Of great dinners, and home grown chefs

Pictures on exhibition

Last December, I gifted myself with a photo exhibit at the Renaissance Gallery at the Megamall. I use the word ‘gifted’ because I was quite hesitant to embark on any project which would involve money knowing that I was leaving soon. But precisely because I was about to migrate in 3 months and I knew it would be my last chance to have a last exhibit, I treated myself to this personal ‘art extravaganza’. It was called Jim Paredes in A.W.E. You can actually see my musings on it a few blogs back.

About two weeks ago, someone from Canada wrote to me to inquire about purchasing some of my work (photos and books). Because of that, and the requests that came from readers abroad after my exhibit, I have decided to post the pictures online for everyone to peruse. If you want to buy the big versions in 16 1/2 by 24 1/2, and the 20 1/2 by 30 1/2 as they were exhibited, please write me and I will tell you how much they cost and will mail you a signed limited copy.

My new book (the 4th) entitled As Is Where Is should be available in about two months. Once we finish with the layout and editing, anyone can order it via www.lulu.com and it will be printed and delivered to your doorstep anywhere you reside in the world. This is the beauty of the new technology where we can now ‘print on demand’, saving authors and publishers the trouble of having to figure out viabilities of costs based on orders. No more inventories. The book will be printed and delivered when ordered. Now, anyone who wants to write books can now do so without having to pass through the demands of publishers and the world can have access to it. Of course, writers will still have to market it. I figure that through this method, it will make my book more accessible to anyone who may want to purchase a copy. More on this when it is ready.

jammin with kindred souls

Mario, Ding, Irene, Krip and Menchie and me toasting a sumptious dinner at the Roces home.

Three nights ago, I spent my first late night out in Sydney and it wasn’t a night on the town. It was at Ding and Irene Roces’ home at French’s Forest together with Ed Aragon, artist-illustrator of Sydney Morning Herald. (He makes all those wonderful editorial drawings). There were also Ed’s wife Menchi, Krip Yuson, esteemed columnist for Philippine Star, teacher and writer of many books who is here for a writer’s workshop, and Mario Aldeguer, a friend of the Aragons and the Roceses.

What a night it was! It started with snacks, a sumptuous dinner and after a few drinks amid great conversation, we started jamming with Ed on harmonica, Menchi keeping the beat on a native drum, me on guitar and everyone else singing their lungs out. It was a night of kindred souls gathered together–artists of different disciplines and newly discovered friends. Ed and Ding are painters, illustrators, Krip is a writer, and all of us including Mike, Irene and Menchi are passionate about photography. While we were jamming, Ed and Ding brought out their illustration papers and pencils and started doing quick sketches of everyone which they signed and gave away as parting gifts. In turn, Krip gave us a copy of his poetry book. What a treat to get free works from great artists. I ‘sang for my dinner’ and got paid in excess. Truly a night to remember!

An inspired moment drives Ed and ding to sketch!!

Living with .. ahem..’chefs’

In all these years that I have shared a home with my significant other, I have never known Lydia to be ecstatic over the prospect of cooking. Sure she can cook, but only if she had to. Migrating of course has forced upon us chores that we are taking on for the first time in our lives. Mio and I are in charge of garbage and general cleaning and the girls are the bosses in the kitchen. While Lydia complains about kitchen work, she has been managing to come up with some really good meals. Ditto for my daughters Ala and Erica who seem to not only surprise us but also themselves. They go out of their way to really cook ‘gourmet’ stuff fancying (I bet) that they are competent chefs. Tonight, Lydia went whole hog and attempted to recreate a family tradition which her mother used to bake to everyone’s delight–apple pie. She dug up her mom’s recipe and whipped up a really good one. The apple pie was dessert to the equally fabulous Singaporean chicken and rice she prepared for our dinner.

Needless to say, the whole family was very gastronomically pleased, even as I could see Lydia beaming with pride. Looks like she is really warming up to the kitchen.

Incidentally, my wife and kids DO NOT believe me when I say that I enjoy their cooking. OK. I confess to being a doting husband and father. To them, I am happy with anything they come up with. Mababaw ang kaligayahan. While that may be true, tonight my superlatives were 100% more heartfelt than usual! heh heh!

