My music, my life

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes Updated January 25, 2009 12:00 AM

In my more than two years of writing this column, I’ve hardly written about music. Considering that music has been so much a part of my life and has given me a life of some privilege, fame and some wealth, I sometimes wonder why it is one of the last topics that enters my mind when I think of what to share with my readers. Perhaps it is because music is so much a part of me I can hardly separate it from myself. How can one point externally to something that lives internally in oneself?

Ever since I can remember, there’s been music in my home. As a three-year-old, I had the luck and pleasure of having at my disposal a phonograph and quite a number of records. To my young readers, records are those black vinyl discs made from petroleum that was one of the marvels of the analog age. They were the main medium of portable music then. Cassettes (do you still remember what those are?), floppy discs, USB drives, CDs, MP3 players were still to be invented.

The records I played were the 78 rpm (revolutions per minute) variety. They were brittle records and sounded very tinny and, as my parents and elders recall, if I did not fancy the sound that came from them, I would break them on my head! All those songs on those broken records must somehow have entered my brain and contributed to my extensive memory of songs.

Music is something the family has always enjoyed. My brothers and sisters liked to sing with a guitar. My dad liked to play the piano. I remember seeing my mom smile when we would all break into song at home. My sibs and I were like the Von Trapps, the Osmonds and the Jacksons — without the intense dysfunction — but with the same great love for singing. We would sing on every occasion and at a drop of a hat. When there were visitors in the house, we would somehow always manage to hold a concert. During long drives in the family car, our blending voices filled the airwaves in place of a car radio.

I can only be grateful for such a childhood. If not for my brothers and sisters who loved music and bought the records that made up the soundtrack of my youth, I would not have been exposed to great musicals like West Side Story, Oklahoma, Carousel and The King and I, or musical talents like Danny Kaye, the Kingston Trio, Gogi Grant, Debbie Reynolds, Elvis, Bing Crosby, Chet Atkins, the Beatles and many more.

As I got older and became a gangly, sensitive, introverted teen, music saved me from the hostilities and turmoil that kids my age imagined or actually went through. Music was a soothing hand on my chest, or an embrace that made me feel okay when raging hormones brought me to the brink of despair or to moments of teen angst. It was as if music was the very sound of my own feelings. My guitar was my weapon that could transform me from being just another insecure kid with pimples to someone cool on campus, at parties or gatherings.

Nothing got me more excited than learning a new song or discovering a new chord. Everything made sense only when seen through the prism that was music. I saw people as having moods that were just like songs. My experiences were carried in the soundtracks of songs I liked.

I remember writing my first song at age 13. I was on a bus going from school and I was totally ecstatic at my newfound ability to create my own songs. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the feeling was one of a primal spirituality, as if something in me was awakened to the potential to do wondrous things.

I practiced and played and explored music through my guitar at almost every waking hour. In high school, I loved to play in front of my classmates and, after a while, I got together with some classmates who comprised the early APO, including Boboy Garrovilo. I was quite unstoppable.

I remember writing a song with Danny at a time when we had both broken off with our girlfriends. It was a sad, maudlin tune and probably not one of our best songs. But creating it had a healing power over our broken hearts. It filled the chasm that the split-up created. It gave purpose to the pain of being left behind. Art, I discovered, had the ability to convert pain into beauty.

One of the most dramatic times I felt the power of music was in 1990 when I attended a workshop in the former USSR. I was among a contingent of international artists and we were tasked to perform each night to entertain the participants. I, together with a pop star from Moscow named Andrei Makarevich who hardly spoke English were assigned to perform on the last night. We were dumbfounded about what we could sing together. After a little jamming, we decided to sing a solo song each. I sang Batang-bata Ka Pa and he sang one of his big hits. We were received quite warmly. But to cap the evening, I suggested we do some Beatle tunes that he knew how to sing. When we started to play Can’t Buy Me Love, to my great surprise, the international audience got excited and began dancing and singing along. It was fantastic to realize that even with the language barrier, we and the audience shared a love for the music of Lennon and McCartney.

“Music fills the infinite between two souls,” as Rabindarath Tagore, the Indian poet, rightly put it. Indeed!

Nowadays, I write essays more than I write music. I seem to be in some transition. But when I need to, I can still whip up a more than decent tune. Writing, whether it is music or the written word, involves an internal exploration into one’s secret depths. One delves within to pull something out.

