easy for myself. I will not write about one central theme today. I want to do some daydreaming instead. I want to imagine “what if” situations and answer two of them in my mind.

Admittedly, what I am doing is similar to a slam book activity where teenagers ask friends to list down their favorite colors, actors, movie, flower, song, quotes etc. in a special book.

In this article I will try to engage you dear readers by posing two really interesting what-if questions. I will answer them too. Maybe you can mentally answer the questions on your own if you wish.

Here goes question number 1.

What if you could gather 10 Filipinos (dead or alive) for dinner, who would they be? My list would include:

1. Jose Rizal — I would like to know his take on how Philippine history has played out since his time and the modern world today. Rizal was a renaissance man. He was also a futurist. I am sure he would have a lot to say.

2. Lapu-lapu — I have always been curious about how he and his people reacted to the first white men who landed on their shores and what it was like to engage them in battle. I would like to hear his account first hand.

3. Enrique de Malaca — He was Magellan’s slave who in all likelihood came from southern Philippines and is the first Malay to circumnavigate the world). He may have the most interesting stories to tell especially about how he got to Europe and learned the ways of his masters. His account of the voyage from Spain to Las Islas Filipinas, the first encounter between the two peoples, the first mass, the Battle of Mactan, the slaughter of the Spanish officers by Humabon, etc. should be riveting.

4. Nick Joaquin — I remember meeting Quijano de Manila and being interviewed by this very inebriated genius. He was brilliant, funny and quite outrageous at the same time. After answering his questions, he would sometimes retort back and say “I don’t believe you.” Perhaps he was trying to provoke some kind of reaction from me. He was playing games. I considered it hilarious. Through the years I have read a lot of his works. I will make sure I serve beer, of course.

5. Ninoy Aquino — People say that Ninoy was a great conversationalist. He had a sharp mind. It would be an absolute delight to watch him interact with Rizal and the others as they talk about politics and life.

6. Juan Luna — I would like him to talk about not just his art but about the unfortunate incident where he shot his wife and mother-in-law in a fit of jealousy.

7. Rodrigo Duterte — It would be interesting to see how he reacts to the other guests. He would have no spokesman or apologist, nor an encouraging laughing audience to save him. Let’s see what happens. I will make sure he is seated beside the next guest.

8. General Luna — As portrayed in the movie, he is not one to tolerate bullshit and calls out traitors without fear. I would love to see him have a discussion with Duterte about the latter’s policies and attitudes towards China and the West Philippine Sea. Let us see if violence erupts or at least, who walks out first.

9. Emilio Aguinaldo — I would like to discuss with him his controversial legacy. My sister Tictac when she was a young student in the 50s, was part of a class excursion at Aguinaldo’s house. A classmate asked Aguinaldo straight if he indeed killed Bonifacio. The general, taken aback replied that history will be the judge of that. It seems history has sent feelers and it does not look good. What do you think, General?

10. Maria Ressa — I would like her to come as a journalist and engage my invited guests with probing questions and write about the entire event for the world to read.

My next question: What if you could be witness to 10 events in world history, what would they be?

1. The landing of Magellan in the Philippines. How did the people on our islands react? What were their thoughts? It must have been close to encountering aliens from another world. This encounter changed the Philippines and geopolitics forever.

2. The Last Supper — I would like to see Jesus with his closest friends on the night before He died. I want to partake of what they ate and drank. I would pay attention to Judas when Jesus says that one of them would betray Him. What would it have been like to have witnessed the first mass ever consecrated?

3. Buddha’s moment of enlightenment under the Bodhi tree — Two thousand five hundred years ago. On the 40th day of his meditation, it is said that Siddartha Gautama had become enlightened. He had penetrated the true nature of life and grasped it. This was a great moment in the spiritual history of mankind. I would probably not engage him in conversation since the deepest wisdom and understanding cannot be expressed in words. But I would surely see everything radiate from his being.

4. The concert on May 29, 1913 at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées when Igor Stravinski played his composition for ballet entitled Rite of Spring for the very first time. It was not just controversial, it sparked very strong reactions. People booed and walked out. The ballet dancers could not hear the cues well because people were arguing so loudly. It actually caused a riot in Paris. Listen to it. It still sounds contemporary today.

5. Martin Luther King’s Selma to Montgomery march. This historic march forced President Lyndon Johnson to file a voting act in congress to make it easier for people of color to exercise their right to vote. It changed America forever.