Another light show

Lastly, I wish to share (again) a gorgeous sunset that showed off all over Sydney the other day. It was worth standing in the cold outside our house to take this picture. Almost every afternoon, there’s a beautiful light show.

Courage, honesty, solitude, beauty and greatness


I conquered two fears this last seven days. The first one was driving to the airport. I was trying to wiggle out of it and look for someone to do it for me since we had a visitor who was leaving for Manila and needed to be dropped at Sydney International Airport. Quite frankly, the prospect terrified me. It involves driving on the motorway and many roads I have not driven on before. But as luck would have it, there was no one who could do it and so I reluctantly ‘volunteered’ to drive. And so with my trusted navigator gadget on hand, I boldly got in the car and managed to crisscross through the motorways and drive through the tunnels of Sydney and get to my destination. The only thing that killed me was the parking—19 dollars for 1 ½ hours! Ouch!

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The second challenge was driving to Collaroy to see my sister who is visiting from the US. That is one looong drive but Lydia and I did it! In two cars!! And after seeing the beach, I just had to sigh while appreciating the spectacular vista. On each occasion I was afraid but did it anyway. I wanted to high five life itself! Simple achievements that embolden the timid spirit! We are most alive when we walk the edge!


We as a family have experienced two incidents lately that have impressed upon us a sense of the character of this society. Sometime last week while shopping in a mall, Erica realized that she had left her bag at the food court. Upon discovering this some 30 minutes after, she ran back there to find the people seated where she used to sit telling her that they gave her stuff to the cleaning woman already. She immediately looked for and found the cleaning woman and surprise! She got it pronto, intact with all her money, IDs, credit card, phone and without any hassle.

The second incident involved Mio losing his wallet in a bus ride the other day on the way to school. When he inquired from the driver the next day if anyone had reported finding a wallet, the driver said someone gave it to him and he turned it over to the bus office. Mio can pick it up anytime.

Man, I just love this place. Needless to say both Erica and Mio were very impressed. The other day while shopping, Ananda casually picked up a chocolate candy from the shelf, opened it and started eating. Erica realized belatedly what her daughter had done when she turned around to check on her. And even if no one was there to report it, Erica promptly paid for it in the counter. Tit for tat! Who was it who said about honesty—that it is doing the right thing even if no one is watching?


We’ve been here two months and we still do not have a TV. Sure, we have a tiny one lent to us by a friend that we have hardly turned on. It’s too small to connect a DVD on it. Besides, we also do not have a DVD player yet. When we had just arrived, the kids were quite vocal and insistent about wanting a big TV so they can watch movies. But the longer we went without it, the less the need they had for it. A while ago, I asked Ala whether I should finally get one this coming weekend. She was amused at the suggestion and then said that she honestly doesn’t know. We have not had the distraction that TV used to bring into our lives for two months now. I honestly don’t know whether I should get one. In place of the TV experience, we have good conversation, real talk and after chores and dinner, we all open our laptops and retreat to the internet every night. At least it’s more interactive than just vegging out in front of a box. It’s nice and quiet too.

I’ll probably call a family vote on it tomorrow.


During the time I have been here, I have not seen a single stunning beauty anywhere and I have been looking. I have to admit I don’t really hang around too many places where I will most likely spot some (what those places are, I don’t know). My usual haunts are Woolies, the malls, the train stations and a few other places. I’ve only been to the city twice since I got here. Dito talo ng Pinas ang OZ. In Manila, nagkalat ang mga magaganda. Back home one can spot a stunner almost anywhere. And when I say a stunner, I really mean STUNNER. I still have to see a real Nicole Kidman-like beauty here. Maybe I should hang around the clubs, or the beaches!

And speaking of beaches, one of these months, my dive buddy from Manila is coming over and we are doing Cairns! The Great Barrier Reef has been a dream destination for us for years now. Redford White—yes, he is my dive buddy will hopefully find time in November when the waters are not too frigid to dive and we can do a weekend there. I can’t wait. What OZ lacks in female beauty (compared to Manila. OK, I may still eat my words later), it compensates in marine attractions and I intend to dive in and enjoy them.

Greatness of Spirit!