It is, I suppose, very much like a birthing. I tell people that my songs are like my own children. I really have no favorites even if some children can seem more charming than others at certain times.

Comparing our creative work with our children is the most appropriate way to describe them. Why? Because as writer Lawrence Durrell puts it, “Music is only love looking for words.” And like our children, our creative output is only love set free.

* * *

Announcing the 44th run of Tapping the Creative Universe (TCU), a cutting-edge creativity workshop.

This seminar will run from 7 to 9 p.m., Feb. 16 to 20, concluding on Feb. 23. The venue is 113 B. Gonzales, Loyola Heights. Cost for the workshop is P5,000, inclusive of materials and merienda.

A workshop six years in the running, TCU has helped hundreds of students with its transformative, practical concepts that help unleash the creativity and joy of all who attend. If you are in between dreams, goals, careers, loves, lives and in need of a jolt or a nudge to get you out of a rut, this is your chance. It’s a new year. Time to get a new you going!

Warning: If you are looking for an easy workshop where you can choose to attend or not attend the sessions, or you do not want to be challenged, TCU is not for you.

For the syllabus, questions or reservations, e-mail me at, or visit You may also call 426-5375 or 0916-8554303 and ask for Ollie.

Regarding religious rituals

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes Updated January 18, 2009 12:00 AM

A few nights ago, I was having a conversation with some young people about religion and how they are completely turned off by it. From their point of view, religion means the Catholic faith and their aversion includes the Bible, the pope and the officials of the church, the obligation of going to mass and all of the attendant rules and requirements imposed on the flock.

I listened intently and, quite honestly, I was neither shocked nor surprised. I have heard many people express the same thing and I must confess I, myself, experience great doubts about my own faith from time to time as it was taught to me when I was growing up.

Many of the younger generation that have been raised in a technological age of instant gratification and dominance of scientific thought over religious dogma find no attraction nor need for membership in an organization whose core beliefs science regards with suspicion (and vice versa, I might add). Although they went to Catholic schools, they find no connection with much of the religion that was taught to them.

The young man in the group said he did not believe in the veracity of the Bible because it contains, in terms of evidence as defined by the modern world, a lot of hearsay. He noted that the truthfulness of a lot of biblical facts would be found faulty if subjected to rigorous scientific investigation.

The young lady noted that a lot of the accounts in the Bible contradict one another and the morality in some stories is — by today’s reckoning — quite abhorrent. In the Bible, slavery, polygamy, revenge, the smiting of one’s enemies were practiced — all, apparently, with God’s blessings.

There’s a lot I could agree with in their views, taken at face value. As scientific or historical accounts of events, the texts of many religions leave much to be desired. However, Joseph Campbell, an erudite writer on myths, maintains that to look at religious texts as scientific or historically accurate is to miss out on their meaning completely. He points out that religious text, when taken literally, loses its power. Literalness and materialism belong to the domain of science, after all.

The strength of religious stories and text lies in their symbolic meanings. Symbols are open-ended, rich in interpretation and one can get lost in them while plumbing their depths. At their heart is mystery, often unfathomable, and the truths they express go way beyond what words can express.

God begetting a human, or the Holy Spirit appearing as a dove are two such moving mysteries, even if not uniquely Christian themes, Campbell points out. He explains that similar themes have existed in other, earlier religions. He says the order of the day was the adaptation by Christianity of many themes and symbols prevalent during that time. These themes and metaphors made them acceptable to the unconverted. This did not necessarily diminish their power. In fact, faith may have been enhanced by them.

Personally, I feel that the paradoxical nature of a God born in a manger instead of a palace who teaches mankind to turn the other cheek and love his enemies is a very powerful message. It dangles before us a world order that is so revolutionary that heaven may not have to wait for us to die to be experienced.

While I could see the validity in a lot of what the kids had to say, it was my turn to ask them if they had any fascination or yearning to understand the mysteries of life and love. Did they ever ponder the question of the afterlife? Did they ever wonder whether man could ever find a meaning in the states of suffering, pain, joy and happiness that humanity seems to swing back and forth between? Did they ever look at the horizon and wonder if there was a power that created everything? They answered in the affirmative. They admitted that, certainly, there was much to ruminate on and seek to understand if one was to find his place in the universe.

While the kids may seem atheistic from the point of view of organized religion, in my view, they are undoubtedly spiritual for the simple reason that these questions do matter in their lives. While there are people who prefer to walk the straight, narrow and sure path that their parents trod along terms of religion, there are some who like to carve their own path to heaven.