6. The planning of the assassination of Ninoy Aquino. No one knows when or where it happened. Surely it was secretly planned by evil men and women. Up to this day, no one really knows who ordered the murder, and what actually happened in the tarmac. It may well be lost in history.

7. The battle of Normandy —This brought a final and decisive end to World War 2. Hundreds of thousands died. The divisions in the world as we know it now was largely caused and shaped by this event.

8. The first concert of the Beatles in Liverpool at the Cavern on Feb 9, 1961. Geniuses in the bud. I would like to have seen them perform there before the entire world discovered them.

9. The day the earth was hit by a huge comet that caused the death of the dinosaurs. Scientists believe the impact of the comet caused a major dust pollution to cover the sun for years. As a result, it killed almost all plant life which caused dinosaurs to starve and go extinct. No man has seen such a cataclysmic event such as this.

10. The crowning of King Tut in 1334 BC — Tutankhamun was the youngest and most famous Pharaoh. It must have been a magnificent sight for those who were there at his coronation. I would also would have liked to be present during the burial since it would have been quite a spectacle of epic opulence.

That’s it for my daydreaming today. My answers would probably change next time I indulge myself with the same questions. Enjoy yours this lazy Sunday. Share them with me.

Read more at https://www.philstar.com/lifestyle/sunday-life/2019/01/27/1888361/daydreaming#3LZhX0TXQA5jOMdC.99

Musings on millennials 0

Posted on January 20, 2019 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE – Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) – January 20, 2019 – 12:00am

It seems today’s kids are suffering from so many things. There’s a plethora of dysfunctions that experts have diagnosed to explain youth behavior in the past 25 or so years. ADHD, bipolar disorder, depression, autism, addiction, self-esteem issues, bullying, stress, being a “special” child — these are some of them.

When we were in school, these issues were non-existent, or never brought up. At least I don’t remember if they ever were except for bullying perhaps. In truth, during our days bullying was not a burning issue although it should have been. Rarely reported were wild behaviors like drunkenness and possession of porn material. I surmise that low self-esteem was probably explained as mere shyness then.

When I think about it now, it is possible that many of us who were in school in the ’50s to the ’70s were suffering from the conditions above, but no one knew what they were called then. We were undiagnosed or misdiagnosed and lived with it.

But then, it could be that a lot of these are entirely new problems that have just recently been uncovered. Are they conditions that have sprung up just recently?

I don’t know. I must research more about this. But something tells me that these are mostly new psychological troubles of a new era. Kids are growing up in an environment and time that is unprecedented. I am not even sure parents know how to raise them properly in this new setup. There is no rear view mirror to look at to navigate the future.

Last weekend, I was talking with a few friends about how differently the kids are being raised today. My friends’ ages are from 40s to 60s. They pointed out how easy everything is for millennials. Where we had to go to the library and research, they have the internet. Where we had to use a typewriter to write down our thesis, they use word processors on laptops. So many conveniences at their fingertips. Doing schoolwork has become a lot easier.

From the point of view of those who never had these when they were in school, the students never had it so good.

And yet, as a teacher, I feel many of the kids in ADMU (and I suppose in other universities as well) are actually at a disadvantage compared to students of the last century. To me, I feel we were emotionally stronger and could cope with hardship better. We also had a greater capacity to concentrate and focus.

In terms of general knowledge, I notice many of the kids now are largely uninformed about things that happened in the world past 40 years ago. They are not knowledgeable or that interested in history. They like watching videos but are not too fond of reading. They hardly know the classics. But they are savvy in social media.

As a teacher I realize that going to a classroom and simply teaching the lesson is not enough. There are many students these days who are looking for more things to learn from a teacher aside from academic stuff. In terms of presentation, a teacher must be more creative and must engage them in more ways. Aside from the lesson, I also know they are looking for adult modeling. When I pay attention to my students, I am amazed at the connection we easily establish. Often I get a feeling that I may be one of very few adults in their lives who take them seriously. Could it be that their own parents are unequipped or too busy working and have no time to talk to them?

My friends were saying that during their time, they did not have teachers who actually cared about what students were going through as young people. In the old days, I did not know of any teacher who encountered students suffering from depression. If they did, it was not their problem. There was the school counselor. Depression was just “the blues” or perhaps an emotional problem not needing any special attention. They pretty much just taught the lessons. If you did not ask questions, or did not submit your homework, then sorry for you. As a student, you just had to tough it out.

