Sir Paul, Mrs. Gomez and Ms. Bhagdad!

I can’t believe next week will pass by and I will NOT be in LA to see Paul Macartney live at the Spreckles Arena. Damn. I actually have a ticket already. My sister bought it months ago but as luck would have it, I am Manila bound for now what with all the commitments I have to fulfill. There’s my upcoming photo exhibit and a few commitments that need to be done. Oh well. I know I am really missing a big deal but duty calls.

I actually saw the Beatles live in Manila in 1967. I was 15 years old and my brother Raffy and I were among those who packed the Ninoy Aquino Stadium. We were at the shitty sits at the back which were all we could afford then but let me tell you, it was GREAT. It was the second to the last show of the last Beatles tour before they disbanded. I look at that concert to this day as one of the high points in my life. Regrettably, it was also a memorable–no, more of traumatic time for John, Paul, George and Ringgo since the then powerful Marcoses through their henchmen maltreated and manhandled them on their way out of Manila for supposedly snubbing Imee, Irene and Bongbong at a Malacanang party. (Personally, I feel that should have been the first crime that they should have been shot for!).

And so, in place of seeing Sir Paul live in LA, I watched Paul Macartney Live in Red Square DVD this morning. Pampalubag loob! Just the same, you should watch it since it’s a great docu.

–In the glamorous, shiny and shallow showbiz world where I work partime, it’s not as easy to find real people. It’s not that everyone is a Barbie or a Ken, although many are content to project just that. It’s also the whole set-up where image is tops and decidedly more important than reality. People are projected to be bigger than life, perfect and special and several notches above all the rest of humanity. No one is a ‘regular guy’, not to their audience! It’s not their fault really. The audience also likes to play along.

Thus, often you may be mingling with people and not really have any conversations of substance. The cards can be stacked against forming intimate bonds, or getting a glimpse of anything beyond the ‘politically correct’ or in some cases, the bad boy/girl image that the media likes to encourage. Don’t get me wrong, I have close friends in showbiz too. But knowing that the biz is an image business is the reality we all live by. Suffice it to say, when we meet someone who steps out of the romantic, perfect image he/she is caged in and engages us as a real person, it is a pleasant surprise.

I first met Lucy Torres-Gomez a few days ago. She and Mark Nelson were the hosts of the South Forbes Golf City launch at the NBC tent where APO performed. It was quite refreshing to discover a real person beyond the regal, high-society, uptown girl persona and who also turns out to be a down-to earth, proud-to-be-promdi person so easy and pleasant to be with. During breaks at rehearsals and the show, she would sit with us and talk about everything. I was surprised to discover a very open person whose intelligence, refreshing innocence and candor were disarming. I found particularly amusing her anecdotal story of her ‘culture shock’ when she moved from Ormoc to Manila in college. While laughing, she told me how she was so surprised to know that people in Manila actually bought bananas and coconuts when those things were just picked out of their backyard back home! We talked about a lot of other things—politics, relationships, jokes, personal growth, etc. which I will keep to myself, not because they were intimate, important stuff but… because!

I knew there was much more to how media was projecting her especially when I read her columns in Philippine Star. (She told me people always ask her if she has a ghost writer. Understandably so since she’s ‘too good-looking to be a writer’, as I jokingly told her). It’s not that the whole sophisticated classy, beauty icon we see is a fake one. No. She is also all that–beautiful, glamourous, and much more. Richard, you’re one lucky guy!

There’s something important to learn about going beyond our own stereotypical impressions when we meet people. It does not do anyone any service to put people in boxes. As zen puts it, and I paraphrase, ‘the same moon is reflected on the big lake and the small puddle of water.’ Artista, celebrity, masa, karaniwang tao—it does not matter. Their really only labels anyway. Beyond all the facade of who we are projected or assumed to be, I believe we all share the same Original Face or Buddha nature!


Danny, Boboy and I were talking to Robert Sena, singer and veteran actor about his stint in the London and Germany Ms. Saigon runs, and an old idea flashed back to me. Imagine this! Ten years from now, West End in London or Broadway in NY may just make a musical about the Iraqi war. “Ms. Bhagdad” would be the true story of an American nuclear inspector who falls in love with one of Saddam’s daughters. Lea Salonga, and all the other cast members of Ms. Saigon (who should all be past 40 by then), can still apply since whoever plays the role of Ms. Bhagdad will have to be covered in a Burqa anyway.

