Am writing this from the Mabuhay Lounge of PAL. In a few moments, I will be jetting off to Sydney to catch he New Year celebrations there.
I had so little sleep last night. We did the concert at the Riverbanks and it was one of the most awesome things APO has done in all these years of performing. With our intrepid band, we sang, entertained, cheered, danced, and joked around with a HUGE crowd of people. The estimate last night before the show started was 60 thousand people but our sound man Butch Dans estimated it to be closer to 80 thousand by the middle of the show. Both sides of the Riverbanks were so full people could hardly moce from where they were. It was unbelievable. People could be seen on top of the bridge near the new SM and the overpass. And they just did not stop coming to join in the fun and groove with the music.
We were sweaty on stage. There was a slight drizzle during certain parts of the show but we just went on with no fuss even if I felt my wet shirt under my jacket drying up.
It was a two-hour bash and it was an experience that will not be forgoten. What a way to end 2008! To all who came, thank you from the bottom of our hearts. We are honored that you honored us with your presence, smiles, singing, the shouts for an encore and the standing ovation.
Marikina, you rock! It’s a city that’s clean, orderly with officials that have a vision that they dare implement. Glad to be part of your success!
Till next time! Sydney, I will be there in 8 hours! To all readers of this entry, Happy New Year. May it be a year of renewal, healing, joy and success!
There was something perplexingly magical about 2008. Many rules about how the world is supposed to work were blatantly and irreverently violated and broken.
I call this the year of the amateur, or the year where the startups, or the non-pros, were on a roll. It was a David-beating-Goliath year, when total unknowns upstaged the sure thing. The winning horses were the ones nobody betted on initially. This is the year when all the experts were wrong so many times about so many things, the year of the left field upset.
Barack Obama, the upstart US presidential candidate from out of the blue, defied the odds in so many brilliant ways. First, he trounced the “unbeatable” Hillary Clinton. And despite a non-typical background, he also upstaged an all-American war hero who at the outset seemed more well-known, experienced and knowledgeable about many things, especially foreign affairs.
We all know what happened. Obama ran a fabulously non-conventional campaign. For one, his masterful use of the Internet helped him raise phenomenal amounts of money and cemented his connection to young voters. This Internet coup is the new template for future elections and will surely be emulated all over the world.
In the world of sports, all the experts predicted an Oscar de la Hoya win over Manny Pacquiao. The odds in Vegas were going against Manny 3 to 1. All the sportswriters put their money on De la Hoya even if their hearts were for the Filipino champion. After all, Manny seemed so puny beside De la Hoya whose reach was superior to his opponent’s shorter arms. But the unexpected happened, to the delight of Filipinos everywhere. That upset is something people will be talking about for a long time.
Then there was the biggest news of all — the economy — which is still unraveling. The major tsunami that hit the US financial system spread throughout the world, but seemed like it came from nowhere. The financial experts, bankers, Wall Street geniuses, the stock market traders, CEOs, CFOs, all the experts who were supposed to know everything in the universe of finance were caught completely unaware. The biggest banks and financial institutions began to fall like a house of cards.
People are losing homes and jobs in record numbers. The collapse is still ongoing with no end in sight. This is probably the biggest-ever threat to capitalism and it will probably transform it into something more reliable.
Oil prices, predicted to just keep going up and up in 2008, went down dramatically to their lowest levels in years.
Meanwhile China, which is regarded as the manufacturing center of the world, was exposed as a dubious producer whose products have become increasingly dodgy and were even killing babies and children.
The thing of it is, who among the so-called financial or political experts could have predicted that any of these would happen even just three months before they did?
It raises the question: In a world where the people who make the rules and are supposed to enforce them are turning out to be completely wrong, who can you trust?
It seems that everywhere you look, there is a feeling of instability. Events seem to suggest that the order of the world is rapidly changing. To some, this spells cataclysm; but to me, this is auspicious.
