the evil genius in each of us

Yesterday, the priest at mass urged the faithful to exert pressure against the passing of the reproductive bill soon to be discussed in congress. Another explosive debate, I am sure.

A wise old musician, Roger Hererra once told me that the two most contentious topics in the world are politics and religion. He says that if one reviews all the wars in the world, these two could claim the most number of casualties. It was his way of chiding me for my political involvement then when he used to play for us many years ago. While I thought then that the statement was simplistic, I know that it makes for a fascinating thesis. Why, because one, the political sphere claims to speak for the governance and social order of the lives of men. The other, religion, claims to speak for the sphere of beliefs beyond the material or the souls of men(although some may claim it also has domain over material and earthly concerns). No wonder they’re explosive! They claim to cover everything.

Just watch TV and you will see all types of televangelists–the pompously dressed, the hysterical, those who threaten with eternal damnation, etc. They are slick and enticing. Then there are the politicians who can blow on the pied piper flute of various concerns that can raise everyone’s hopes or hackles. And there are the priests of various religions who talk like politicians, and vice-versa.

It’s amazing that even as politics and religion both claim to unite people, they have done just the opposite many times. The real reason though why they have become two swords that have divided humanity into as many splinters as we have seen in history is not so much because they make such huge claims and have largely failed to deliver. The reason is they have the great ability to entice the ego, and many times it is the ego that believes it has the right to speak on their behalf.

The ego, once hooked will defend, attack to win, fight to persevere, or preserve itself and when it can, attain superiority. It is the evil genius that sucks everyone into arguments. And when it is a collective ego, a nation, a race, or any group of egos with a shared identification that is threatened, it can be more dangerous. It can go to war and genocide all in the name of ‘good’ causes. It can also lead to religious purges and executions, yes, in the name of a God whose followers feel was insulted, threatened or diminished in some way by ‘ the enemy’.
The New Earth, a great book discusses the workings of the ego in detail.

I often ask myself if God can ever be diminished, hurt, or feel insulted. More importantly, does God have an ego? What do you think? Does God need to be defended, or is it us who need to defend our view of what God is, or what ‘right’ is? Think about it. What if you could set aside ego? What if you did not feel the need to be right? Isn’t the ego the only thing that makes forgiveness or renewal impossible?

I think of all those I have ever percieved to be ‘enemies’ at some point, and there have been many–the Inquirer recently, ha ha. Or the commenters on blogs that just love to argue (yeah, I get hooked too.). When the heat of the moment has disspitated, I often wonder about the ‘valid’ reasons that made them adversaries except that they seemed to threaten MY view of the world, MY values, or aroused MY ego into defend and attack mode, and vice versa. Eckart Tolle says everytime we use ‘my” we are seduced by the ego.

The ego is a genius as I said. It can masquerade as a good or righteous guy, or any other persona it needs to be to survive. It’s nature is to view itself as separate, as in superior or above others. Thus, it loves to condemn and judge. If it needs to be ‘spiritual’ it can do that too. Rinpoche Trungpa, a Tibetan Buddhist wrote a book about spiritual materialism where he says the ego will even claim enlightenment, or ‘blessedness’ to raise itself. Magaling talaga. Is there any escaping the stranglehold of this evil genius?

Allow me to answer in a non-academic way as I share experiences of my occasional flights from ego’s dominance..

I feel very liberated when I sometimes find myself in ‘the zone’. This is where I am NOT pulled by concerns to be anything but just being in and with the moment. And more and more, I do not just ‘find’ myself there. I actually make it my practice to consciously choose to be there. And sometimes, I succeed.

no sky to hold up
no ego to feed or protect
no self-esteem to nurture
no clinging
no grasping
no worries
no concerns
no past
no future
no self!

just being..

When does this happen?

When I write music, when I am writing just like I am writing now, when I am performing, when I am with anyone and I am fully present with him/her, when I don’t demand for anything, when I don’t expect any outcome and just flow with whatever is. It does not matter what one is doing. It’s not about that. Everything IS, and that means it is the state of the art of what it can be at the moment.

And when you can be one with just that, you will find there is no tension, no conflict. And what happens is it opens all your creative channels to engage the present without conditions. You feel like you are REALLY an offspring of the Great Creator, the carrier of God’s creative DNA, capable of creating wonderful things too. You write,sing,love, you ARE–without conditions. It’s a moment when you are not asking, not needing anything. You are complete. In the zone, I keep on discovering that the moment one stops asking, it is given. Everything you need is inside of you. You’re the fire and breath of your own soul. And in the zone, you keep catching yourself just saying ‘thank you.’

