It’s time to take back our future


I imagine there are a lot of you thinking the way I am thinking about the presidential elections in 2010. A number of would-be candidates have stated their intentions. I ask myself why I am not excited about any of them, except maybe for one who I am still very remotely considering. We are less than 15 months away from an election that is so important and we appear not to be concerned.

These days, I’ve been thinking a lot about the next administration because I see it as our last chance at moving forward as a nation or else fall into an irreversible drift and deteriorate into a pathetic failed state. Maybe I feel this way because my generation, which produced the First Quarter Storm, burned with so much passion for this country. I had classmates who joined the NPA and other rebel movements. We demonstrated, attended teach-ins and worried about the country.

We were at EDSA and we thought then that change had come at last. But we learned soon enough that the dark forces were more adept at seizing power than we were. They have made a solid comeback and their hold is greater than ever. That’s why I look at the situation today and break into a cold sweat. For me, and a lot of people in my age group, this is our last chance to change things.

Sadly, I hear of friends who have advised their children to move out of this country and go anywhere in the world to pursue a future that will not bear fruit in the Philippines. I felt the same way when I moved to Australia three years ago with my kids. Although I had every intention to return and stake my remaining future on this country, I wanted them to see how a functioning system and society worked and how it could serve a great number of people.

I don’t know if I am the only one who has noticed but I feel our strongest coping mechanism as a people, which is our humor, is fast losing its potency. I have lost the capacity to laugh at the political shenanigans, scandals and embarrassments that our officials continue to get into. I have become angry, and want to do something about it. I do not want to expend this anger on laughter just to feel better, or mindlessly cast the fate of this nation to the winds, or continue to hold the cynical view that nothing will change or that we have no hope to live better lives here. I want to act.

I am constantly thinking of how to awaken people, build a critical mass and affect, in a big way, the future agenda of this country. I know that the constituency for change is there. How can it not be? Everyone is complaining about the same corruption, misguided policies, the deterioration of values and of the country in all aspects.

But the problem is that very few people are convinced that good people can do something about it. Instead, many believe and are cynically betting that: a) there are not enough good men and women out there who can effect the needed changes, b) that even if people present themselves, there are not enough voters who will respond to the call of real change, c) that even if there are people who want to challenge the system, they will not win because they will be cheated and so the electorate will not even vote for them.

I believe that this kind of thinking held by many has been very toxic for the nation. We have, time and again, punished ourselves with such deep cynicism. Look at what happened to the few good men of Kapatiran Party who ran on a platform of change in the last elections. Our collective cynicism became a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Remember what it was like during martial law when Marcos held all the cards? Most of us felt the same way then. Yet, Cory Aquino ran against the most powerful political machinery in Philippine history and won. The opposition then had no money or machinery. There were no cell phones, Internet, free press or texting. All it took was a ragtag media and a message that was loud and clear which Ninoy expressed with his life.

Today, I believe any real movement for change has potentially more power in its hands than ever before. But the problem still lies in the defeatist attitude that change cannot be achieved.

Can a movement that will choose a leader and win the 2010 elections be organized in time? I believe it can.

But it has to be done differently from the way regular political parties organize themselves, or even the way it has been attempted before. The idea is to launch a movement with the aim of changing not just the political arena but all other facets of life in the Philippines. In other words, the leaders of the movement must sound an all-encompassing call to change the political, cultural, economic, educational, attitudinal and moral beliefs of our society. This change can only bring new and better structures on which to build our nation’s future.

In short, it will take a revolution to effect the necessary changes, but hopefully without the mayhem, death and destruction that are usually associated with it. Other societies have done it and are continuing to do so. Why can’t we?

With this approach, we can shake things up and open the future to new leaders, ideas and concepts that could take us to a better place.

