two talks and a gig

Last Monday, I talked to parents of Xavier School about my own experiences at parenting. We covered a lot of ground, from family rituals, to learning how to listen, sex matters, and modeling responsible adulthood to our kids. I was surprised at the turnout of people. We had close to a full house. But what surprised me even more was the length of my talk which I thought would last about an hour including Q and A. As it turned out, the whole affair lasted close to three hours. I had a great time. I felt very connected to my audience who shared the metaphor I made about parenting today. I said it was like driving without a rear view mirror. It was going into uncharted territory into a world very different from how our parents raised us.

There were two songs I shared with them which had a special meaning to my family. One of them was a song I had written and given to Erica when she turned 18. After I played it, many of the parents approached me and asked where they could get the song. You can get it from an album called Jim Paredes: Ako Lang. It’s the only recording I did without my two friends Danny and Boboy. For those who requested for the lyrics, here it is:

My little known solo album!


Don’t take my word or anyone else’s
What’s right for me may not be right for you
I have my own dreams
I live my own story
And someday soon you’ll be living yours too

Enjoy your own joys
Gain from your own pain
Dream your own dreams
Dance to your own song

It’s the only way to go
It’s the only road you’ll ever know

Live your own life
Feel it so you know it’s real
Hold on to your own truth
Live life without any fear
Decide your own fate
With bated breath the world awaits
Make your own mark
All you gotta do is start

There’s no two people in this world who’ve got the same point of view
There’s no one else who’s gonna live your life better than you

Cry your own tears
Believe in your own cause
Don’t be afraid if sometimes you feel lost

It’s the only way to go
It’s the only way you’ll ever know


Everything you need is inside of you
You’re the fire and breath of your own soul


-Jim Paredes 1997
Click here to listen.

Last night, I did my first real concert with APO since my operation. I was very nervous because the truth is, my voice has not returned to normal. My lower notes are OK and I have a passable falsetto, but my middle register is not there yet. And I run out of breath so easily. During rehearsals last Thursday, we drew up a repertoire of easy songs to sing, and thought of killer spiels to make up for what we could not deliver in songs.

To my great surprise last night, the three of us worked like a great team despite my ‘handicap’. Anytime my voice gave way, I felt Boboy or Danny come to the rescue. It was so reassuring to be with people who know me and were aware of the pitfalls that I could fall into with every song. We bowed from the stage after an hour and thirty minutes to an audience applauding loudly, screaming for more and refusing to stand up from their seats till we turned on the house lights to signify it was really over.

I felt good that I was able to do this despite my great fear of making a fool of myself. It was a long drive from Cabanatuan after the show but I felt aglow that I was really recovering.

Everyday since the operation, I wake up and listen to my body and notice that I am able to recover some capacity or function that took a back seat after the operation. It could be greater stamina, or my vocal chords hitting a note higher than the day before, or it could be less pain on my scar. Truly, what does not kill you will make you stronger! Soon, I will be back with a vengeance on stage!

Joey Ayala

Today, I had fun being a panelist with Ryan Cayabyab and Joey Ayala in a composers forum held at Balay Kalinaw in UP. We talked about our experiences as composers, and answered the questions raised by the very attentive and appreciative audience. One of the really outstanding questions asked was whether there was a real advantage in being able to write in Pilipino. All of us answered in the affirmative. I explained that I get a kick knowing that someone, say, from Batangas and someone else from another part of the Philippines such as Iloilo could enjoy a Tagalog song I wrote. I feel that somehow, I am an instrument in nation building because a song of mine makes it possible for them to have a shared experience. I also emphasized that it was important for us to try to break into the world music scene not as extensions of any other culture but ours. And only writing in Pilipino or our own dialects can do that. Just as the Chinese, Brazillians, the Japanese and the others had done it, we can only do it by simply being ourselves!

Ryan Cayabyab

Ryan pointed out that no matter how well we THINK we can write or sing in English, we will not be able to capture the nuances and inflections of the use of English the way the Brits and the Americans do it. We will always be an ‘OTHER’, despite how seamlessly we think we do it. Just watch MTV and see Indonesians, Indians or Malaysians trying it. They probably, in their eyes, feel that they are seamlessly integrated into the LA music scene, but we know that it’s not really so. Masyadong ‘feeling’, as we say. It probably is the same way with us from someone else’s point of view. In the end, we can only be,.. no.. we MUST be ourselves if the world is to listen to us and take us seriously! This is OPM’s challenge.