Like the kids I talked to, sometimes, I hear adults complain that they, too, are having a hard time finding meaning in the age-old rituals of religious ceremonies. So much of the rituals seem tired and stale, needing major makeovers. I sometimes ask myself if it isn’t the role of the messengers of the different faiths — the priests, deacons, priestesses, shamans, gurus, evangelists, rabbis, etc. — to summon the great mysteries, the timeless stages and themes of life such as birth, death, sex, love, oneness and meaning so that their followers feel alive to them, and awakened to their timeless truths.

William Ernest Hocking, an American philosopher, wrote, “No religion is a true religion that does not make men tingle to their fingertips with a sense of infinite hazard.” This is a reminder to those who perform rituals about the danger and reality of lost potency in how they invoke the mysteries.

If the quote above is true, then to know God is to experience Him in a way that will rock one’s world. But what happens when you can no longer summon the thrill?

It may seem sacrilegious to make the comparison but when you look around, you will find a lot of peak experiences in modern but secular rituals that actually point to the direction of the mysteries, without expressly mentioning sacred deities. There may be something to learn here that can revitalize the energy of churchgoers.

When people sing, groove, sway and wave their hands in unison during a rock concert, isn’t it an expression of partaking in a larger community, or even a sense of oneness? Doesn’t being one with everybody else in a certain place or event create the feeling that one is “bigger than life”? Isn’t the performer enactging a ritual that invokes the experience of power among the audience? Could that, as secular as it may seem, be within the realm of a spiritual experience?

I am convinced that the success of social networking on the Internet with such sites as Facebook, Myspace and others comes from the fact that its members experience closeness or intimacy with other people. The interaction has many facets: an identification with an “other” or “others,” a fascination, a thrill in being able to communicate and exchange thoughts with people from everywhere, even with people you do not know. One might say the virtual community is also an experience of shared oneness.

The thrill of watching or participating in sports has an element that defies man’s limitations that may border on a spiritual experience. The very power of an athlete in breaking world records stretches the meaning of what it is to be alive and human. There is a feeling of being greater than one can imagine oneself to be. It is absolutely joyous and inspiring to see someone defy limitations. Think about it: Doesn’t this seem to be within the territory of experiencing what a miracle is like?

Religions, too, incorporate the pull of the large ritual, the extravaganza to keep their flock excited and inspired. Think of World Youth Day, the Haj, the seasons of Christmas and Eid-Al-Fitr. The crowds, the ritualized movement, chanting, singing aren’t too different from the opening of the Super Bowl, the Olympics, or a U2 concert.

Could it be that the kids these days get their share of spiritual sustenance outside the churches without their knowing it? What a concept. And if true, what an opening for religion to exploit!

After all, isn’t God supposed to be everywhere all the time?

* * *

I am announcing the 44th run of Tapping the Creative Universe (TCU), a cutting-edge creativity workshop.

This seminar will run from 7 to 9 p.m., Feb. 16 to 20, concluding on Feb. 23. The venue is 113 B. Gonzales, Loyola Heights. Cost for the workshop is P5,000, inclusive of materials and merienda.

TCU is a workshop that is already six years in the running. It has helped hundreds of students with its transformative, practical concepts that help unleash the creativity and joy of all who attend. If you are in between dreams, goals, careers, loves, lives and need of a jolt, or a nudge to get you out of a rut, this is your chance. It’s a new year. Time to get a new you going!

Warning: If you are looking for an easy workshop where you may or may not attend the sessions, or you do not want to be challenged, this is not for you.

For the syllabus, questions or reservations, e-mail me at

In love with books

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes Updated January 11, 2009 12:00 AM

I spent a glorious day last week with my family at the Circular Quay in Sydney. We walked, ate and shopped, and just had a great time. From the elevated train platform were we get off, Circular Quay is an arresting site. It has a beautiful harbor, a historic bridge, pretty buildings, crowds of tourists from all over the world, street artists, lots of space and a vitality that just overwhelms.

We walked about with a great wind blowing, ferociously messing our hair and giving us a high. We had lunch at the Belgian Café, a great restaurant that serves mussels in different flavors. Then it was shopping at The Rocks, a favorite daytime market that comes alive on weekends where one can buy an assortment of goods, from food to clothes, contemporary art, knickknacks and oddities such as shark bones, petrified bugs and bottle openers with kangaroo scrotum for handles!