Recently, I was dismayed to hear all the election frontrunners agree that the economy is the priority issue. With all due respect, that has been the mantra of every leader since World War II. It’s the same old thinking expressing itself. I would have been happy if any one of them had said that as much as the economy needed special attention, justice and education are of equal importance. People would be able to tolerate economic hardships better if they lived in a society that jails its big and small thieves. And I don’t see how any future can be sustained if our youth continue to be uneducated, undereducated, or worse, mis-educated.

The movement we need must speak in a new, bold language and must come from a mindset that aims at practical modernization and further democratization of opportunities. I remember how befuddled the politicos were during the First Quarter Storm in the 70s when kids were brandishing socio-political-cultural jargon from Joma Sison’s Philippine Society and Revolution. While, in hindsight, the book was shallow and wanting analysis, it created excitement among the youth and it opened their eyes to new possibilities for the nation. We need to expand the socio-political conversation in this country with new input that does not come from the usual suspects.

I believe it is time for our artists, intellectuals, media and educators to help us focus on possibilities that can redefine us as a nation, to dangle before us a better version and future of what we can be.

We have run out of excuses on why we are still mired in such a terrible state. Every country on our side of the world is on the rise. We have two options left: to move forward and proactively create a future where we can live decently and reach our potential as a nation, or allow the momentum of the past with its wrong policies, toxic attitudes and bad habits to run us off the cliff.

Let us build creatively on what Kapatiran and others have started. We have witnessed how some good people have won local elections. It can be done. Let’s do it on a big scale in 2010. If you subscribe to what I am writing about, please write me, and do let other people know how you feel. Express it loud and clear. I know there are a lot of us just waiting to hear from others, and to be heard.

It’s time to take back our future.

Eto NA! Bili na!


It’s full steam ahead! Jon Santos: Live and in PersonS tickets are out! It’s at a great price at 49 AUD for April 4 at the RSL Club in Burwoood, 7:00 PM.

Score the tickets now!

Ticket can be purchased online at:, & selected outlets (see below)

Chow King Oriental @Westfield Parramatta (PH 98060048), Bayanihan Asian Grocery @ Granville (PH 98971850), J & M Mini Mart @ Pennant Hills (PH 94843374); Highlights Hair & Make-up @Blacktown (PH 98311240)
(more outlets soon)

Eto NA! Bili na!

The strange ways of love

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes Updated February 15, 2009 12:00 AM


Each human story runs for a certain length of time. With love stories, you never know when it is over.

Bruce and Tina were high school sweethearts. Well, kind of. It was one of those awkward stories of youth where being young made things so complicated. Bruce was part of our high school peer group. Tina was from the all-girls school nearby and belonged to the circle of girls we hung around with.

But Tina was going around with someone else then so Bruce could not really make a lot of headway with her. But there was an attraction, for sure, and it was expressed in the way high school love was innocently expressed — innocent flirting, some love letters, some stolen moments when Tina was “single.” All this happened before Bruce left for America on our junior year to migrate.

Meanwhile, a few letters were exchanged throughout our high school and early college years, until they lost touch. After college, when both of them were at least seven years older, Bruce came back to Manila on business and while he was here, he gave Tina a letter saying that his love for her had not died. In the letter, he actually proposed marriage. But alas, his timing was off. Tina had become engaged and was to marry in a few weeks. The letter, which Tina’s sister Carina had received and was supposed to give to Tina, was never opened. Tina had committed herself to her soon-to-be husband and she did not want to complicate her life.

And so life went on separately for both of them. Tina got married. Bruce went back to the US, got a job and met a woman whom he married. For the next 35 years or so, Tina and Bruce would not hear of or from each other.

About three years ago, Bruce came home to Manila for some personal stuff he had to settle. It was a warm and tearful reunion as he met old friends and reconnected with his life back when things where simpler. Now in his 50s, he had recently divorced his wife in the US. He was in between jobs, had a bad back but still had that twinkle in his eye when it came to being open to love.