To thine self be true, ika nga!

Of Films, Operations and English-speaking Pets

After so many years, Danny, Boboy, and I have come back on the silver screen. Not since Blue Jeans, or Kakabakaba Ka Ba? or Kung Mangarap ka’t Magising have we appeared in movies with roles more than mere extras. Lasponggols is one of many finalists in the Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival 2005 that was made by Sigfreid Barros-Sanchez, an independent film maker. He is a very tall guy whose love and enthusiasm for movies is undying. He is a big APO fan and that’s why he asked us to be in this film he wrote annd directed. The film was shot on a shoestring budget in a rustic barrio in the middle of Tarlac.

Actually, I have never felt comfortable doing movies or TV except when singing or hosting. Acting is an alien craft to me, or perhaps I just haven’t given it that much of a chance. For this film, I am an architect who is fed up with city life and opts to live in the barrio. The shooting was fun and very interesting, but I honestly don’t know how everything turned out. We did not do too many takes and everything we did, I felt was quite understated since we did not get any directorial feedback to sort of calibrate our portrayals. I am assuming, it was OK . Sana. But then this is me talking. I was rather intrigued when I received via email Sigfreid’s invitation to his film’s screening which he called ‘the worst film of the year’! I am not sure if he was joking although come to think of it, that’s Sigfreid–self-disparaging at times in a tongue-in-cheek kind of way, or at least Boboy says. If I sound defensive, maybe I am. Ha ha! But who knows? I have not seen a single frame of the movie so I may be surprised! Boboy, the only one of us who has watched it said he was pleasantly surprised although he felt it was a tad too long.

Rapunzel Hernandez, Danny’s daughter in LASPONGGOLS

I believe there’s a screening this Friday, July 22 at the UP Film Institute sponsored by UP praxis. Do catch it.

Lydia checks in Tuesday for her hysterectomy. I’m glad I got to talk this morning to the surgeon who operated on me last week. He took off the dressing on my neck and said I was healing pretty well. More than talk about my own condition, I asked all the nagging questions I had about recovering from a hysterectomy. While it is a major operation, Lydia can probably be driving in about two weeks although technically, full healing is about 5-months. That gives us both assurances that physical suffering will not be too prolonged.

I will be sleeping the hospital tomorrow and the next few days and so will not be checking this blog often–maybe from time to time if at all until she’s nice and settled back home here in our room. Once again, I ask for good healing thoughts, prayers and wishes from all of you.

Although I am still physically weak and lose my breath easily, I am glad to be caring for Lydia who shows no hesitation in doing so for us, her loved ones, when we are sick.

I’ve added a new link among my Jim’s links on the right of the page. It leads you to Filphoto. It has two albums of pics from my old files. I thought I’d share them with everyone. Enjoy!

Lastly, I thought I’d share an interesting question I asked my class to ponder on last week. These days, we are discussing the Filipino’s capacity to switch from English to Tagalog anytime, even in mid-sentence. It’s as if we have access to two worlds. It’s amazing when you sit in our class and listen to the discussion unravel and realize the implications of this.

Anyway, the big question is,..are you ready? Here it is: why do we talk to dogs and other pets in English? Hmmm.. This should keep you stumped and hanging till my next entry.

Till I write again which I hope will be soon.

.2 kg. lighter, Pancit Canton, and a search for a title!

It’s gone. This thing on my neck that I’d been carrying with me for 27 years is no longer. It started in Baguio when I had just gotten married. I woke up and saw a lump on the left side of my throat that had appeared overnight!. Throughout the years, it had grown until my trachea had actually become crooked because of the pressure from this lump attached to my thyroid.

Today, I am .2 kilos lighter after the operation and thyroid-less. Dr. Cabalona, my surgeon and my endocrinologist Dr. Kasala decided to take out the whole thing since statistically, males who have thyroid lumps the size of what I had usually had cancer cells in them. Today, 5 days after the operation, I was told that mine was not cancerous. What a relief! But then I suspected deep down that it probably wasn’t cancer since I am quite in touch with my body and I felt healthy and cancer-free.