The best time we had though, and not surprisingly, was at a quaint bookstore where we immersed ourselves in books that were too interesting not to browse over.

Each of us picked at least one book and read aloud to each other paragraphs that tickled our fancy. Ala was totally focused on an illustration book that had pictures in lurid colors of old-style, campy 1950s-like drawings of femme fatales in different crime situations. It was too humorously dramatic not to share with everyone. I was delighted to see my kids having a great time, enjoying the books.

One of the things that I am proud of and claim responsibility for is that all my kids are readers. Very early on, even before they were one year old, I made sure that I read books to them at bedtime, or when they were in the proper mood to be quiet and still to just look at the pages and listen to words or even verses of poetry.

“Children are made readers on the laps of their parents,” said Emilie Buchwald, the literary artist. How true!

I consider a mark of a great mind the capacity not just for reading but for enjoying reading. Maya Angelou, the great American poetess, praised the “life-giving power” of books and said that every young person should develop the habit of reading. I feel exactly the same way.

As a young boy in grade school, I had books I read and reread. There was The Iliad and the Odyssey which my elder sister Tictac gave me one Christmas. I also read the Hardy Boys series and Charles Dickens. In high school, I read Aldous Huxley, Bertrand Russell, Nietzche (even if I barely understood him). I must admit, there was a snob appeal in reading stuff like this. But most of all, it was an amazing experience to open a book and gain access to the thoughts and beliefs of great men even if it took a lot of effort to read them.

Even if I love books, my reading habits are quite erratic. I go through phases in my life where I am at times a voracious reader, and at other times, one who barely reads anything. Like the ebb and flow of the tide, sometimes my mind is full of authors’ works and thoughts. At such times, I have five books under my bed that I read simultaneously. But there are times when I rarely open a book and all I read are magazines or Internet articles — and I read very little.

My last episode of hard-core reading began around 12 years ago and it has lasted for quite a while. I was completely taken over by certain authors like Neale Donald Walsch, whose every book I had read. I was so interested in his writings that I actually invited him to come to Manila and give a talk, which he did. It was quite an experience to spend time and sit down with a world-famous author and discuss his writings with him.

I also discovered Ken Wilber whose works I have simply devoured. I do not casually recommend him since he can be a really hard read. In some of his books, I can be on page 50 before I get a coherent picture of the subject matter. But if you are ready to have your mind stretched beyond its regular dimensions and never to contract again, you may be ready to start reading Ken Wilber.

I am not impressed with people whose experience in reading consists of only one writer’s works, or worse, just one book! I believe that the idea of reading is not to fill oneself with knowledge so that you become an expert or an authority at something, but to allow your mind to absorb other people’s ideas, digesting what can be nourishing, and eventually letting go of what is not useful or true. The whole idea is to learn from them, test their ideas and keep those that ring authentic while discovering more truths from life’s direct experiences.

One advice I have followed even if it is against my wishes is the one given by my Zen teacher when I started to meditate. “Don’t read anything about Zen,” she told me. Even if I reluctantly heeded her advise, I was glad that I did since the two worst things that can infect one’s Zen practice is to get lazy and not practice at all, or to intellectualize Zen instead of directly experiencing it.

In the end, books are great pleasures that are only supplementary to actual experience. They are not meant to replace experiencing life first-hand, although reading, I must admit, is a worthy experience in itself. When they are good, books give readers an “extra life,” according to Scott Corbett, the children’s book writer. Jack Paar, the ‘60s comedian and talk show host, underlined his contention in jest when he said that his mother went through World War II but came to the conclusion that it was nothing like the book!

But greater than the experience of reading books is actually writing them. When I discovered Zen, I went through an awakening so profound I felt I had to shout out what I had discovered by writing about it. The paradoxical thing was, I had written four books about something I was not allowed to read about initially!

When my second book was published, I said that I wanted to write 20 books before I die. Writing one book seemed like a fluke! Two may just be an extended run of a fever that hit me. But 20 books is a body of work! I still hope to do all of them someday.

But even greater than writing those books is knowing that there are a few people out there in the different corners of the universe who are actually reading them! I relish the idea that I am being enjoyed intimately by people I may not even know.

Jon Santos, the 44th, and some shameless self-promotion!

I have quite a few plans set up for 2009.