But can’t religion and politics do that to you as well? Yes. Actually, anything can bring you to this state. Many athletes like Michael Jordan. Tiger Woods, performers, religious and saints experience this too all the time. The common thread is letting go of ego. You lose yourself and gain the world, so to speak because there is no ‘self'(in the common way we know it) that stands in the way. And no, you are not living in some cloud. You are in your body. You are here. You are, to borrow a Christian phrase, ‘in the world but not of it’. The divine in you kicks in as you are plugged into the powerhouse of the present time.

To lighten the ending, I leave you with some interesting and light quotes on religion:

‘If you are a Christian, and are interested in Buddhism, study it not to become Buddhist but to be a better Christian.’–the Dalai Lama

” I belong to the one true church of the oonly real God of which I am the sole member.’ –a guest at Larry King

‘When I do good, I feel good; when I do bad, I feel bad. That’s my religion.’–Abraham Lincoln

‘Among politicians the esteem of religion is profitable; the principles of it are troublesome.’ –Benjamin Whichcote.

“The secret of a good sermon is to have a good beginning and a good ending, then having the two as close together as possible.”—George Burns.

“I admire the Pope. I have a lot of respect for anyone who can tour without an album.”–Rita Rudner.

“Thank God I’m an atheist.”—Luis Bunuel.

“When I was a kid I used to pray every night for a new bicycle. Then I realised that the Lord doesn’t work that way so I stole one and asked Him to forgive me.”–Emo Philips.

‘”Hearing nuns’ confessions is like being stoned to death with popcorn.”–Bishop Fulton Sheen.

-Why don’t you just settle things like good Christians’– a US diplomat talking to Muslim Arabs and Jews.

centering and letting go in a tizzy. Everything seems to have been turned upside down.

My life in Sydney for five months was quiet and yes, idyllic

1) I recieved few texts a day and they came from a handful of people–my family and a few friends. I got few calls on my cell and all from the same people above.

2) I had a lot of quiet time, and chores that took the place of zen sits at times

3) My concerns were about basic stuff: washing dishes, throwing out the garbage, picking up people from the train station, teaching guitar lessons, some photography.

4) I had a lot of good, relaxed , quality time with my family. We laughed a lot and the loneliness of leaving friends behind made us discover each other more. It is no exageration to say some of the best family times we’ve had happened during the last five months.

5) I could hear my thoughts anytime of the day. I was clear to myself. In other words, I was centered.

6) I had very few vanities to attend to. I am in t0shirt and rubber shoes everyday.

My life in Manila these days is the opposite.

1) My phone is beeping or ringing many times a day

2) I have little or no quiet time. Life is too busy. Manila is a noisy city. In Aus, I wake up when I am ready to wake up. Here, I wake up to sounds of cars, trycicles, the pandesal delivery, etc.

3) My concerns affect more people now–APO and management, the new show in ABS, my house here and my home in Sydney. There are things to attend to like the strong resurgence of APO’s music, crazy stuff like the Inquirer brouhaha, and so many other things.

4) I do not have family time because they are not with me save for Erica and Ananda. But they will be leaving and I will be left behind in a few weeks. I content myself with YM and chats with Lydia, Mio and Ala.

5) I have made a vow not to lose my centrer and so have to work at it. I am back to zen sits and meditations.

6) Working on TV means being subjected to make up all the time which I absolutely hate. Physical vanity is a factor I have to deal with again. Also, I am reminded to dress more formally. Naninibago ako sa TV culture ulit. But since Dream Academy is a reality show, they will probably wave the make up requirement. Good!

Crazy, exciting, unpredictable life!

The Inquirer episode is over. They have apologized and I am content with that. I know an apology will not completely restore whatever was before. Not all the feathers that were thrown to the wind will be recovered. But the important thing for me is to move on. There is no good in crying over something like this. That was yesterday. Today is a new day. In fact, I will not even let this affect my dealings with the Inquirer in the future. Forgiveness is freedom. Not to forgive, to hate is crazy, like taking poison and wishing someone else dies. The art of letting go of baggage is a life skill which is so important to learn. And I am constantly teaching myself that.

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Me with Kamikaze

The concert tribute to APO, KaminAPO Muna was, from the looks of it, a great success. Danny, Boboy and I were honored by the performances. Sobra. Nakakatuwa. It is great to be honored and recognized while one is still alive. But I am also glad that it happened 37 years into our career already since we are grown men and supposedly more matured, and so can handle all this adulation better. No getting drunk and no puffed-up sense of self-importance after. Just a high five between the three of us but accompanied with a humbled sense of fulfillment and pride.

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APO is hip (again!).

Throughout the concert, I kept thinking how strange and magical life is. You never know what God is gonna throw at you. At the same time, I knew that this high moment shall pass too. Every moment is a wave of form with its signature mark of impermanence written on it. Fame, Money, even life itself is fleeting. The moment is all we have. And so we must be present to its gifts. Boy, was I present that night and so was filled with gratitude.