The classroom has changed now. Kids are encouraged to ask many questions, have more sources when researching. Teachers are also more aware of students who are undergoing depression. I have had a few depressed students tell me that they are going through it. Each department can corroborate this.

In my own family, my eldest daughter Erica has undergone bouts of depression. We have been very supportive as a family. Luckily, she can hold things together and get over it.

Recently, I heard of a young musician who jumped off a building. I was so troubled to hear about it. So young. A huge loss. As it turns out, he was somehow a friend of my two daughters. This made him more real to me. It really made me think how important it is to keep communications open with young people these days. Too many suicides happening now. During our time, suicides were unheard of in the Philippines. At a time when so much is available to young people that can help them learn and reach their potential, there is also so much angst that troubles them now.

In a way, it is not surprising. Sometimes, too many choices actually leads to unhappiness. Instead of enjoying the power to choose, we suffer over the loss of options. When that happens, commitment becomes so hard to do. Without committing, how can one have any direction or purpose in life?

There was something about growing up decades ago that actually toughened earlier generations. We had little money, possessions. We had no cellphones. We had television. No social media. We had real, flesh and blood friends we could physically be with. No online life. We could be “grooving” somewhere or chilling out without half of the world wondering where we were or what we were doing. Our parents also made it clear that they wanted us to finish school, get a job and support ourselves. We knew what the rules and templates were. Some of us broke them and created our own lives. Some followed the common and expected paths.

These days, I am not sure if parents and kids even know what to do. Everything is in flux. Things are changing too rapidly. Where before we looked at our parents as a different generation, someone in college today may look at their kid brother in grade school (or even in high school) as belonging to another one. There seems to be nothing you can be sure of. These are confusing times.

Just the same, today’s young people will have to make sense of everything and come into their own somehow. Our parents probably felt the same way about my generation during those wild hippie days of the ’70s. They often must have felt we had gone over the deep end.

I would like to believe that, in the end, I will discover that I am only reacting as my parents did. I wish today’s young people all the best.

Read more at https://www.philstar.com/lifestyle/sunday-life/2019/01/20/1886434/musings-millennials#dUgJgpRdDBooVUZa.99

Paradise regained? 0

Posted on January 13, 2019 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE – Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) – January 13, 2019 – 12:00am
We had planned to go to Boracay months ago. The President had promised that Boracay would be reopened in six months. We were sure that by January of 2019, the resort we had booked would already be opened for guests. Sometime in October, we called the resort to check if they had their permit to open. They still did not have it. We hurriedly looked for an alternative and ended up booking three rooms at the modest but comfortable Shoretime Hotel, a resort we had stayed in twice before.

My daughter Ala, her husband John and their toddler Zadie arrived in Manila from Sydney on the eve of Christmas. We left for Boracay last Jan. 1 on a morning flight.

We had heard so much about the changes the government had done to clean up this magical place. We were excited but at the same time apprehensive. We wondered if the government had turned Boracay into something better than what it was. Or was it now a cleaner place but with so much regulation that it would not be the same fun place anymore? We would soon find out.

We arrived at Caticlan airport around 11 a.m. From there, we rode a car for 15 minutes, got off and went to a welcome tent to register as guests with proper vouchers from the hotel where we had registered. As a tourist, you can’t get into Boracay now unless you have a voucher from an accredited resort. Accreditation means these hotels have followed the required installations and repairs to deal with their sewage systems. It also means they have fixed any encroachment issues they had (if they did) and have abided by other regulations.

From the tent, where we got hand-stamped, we entered a building before going to the boats waiting by the docks to take us to the island. We had to purchase tickets, go through x-ray inspections, wait in a waiting area, then proceed through ticket counters and walk to assigned ferries. It was a 20-minute boat ride to a dock in Boracay. The last leg was a 30-minute land ride to Shoretime Hotel at Station One.

It is pretty challenging to go through all this without help from the hotel that you are staying in. You can’t go to Boracay and then find a place once you get there. You need to have a booking prior to going.

The most beautiful sunset Photo by Lyd ia Paredes
After checking in, we strolled by the beach and took a swim. The water was cool but pleasant. Noticeably, there was no green algae. It looked beautiful and pristine. When I shared this observation with the natives, they explained that during December, the beach is really algae-free. They said the green stuff appears during summer. They added that it has been about six months since the island was closed and cleaned. It is only natural that the scene had a fresh look to it.