One of them is producing shows of talents I truly like and whose artistry are, in my eyes, top-notch. I’ve always wanted to entertain people and I do it with my own group. And one other way is to bring and share with people the talents I know who are truly ENTERTAINING.

Let me tell you, I’ve been around for quite awhile and have watched practically everyone. I know the comedians and entertainers I like and they are those few who break new ground and deliver their material not just in an OK way but exceedingly well and with great impact. In other words, they are not the lazy performers who go for the easy or cheap shots but those that work on their own unique material diligently, display amazing wit and take the audience to a new high along the way.

For our first attempt, together with Conrad Isip of Mega-Rhythm Productions, we are bringing in the very funny, extremely talented impressionist, impersonator-extraordinaire who also happens to be my good friend. He is none other than the inimitable Jon Santos, and he is coming to Sydney!

On the night of April 4, 2009, Saturday, make sure you are at the RSL Club in Burwood. NSW to watch Jon Santos do his stuff. He will suspend your disbelief as he does his uber hilarious impressions of Vilma Santos, Erap Estrada, Imelda Marcos, Fidel V. Ramos, Armida Sigeon-Reyna and many more. Tickets are at a very reasonable 49 AUD and you can already make your reservations this early.

Call Conrad at 0410618299 or 98363494 for more details.

The show is entitled JON SANTOS, LIVE AND IN PERSONS! If you want to experience a rare and unusually wonderful night of really good entertainment which is worth much more than what you pay for, BE THERE! Mark it down. Better yet, call now! This will be a night you won’t forget and you will be telling your friends about days and weeks after!

Sponsors are



* * *
For my Manila readers, I am announcing the 44th run of TAPPING THE CREATIVE UNIVERSE (TCU), a cutting -edge creativity workshop.

WHEN: FEBRUARY 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 23
TIME: 7 to 9 PM
WHERE: 113 B. Gonzales, Loyola Heights, QC.
AMOUNT: 5,000 Pesos inclusive of materials, merienda.

TCU is a workshop that is already 6 years in the running. It has helped hundreds of students with its transformative, practical concepts which unleash the creativity and joy of all who attend. If you are in between dreams, goals, careers, loves, lives and need of a jolt, or a nudge to get you out of a rut, this is your chance. It’s a new year. Time to get a new you going!

For the syllabus, questions or reservations, write to or click here for more info.

* * *
I know this seems like shameless self-promotion but what the hell.. ha ha. For all those who continue to ask me, yes, I finally have copies of the following items here in Sydney:

1) APO’s latest CD called ‘Danny, Jim and Boboy’ which is not sold in any outlet. You can only get them during APO concerts and at APO’s office. I have signed copies. Not too many though. They are at 25 AUD each, or 20 USD.

2) Jim Paredes AKO Lang CD–a rarity. This is a CD of songs I made on a pure whim without Danny and Boboy. They are personal songs I made a few years back. (25 AUD, or 20 USD)

3) My books Writing on Water, Humming in my Universe, Between Blinks. (17.50 AUD each)

Sorry but I had to adjust the prices due to the poor exchange rate. I can mail them to you with added postage cost.

If you are interested, do write me at YOu can either pick them up or I can mail them to you.

For those who are interested in my fourth book called As Is Where Is, you can order it here. Read the reviews while you are there.

In praise of aging

A few days ago, on a plane from Sydney to Manila, I struck up a conversation with a man who clearly wanted to talk to me about the APO. Aside from saying how much he liked our songs, he pointed out (as many others are doing more often these days) that we have visibly grown older.

While that was not exactly news to me, it can be quite unnerving at times, although, at other times, I smile to myself wondering why people find aging so surprising. A few years back, my initial reaction would have been a defensive one. I would have paused to worry a bit about its implications on our career, considering that, as showbiz people, we live in a world were aging is negative, a no-no.

Our world has made a cult of youth and put it on a pedestal. We worship youth above all other human characteristics, often even above talent, wisdom and experience. While one may argue that all these are important, they become doubly valuable when the person who has these attributes is also young. It’s a young world, after all. Or rather, it’s a world made for and of the young.

We baby boomers, more than anyone else, should understand this even if we may find ourselves resenting it from time to time. After all, we were young once, and it doesn’t seem like that was too long ago. And when we became parents, we made sure that our children would not have to go through the deprivations we went through while growing up. So in some ways, we too cultivated his cult of youth

More than any past generation, we have stored up memorabilia of our kids growing up. My wife Lydia keeps in neat little folders the drawings and certificates, the medals and prizes earned by our kids from their early years in school. In contrast, I don’t have that many baby pictures. I probably have about three or four photos of myself below five years old. When I was growing up, cameras were expensive and my parents, for sure, had other priorities and things to spend their money on.