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Orange and Lemons singing Yakap sa Dilim–the biggest song on radio and ringtones currently.

Today we had rehearsals with our musicians. When I left for Sydney, I wasn’t sure if I’d even see them again. It was great to listen to their great playing. I can’t wait to do our Mall of Asia concert on September 2, and the Pampanga one on the 9th and the Alegria show on the 15th.

My blog hits have quadupled over night with the comments reaching unprecedented numbers. It’s always like this when the topic is on the political side. But this one was quite over the top. Things I deduced from the comments:

a) More Pinoys do not hold it against fellow Filipinos if they wish to migrate or have actually done so.

b) That a majority of Pinoys do not like to judge other people’s reasons for leaving.

c) That people respond to positive messages more than negative ones

One thing I learned living abroad is that there are infinitely more things in life than just politics. In our society, it seems sometimes that it is the only game in town. And the bad thing about is that our brand of politics is quite toxic and one can get so easily consumed by it. We react so viscerally since it strikes at the heart of the ego’s need–to win, to be right, to be superior and to protect its views at all costs.

And so let’s all simmer down. For the next comments, can we try NOT to bite the meatless bone of politics since it does not seem to give any sustenance? It’s a bone you can keep biting and chewing but it will not give you anything. Instead, I would like to end this blog as I’ve done before, with the vision of John Lennon’s world order. And don’t argue if it is attainable or not. That’s not the point. It is just a reminder that there are are more things that can unite us than the temporal, fleeting lure of politics. Not worth losing our sanity over.

By John Lennon

Imagine there’s no Heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace

You may say that I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world

You may say that I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one

Peace Pinoy Brothers and Sisters all over the world!

‘ Pick up the feathers, you jerk.’


Just found out that it was not Gerry Lirio who titled the article. It was an editor who shall be unnamend as of now who did. I thought I should take the heat off Gerry since I know now that he was not responsible. Apparently, that’s how it works in newspapers. Some guy writes and someone else edits. Why the copy editor gave such a headline and apparently edited the whole article, I do not know.

Gerry, this is my humble step in picking up the feathers of your pillow of reputation I slashed because of my hastiness. The article by itself is not bad although I still felt it already had a slant even before it was written. It was looking for a poster boy for the current hopelessness felt by many and I was chosen. But I don’t question Gerry’s right to write the way he does. That’s his prerogative just as it is mine to criticize his work. I must admit it even had some parts I liked.

The damage though is in the headline itself. I know that very few actually read the whole thing and many more just read the headline and came to their own misguided conclusions. I know because people have expressed shock and outrage towards me. But those who know the story expressed the same thing but directed their wrath at
PDI. I still believe The Philippine Daily Inquirer should correct this falsehood and apologize.

Lastly, I want to say that I felt bad not so much that people misread me as a person (that’s hurtful, yes) but more so that they may slip deeper into despair by such a false story. That’s the last thing we need.

_ _ _

Was awakened this morning with a text from my brother informing me that I am on the front page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer. The bottom banner read, ‘Finally, APO’s Jim Paredes gives up on RP.’ It was datelined Melbourne.

While APO was doing our shows in Melbourne and Sydney, Gerry Lirio from the Inquirer was interviewing me about my new life in Aus. I talked to him how we were adjusting to everything, the joys and tears experienced by all immigrants, etc. I also talked about my reasons for leaving (personal growth mostly) and my frustrations with the political situation. I said that I was tired. But not once did I ever say that I had given up on the Philippines.More correctly, I have always said I would fight another day. Everyday in Sydney, I wake up to discover the things that work well and wonder how we can do it back home.

I am not one to trash the Philippines just to feel good about migrating. In a country already reeling from so much self-inflicted wounds and pessimism, I don’t know how editors and writers can continue twisting things around. I am, to say the least very disappointed with the Inquirer. I just don’t know how they can come to such a conclusion based on the interview with me. Sure, I expressed disappointment with the politics of the country just like everyone else but to say I have given up on the Philippines is to put it mildly, a naked lie. It seems that the one who thought of this headline feels the best thing this country needs is a daily fix of despair and gloom.

I believe the truth will set us free, but sadly, there is also power in falsehood. Apparently it sells more than good news.

I remember reading an analogy about spreading falsehood and it compares it to going on top of a windy hill with a feather pillow and a knife. While there, slash the pillow and let all the feathers fly out to where the wind takes it. If a newspaper wishes to make amends about a false report later on, it becomes as futile as picking up all the feathers again to restore the reputation of anyone.

Alas, I’ve just been had. If I had a newspaper right now, I would be tempted to run a the banner which reads, “Should we all give up on the Inquirer?’