The tourists have not come back in droves. Sometimes, the beach is hardly populated. In the late afternoons, people come out to take photos and enjoy the sunset. At this time, the beach is alive and busy but not anywhere close to what it was before. For a tourist like me, I saw that as a good thing. By 6:30 p.m., at least at the front of Obama Grill, there were just a few people out on the beach.

Lots of the resorts and restaurants along the strip are still closed. I saw only one bar operating 500 meters to the right of the beach when I took an evening walk around 9 p.m. There were hardly any people — unlike its heyday. The first evening we were there, the stars were out. I could see the Milky Way with my naked eye.

When you ride around the city, you will see open spaces where lots of buildings stood before but now have been torn down. They had violated easement boundaries and had to go. I heard from the locals that more will be destroyed. Some roads have a fresh coat of cement but their open sewers have not been finished. The holes, pipes and exposed metal bars are ugly eyesores. They look quite intimidating and dangerous. People or vehicles could fall into them.

The roads on Station One have been dug up and excavated but still have to be cemented. A local said that the government ran out of funds but promised that they would fix it this year. Until it is fixed, prepare yourself for the roughest ride of your life over potholes. I actually bumped my head a few times while riding tricycles going back and forth to and from our hotel. When it rains, the potholes can look like mini lakes. Watch out to avoid being splashed by muddy water from passing vehicles.

Like before, Boracay still has its gustatory attractions. We had a great time eating out everywhere. Thai Basil at D’Mall, Sunny Side at Station One, Real Coffee, Pig Out all served delicious meals, desserts and coffee. I talked randomly to foreigners who said that they were enjoying themselves and would definitely come back.

If you’ve been to Boracay many times before, what you will miss these days are the Poi fire dancers at the beach during night time, the sandcastles, massages offered by natives under coconut trees, dining al fresco nearer the water, music by the beach from establishments, concerts by the beach, big crowds, and vendors. It has ceased to be a party town in this sense.

Boracay’s charms are just too enticing to ignore.
There are still a few vendors who sell sunnies, souvenirs along the strip but not too many now. Notably, I also am quite bothered by the presence of military security wearing T-shirts with “SWAT” written on them patrolling the beaches.

Also notable, despite the reported massive cleanup, is the absence of trashcans along the beach.

Natives say that a lot of things for Boracay’s future will depend on this coming summer. Will the algae be back? Have they really solved the sewage problem that has been dirtying the ocean for decades? Have they rid the waters of the e-coli that thrived on green algae? Will the roads be finally finished? Will the resorts earn enough to keep going considering that there is now a cap on the tourist population?

Many people lost their jobs. Even if some of them are back, they still feel the loss of so many months without income. The procedure going to work in Boracay from the mainland and going back home has become expensive and cumbersome. Too many rules. One worker said it was like martial law because of the military presence. Where before their families could easily visit them on the island, now they have to go through certain checks before entering.

Would I recommend that my readers go to Boracay? The jury is still out concerning the changes that have been introduced. It will take time to see the results. I share the natives’ skepticism and caution.

But I must say that, in the end, Boracay’s charms are just too enticing to ignore. The scenery is still achingly beautiful. The fine sand is the best in the world. And the sparkling blue-green waters, the refreshing wind, and the sunset are too magnificent to resist. The red tape and regulations are a small price to pay to get to Paradise.

I would return again.

Read more at https://www.philstar.com/lifestyle/sunday-life/2019/01/13/1884478/paradise-regained#xTLuukj7GT1sHWBZ.99

My crystal ball into 2019 0

Posted on December 30, 2018 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE – Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) – December 30, 2018 – 12:00am
It has become a duty. I have been doing this for years now. I must not take the easy way out and stop. No. That would be a big betrayal, or dereliction of duty.

Yes, I have been given the gift of seeing the future. I must share what I see no matter how disturbing it is. I owe it to mankind so people can prepare.

How did I discover this gift, you may ask? I once looked at the day and date on a calendar. I noticed I could predict with 100 percent accuracy what the next day and date would be in the next 24 hours.

I have been given this mission. I have also been given sedatives by a doctor. He diagnosed me once and said I was a psychic. Or was it psycho? I can’t remember now. Who cares. I also believe in mood rings. And between a choice of two things, I decide by doing the “Eenie-meenie-minie-mo” test. I am an avid believer that man has not landed on the moon yet. I also belong to the Flat Earth Society.