He came to my house and I introduced him to my wife Lydia who he had never met. That same night, we got to talking about old times and the girls we liked. He mentioned Tina and to his surprise, Lydia said that Tina was her cousin! Delighted, he wondered aloud whether he could reconnect with Tina just for old times’ sake.

A few days later, the two met and caught up and shared stories about their lives now. They were so amazed that little seemed to have changed. Bruce looked the same to Tina with his curly hair and his sense of humor. In Bruce’s eyes, Tina was still as radiantly beautiful as she was back then!

An art teacher, she had that fresh, open outlook on life. But Bruce was saddened to know that Tina was not happy in her relationship. She had reached a point in her marriage where she felt she had no love left to give her partner. She felt empty. She had nothing to give. Their love story had run its course.

It was a great afternoon that Bruce and Tina spent together. There was a warm feeling of comfort between them as old friends; they connected easily on many levels.

A few days later, Bruce had to go back home to the US. In the months that followed, they renewed ties through letters. Not long after, Tina’s marriage finally ended. She and her husband separated. She felt sad but relieved to have finally made the important decision to leave. As she had long dreamed, she left Manila and joined the rest of her family in the US to start a new life.

After more than a year of writing, calling and seeing each other occasionally (they lived in different states), Tina and Bruce discovered that they had completely rekindled their love. Now in their 50s, they awakened the love they had for each other which had been dormant for 38 years. It wasn’t long before Tina introduced Bruce to her family who were completely taken by him.

Soon after, the two decided to marry.

It is amazing how love stories can play out in the most curious way. Imagine how it must be to end up with someone you have loved since high school, except that it happens almost 40 years later! It is quite a story considering that they both entered marriages and had families in between the high school romance and the formal union decades later.

During this Valentine’s Day season, a lot will be written about love and the romance of it. Poets, writers, philosophers, psychologists, holy men have mused about love and will continue to do so. Love, after all, is one of the great mysteries among the Big Ones like God, the Universe and even the meaning of life itself.

In the process, great men have tried to define love, corner it, solve it, release it, put it in a cage and institutionalize it to be able to understand it. But love and the heart have their own nature, and their reasons and logic (or lack of it) travel circuitous and unpredictable paths that sometimes reach happy, eternal shores.

Marriage, I believe, is a calling, and after much thought and observation, I am inclined to agree with M. Scott Peck that in the same light, carefully thought-out and conscientious divorces and separations can be true callings as well. Strangely, one may try as hard as he can to make a marriage work, but in many cases, it just doesn’t work out. Yet in other instances, some people hardly seem to try at all, but it’s a match made in heaven.

Such are the strange ways of love.

Shakespeare wrote: “Love is blind and lovers cannot see the petty follies that they themselves commit.” My college philosophy teacher explained to us the strangeness of love. Why is it, he asked, that sometimes people seem to be so in love with “the wrong person,” or one who is so imperfect? He said that the easiest explanation is that people who are not in love have blinders and cannot see the virtues that lie inside a person’s heart. Perhaps.

I think of love as one of those things we encounter that dangles the prospect of an eternal experience. Perhaps it is not something to be shared with one person alone. Or perhaps it is. I am not really sure. Most people marry for love and with an eye toward and a shot at eternity, but it does not always end that way — at least not the first time, or maybe never at all.

But what is life without love? Or vice versa? One can’t have any meaning without the other.

What is important, though, is our very commitment to live life with love at whatever age we are in, however imperfect we are at it, and to never give up on it.

* * *

Last call for the 44th run of “Tapping the Creative Universe” (TCU), a cutting-edge creativity workshop, will run every 7 to 9 p.m. from 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!

* * *

For the syllabus, questions or reservations, e-mail me at or call 426-5375, 381-4768 or 0916-8554303. You can also visit

Jon Santos: Live and in PersonS in Sydney!