Right now, I am fine although my body is tired and exhausted. My vocal chords have been retained although it will take me a few weeks to be back in my usual singing form. Meanwhile, I like staring at the mirror and seeing a lean neck for a change and wearing shirts buttoned all the way to the collar. This way, I can hide my bandages until I heal totally.

I love the new Medical City. It is a spanking new hospital with very efficient and caring nurses and staff. The rooms are bright and pleasant and look a little like hotel rooms. One of my good memories about my stay there was waking up to my song ‘When I Met You’ in the recovery room right after my operation. I actually cried when I heard it, not just because I felt it was so thoughtful of them to do that but because I woke up hearing myself talk and realized that I did not lose my vocal chords, my single great fear about the operation. I cried when I realized that despite my mental preparations, I know I am not ready to stop singing.

During my stay at room 714, while the Philippines teetered on edge due to the countless demands by the various sectors for PGMA to resign, I felt passionless and above the fray. My concerns were modest—like how to navigate using the toilet while attached to a dextrose, and how to sleep on my back with as little movement as possible so I do not strain my stitched neck. You might say that I was totally not into the macro view of things but quite absorbed with my everyday practical needs. To while the time, I looked out the window, read my book, slept when I could and bonded with Lydia and Ala who took turns sleeping in the room. Ala brought her mac computer and let me listen to music she liked. Lydia helped me entertain visitors and made sure I was fed well and not straining myself.

I am at home now as I write this and just taking it easy resting my weak body, even if I know that by next week, I will be waiting on Lydia as she goes through a hysterectomy. As I was undergoing my thyroid operation, she was having her D&C. This is another thing we worry about although we are quite relieved to have been informed that the abnormal cells found inside her are not yet cancerous. She will be operated next week. I will be staying in the hospital with her until she is ready to go home.

I thank everyone who called, visited, texted and wrote to show their care and support when I was confined. If it is not too much to ask, please do the same, and pray for Lydia’s speedy and complete recovery as well.

My son Mio is having the time of his life in Oxford. Within the first two days, he had 5 sets of friends already. Among his friends is Zelda Williams, comedian Robin’s actress daughter who is ¼ Pinay!. Mio is easy to like. He has a ready smile, plays the guitar and easily shares his stuff with people. His American friends seem to have developed the taste for the instant Pancit Canton which he brought grudgingly after his mom suggested he bring them for midnight snacks. He now says he should have brought more so he could sell them! Ha ha! Moms just seem to know everything, I tell you!

We will be off on another tour before the end of the year. As usual, we are again at a loss for a tour name. After so many years, medyo mahirap na mag-isip! I would like to ask you dear reader for a title that is, a) within the spirit of what APO is all about b) friendly to and aimed at the Fil-Am market, c) gimmicky, smart, and suggests fun and excitement. Please avoid APO Spring Tour 2005, or anything with posila attached to it. I’ve submitted my list and I just know that the producers will ask for more. If we do use your title, I promise a CD signed by the three of us.

new ways

Once again, we are on the deep end as a nation. As painful and anguish-filled as it may be, I believe that GMA has no real option now but to resign. If she stays, how can she address anyone–the youth PMA, or anybody and talk about values, etc. when people believe she cheated? Historically, we’ve always had a ‘lesser evil” approach to choice. Here is one chance we can show ourselves that we can make the ‘more moral’ one. If we refuse to correct this, let’s throw away all pretensions at democracy, elections and all that.

The clowns in the opposition who want an extra-judicial take over, and our vice-President ascending to power give me no comfort either. But between the opposition and Noli, I will abide by the constitutional process and go for Noli. We collectively chose him and so we have to go by this.

I also worry that the VAT will not be implemented. As difficult as that may be, the truth is we really have to face up to our addiction to borrowing. To keep doing so is unsustainable. Tama na. Let’s bite the bullet now because it becomes harder everytime we delay the inevitable. Sure, there are the crooks who will steal our taxes. That’s another problem that we must face. But that should not be an excuse. No more buck-passing and blaming others. We gotta do it.

These are dangerous transitions we are going through as a nation. Almost every institution is broken and needs major repair and rethinking. Aside from the government, all the other institutions such as the church, big business, military, media, etc. have been major disappointments as well.

When we are ready for a future that is different from the past, we will need to drop our existing mental models to see things differently. Otherwise, we will keep on coming out with the same solutions.