Lastly, I just have to say that I am immensely thrilled that Filipinos actually succeeded in climbing Mount Everest. These intrepid climbers from the tropics who had only had experience with small mountains and had never seen snow and glaciers dared to dream and won! It affirms my belief that we as a people have what it takes to be great. This is just another proof that we are naturally talented and can succeed in almost anything if we only want to.

During one of the regional games in the past, our billiard champs flew three days before a snooker competition in Singapore to learn to play it, and dominated the games like they invented it! One of our great icons in this game (I won’t say who) was telling me that he had played rooms in Las Vegas where he was pitted against the likes of Minnesotta Fats (in unseeded games of course) and won. The games were sponsored by very rich bettors who liked to watch and bet privately.

There so many other stories I can tell you that illustrate how naturally talented we are. Ang galing ng lahi natin. We just have to get our act together.

One person who stands tall in my pantheon of living heroes is Tony Meloto, the founder of Gawad Kalinga. If you don’t know what GK is, it is a movement to restore the dignity of the Filipino by giving him the chance to own a house he can afford. GK has built thriving communities of proud and hardworking Filipinos where there once were only slums and shanties and people whose spirits were depressed and mired in hopelessness. The APO has done some shows for GK and we talk about GK to our audiences when we do concerts abroad. If you are from Sydney, you may want to know that Tony Meloto will be giving a talk in Blacktown next Monday. If there’s a movement you want to put your money in that is doing the country good, Gawad Kalinga is IT! Your money will not go to charity. It will go to nation building!

Allow me one shameless plug. I still have slots for students who want to take guitar lessons. Write me at jimparedes@gmail.com. I am enjoying this a lot! I’m sure you will too. By the way, contrary to the impression I might have given, I do accept students of ALL ages!

Why? Because…

‘Anonymous said…

Jim, just wondering why you (and your children) open yourselves up to the (in) public this way. You are so open to the public that they feel they have earned the right to make comments on your characters and your life. Just wondering, that’s all.’

A good question.

When I was much younger, my generation went wild over CB radios. I had one in the car. My friends had base stations where they played traffic controller for all CBers in the area. My radio was on all the time. In fact, I wanted to drive just so I could CB. One could ‘enter’ a conversation with ‘break..break’. The mantra of that time was 10-4 good buddy!

It was great fun because you could reach out to people and you didn’t even have to know them to talk to them. We even had aliases and it made everything all the more mysterious and thrilling. It was wonderfully anonymous and that was part of the thrill. All one could here was a voice and imagination took over. One could be a nerd or some plain jane but project him/herself to the world as someone exotic, wild or sexy and sure enough, one would get noticed!

In the age of the internet, the excitement antes up even higher. There is a dynamic working here that makes blogging a real blast!

One gets the chance to dialogue not with one or two people at any given time but with THE WHOLE WORLD– that is, if you can get everyone to visit you. With the relatively big traffic I generate, I get a kick knowing that x number of people read my thoughts from different continents and find resonance with them. I get a thrill knowing that when I express a unique experience, I get a response from everywhere affirming the universality of something I thought was particular to me alone. ‘Of course! Why not!’ I almost have to say this loudly as I realize that the loneliness, happiness, doubt, joy, wonder, bias, fear, humor, irritation, hopes and dreams, etc.. I write about have a commonality with everyone everywhere. There is an affirmation felt on both ends. It’s like I look up and smile for a satellite picture and the whole sky beams back my image.

But why, why expose yourself to comment, as my anonymous reader above seems to wonder? Why? It is because deep down, everyone needs to connect to others. We are alive when we are connected. My own yearning to connect is heightened and colored by the fact that I am an artist! Artists MUST create, and MUST release their creations to the world in more ways and with more urgency than non-artists do. It is my nature. It is therapeutic for me. A writer writes with the hope that the world will read it. I make songs so that people will sing them. The very nature of creativity is to take wings and fly, catch someone’s imagination or land somewhere where it can embed itself in someone’s life and thus make its mark on the world.

In the Christian tradition, we are told that God made the world in His own image and likeness. A book, a song, an architectural design, a poem, a painting or any other work of creation is a creator’s way of trying to be God-like. How? By making his/her own imprint on the world. In my case, blogging is just one way of making my mark by conversing with inhabitants of the net and sharing my thoughts. I share and leave behind my own image and likeness. Just as it is God’s nature to be everywhere, it is within us as heirs to divinity to do likewise!