To my Sydney readers, I would like to announce that the tickets to the much-awaited Jon Santos, Live and in Persons (yes, there is an ‘s’ and it’s not a typo) show at the Burwood RSL on April 4 are now on sale. It’s at 49 AUD! You can call Conrad Isip at 0410-618-299 and 98363494 and ask for Ala for arrangements. Tickets are also available at . We will also be setting up a ticket order facility at I will soon come out with a list of more outlets.

Meanwhile, I sent Jon Santos a few questions to answer for this blog entry. He was in Hongkong when he got the questions and so answered me by text! And this is what he said.

Jim: How many characters have you done in the past?

Jon Santos: Siguro, a hundred na, kasi kahit yung isang character ko like sen. meerriam defensive (Senator Mriam Defensor), na i-split into different personalities, aside from may pleasing, split at multiple personality sya.

Jim: Who are your top 4 favorite characters and why?

Jon Santos: Well, deprende sa season, si “brother mike volare” (Bro. Mike Velarde) of the el shaldan movement (El Shadai) .., tapos, si syyerrap espada” (Erap Estrada) naman, for the political season, next, si dra vicky bolo (Dra. Vicky Belo) for the beauty season… and of course, gov. “ate vee” (Vilma Santos) for the…for the… for all seasons!

Jim: How does one impersonate? How do you know what traits of the character to imitate?

Jon Santos: Well, dalawa ang criteria…two types of celebs ang ini-impersonate–yung “IN”, at ung “CLASSIC”.. In na in si ms. “okrah”, (Oprah) kaya enjoy ako sa kanya. Classic naman si madam imeldeefick (Imelda Marcos) kaya i play her often, pero parehong magastos to impersonate . Yung isa, magastos sa dark make-up, ung isa, magastos sa sapatos. pero between the two, mas mahirap i-impersonate si madam kasi ako ang napapadalhan ng subpoenas! (literally demanding, kasi ako ang nade-demanda)

Jim: What can the Philos in Sydney expect?

Naku, di ko pa sure kung sino ang ma-i-sasama ko…kasi i-na-apply ko pa sila ng visa…pero I’m sure the show will be “ex-rated”… may darating na exes!, “ex” president, “soon to be “ex”-president, “ex” senator, “ex” ni edu… “ex” kundiman diva…ang daming ex! kaya di lang triple ex ang show na ito, quadruple, quintuple, at sextuple.

The show will be 50 percent showbis and 50 percent politics…(or, is it the other way around?), mostly female characters, kaya mas challenging, kasi pag babae ako, may iniipit ako “down under”…(ngii, aray).

My friend Mick

I was with my old friend Mick yesterday. We had never had a serious talk in all the 48 years I have known him. He was always a fun guy — and that’s putting it mildly. The more accurate description of Mick is, he is a wild and crazy person prone to all manner of benign and toxic excesses. His life has been marked by the themes of tomfoolery, sex, drugs, alcohol, from “lite” to heavy, and — yes — love! He can be described as a man who has lived his life passionately, although at times without direction.

Even when we were growing up, he was already quite an intense person. He loved to shock people with his derring-do. He had a kamikaze spirit that he employed in both trivial and funny causes. He once ran in front of a speeding car driven by a girl he fancied. Naturally, he was bumped and, fortunately, not badly. When the girl came out horrified to check on him, he winked, smiled and introduced himself to her while lying in the road!

An extreme person, he liked to shock people by doing outrageous things. And no one could out-challenge him. Once, on a dare, he walked around a posh neighborhood totally naked! I, together with some friends, had to encircle him to prevent a scandal or an arrest!

When he liked a girl, Mick would do crazy, dangerous things just to impress her. In the process, he would often be caught in uncompromising situations. He once convinced a young colegiala to climb on top of the roof of her house and sit with him to while away the time, much to the horror of her mother who entered the driveway and saw them necking!

He was that kind of guy.

Except for a few fleeting occasions, I have not really seen much of Mick, much less talked to him at length since high school.