There. I have given full disclosure. Believe at your own risk. I will be specific and tell you what lies ahead. If I turn out to be accurate, please send me money. If not, please send some anyway so I can improve my skills. Here are my predictions for 2019.

1) First of all, you can be sure there will be a 2019.

2) Persida Acosta and Noli De Castro will build medical centers specializing in dengue cases. They will make their own anti dengue vaccine which will be immediately exposed as being exactly the same as the Dengvaxia vaccine which they condemned.

3) Panelo will write a very serious 24-page foreword to a book which Duterte will publish in 2019. It will be a joke book.

4) On June 12, 2019, we will see Filipino troops marching differently during the Independence Day parade. Upon passing the Luneta Grandstand, they will seamlessly switch to a precision lava walk ending in a slo-mo “Catriona” turn.

5) Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will become the finance chief. All other departments will also report directly to her. The military will also be under her command. We will see her every day in the news. Duterte, though, will still remain President of Philippines, while GMA will carry the title of Supreme Leader next only to Xi Jin Pooh.

6) Some good news. Fewer Philippine provinces will be hit by typhoons and weather disturbances. The bad news: it is because many of them will already be owned by China.

7) The Mars Exploration Rover (MER) will encounter a structure on Mars that will shake the scientific world and cause a stir everywhere. It will be in the news for the next few months. It will be very controversial.

The MER will send a photo to Earth of its mind-blowing discovery, which will turn out to be a very large Bong Go billboard.

8) The DDS will be up in arms about the Chinese Calendar. They will insist that 2019 is not the year of the Pig. To them it will be the year of the Dragon, or Monkey, or Rabbit. They will settle for any animal except the Pig. Why? It is not so much because the Year of the Pig will be bringing fortune and good luck, but because the luckiest color of the year will be YELLOW.

The DDS will bring this all the way to the Supreme Court. Not surprisingly, they will win! The Supreme Court will decide that 2019 shall be deemed the year of the Hippopotamus!

9) All Jollibee mascots will be banned from public view for fear that the food company will be charged with subversion. But newly ordered life-sized “Tickle Me Pulong” dolls and Bong Go “Man in a Barrel” wood statues from Baguio will flood the market.

10) A group of religious fanatics will again proclaim a date in 2019 as the end of the world. As in previous years, they will also disappear from the face of the Earth not later than the first day of 2020.

11) After decades of silence, Beelzebub will vehemently deny he ever said that he “has a devil set aside for me” or for anyone else.

12) The plot against the Philippines government dubbed by PNP and the military as “Red October” which was moved to December 2018, will be rescheduled again for sometime in 2019. But it will again be postponed indefinitely.

13) Samsung and Apple will come out with new phones that can pass on the smell of the user via WiFi and 5G. As a result, the sale of deodorants, perfumes, mouthwash will pick up dramatically. Use of phones inside toilets will stop.

14) To stop bullying in schools, the DOH will be taking decisive action. It will require all parents to give their children Cherifer (a medical supplement that promotes height) so that most if not all children will grow tall and confident.

15) The earth will continue to turn. All living people will consume water, yawn a few times, produce waste and breathe, swallow, blink. And everyone will definitely age.

There. The kittens are out of the bag.

I am sure you are wondering why I did not include the 2019 elections, the health of the President, federalism, the state of what the nation will be in 2019. I am sorry. I do not waste my clairvoyance on matters that are trivial and inconsequential. That is for amateurs.

Before another vision of the future comes to me, I wish to greet you all a Happy New Year everyone!

Wait. More visions are coming in but my editor says they can’t hold the presses…

Read more at https://www.philstar.com/lifestyle/sunday-life/2018/12/30/1880747/my-crystal-ball-2019#ztjtsZ0ExlT1gf69.99

Don’t look for Christmas. It is right here 0

Posted on December 23, 2018 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE – Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) – December 23, 2018 – 12:00am
It is almost Christmas Eve as you read this. There is a rush everywhere. Shoppers are desperate to finish buying the things on their lists. Lines are long, especially in shopping malls, ATMs, trains, buses and jeeps. Traffic exceeds all expectations. People are caught rushing home to be with their families in the city or in the provinces. Or maybe even abroad.