Youth is a funny thing. When you have it, you think you will have it forever. You take for granted things such as health, the agility, strength and dexterity of your body and the luxury of time. The future is wide open and is yours for the taking. There is seemingly limitless time to do chores, finish school, be serious, etc.

Sure, you are aware that your parents get older and even if you see it and know that someday you too will get old, when you are young, aging is mostly an intellectual concept. It is something that happens to other people, not to you.

Youth is naturally a time of self-centeredness, and often recklessness with generalizations about life and its meaning and its attendant consequences. That’s because one can often feel lost in the glory, pain, joy, angst, enthusiasm and confusion of youth. Thank God that as we get older, we begin to see clearer. As Ralph Waldo Emerson put it, “The years teach much which the days never knew.”

When the APO had a daily TV show more than 10 years back, our audience did not see us aging physically since they saw us every day. The aging process we (and our audience) were going through was “delivered” in tiny increments so that it was hardly noticeable. But now that we come out on TV less often, sometimes just one appearance every few months, our audience sees the difference. They see our aging as worthy of mention even if they themselves have aged just as much.

I remember being quite shocked at seeing how Quincy Jones had aged when I saw him host a show on CNN about his hometown of Seattle. My “locked memory” of him was this image of a talented “young” black man in his early 40s — suave, cool, a successful player in the world of music. But that physical image of Quincy was who he was in the ‘80s. My image of him had remained static all these years.

While to many people, aging is a signal that one must begin to slow down, I just can’t see myself ever retiring. I can’t see myself (as of now) as someone who will deliberately miss out on what life may still throw my way. I know that my body may be too old to climb Mount Everest (although I still dream of doing it even a quarter of the way), but I subscribe to the saying that one is only as old as one feels.

“How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were?” This is a question that American baseball legend Satchel Paige asked himself as he began to grow older. It’s a question I also ask myself from time to time.

And while one would like a longer amount of time to enjoy being young, I believe that being young is not necessarily what it’s cracked up to be. It is certainly not a virtue in itself. In many ways, the young can seem older than old people. I find myself often telling my son to tone down the volume of his music player. Is it because it is he, not I, who is hard of hearing?

Lydia and I can manage to wake up early on weekends while my “young” kids are too tired from the night before and need to sleep till noon. And many times, I find I am more flexible in my opinions than many young people I know.

I tell my kids that while aging is inevitable, growing up is not. It is optional. It is something one decides to do that needs to be worked at. And I believe that the sooner one begins work in this direction, the more they can properly utilize and even extend their youth. There is a price for abusing your body with drugs, smoking, bad nutrition, too many late nights, or never outgrowing bad habits. All these speed up physical aging. Who was it who said that we are only young once and after that we need some other excuse?

The irony of it all is that many young people wish they were older and many older ones wish they were young again. That’s probably because while youth may be gifted with capacity, we learn to notice opportunities only at a later age. By then, so much time has been wasted.

The APO is turning 40 in 2009. I am pleased to hear people say we are performing better than ever. For that I am grateful. I know for sure that we are having ever greater times doing what we do. When I look back at many of the shows we have done, say in the ‘80s, there is a bitter-sweetness since my memories are marred by a lot of the feelings I had about myself back then. I was too competitive, too much of a perfectionist, unforgiving of my own mistakes and those of my groupmates. Nothing we did was ever good enough.

These days, we have all mellowed. Sure, the APO house may be a bit battered, but the cracks dealt to it by Father Time have allowed more light to come in and illumine what is inside. Autumn has exposed more of our true colors. And what is true is that we are, more than ever, happy to perform even as we are aware of the limited time we have left.

In a recent TV interview, Cate Blanchett said she wouldn’t want to go back to being 20 even if she had the chance. Our twenties can be such a confusing time. She says she is happy and quite content being where she is now. I feel the same.

Thank God there is now, in the three of us in APO, less of the neurotic obsessions we had as young guns and more appreciation for the beauty that we create with our chemistry. The wrinkles on our faces are where they are meant to be. Time can be a lousy beautician, but it is a great healer.