Come to think of it, even Sylvia la Torre could aspire for the role. Can’t wait to hear “The Heat is On in Bhagdad’, and ‘You are G.I. and I am Baath party member’!

Ha ha!

asking for something and getting it

‘Ask and ye shall receive.’ This is what the Bible tells us. The Chinese state it more cautiously when they say, ‘Be careful of what you ask for, you might get it.’ Many times in life, I did ask, and guess what? I did receive many times in amounts that often were quite overwhelming. (This inludes the material stuff—Ipods, cars, cell phones, etc.. although this entry is about much more than that). Some of them I continue to receive in doses that I can handle. Some I got when I stopped asking. And many more I received and continue to do so even if I do not always have the wisdom to expressly ask for them! Here’s a list of what I have asked for, and received, some of them in abundance. Thank you Universe!

I asked that I would someday own a house.

I asked that I would be able to sing and write my own songs.

I asked that someday I would get to do at least one recording in my life.

I wished that I would have one small photo published somewhere so I could claim to be a published photographer.

My third book Writing On Water

I dreamed of having my writings published—in some magazine, and if I am lucky, maybe get a book published and released.

I prayed that I would be able to travel!

I wanted to perform in at least two other countries aside from the Philippines.

I prayed that I would be given a chance to have some sort of positive impact in the lives of some people.

I asked that I be able to teach a course or subject I conceptualized myself.

I asked that I be able to meet and recognize the many faces of God through as many people–that I may see Buddha-nature, or Christ in every sentient being, and in as many places and situations as possible— (This is my ongoing my spiritual practice).

I asked that I may be allowed to touch the core of the very meaning of life and understand it. (This is being given in doses I can handle–most of the time).

I asked that I may have the gift of constantly seeing the eternal reality that seems covered behind every fleeting moment and situation.

I asked for beautiful, healthy children to raise and love.

I asked that I be blest with a long lasting and a loving relationship with my significant other.

I asked that I may understand and accept myself just as I am so that I may understand and accept others just as they are. (I’m getting there slowly. Some days, it is harder than others).

I asked that I may see the real mission assigned to me in this life. (Sometimes it is quite clear. Sometimes, not at all, although these days it has quite been clear).

I asked for enough wealth that I don’t worry too much about keeping body and soul together.

I asked for enough fame and recognition I can handle.

I ask that I may be reminded to always stay in the present as often as I can.

I asked for the ever-renewing capacity to be happy.

I pray that the “I” who asks for all this will always be able to give up and surrender to the bigger “I” who really runs everything.

I pray that all may experience the ever-present gift of Oneness. (This I KNOW will eventually be recognized by everyone).

What’s on your list?

* * *

Photographer caught in the act! Thanks to maricar Lopez for the picture.

There is one rather mundane wish that has been on my mind for sometime which will finally come true. There will be an exhibition of my photographs this Dec. 8, 2005 at the Renaissance Gallery in Megamall. I have been wishing this for sometime and decided to take the wonderful and creative step of actually doing it. I was at Studio 58, my printer of choice to finalize the 30 or so pictures which will be exhibited. The subjects have something to do with, (A for air) as in clouds, fog , (Water) water, boats and beach, and and (Earth) flora and landscapes. Thus I am calling it JIM PAREDES IN A.W.E.—a Photographic Exhibition! It will run for only a week. I hope you can visit and who knows, buy a photo or two..or three! Pasko na!

Aloha! Mahalo! We love you Hawaii!

Never say never.

We finally made it back to Hawaii after we swore 19 years ago that we would not return. You see, the last time we stepped into Hawaiian immigration in 1987, Danny, Boboy and I were arrested, handcuffed and detained for 8 hours in a lonely jail. If you want to know why, I can’t really tell you. Nobody really knows for sure. It must have been a case of inter-office wrangling between the US embassy in Manila which claims we had the right papers, and the Hawaiian authorities saying we were carrying the wrong visas. And even if that happened a good 19 years ago, the incident still comes up every time we apply for a visa since all past records, even if already cleared and clarified were once again revived after 911. It continues to haunt us today albeit with lesser intensity. And so you can understand why we entered Hawaii with mixed feelings. But thanks to the warm weather, Oahu’s tropical informality and our producer’s hospitality, our anxieties quickly dissipated.