People are attending the last Simbanggabi tonight before Christmas Eve Mass tomorrow. Noche Buena everywhere is being planned meticulously. Some of the food is already being prepared. Some gifts are still being wrapped while some are ready to be opened. Everyone is excited to make sure Christmas Eve will go perfectly for them and their loved ones. We all want it to be the most wonderful night of the year.

Everywhere there is this universal wish for good tidings, merriment, peace, hope and love.

Sadly, these wonderful Christmas wishes are made against the backdrop of a bleak, tragic world that is in ruins, as we speak. Amidst the racism, misogyny, hate, angry political divisions, fake news, threats of war, terrorism and famine plaguing many places in the world, people can only sigh and sincerely hope for peace on earth. I know this. I am one of those people.

Is it madness that makes us wish against all odds that the world will somehow be better? The cynical will cheer loudly in agreement. How can the world be better when there are more bad people than good in this world, they like to say. When will the Pollyannas of the world wake up to the truth? The world is an evil, dangerous place. Wasn’t realizing that there was no real Santa one of the painful lessons we learned early in life? Life is about getting butt-kicked out of Eden and realizing how horrible it can be.

It is so easy to be persuaded by the mob and lose all hope in everything. And there seem to be endless arguments that the naysayers can present to prove they are right.

Yet, despite all the setbacks, a big portion of humanity stubbornly rejects them and continues to believe that things can get better. Why? It has always been like this as far back as I can remember. Yes, there is something crazy about it. Strangely enough, the world likes to pin its hopes on something as fragile and unsure as a baby boy of humble origins to make things better for everyone every Christmas season.

Is it madness? If I were asked this question in my youth, I would easily come to that conclusion.

But as an older man, a lot of my opinions have changed through the years. I have seen many things that have happened that no one could have predicted. Many things I used to think were crazy have begun to make sense.

I remember how my mother loved praying the rosary. During the 1950s until the ’80s, it was common for people of her generation to pray for the fall of communism and the conversion of the USSR, among other intentions. For many decades, I dismissed her prayers as naive and unrealistic until, to my great shock, the USSR did collapse in the ’80s! I asked myself how that could have happened. Was it mere coincidence? How could the prayers of old women cause a world upheaval? I am not sure. But after the fall of communism, I was much more open to the force and power of prayers. There must be silent but powerful forces in the world that keep it from falling completely apart.

In this world where almost everyone seems weary and weak in spirit, people are frantically searching for any “thrill of hope,” waiting to rejoice a “new and glorious morn.” Maybe this is a time when everyone should be looking for the ray of hope not in the usual settings. Perhaps we should try looking at places we mostly always ignore. We can search for that hope right here within our midst. We need not look far or wide. Truth is, it has always been around us but we never noticed it. That’s because we were always searching for something dramatic or different.

I often think that God amuses himself by challenging us to find Him in the ordinary, in the boring and sometimes even in the annoying. He likes us to see Him in everyone we meet. After all, if there is God, “the Father, Son and Holy Ghost,” there must be God the security guard, the tricycle driver, the beggar in the street, the neighbor, etc.

God can be found not in churches and temples alone. God also lives outside the designated holy places we visit. He can be found everywhere. And because he can be found anywhere, God is telling us that every place is sacred and holy like a church, and that every person reflects the face of God.

The message here is that life is always rich and blessed. And hoping for a better world unleashes the good in all of us.

When we awaken to this, the “crazy” becomes the norm. We defy the cynics. Every moment becomes Christmas. And Jesus is every person. Then we can happily shout, “Peace on earth and goodwill to all men!”

Read more at https://www.philstar.com/lifestyle/sunday-life/2018/12/23/1879122/dont-look-christmas-it-right-here#47Sw6LcXCqBfjpfY.99

Living with a creative 0

Posted on December 16, 2018 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE – Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) – December 16, 2018 – 12:00am
Most of the time you, dear readers, read about Lydia Paredes only in relation to me. Yes, she is my wife, and mother of my kids. She is also a grandmother to my grandchildren. She is my partner for life.

She doesn’t enjoy the limelight. She is a very private person. But I would like to write about her for my column today. I know there are so many aspects to a person and a single article will not be enough to even introduce her to you. For this article, I would like to focus on her creative side, and how she continuously transforms our home into something more elegant every now and then.

The house we live in now was completely her concept. She imagined, pictured and designed every inch of it with the help of husband-and-wife team architects Edwin and Divina Mallari. The house is mostly made of 100-year-old wood which we bought in the province. They were tearing down an old mansion to build a new modern concrete structure. We bought every piece of timber of the old mansion. With what we had, she created the design of the house and meticulously supervised the construction.