Crystal ballin’ 2009

‘Tis the season, and it’s hard to resist. As I watched the usual ‘psychics’ on TV make their predictions for the year, I thought of Madame Auring and her classic insight years ago during the US Bush-Gore elections where she predicted that the next US President’s name will have 4 letters!

Right then and there, my psychic Third Eye opened and my mind was immediately flooded with visions of the future!

And so once again, I am wearing my fortune teller’s hat to make predictions about this new year 2009. For every item that comes true, I am willing to get paid a million pesos which I will gladly donate to the restoration of an old folks’ home. I am turning 58 this year and my house could use a new paint job, a gazebo, a mini gym and a swimming pool!

Here goes:

1) The peace and order situation will continue to deteriorate. Aside from highly dangerous places such as Basilan, parts of Zamboanga, and other areas in Mindanao, there will be new travel advisories and warnings which will suggest that people also avoid golf courses. There is after all, a very real danger of getting mugged, beaten up by arrogant public officials in these previously safe havens. The advisory will not come from the Tourism department but strangely, from the Department of Agriculture!

2) Cory Aquino will rethink her intention of launching a career as a comedienne after her ‘apology joke’ to Erap caused a stir among her countrymen who risked their lives and limbs to participate in kicking out Joseph Estrada from office.

3) Gloria Macapagal Arroyo will not change in anyway, not the very least her height. It was reported that she again did NOT make an attempt to jump up and down during the midnight moment passing on to the year 2009.

4) ABC 5, in its Nth bid to relaunch and become a viable alternative to ABS-CBN and GMA 7 will reposition itself anew against the two TV giants. If ABS is known as the ‘kapamilya’ station and GMA7 is the “kapuso’ channel, ABC5 will, in 2009 be called the ‘kalaguyo” station.

5) Vicky Bello, the ‘cosmetologist of the stars’ will launch a new exciting procedure that will miraculously restore the lost virginity of women. The procedure will install a new hymen to patients and will be aptly called, “Bello the belt” .

6) A famous star will get pregnant and two young stars will be a hot item in… wait a minute… I also said that last year!

7) Gloria Macapagal Arroyo will renounce with finality any attempt that will extend her power beyond 2010. She will issue a warning to congress of a Presidential veto if they attempt to revive charter change during the remainder of her term. She will also cooperate fully in the reopening of the ZTE, the Garci, and the fertilizer scandals and will encourage public officials to freely testify so that the truth will finally be known.

It will also snow in the Philippines and a new weather phenomenon will emerge where it will mysteriously rain money everywhere and will cause everyone to instantly become millionaires.

8) The Philippines, in a show of goodwill to US President Barack Obama who has vowed to close down the Guantanamo prisons, will offer to take in the hard-core terrorist detainees which no other country will accept. They will be trained and taught new skills such as becoming public officials and playing golf.

9) The House of Representatives will successfully pass a record number of bills deemed as urgent but in a most unlikely venue–Las Vegas! That’s because Pacquiao will be fighting Hatton in a few weeks and the sports event will practically guarantee the presence of a majority quorum of congressmen. The voting on the bills will be made between rounds. They are hoping that Manny Pacquiao can keep the fight going for at least three rounds so that they have time to properly deliberate on the bills so they are not ‘hastily passed’.

10) Finally, in a historic compromise, the Catholic Church will finally withdraw opposition to the population bill being discussed in congress which will at last, make the bill into a law. In exchange for the Church’s non-opposition to the controversial bill, the lawmakers will adjust certain provisions which will only give sex education and encourage the use of contraception to married couples over 60 years old.

Have a good year ahead! Remember, there is life behind the inanities and indignities we are subjected to daily.

This is the Top Pinoy Expat’s blog for 2008!

Allow me some self-congratulations. I opened this blog a few minutes before the New Year set in last night here in Sydney and had the pleasant surprise to recieve a letter in my inbox informing me that this blog has been chosen as the Top Pinoy Expat’s Blog for 2008. Follow the link below to read more details. | |

I think I’m off to a good start. To the people behind this, my readers, please accept a huge though humble ‘thank you’ from yours truly.

“Meaningful and inspiring posts”
“Brings out pride in being Filipino”
“Writing on Air has depth and substance. Jim’s blog is brilliant and inspiring. His take on issues around the world and as well as personal experiences are culturally enriching as a Filipino. The lay-out and design is clean”

Some of the judges notes about Jim Paredes blog..

I promise you another year of exciting, readable, interesting, informative, and engaging reading!