‘We got leid!’

Taking a break!

We arrived 5 days early for the concert since we needed to do promo work. You see, aside from the fact that producers were telling us how hard it is for our kababayans to part with their money for anything, Sharon and Martin were also performing the day after our show and so we needed maximum visibility. Traditionally, people do not buy tickets until the artists are confirmed to have arrived and are seen everywhere. So we spent the next 5 days going to the different Filipino eateries, visiting radio shows, military camps, clinics were Filipinos gather. Everywhere we went, we posed for pictures, signed autographs, engaged in small talk, and interacted with fans. It was a killer schedule. The few breaks we had, I either slept in my room or walked around Waikiki taking pictures and just enjoying time for myself.

Tourists along Waikiki.

Hawaii is a sun worshipper’s place.

The Japanese and their cameras!

Filipinos comprise 20% of the Hawaiian population, and most of them, some 85% are Ilocanos. Hawaii is very laid back, informal, multicultural and yes, even ‘provincial’. Unlike the Pinoys in the US mainland, our kababayans in Hawaii do not feel any need to assimilate with the rest of society. You can hear Ilocano spoken everywhere and can actually find pakbet, saluyot and other Ilocos delicacies easily. After all, this is not haoli (white) country and so the Ilocanos, the Japanese, and other ethnic groups are at home just as they are.

We were somewhat worried for awhile espoecially when we heard that there were Ilocano old timers who still harbored resentment over our participation in EDSA 1. Their idol Marcos was from Ilocos Sur, and is still revered by many to this day. But when we started to mingle, we began to feel that our fear was overrated. We were received quite warmly, and yes, excitedly everywhere we went. A lot of them remember with fondness our songs, the past concerts they had attended back home, and thanks to TV, our days as hosts of Salingonaposila. These were the ties that bound us with them.

We had thought of a few funny lines we could use to break the clannish ethnic Ilocano barrier. We had a list of famous Ilocanos who had supposedly ‘made it big in Hollywood’ kuno—people like Steve McWEN, Richard Gearrrrr, Arnold Swarzeneggerrrr, all said in thick Ilocano accent . We also had a quip about how Jesus Christ could be Ilocano. Why? Because He SAVES! And that INRI thing on top of the cross—could it have actually stood for Ilocos Norte Region 1? We ended up not doing any of them during the concert and instead sang a few lines of Ti Ayat Ti Maysa Nga Ubing, and Manang Biday which quickly melted the ethnic ice. After that, it was easy pickings! Our concert, though not a full house was nevertheless momentous and great fun! We gave our all and we felt gloriously reciprocated. Because of that. whatever Hawaii had meant to us previously had now been forgotten. Starting November 12, Hawaii was not just Apo Ferdinand’s country alone but APO Jim, Danny and Boboy’s country as well!

Great crowd. We love you Hawaii!

We continue to learn about what the Filipino is like abroad because we meet so many of them in our travels. It can be both funny and pathetic how we, especially when we are abroad are both global and parochial. True, it is admirable how easily we can adapt to cultures and societies which seem so different from ours. It is no secret that we can live and thrive anywhere. But at the same time, we have witnessed how so divided we can be regionally. Just try counting how many Filipino organizations there are in every place, most of the time borne out of a need to group themselves around regional or ethnic identities. In Madrid, we witnessed a basketball game between Batanguenos and Cavitenos turn into a boxing match within the first 6 minutes! Try to count how Pinoy civic groups there are in LA alone! Everyone feels the need to be a president of something! If there are 100 Filipinos anywhere outside the country, expect 102 organizations to spring up! Ganyan yata tayo talaga.