Lydia has a style about her. Whereas I look at a corner in the house and am happy with the way it is, she likes to reimagine or make it more interesting and beautiful, adding an aesthetic narrative.

image: http://media.philstar.com/images/the-philippine-star/lifestyle/sunday-life/20181216/lif6-Lydias-house-Altar.jpg

Enter here: Expectedly, the house is transformed and alive with Christmas cheer like it is every year. She always makes sure the two themes of Christmas — the Christian and the Yuletide — are present.

Often she buys stuff that can remain in storage for a few months waiting for inspiration to make it come to life. When the right moment comes, she unboxes the items for use. Then new artworks, picture frames, little statues, new lamps, and abubuts suddenly appear around our home.

Chairs and sofas are perennially rearranged, reupholstered, reset and transferred to different locations. New tablecloths, placemats, chair covers, potted plants appear. There is always something new. She believe that the things inside a house should be moved around often to remove the build-up of stale energy.

Lydia is a hobbyist. In Sydney, she likes taking classes to learn different skills. She paints, does mosaic, soft sculpture. She used to teach pottery. Once she took up stained glass making. She also likes to pick up simple carpentry tools to fix things around the house. She actually repainted our house in Sydney. She has a knack for creating little “worlds” around the home where things are thematically matched and put together nicely.

She also has a green thumb and likes to plant, prune and rearrange the garden quite often. We have dozens of little pots with veggie seeds, or exotic fruits in informal nurseries and flowers waiting to be planted in the ground.

image: http://media.philstar.com/images/the-philippine-star/lifestyle/sunday-life/20181216/lif6-Nativity-Scene-Decors.jpg

Our house is awash with both Nativity scenes and the glitter and boughs of holly.
She likes to bake delicious cookies, desserts and special meals for our family and friends. She makes the best sandwiches. She also loves coffee and relishes it in the morning. When I invite people to meetings at home, she makes sure everything is prepared and the house is “presentable.” As much as I already assure her that everything is fine as it is, she always goes the extra mile to make sure it is — by her standards.

Expectedly, the house is transformed and alive with Christmas cheer like it is every year. She always makes sure the two themes of Christmas — the Christian and the Yuletide — are present. As a result our house is awash with both Nativity scenes and the glitter and boughs of holly. Both the worldly and the spiritual are represented. Because of her, the house looks extra joyful.

Every few years, she likes to do major renovations. I like to tease her and say that she suffers from an “edifice” complex. She has the need to build, revise or fix things. When she presents a plan, I say yes even if I can barely visualize what she wants to do. Almost blindly, and with great trust, I concur. Between the two of us, she is the one who talks to carpenters, electricians, landscapers, contractors, etc. I always joke that I am only the one who pays the bills. And it is not really a joke. While I may complain each time I have to shell out, I am always amazed and impressed at how things turn out. She knows what she likes and she goes for it. And it is always a wonderful creation.

image: http://media.philstar.com/images/the-philippine-star/lifestyle/sunday-life/20181216/lif6-Nativity-Scene-Decors-2.jpg

She instinctively knows and understands Feng Shui, which she says is mere common sense. Basically, she believes the flow of energy in any structure must not be trapped. A house must attract energy and must also have an exit so that everything inside is fresh and rejuvenated.

To live with a creative person is to live with the unexpected. Be ready to be surprised and delighted often.

She isn’t finished decorating for Christmas yet. Very soon our Sydney-based daughter Ala Buencamino, her husband John and their little girl Zadie will be here. As a lola, she is crazy about our apo. Actually, we both are. She is making sure that Zadie’s experience of her home in Manila will be a memorably happy, wondrous one.

And I know Lydia will pull it off with great style and lots of heart!

Read more at https://www.philstar.com/lifestyle/sunday-life/2018/12/16/1877189/living-creative#W3y040D9oQD7v9Be.99

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

#ArtForcesPH 0

Posted on November 30, 2018 by jimparedes

ArtForcesPH is a group of artists who stand for Truth, Democracy, Freedom and justice. Currently, we want people to articulate their voices regarding what they think should be issues in the May 2019 elections. Many artists made videos. You can find the Art Forces PH (cause) on FB. Or just type the hashtag on twitter and IG. We urge everyone to do their own video and use our hashtag

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