With everything seemingly going haywire, it is time to take stock of how we live our lives, how we impact everything on the planet and on each other. With Mother Nature behaving more and more like Mommy Dearest, it’s time to reevaluate everything and come up with new alternatives to how we can all live so that all of life may become more sustainable.
“The whole of the global economy is based on supplying the cravings of two percent of the world’s population,” author Bill Bryson wrote to sum up everything that is wrong with the economic model we have now.
I asked a friend in the US if he thought that all this would change the lifestyle of Americans and force them to live simply and more frugally. He answered in the affirmative, adding that the biggest impact of the crisis on the American psyche is the realization that there is actually an end to what has seemed like the constantly growing and seemingly limitless American wealth and power.
To one who is always on the lookout for the new wave, I like to think that 2008 is the birth of new models of thinking: leadership, politics, religious thought, economics and lifestyles. How can it not be if so much of the old ways are self-destructing? New ways must take their place.
Will 2009 ring in an end to the rule of the Mugabes of the world? Darfur? Terrorism? Will it usher in a greener lifestyle? I am not sure. But I know something is afoot and will make itself more tangibly clear.
And if things are happening all over, the zeitgeist of change will probably find its way to our shores too. Will 2009 bring in the leader who will deliver us from evil in 2010? Will we finally put an end to the silliness that is Cha-cha? Will we at last have automated voting that does not only count fast but is also credible? Will we see an end to the GMAs, the Garcis and corrupt politics that stand in the way of our becoming a more functional nation? I hope so.
While I may invoke the stars from time to time, I also know that we must do what we need to do on our end. After all, while the stars may deliver a winning lotto ticket, we have to work on our lives so we can’t blame anyone else for our own troubles. As Julius Caesar said in the Shakespearean play of the same name, “The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in our stars, but in ourselves, if we are underlings.”
Let us hope for the best and work like we have to prevent the worst from happening.
Learning from the past
HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes Updated December 21, 2008 12:00 AM
Recently, I had the pleasure of dining with an uncle who is in his late ’70s. I’ve always enjoyed his company and his conversation for the wisdom, humor and the wealth of experience he enjoys sharing with others. On many different occasions, we have talked about various topics from economics to politics, travel, sex, the Mindanao situation, and life in general. But this time, we talked about his experiences as a high school student living in Ermita during the war.
I have always been a fan of war stories. I am in awe of the heroism of soldiers who survived the Death March, and those who fought as guerrillas against the Japanese. I look at them as patriots who had courage and daring that made them larger than life. Life dealt them a set of tough cards and they responded with greatness.
My uncle’s family lived in Ermita during the war years. Their lives were ruled by uncertainty. There was hardly any food. Their family of five survived pretty much on a cup of rice a day. There was no running water and so they had to look for deep wells to supply their needs. Needless to say, they must have had no fresh clothes, no clean toilets, no daily baths, and definitely no luxuries.
“It was the law of the jungle,” my uncle said as he described how tough and streetwise one had to be to survive. He talked about seeing people die by sniper fire as they fetched water from the wells. He saw Japanese soldiers slap or bayonet people for small infractions. There was no public transport so he learned to walk long distances every day. Once, he and his brother found themselves in a stampede caused by the sudden presence of Japanese soldiers. In an instant, people trying to get out of the room had caused a deadly body pile-up almost a meter high. He panicked because he could not find his younger brother. Looking at the mess, he saw a child’s hand reaching out of the pile of dead bodies. He pulled the hand and out came a little girl, still alive, whom he carried and put inside a grotto nearby in the hope that Mama Mary would protect her. He then proceeded to look for his brother who was also under the pile of bodies but miraculously survived.
Every day, his father put a little rice in small sacks that family members wore like a scapulars to make sure they had something to eat in case they could not get home. Everyday life consisted of looking for opportunities to make some money, find supplies to barter — from pieces of building material to light bulbs, or anything that was tradable. They did whatever it took to survive.