I am writing this (Danny and Boboy beside me)at the Northwest Lounge at Narita while waiting for our flight to Manila. Like our kababayans, we the APO see ourselves as both global and local. We tour everywhere and can find our way around the geography and cultures of the Americas, the Middle East, Europe, Asia and anywhere. We are local as we proudly proclaim that we are Filipinos and communicate the music, humor and sentiments of who we are. We are proud to say we do it quite well and really communicate the ‘Philippine Experience’. Never mind that I was born in Luzon, Danny in the Visayas and Boboy in Mindanao. We decided long ago that our commonality as Filipinos was more important.

I guess by ‘local’, I mean ‘national’.

Three For Texas

(This was an entry written before I got to San Francisco for Halloween and kinda picks up from two entries ago. I just thought I would still include it here before I write about our show here in San Jose which will happen tomorrow night).

We arrived in Austin in a bangag state last October 23 after a show in Detroit the night before. With hardly any sleep, we rode on a plane that took us to this premiere Texas City that is home to the current US President. We checked in at the Park Hotel and after a few hours, we were dressed for the show which was in the ballroom at the lobby floor.

The ballroom was small but the crowd of about 400 was enough to make it full. It was a minus-one show, meaning, we were singing to taped orchestration–no live musicians! Nevertheless, it was a great and fun show since the Pinoy Texans knew how to make us feel at home with loud applause and screams. What made the show more special was meeting up with an old friend of Danny’s from college. LJ, who was UP’s heartthrob and who played the lead role in the prodction of ‘Hair” during the wild 70’s, found us backstage before the show and even joined us after.

This was our third gig in three nights and showing up for each one involved getting up early and taking a plane ride. We were tired when we came on stage, but the enthusiasm of the crowd revved up our adrenalin. By the third song, we were in fighting form.

The next few days were spent doing promo work in San Antonio and Dallas and catching up with sleep. Our San Antonio show was held at the Pueblo Hall last October 28. Again it was a minus-1 show but it was pretty good. The stage was tiny, the audience had tables which were too expensive to take out, and we also had no backstage for costume changes. We literally had to dress up outside the hall under the stars. But again, meeting all these new people who were watching us for the first time compensated for everything.

The next morning saw us on a 5 hour land trip to Dallas for a show the same evening at the Black Academy of Performing Arts within the Dallas Convention Hall. The last time we performed in this city was in 1975. We were very psyched up for the show since the venue was so elegant and we were performing with our musicians. The evening of the 29th of October was our crowning glory for the Texas leg of ‘The APO Experience’ tour. The sound, lights, audience were simply wonderful. Our performance was the ingredient which made the synergy that evening really super. We could not help but be in top form. We felt that strangely enough, we were effortlessly giving 120% and getting returns in the 300% or higher. Dallas will be hard to forget.

Doing an Abbey Road ala Beatles with Sammy Samaniego, our production guy where JFK was shot! Thanks Rico Villavicencio for the pic.

All in all, the Pinoy Texans were very hospitable, friendly and a lot of fun. We thank the Last Minute group who front-acted for us and gave us real genuine cowboy hats. Special Thanks also to our producers Gigi Hobson, Susan Young Blood, my newly discovered cousin Vicky Lopez, Rico Villavicencio, the Orosa Family, the Valeras (relatives), and Gilbert,(Gigi’s brother who drove us all around), Cathrina of Hilton Hotel who made our stay there very comfortable and all the great Pinoy restaurants which hosted lunches and dinners for us. There are too many names to mention. Forgive us if we missed out.

Red elegant seats! Theater usher gamely posing for me.

Hey Texas, thank y’all! Till we meet again, hopefully before 20 30 years.


Sorry if this entry sounds like a Maurice Arcache or a Tim Yap column. It’s just so much fun to gawk and stare and photograph bohemians in my midst. They were all out there promenading, parading, preening, and just plain showing off on that night when ghouls, ghosts, witches and San Franciscans love to come out and party. Only in San Francisco folks! I wish my kids were here. They would have LOVED this.

It’s not easy being green

Dork and Mindy

Hot mama!!!

Thank God there was security!

Even royalty was partying!

This IS San Francisco!

I could even see her molecular structure!

Sail on Silver Girl!

Peace on earth goodwill to all!

Ooh la la!

Saint and sinner!

Hard to tell the angels from the vamps!

Don’t you just looove San Francisco?