I know he has had a hard life, but this is not apparent when you are with him. In the few times I saw him before yesterday, he had laughed off any serious problems that would make ordinary mortals worry or even fold up — from marital, financial, health — even paternity issues. He would guffaw over beer or whisky to lighten things up. Except for some alcohol-induced tears he shed over a broken heart in high school, I have never seen him in any kind of reflective mode.

Mick was loud, rambunctious and irreverent. It was his way of coping with life. He was unable to commit to anything serious. He married once, but it didn’t work. He has had two other serious live-in relationships since, where he fathered three of his four daughters.

A recent bout with mortality seven years back must has mellowed him. I remember seeing him then and felt that his joie de vivre had left him. He had aged and his Paul Newman-like toothy smile had disappeared. He was recovering from a life-threatening bout with cirrhosis. I thought then that the Mick I knew had disappeared completely.

So it was good to be with him again yesterday. Mick was different, but still the same. He was still loud, but less scandalous. He was his light self, but he seemed more grounded. I thought that it must be age catching up with him. We talked about old times, old friends and the great events that have happened in our lives since high school. I was eager to hear what had transpired in his life and how he coped.

I was surprised to hear that, for the past seven years since his illness, he has stopped drinking, except for an occasional beer. He has also become a doting father of two recent daughters. He still had the loud laugh, and he could still spew out expletives in his crass yet endearingly funny manner, but I felt that he did so just to help me connect to the crazy Mick I knew and, in his mind, probably expected!

He told me stories that struck me, and which I will remember for a long time. He narrated an experience before he married his girlfriend some 30 years ago. He said he went to confession because it was required by the officiating priest. After a rather long and colorful confession, the priest told him that he would not give him the usual penance of Hail Marys or Rosaries to be recited. Instead, the priest told him to give all the money he had in his wallet to the first poor person he saw that day.

On his way home with his girlfriend, they stopped at a red light at an intersection. There was no one in the street that late evening until he looked to his left side window and was startled to see a man in crutches, with one leg missing. Remembering his penance, Mick took out his wallet and gave all 400 pesos and some change that he had and asked his girlfriend for all the money in her purse to give to the beggar.

Mick said that the moment he looked at the eyes of the beggar, he saw in the man’s face the very countenance of Jesus Christ! He said he was so moved that all through the drive home tears streamed down his cheeks.

It is an astounding story coming from one who seemed to have not a religious bone in his body. What transpired after that was nowhere near the complete conversion of Saul the persecutor of Christians to Paul the Apostle. Mick’s marriage failed, he continued drinking, had many affairs, etc. But that story seems to have left an opening for other similar experiences.

Mick had a crazy sense of commitment and loyalty. I know him as one who would literally kill or die for a friend. Once, one of his daughters was hurting badly due to a failed relationship. Moved by passion and anger, his daughter called him and asked if he remembered saying to her when she was little that if anyone hurt her he would kill that person. He said yes, he did! Well, she was now asking him to do as he promised.

Mick was so moved by his daughter’s pain that he immediately called up people he knew whom, he believed, could carry out the operation. He felt he owed this to his daughter who had grown up without him. He also felt guilty about being an absentee dad and thought this was one way he could make up for it.

Luckily, his older brother intervened and told him to let it go. Immediately, he realized his misplaced love for his daughter, and called it off! He said that the moment he did, he felt a sense of relief. Again, he said he felt he had been saved!

All throughout our conversation, I had a strong feeling of empathy and love for my crazy old friend. He, who often acted as if he was clueless about morals and life’s consequences, must be so loved by God. After all, he has a corner in his heart that is true.

Mick said one piece of advice he got from his doctor is, if he wants to live long, he must have a light heart. Lately, he seems to be taking this seriously. He has also followed the advice of his late mother to make peace with all his ex-partners, which he has done.

When it was time to go, I gave him a tight hug and wished him the best, as we talked about seeing each other again. I said I want to meet all the people who matter in his life.