War can change a person. My uncle, who is one of the gentlest people I know, said that he was a tough goon type who would beat up people when necessary, to get access to water, or whatever he needed to get for the family. He was also a high school kid who assisted Jesuit priests giving extreme unction to the dying. He helped sit up the dying so they could whisper their confessions.
Having to be cruel and tough in certain situations in order to survive, and compassionate at other times must have caused psychological conflict and suffering to many during those difficult times.
While he was narrating his stories, I felt a loneliness engulf him as he allowed the images of war, loss and suffering to rush back to his consciousness. It was an angry time, he said. He felt robbed of his childhood and felt resentment against his father for choosing him among his brothers to do the more dangerous missions, even if he knew that it was probably because he was the most able-bodied of them. At the end of the war, his whole neighborhood was, as was practically all of Manila, flattened by the carpet bombing by the liberating American forces.
As he told it, my own mother arriving from the province after the bombings, upon reaching Baclaran, broke into tears because no building stood between where she stood and the Manila City Hall.
He recalled that at the end of some major roads in the city, the Americans dug deep holes and bulldozed and pushed all the wreckage into them, including corpses. They were all thrown into the large pits and buried. For weeks, the stench of decaying bodies was in the air, making everyone sick as it permeated everything, including their clothes.
I asked my uncle what it was like to see so much cruelty and live another day and time as a normal functional human being. What makes it possible to suffer through all that and still move on? He said that to this day, he still has dreams about the war. Something as life-changing as that you never completely forget.
I could not begin to imagine how my generation and I would fare in such a situation. My generation, whose heyday consisted of the hedonism of the Woodstock-inspired ‘70s, the relative inconvenience that was martial law (compared to World War II), would not have survived such horror. More so the present generation which has never known deprivation.
I imagine that people who lived through the war — whom historians have dubbed as “The Greatest Generation” — must have never imagined where they got their strength and spirit to go through that crucible that shaped them. They just did what needed to be done.
There is so much suffering around the world — in Zimbabwe, North Korea, Darfur, Palestine and some parts of the Philippines. Suffering and death are happening non-stop, and people do the best they can in every situation.
Many who survive and are able to rebuild their lives and communities are people with the grit and grace, not to mention luck, to imagine something better and to do something about it.
My uncle not only survived but much to his credit, he thrived and prospered more than he imagined he would, in large measure due to the horrible experiences he had to go through in his formative years. The bad can be turned into good. The wreckage can provide material to build the foundation for something better.
I was shocked and scandalized at the realization that I, being born after the war, did not have an intellectual grasp, much less a feeling, of what the generation before me has gone through.
Every time a generation survives a great calamity, it vows never to forget so that lessons painfully learned are retained and passed on. And yet, most likely, they will, at some point, be forgotten, and the lessons will not be passed on, and so history will repeat itself over and over. “We learn from history that we learn nothing from history,” wrote the playwright George Bernard Shaw.
These days, when I read the news, I am rudely reminded of the machinations that Marcos used to extend power not too long ago. The deception, the double-speak, the lies and the justifications for Cha-cha are once again let loose by our rulers to confuse us, with the aim of extending PGMA’s rule.
It is said that we Filipinos have short memories. With much of our history as sad as it is, why would we even want to remember it? And yet, we must. Especially at this time. It is again time to recall the stories of our recent past so that we may be spared from having to go through another long dark night.
HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes Updated December 14, 2008 12:00 AM
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I never experienced having a decent conversation with my father. Ever. That’s because he died at age 41 when I was only six years old. I’ve often wondered about him and what he was like. Sometimes I imagine that he must have put me on his lap a few times and hugged me or tried to talk to me, a kid who was clueless about how much he loved me.
This is one of the things I missed, being the ninth of 10 children to a father who died early. And because I never had it, I try to make up for it by consciously trying to be the father I needed to my kids when I can. In my work, I travel a lot so when I am at home, I try to insinuate myself into the lives of my kids through conversation, or by just being around and accessible, half-waiting for an opportunity to connect with them somehow.