For every crisis, we can almost predict how the sectors in our society will act (or react), starting with the government which will defend its policies, the opposition which will condemn government, the media which will bleed the story dry but will not really inform, the NGOs and the church which will show shock, disdain, and condemnation and offer the same old ‘solutions’ to the crisis.

The book Presence gives a very good idea of how change in South Africa and many places happened and is happening. Biases, paradigms, knee jerk reactions had to come crashing down. The writers of the book saw how the old way of knowing–a) gather information, b) follow due diligence procedures, c) decide what you want to do, d) make decisions and enrol people in the decision, e) and follow through monitoring and adjusting as you go, was not sufficient anymore.

The new way of learning goes like this: a) sensing—observe, become one with the world, b) presencing–retreat and reflect, allow inner knowing to emerge, c) realizing, act swiftly, with a natural flow. It involves a lot internal work.

I am not a political scientist, or even anywhere close. I am just an artist. But as one, I can tell you that in my field, this works. I ‘marinate’ myself in the topic or emotion and when ready, I write it in 5 minutes. When I want a difficult time, I become logical with preconcieved ideas and judge my work even before it is finished and most of the time, it comes out so-so!

What if we begin to look at things differently? What if instead of looking at the problem ‘objectively’ or ‘out there’ as if it was external to us, (e.g. ‘they’ are ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’ or ‘sinful’ and we are different) begin to look at it from the inside? We ARE after all really inside this society. We must become present to it, in it and with it. We are it! We must heal ourselves not just politically, but wholistically. The solutions lie with us and not some external knight in shining armor who will save us. Let’s look for new leaders and solutions beyond the usual suspects and old formulas we have been used to.

An isolated cell that stops working in consonance with the rest of the body mutates into cancer. We must work with our leaders and vice-versa. Otherwise, they become unanswerable to anyone and can become antagonistic to their constituents.

Just thought I’d share some wild and incoherent thoughts! We all seem to be stuck anyway. If you think this is a crazy thought, please don’t send me a thought I have already heard. Send a crazier one.

Forgive me. I told myself I would not write about things directly political on this blog but I thought I’d break my own rule since these topics have far-reaching repercussions. Kawawa naman ang Pilipinas. How much more self-inflicted pain can we bear before we totally break down as a nation. Is that what is required before decide to wake up to our greatness? What a high price to pay.

* * *

You gotta hand it to Live 8. What a show and what a great way to spread the word. They recieved 27 million texts of support, plus a viewership of billions all over the world. We really must be living in a new era. The people who see the really important problems of the world are not the politicians but unlikely people, e.g. rockstars like Bono and Bob Geldof and the rest. I found it quite funny that Bob Geldof sent a letter to the Pope soliciting his support for the campaign for G8 to save Africa and the Pope responds by sending Bob his picture!! I saw him on BBC say, ‘I don’t want your picture. I want your support!” Can you imagine these old Italian priets who opened the letter and probably had never heard of Bob Geldof automaticaly just putting the Pope’s picture on an envelope and sending it like fan mail Bizarre!

* * *

This will be my last post for about a week. I will be checking into a hospital for an operation on my thyroid tomorrow. There is a mass connected to it and it is encroaching on my trachea. It’s nothing new. In fact it’s been there for the past 30 years except that it suddenly got bigger recently. No, there is no cancer nor anything toxic. This is a simple operation that will relieve the pressure on my trachea.

I will be in the hospital for about 3 to 4 days and will be back in the classroom by Tuesday of next week. No internet. Only books. I just don’t know if it will be too painful to move about for awhile so in all probability, I may catch up on sleep. ha ha!

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prayers from everywhere

I’ve been praying a lot lately–for Mio’s travel papers to get fixed, for our country that seems on the brink again, and a lot of other things. There are a lot of reasons I can think of why it is important to pray. Prayers are very powerful. They not only answer our longings and petitions but do a lot of other things. To me, a very important function of prayer is that it can give me a sense of perspective–about the real significance of who we are, or our connectedness to God and everything that is. From time to time, I make my own and I borrow prayers from traditions other than Christian. Below are some of my favorite prayers from zen. Each time I read them, I am greatly moved. These two prayers are said before and after teisho (which is similar to a sermon or talk by a Zen teacher before the sangha or the congregation. A bit long but worth reading!