It looks to me like Mick’s life is a continuing redemption story. We can mess up all we want and as often as we want. Mick certainly has. But one thing we can be sure of is, there are events, people and missions thrown our way from time to time that open our eyes and remind us that there is good in us, and in everyone.

* * *

The 44th run of “Tapping the Creative Universe” (TCU), a cutting-edge creativity workshop, will run every 7 to 9 p.m. from 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 email or call 426-5375 or 0916-8554303. You can also visit for info.

News out of thin air (Edition 1)

(News that even when made up seem completely believable when seen through the lens of the ridiculousness that plagues Philippine politics).

A group of businessmen are talking to congress now and suggesting that it introduce a divorce bill which will enable the Filipino People to divorce their own government. This is in the wake of the non-stop scandals that Filipinos have been subjected to all these years. It is becoming clearer and clearer that officials in the Philippines believe that their tenures are forever, judging by the way they lord it over everybody. It’s as if there was no tomorrow or Judgment Day.

When asked what will take the place of the government, they are suggesting that we ‘outsource’ for a new one. For President, we could get Bill Clinton or Lee Kwan Yew. For the congress, we could get any previous members of the parliaments of England, Scotland, or even the Knesset of Israel.

The Catholic Church is expected not to pose any objections.

* * *

In the wake of the recent conflict between PDEA and the justice department, the justice prosecutors office has announced today the new rules that will from hereon govern arrests of drug pushers, addicts, manufacturers and anyone else connected to the trafficking, selling, or consumption of illicit drugs.

a) The evidence or presence of drugs must be overwhelming and documented properly
b) There must be direct evidence of overwhelming guilt by the parties involved
c) The lawful procedures for arrest and apprehension must be strictly followed

All suspects however may be released immediately if they are related or connected to anyone in government or have properly paid the prosecutors to drop the case.

* * *
Deposed President Joseph Estrada seems to have a problem choosing who his Vice-President will be if indeed he can run for President in 2010. He is very close to the dimunitive Mayor of Makati Jejomar Binay who is willing to run with him. And then there is Senator Loren Legarda, very popular Presidential candidate who has offered to step down and be his VP.

But Erap remains undecided and wary of them and may even choose someone else, according to sources. It is probably because his former VP Gloria Macapagal Arroyo who helped topple him is described as ‘maliit at babae.’

* * *
A recent international survey put the Philippines as the no. 2 most corrupt country in the world. Why not no.1? Kasi naglagay daw ang gobiyerno natin!

* * *
The pharmaceutical company Pfizer, makers of Viagra have decided that a makeover of the product is necessary to boost sagging sales due to the economic crisis. They are introducing it in a new container and they will now call it a ‘stimulus package’.

Finally, I leave you with some musical musings about the coming elections. Press on link below to play!


Egos big and small

I heard a woman on CNN describe Barack Obama as the most popular living person in history. He is the biggest, most phenomenal, most admired person in the world today, making big Hollywood stars, politicians and other world leaders seem like starlets and B players.

When I watch the new US president, I can’t help but be both astonished and awed by his calm and quiet centeredness in the middle of the maelstrom he has inherited — the economic quagmire, the war in the Middle East and the craziness of US politics. Surely, he has to have an ego — somewhere inside — that is enjoying all the attention and adulation that he is being thrown at him. You can also throw in the power that he has at his disposal. That has to affect any man somehow. To start with, even before he became president, he had to have the burning ambition to get to where he is today. Yet, he handles all the events swirling around him with admirable serenity.

Ego is a tricky thing. In my life, I have always had the problem of where to place my ego in my spiritual quest, or any quest for that matter. In a lot of spiritual circles, ego is a bad thing because it is the source of all desire and want. It is the ego that prevents one from seeing other beings and makes a person focus only on himself. It promotes self-centeredness, something religious teachers and spiritual books warn us against.

We have also seen played out in public the famous, gigantic egos belonging to actors, world leaders, athletes and other famous people. At times, they are harmlessly pathetic; at others, detrimental and toxic to large chunks of mankind. Think of Mugabe, Hitler, Milosevic and George Bush — people whose actions, based on the dictates of their delusional egos, negatively impacted the world.