It is not always easy. Many times, they do not want you around or to be too available. As they grow up, they want distance and, depending on the phase they are in, it can be a short distance or quite a long one. I guess the constant presence of parents is seen as some sort of encroachment on their desire for independence as they grow up.
I relish the years when they were younger, when I actually enjoyed their dependence on me for homework and other academic stuff they needed help with. I also remember fondly our long conversations at the dinner table about anything and everything. It was so reassuring and wonderful to listen to them talk because not only did we marvel at how they had grown, but it allowed Lydia and me a glimpse into their unfolding lives. It was a way of knowing where they were at. It was also an opportunity for us to give our two cents’ worth of advice on a few things.
We still have these moments occasionally, but as I get older, I feel they are never enough. I often wish I could still put them on my lap and just hug them, but I guess that is simply not realistic anymore.
Today, I told my son that I wanted to spend this weekend with him by taking him to Davao for some scuba diving. He said, apologetically, that he had plans to go out of town with his friends. He must have noticed my slight disappointment when I told him that, as we get older, there will be less and less time for such things.
Even if I am disappointed, I actually understand where he is coming from since I was young once. I remember how I felt no urgency to grab any opportunity to be with my mother, expecting that she would always be around. I guess it just doesn’t seem real to one so young: the notion that time does creep up and opportunities do pass by and will never return.
I was in my late 30s when I began to feel that there might not be much time left to spend with my aging mother. It was only then that I found more occasions to see her for the opportunity — and levitra premature ejaculation pleasure — of just sitting and talking with her.
Parents need to make a conscious effort to accept that our children become less and less “our own” as they grow up and discover themselves. They do have to come into their own and outgrow us. And painful as it feels at first, growing up is actually one of the best compliments our children can give us.
And as they grow up, there is a reversal of roles. Where we once protected them when they were kids, as adults, they are now our protectors. When my mom was alive, I remember changing the TV channel from the sexually charged images of MTV to something more “benign” when she would visit me at home. Our kids do the same to us now. Where once, we shielded them from the craziness of the world, now they hide these from us or disguise the meanings of things we do not readily understand about their world so as not to upset us.
From our children’s point of view, our appreciation of their maturity rate is often belated. They feel that we underestimate their capabilities to make their own decisions. From our point of view as parents, it will always be difficult to see them as ever “arriving” fully. We still feel the need to give advice even when they don’t ask for it. But can we really help it otherwise? It took a lot of effort for us to become parents. In many ways, we will never outlive the role.
Often, I tell my kids, especially when things turn out as I predicted in their lives, that “Sometimes, you have to consider that your father may be right.” It is a way of reminding them of the arrogance of youth that every generation is contaminated with, just as my generation had its bravado and chutzpah.
“Every generation thinks it has the answers, and every generation is humbled by nature,” the scientist Philip Lubin, correctly observed. In moments like these, I feel a validation and quietly bask in their grudging respect.
I tell friends who are having kids for the first time that from the time their kids are born, there will never be a day in their lives when they (parents) will not think and worry about them. Even now that most of my kids are fully grown up, I still think about them many times a day and sometimes I find something to worry about. My wife Lydia probably does this 10 times more than I do. When I see something wrong with their attitude, I feel a panic as I project into the future the consequences that it could result in. I literally feel like “coming on strong” in their lives again and try to backtrack and “correct” them.
But more and more, I restrain myself and trust in the wisdom that, more than my admonitions, life itself will be the better teacher.
I have met parents who practically “disowned” their children for things they did, like getting pregnant outside of marriage, only to bond with them in ever-greater ways when the child was born. Sometimes I wonder if it is because they suddenly awakened to the full reality that their children have become just like them — parents! Or is it because by having to raise a child, they see an opportunity for their kids to learn for themselves things that their parents tried to teach them but failed?
According to American writer Lewis Mumford, “Every generation revolts against its fathers and makes friends with its grandfathers.” This is so true. It is a lot easier and less stressful to shower unconditional love on a grandchild because we are no longer burdened by parental responsibility. And blessed is the grandchild because she bridges the gaps in the difficult relationship between her caring grandparents and her rebellious parent.