This is only a sample picture. It was taken from the internet and not extracted from the writer of this blog.

If I had been an American Indian two centuries ago, it would have been smoke signals to communicate with people in the distance for me. If I had been a caveman, I would have been one of those who would have made cave drawings. Expression, creativity are natural impulses. Just as our cells multiply, I wish to multiply my presence in the world. In sexual terms, gusto kong magpalahi!! Ha ha! Ever wonder why a man releases 6 million sperm cells when it only needs one to create life? My theory is because life likes to express its own abundant self.

The risk of course is that one can get critcized, condemned, laughed at just as one can receive praise and adulation. That’s OK. That’s part of the game. The very act of being alive is to accept the risk of being exposed to the yin and yang of life. Where there is light, there must be shadow. Opposites exist to validate each other.

In the age of cyberspace, I dare say that it is better to blog even if I get crticised than never to blog at all!

I am getting more queries about guitar lessons and have signed up some students. I am really enjoying it as I see their faces light up when their untrained fingers manage to play chords I teach them. Some older students have signed up too. I have lessons today. I can’t wait!

Our visitors, Marty and Vangie Mabanta and their kids left this morning. It was a great visit as we went to Blue Mountains and took them around while introducing the Aussie way of life to them. It was a tad sad when the car that would take them to the airport whisked them away. I visit my relatives abroad quite often but this is the first time I am on the receiving end of the equation. I usually come and go. Today, we experienced what it was like being ‘left behind’. More people will be visiting this year and that is something I really look forward to. And as it is in every home we ever had, it looks like our house in OZ will be a busy, noisy and happy one. Thank God for that.

Teaching a parallel language..

I remember what it was like when I asked for a guitar even before I turned into a teen. I was an adolescent and the awkwardness of being ‘in between’, or being too young to be grown up but being too old to be a kid was beginning to kick in. It was like being in some twilight zone. On top of that, my hormones were beginning to stir. It was a confusing time as anyone who has ever gone through it can attest. If there ever was a boy who was so moody, self-conscious and had so many self-doubts, it was me then!

It was also about that time I had discovered the Beatles. That must have been the reason I asked for a guitar on my 12th birthday and that made a world of difference to me. I embraced the guitar with heart and soul. I felt I had discovered a parallel language that could express what words could not. My emotions reverberated with the vibrations of the strings and chords. I remember discovering what a Major 7 chord was and I felt I had stumbled on something of incredible beauty. It was a sound that evoked such a mysterious ‘blue’ feeling that was sad, wonderful, mysterious and felt good at the same time. I can honestly say that the guitar ‘saved’ me from all that self-absorption that we all go through in our teens and ‘opened’ me. It let out many of the things I had wanted to say. I could ‘play’ them and to my great surprise and delight, I discovered that people cared to listen.

I recommend that if you have a son or daughter, encourage them to learn an instrument—any instrument instead of just letting them become couch potatoes in front of the TV, or becoming addicted to video games. This alone is a potentially life-changing thing for the better.

I started giving guitar lessons around a week ago to some kids. Not only did all the memories and feelings come rushing back to me, it made me wonder how my life would have turned out if I had not asked for that guitar many years ago!

Through this blog, I would like to invite anyone who may be interested in becoming my student. My youngest student is only 7 but what she lacks in age, she more than makes up with spirit and enthusiasm! I am hoping you or your kids discover the wonder of the instrument and the unquantifiable joy that playing music can bring into life. My duty as a teacher is to teach chords, technique, inversions, strumming, plucking, progressions, and all that. But the most important thing I am eager to pass on is the LOVE for the guitar so that even after they learn a few tricks from me, they can come into their own in expressing themselves musically.

If you are interested, leave your details at jim_paredes@yahoo.com and I will get back to you.

In two days, Lydia’s brother Marty and his family will be visiting and we are all excited to have family around. Then, it will be a sister from the US. How nice! We’ve always had a full house even in Manila, and I am glad that it is turning out to be the same here!

If I don’t blog for awhile, it only means I am too busy and too happily distracted to do the solitary activity of writing.