In the smaller arena of our daily lives, we have seen ourselves trapped by our own egos, such as when we refuse to forgive or to concede that we are wrong. Who has not been tricked by the ego?

At the same time, I have seriously asked myself what life would be like not have an ego. Is it even possible? I think not. I dare say that one couldn’t live without an ego. It is important to have some ego. A small, functional ego makes a person aware of his own boundaries and even his own personhood. It helps one define who he is, from his own self-image to what he is capable of. If only for this, an average-sized ego can’t be as bad as we are told it is.

But ego gets a bad rap because it is the source of desire, and a large ego has large desires. Who hasn’t felt a burning desire for someone, or something in their lives? What is one to do when one has a desire that is so intense and insistent? Everyone, from titans and moguls, the shakers and movers of the world, to ordinary human beings, have desires so compelling they will do everything to achieve satisfaction. People in love or in great lust, or extremely angry and insecure people must suffer the same thing, too.

There are two roads open to those who must deal with burning desire. One is to dilute, or even kill all desire through meditation and rigorous spiritual and religious practice. In this case, one must alter one’s life so that all sensual thrills and material desires are renounced. The body and all its needs must be denied as one chooses the ascetic life.

The other road is to go the path of meditation and have a spiritual life (since it’s good for you), but with the aim of managing the intensity of one’s desire instead of renouncing it altogether. This, to me, is reasonable because, after all, to want is human.

Ken Wilber suggests that instead of merely denouncing and renouncing the ego, one must transcend it. How? Think of ego as one’s personality. Our personality, at any given time, with all its wants, needs, quirks and charms, is the individualized expression of the sum total of the time, space and milieu where God put us. That is what egos are — personalities — and they are shaped by all the factors I mentioned above. And then there is “being” — that which we are a part of that is timeless and eternal and transcends all earthly things. Being resides in the realm of spirit.

Simply put, to transcend ego is to use it in the service of spirit.

For example, saints, yogis, sages, gurus, great figures from different religions — these paragons of the spiritual paths were by all accounts very intense people. Jesus, Gautama Buddha, Mohammad — all expressed their intensity in different ways. Think of Jesus overturning tables and angrily driving away the merchants from the temple.

Intensity, not a timidity or a passive character, must have transformed these great figures into the powerful forces that they became, which changed the course of mankind forever. When they expressed their charismatic personalities, the world listened, prostrated itself and awakened to the radiance of spirit.

But did they have egos? Most certainly! Their big personalities were an expression of their egos. And that is what they used to accomplish their life’s work. But contrasted with the way, say, Hitler was used by his own ego, these leaders commandeered their egos to serve something bigger, and that is the vision and task of the total liberation of mankind. Their desire to show us the radiance of God was so great that they literally risked all, life included, to share it with us.

One might say that while despots and tyrants do everything for their ego’s gratification, the spiritual figures I mentioned above used it to gift mankind with what the world alone cannot offer — the enduring reality of spirit.

To engage the world with a great desire to improve the lives of people is to have an ego the world will benefit from. And when one’s desires are strong enough, he will be gifted with extraordinary power and strength to accomplish anything. Athletes and great humanitarians have shown this time and again.

Going back to the two roads I mentioned earlier on how to treat the ego, the question I asked myself when I was writing my last book was, Does the spiritual path dictate that I obliterate my ego or should I do the opposite and make it so big that I include everyone in it?

By obliterating my ego, I cut myself off from everything. By expanding it to include everyone, I get to experience a widening of my own ego identity which includes all of humanity. President Barack Obama, the African-American with both a Muslim and Christian background, will hopefully have an ego so big and so healthy that the world will be better for it.

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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.

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For the syllabus, questions or reservations, e-mail me at email or call 426-5375 or (0916)8554303. You can also visit for info.

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