I never thought I’d ever say this, especially when I recall its most difficult moments, but I do miss parenting. Just as it is the future of our children to become adults and perhaps parents themselves, what do parents metamorphose into when their children are grown?
A Hebrew proverb goes: “Whoever teaches his son teaches not alone his son but also his son’s son, and so on to the end of generations.” Like our parents, and their parents before them, we will simply go on being parents even past our lifetimes. What has been started will never end. That is, somehow, a comforting thought.
Our concerts last weekend in Cagayan de Oro and Iligan were just absolutely fantastic.
Even if the CDO concert was only about 70 percent full, it was still a blast. We were just there last February of 2007 and so we prepared a new show for our audience. We wanted to surprise and delight them with hits and gimmicks done in a new way and that’s exactly what we delivered. We felt the enormously good vibes that the audience threw back at us for our efforts. Furthermore, our producers were great, fun people and certainly knew a lot about making us feel at home. The massage at Touch and Heal, the breakfast at one of their houses were such a delight.
Iligan the next day was something for the books. Our audience must have been comprised of 95 percent first timers. They screamed, and sang so loud with us we could hardly hear ourselves through our monitors. We went for more than two hours and they loved every minute of it. We were all definitely on a roll in CDO and Iligan. It was mind-blowing.
Last Sunday, I still felt the glow as I boarded the plane to Manila. It’s a glow of love and appreciation thrown our way by the audience for what we have been doing. We appreciate the producers–these young doctors fired up with the idea of making a wellness center for Iligan’s poor. We congratulate you for a job so well executed.
We definitely want to come back again.
* * *
President- elect Barack Obama is the first international President of the US in the sense that his parentage and background are colorful. A father from Kenya, a childhood in Indonesia and Hawaii are just some of the things that make him unique and an appropriate leader of these global village and times we live in. But did you know that he also has relatives in the Philippines?
President-Elect Obama in Boracay!
See list below:
Barat Obama-a distant cousin of Ilokano descent. Unlike the President though, all he wants is ‘the change’.
Barako Bama– His most macho relative from Batangas.
Balat Obama–His Filipino cousin. Marami sila. Jojo Binay is one of them.
Banat Obama–His activist KMU-member relative
Balak Obama– His ambitious cousin
Birit Obama– A cousin who loves to sing and is also related to Regine Velasquez, and Charise Pempengco
Borat Obama–His distant cousin from Kazakstan
Bakat Obama–He likes to wear tight pants
Badaf Obama–His gay cousin
Bora Obama–His ‘party animal’ relative
* * *
When I first heard that Manny Pacquiao was going to fight Oscar De la Hoya, I immediately remembered the news about him being a cross-dresser. I could not imagine how De la Hoya would show up at the ring. Would he fight in heels and stockings? If he had, that alone would have psyched up Manny so much that Oscar could have won. But then how do you dance on the ring on heels?
If for anything, it is quite educational to know that there is a softer side to everyone, including boxers. Now that many Pacquiao has vanquished De la Hoya in last Sunday’s fight, Oscar can now retire and do what he pleases. Would Victoria’s Secret take him as a model? I hear he can really work those pumps!
Why I write
HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE
By Jim Paredes Updated December 07, 2008 12:00 AM
Let me tell you at the outset that I have a love-hate relationship with writing, especially writing this column. I wake up on Monday mornings wondering what to write about for the coming Sunday. My deadline falls on a Thursday and if I am lucky, I can come up with a decent piece that I feel confident enough to submit to my editor as early as Monday night.
Most times, I am lucky. I remember being interviewed about something similar that I do, which is songwriting. I was asked how easy or hard it was for me to write songs and I answered quite seriously that it was no different from going to the toilet. It comes out when it is ready!
But sometimes, “constipation” traps the thoughts, feelings and words in the deep bowels of the mind. The more one tries to write, the harder it seems to produce output. And that can be worrisome when one has a weekly deadline. It is already Wednesday as I write this and I am still not sure where this will take me, but I have learned to trust that it will go somewhere.