Other strange facts on the article;

-I was never a member of the MTRCB
-APO did not sing Handog Ng Pilipino sa Mundo in the concerts.

Sorry Gerry. I think you already had a headline in mind even before the interview. You ‘cherry picked’ to fit words and impressions to the headline and so missed the true story. OK Inquirer, you can headline that Jim Paredes has given up on the Philippines.just as Bush claimrd there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq!

I am in my home in Manila now. This is going to be a long visit. I was planning to enter and leave without much noise but apparently fate has other plans. As I write this , the Apo tribute album by the hottest bands in Manila is the biggest selling CD in the Philippines. We are guesting today on TV where they will announce that it has reached gold record status in just 7 days. Future gigs already planned before my migration await to be fulfilled.

And since I was going to be away anyway, I have decided to accept the offer to be part of a new show on TV. I am accepting the position of headmaster, artistic director of Pinoy Dream Academy, the new abs-cbn show that will feature a number of artists and the training they will undergo. More on this on future blogs. I guess I should expect that I will be media fare for the next few months until I return once again to my quiet, simple life in Aus.

I miss my family terribly and I go through throes of loneliness thinking about them. I have not quite settled with the fact that I will be here for awhile. I get stomach pains just thinking about it. I chat with Mio, Lydia and Ala whenever I see their YM on. It’s great to see my friends and all that but I am in a Sydney state of mind and so feel displaced. I am, strangely enough, an OCW in the Philippines.

Isn’t that ironic?

mixed emotions

As I write this, Boboy and wife Bong, Betta and Butch (APO’s managers and friends since high school) are waiting for their flight to go back to Manila. Danny left after the Sydney show since he had stuff to attend to.

I’ve had quite a schedule since last week.

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Flew out of Sydney to Melbourne wednesday last week to join Danny and Boboy for the Kumustahan Tour which started there last friday. The concert was so much fun. At the very least it warmed our tropical hearts and that of the audience that showed up at the grand Hamer hall in this charming city with neurotic weather. Flew out early the next day to return to Sydney to do the Saturday show at tha Capitol theater.

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After four and a half months of not seeing my friends and performing with them, it was quite a treat. That’s really understating it–it was a feast! We were bonded, synched, melded on and off stage and it showed and glowed. We used to have a saying years ago when Michael Jordan and the Bulls reigned supreme in the NBA. Whenever we had a great performance, we would say to each other that ‘we were the Bulls tonight!’ Our shows in Melbourne and Sydney seemed like it to us. It’s great to reap 37 years of friendship and team work and be able to invoke the ‘zone experience’ when we want it.

It was also good to catch up with my friends and reconnect where we left off. We had long heart-to-heart talks. It was quite an eye-opener for them to stay at our place and see me doing chores, driving them (on the ‘wrong’ side of the road at that!) and seeing how our family life has settled in here in this foreign place.

On my end, I must confess that a double whammy bout of nostalgia and homesickness hit me quite hard which got me depressed sort of. I felt I was missing a lot by not being with friends and being home. And even if I know I will be joining them in a few days for shows in Manila, I already feel equally bad about leaving my family behind here in Sydney. It’s a quandary most Filipinos, including Rizal during his time must have felt.

Dalawang daigdig, magkaibang pampang
Pinaghihiwalay ang kambal kong buhay
Kung maari lang sana’y magtayo ng tulay
At sa bawa’t isa ako ay manirahan
Lupang tinubua’y hindi naiiwan
Ano mang paglimot hindi matutunan
Laging nakalanghap sa lupang katawan
Kahit naroroon sa malayong bayan
Laging umiihip ang hanging amihan
Laging dumaraing ang dating kundiman

-a song from “Bayani”, a musical on Jose Rizal I made years ago with Bienvenido Lumbera. Thanks Monica (my niece) for putting this in your blog. Yours and my feelings exactly.

I was quite happy settling in before all this. But since I know there will be more occasions such as these in the future where I will be going in and out of Sydney to Manila and other places, I may as well just get used to this roller coaster emotional ride.

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Been receiving packages here and there from long time friends, new ones I’ve met on the net, and even newer friends I just met here in Sydney. To all of you, salamat. I will have time soon to digest all the music, CDs, and food (thanks Sachiko) in the next few days.

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Aside from concerts in Manila and the Kumustahan leg of the tour in Guam and Saipan, one of the reasons I will be going back to Manila is because of a new CD that’s just been out. It’s a tribute to APO hits as done by the current bands. It’s an exciting, eclectic mix of styles that these young artists used to come up with this 18 song collection. From what I gather, it’s been getting massive airplay in Manila. This thrills us no end of course, knowing that the young are going gaga over our music. Try to score a copy. You’ll love some of the versions. Together with their takes is another CD containing the original versions by us. It’s a collector’s item.