Jikijitsu (leader):
The Wisdom of God says this:


Source of all Being,
You created me when Your purpose first unfolded
Before the oldest of Your works,
From the everlasting I was firmly set,
From the beginning, before the earth came into being,
The deep was not when I was born.
There were no springs to gush with water.
Before the mountains were settled,
Before the hills I came to birth;
Before You made the earth, the countryside,
Or the first grains of the world’s dust.
When You fixed the heavens firm, I was there,
When You drew a ring on the surface of the deep,
When You thickened the clouds above,
When You fixed fast the springs of the deep,
When You assigned the seas its boundaries —
And the waters will not invade the shore —
When You laid down the foundations of the earth,
I was by Your side, a master artisan,
Delighting You day after day
Ever at play in Your presence,
At play everywhere in Your world,
Delighting to be with the children of earth.


Jikijitsu: Hakuin Zenji’s SONG OF ZAZEN

All beings by nature are Buddha
As ice by nature is water
Apart from water, there is no ice
Apart from beings, no Buddha.
How sad that people ignore the near
And search for Truth afar
Like those in the midst of water
Crying out for thirst
Like a child of a wealthy home
Wandering among the poor.
The karma of our transmigration
Is our dark path of ignorance
From dark path to dark path we wander
When shall we be cut from birth and death?
Oh, the Zenjo of the Mahayana!
To this, the highest praise!
Nembutsu, confession, discipline
The many virtues all rise within Zenjo.
Those who try zazen but once
Sweep all their ancient vice away
Where can evil intentions be
The Pure Land itself is right here.
Those who hear this Truth but once
And listen to It with a grateful heart
Exalting It, revering It;
Gain blessings without end.
Still more, those who turn within
And prove their own self-nature
Self-nature that is no nature
Go far beyond mere cleverness.
They know effect and cause are one
Not two, not three, the path runs straight.
With form that is no form
Going and coming, never astray
With thought that is no thought
Their song and dance are the voice of the Law.
Broad is the sky of Samadhi set free
Transparent the moonlight of wisdom
And what more indeed can we seek?
Here is Nirvana itself revealed
This very place is the Lotus Land
This very body, the Buddha.

* * *

My guide to the Grand Mosque of Bahrain

I was in Bahrain recently and I had a chance to visit the Grand Mosque. What is significant about mosques is that there are no statues, images, symbols of any kind. Why? Because in their view, there is nothing that can represent or symbolize God. Even the elaborate designs and motifs around have no religious significance whatsoever. An 18 year old female scholar who toured me around allowed me to take pictures and gave me the Holy Koran as a present and asked me to look at the very first prayer on it. I was stunned when she pointed out the similarities to the Christian Our Father.

”In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.
Praise be to Allah, the Cherisher and Sustainer of the worlds;
Master of the Day of Judgment. Thee do we serve and Thee do we beseech for help.
Show us the straight way,
The path of those whom Thou hast favoured;
Not the (path) of those who earn Thine anger nor of those who go astray.”

The glorious Mosque which can house 5,000 devotees!

* * *

Our prayers were answered!

Yesterday, Mio left for his 40 day college preparatory course in Oxford and Paris. His visas were issued at the last minute—the UK visa the other day and the French one hours before leaving! I can only roll my eyes since this scenario seems to be very much like Mio. Here’s a little background: He was due to be born Sept. 11, 1987, the late dictator Marcos’ birthday, even as I was hoping he would come out another day. And to further compound the bad luck, the hospital where Lydia was supposed to deliver had a strike going on. But as fortune would have it, the strike ended the very next day, and Mio decided to be born into this world on September 12. It is a better day (definitely much better especially after 9-11 which will forever be known as a day of infamy!). This Blue Dragon boy was born knowing how to avoid minefields. I am confident that no disaster shall befall Mio since so far, the red sea always seems to part when he wants to cross. Ha ha!! This guy always makes it through the skin of his teeth. His Lolas on both sides must be watching out for him as he claims! I do not doubt it.

This my beloved son Mio with whom I am well-pleased!(Generally speaking! ha ha!) Wearing his ‘cool’ cowboy hat!

Farewell Mio! Soak it all in and embrace this wonderful world and all its gifts. Learn from great teachers, meet new, wonderful friends and beautiful girls with strange accents. This is the start of your hero’s journey. May you return a wiser young man with lots of experience but few scars inflicted on yourself and the world!

I wish I could have done this when I was young.