I just have to try and write.
And yet, one must write, not because of a deadline or the pay, and not because, like the analogy of the toilet ritual, it can be toxic to keep it all inside. I write because I am one of those cursed people who have been awakened to writing and have been enlisted to do so. I rue my upbringing for making me a conscientious person who has said yes to the noble calling of being an artist and a writer even if it subjects me to occasional bouts of writer’s block, the fear of coming out with bad stuff, and the fear of coming out with good stuff and having to live with the rising expectations of my small reading public.
Writing is an activity that can be compared to many things. One of them is sex. You awaken to it not unlike the way you do at puberty. All of a sudden, you have a heightened burning need to explore uncharted and forbidden areas of yourself that seem to have come alive.
The act of writing itself can open one to accusations of being on the more perverse side of things. Isn’t keeping a diary, with its attendant private pleasure of exposing one’s feelings and thoughts nakedly on paper, similar to having solitary sex?
On the other hand, there is something exhibitionistic about coming out in print. “The quality that makes man want to write and be read is essentially a desire for self-exposure and masochism. Like one of those guys who has a compulsion to take his thing out and show it on the street.” That was the American author James Jones talking about the thrill of being noticed, read, appreciated, cursed, panned, banned, glorified that every artist indulges in and actually enjoys.
And so it has become my habit for more than two years now that every week, I put on my thinking cap and write this column. Aside from this, I also write one or two articles for the three blogs that I maintain.
Come to think of it, I probably misrepresent my truth when I sometimes say I write for my audience. While I do enjoy the reactions I get from my writing, deep down I know that I write mainly for my own pleasure. How else can I explain the hassle that writing does with my time? While I am happy I have readers, like the writer Cyril Connolly, I feel it is “better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.” The thrill of coming out with one’s truth even if under pain of a deadline can make one feel nakedly, gloriously alive.
One might say writing must be a sickness of sorts. Millions of blogs exist on the Internet with a majority of bloggers probably fantasizing that the words they utter will move random readers somewhere in cyberspace. I am actually guilty of being one of those. To write, and blog is a compulsion — like narcissism itself. In fact, it is exactly the spirit of Narcissus, he that fell in love with his countenance while looking at water, that makes one do it, that makes one fall in love with one’s own image and likeness.
George Orwell of the book 1984 said, “All writers are vain, selfish and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives lies a mystery. Writing a book is a long, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”
But I am glad though that I am not one those ranting writers who rage against the machine in almost every column. I do not belittle those who do so but I would be utterly exhausted if I had to do that week in, week out. I would feel trapped in a never-ending struggle to improve the world.
I have met habitual activists who occasionally lose perspective on which are the small battles and which are the wars worth fighting. “Every stink that fights the ventilator thinks it is Don Quixote,” wrote the Polish poet Stanislaw Jerzy Lec, which best describes the life of a habitual crusader.
Besides, I have lately found myself in a more or less sweet spot where I have little need to rant, not because life is perfect but because I have learned to accept a lot of things I cannot change. And this alone tells me that one of the reasons why I write is for the sheer pleasure of writing.
Someone once said that the reason writers write is because “it isn’t there.” Writing, like many other artistic forms, is magical, mystical even in the sense that one produces something from nothing. And sometimes, one does so quite seamlessly! It’s almost as simple, even if unexplainable, as the way Christian, African and Hindu traditional mythologies describe Creation as where God supposedly broke the darkness and voila!, there was light!
Writing, aside from its other rewards, is mostly, a private joy. There is a secret pleasure in writing even if one writes just for one’s self, similar to the ultimate pleasure of being God. But eventually, one will want to share one’s soul with the rest of the world. Even God, the Source of All Being, felt compelled to break the boredom of nothingness/darkness and thus created everything.
As Ken Wilber posited on why God did it, “Because no one wants to have dinner alone.”