The last full show

I have been on a really hectic mini tour with my friends Danny and Boboy, doing APO’s last performances in North America. Arriving two days before, we had three shows over the weekend in two venues in three days. Two were at the Pechanga Casino and one in Cache Creek, in California.

The logistics involved in bringing a party of 13 to do shows abroad can be daunting. It is tedious and grueling. There are visa applications to file, tickets to purchase, schedules to clear and follow, rehearsals and a host of conditions that have to be met. We prepare months before the concert and, for our audiences and for us, we hone our craft, build up our enthusiasm and our spirits for that magical two-hour high that a performance brings. The preparation is long and can be agonizing, and everything culminates in that special time and place when performer and audience meet and engage on an emotional level.

These three shows were quite special to us and to our audience. These are among our last shows before the APO Hiking Society, my singing and performance group of 40 years, calls it quits at the end of May. They were the last shows where Pinoys in America would see us perform live. And primarily because of this, for many of us in the entourage, there seemed to be a lot more going on aside from the usual travel, rehearsals and shows. We shared a collective feeling that the end, the finality of something that has sustained us as artists and as people for decades, is indeed looming.

I have traveled to the US many times and a great majority of those trips were for shows and performances. Thus, I associate going to the US with touring with the APO. My mental impressions have to do with meeting tons of people and having casual conversations with Stateside Pinoys, doing promotional work that involves posing for pictures with fans and friends. I am not exaggerating when I say that we probably have had thousands of pictures taken during the selling and promotion of our shows and during our performances on tour.

People like to reach out to celebrities. I enjoy reaching out as well. The people who talk to us collectively or individually, I imagine, are going for that “moment” with us. We have been APO for some 40 years now and we have bonded in a special way with a great many people through our years of recording, performing live and on TV, and our personal appearances. We realize that our songs have become the soundtrack of the lives of several generations of Pinoys. Thus I believe that we have, in our small way, helped define with our audience, some aspects of being Filipino.

This human connection with people, the “moments” we have with them, can get very intense, especially with Filipinos abroad. Our interacting with kababayans through the years, which has resulted, in varying ways, in influencing their personal histories, can be quite overpowering. I know it is, for me, as I play my own part in making this “connection.” There are hugs, sometimes there are tears, and there are conversations that spring from a comfortable down-home familiarity that is simply amazing.

I do notice that people approach us with a friendliness that is usually reserved for someone they feel they know quite well. It does not surprise me since, in a way, our audiences grew up with us. Many of them have heard our songs since they were kids and seen our careers played out on TV from the intimacy of their homes. Some have claimed our “barkada” tunes and love songs as the theme music for periods of their lives. Our songs on themes like innocence lost, unrequited love, sad breakups, whimsical times and light moments, probably describe the lives they gave up when they went to live abroad.

This tour, short and hectic as it was, had an extraordinary effect on me. Many times, I found myself consciously present and awake, with eyes, ears and full senses open to everything that was happening. The mundane stuff that happens on tours — the checking in and out of airports, the bus rides to the venues, the waiting, the rehearsals, the sound checks, the signing of autographs and picture-taking — all of a sudden had a new dimension. I knew that these things were happening for the last time, and I savored every moment.

I am reminded of something the ancient philosopher Heraclitus said about never crossing the same river twice. Perhaps every situation is really as new and fresh as this. It is just laziness, or lack of consciousness on our part that prevents us from seeing it this way.

There is really no such thing as repetition. As someone who has done thousands of live shows, I have learned that every show we do is unique. There are no two audiences or situations that are ever exactly the same. We may have a set repertoire and it may work each time, but when we bring it to our audience, it must be as intimate and real and relevant to them as we can make it. We have to “go local” with it.

The formula must come to life. The word must be made flesh. The theory must translate to reality by tweaking things here and here. For us performers, this can only be done with total presence and attention to what we are doing.

As we went through our shows on this tour, my thoughts were about the entire breadth and length and meaning of how our career has panned out. The shows were not isolated events but were, in a sense, a kind of climax to our relationship with the people who came to watch us. There will be no other time when this will happen again ever.

And if ever the APO decides to get back together after a few years, it will not change anything about how we perform: every show, every audience is unique.

There is a book by Elizabeth Kübler-Ross entitled Wherever You Go, There You Are. This implies that at any given point, you are the sum total of everything that has transpired before. The “you” in the now is the state of the art of who you are.

Our last three US performances were called “The Last Full Show.” Indeed. What show isn’t The Last One? Aren’t we alive because we are breathing right now? What is life except what is, right here, right now?

* * *

Have you been shooting pics without really understanding how your camera works? Has it been mostly hit or miss with taking nice pics?

I am offering a Basic Photography Course. This will be a hands-on experiential approach which will cover basic knowledge of the SLR camera and its functions, techniques on lighting for outdoors, indoors and including studio lighting, composition, the use of different lenses, portraiture and landscape techniques, motion or action photography, and a whole lot more.

This is a one-day workshop is on April 3, from 1 to 7 p.m. at 113 B. Gonzales, Loyola Heights, QC. Fee is P3,500.

We will proceed immediately to shooting pictures as we discuss the theories. I will work with a limited number of students only.

Interested participants must have an SLR digital camera capable of manual settings.

For inquiries and reservations, call 426-5375, 0916-8554303 (ask for Ollie) or e-mail me your contact numbers at

Why our children are the way they are

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) Updated March 21, 2010 12:00 AM

When I am with people my age and we talk about our children’s generation, we wonder why many of them, two of my children included, are still not married even if they are in their late 20s and early 30s.

Contrast this with our generation. Many of us got married just a few years out of college. When we were in our mid- or late-20s, we had at least one child, and we were not only dreaming of owning our own homes, but had actually done something solid in that direction, by committing to a mortgage to acquire it.

My wife whom I married when she was 20, observes that the new generation has a problem with commitment. Sometimes I tend to believe it, and I think it’s the fault of the generation that preceded them — ours.

I am not going to rant about how my generation is better than my children’s. Instead, I will try to explain what I think we did which may have caused some problems for our kids.

We who are now in our late 50s certainly feel that our generation had it easier than our parents did. For one, we did not have to go through the trauma of World War II. But even if we grew up in a world that was, in many ways, less challenging than theirs, there was still much of their world that lingered in ours, and this helped shape us.

Even if we lived through many changes, it took quite a while for these changes to affect us. Our formative years saw us growing up in a world that was still pretty clear-cut about many things. School and church rules, duties, obligations and the like were taken seriously. Sin and grace, right and wrong, punishment and reward, were understood in the same way by most everyone. Family was important, and the word of our elders was something we did not take lightly.

In school, there were the good students and the bad students. You either passed or failed depending on how well you did your work. In the world we grew up in, no one had heard of Attention Deficit Disorder, dyslexia, or other mental or psychological impediments that now explain why certain students perform less well than others. There were also no schools that offered individualized instructions, and our parents did not feel the need to be informed in great detail about how we interrelated with classmates, or how we behaved, unless we did something really bad.

Most of us “earned” the perks we enjoyed like the privilege of driving the family car with “good behavior.” We were given reasonable amounts for baon and we lived within our means. Most of us first experienced travel only after we got out of college.

When it was our turn to become parents, however, our generation must have collectively decided to give our children something “better” by giving them what we did not have. In wanting to help them be all they can be, or to give them more confidence and an edge over others their age, we not only sent them to the best schools, we also enrolled them in extracurricular activities like ballet, gymnastics, karate, etc. We brought them along on our trips to broaden their perspectives. We over-praised them even when they underperformed. We withheld the stick when they did wrong because we could not stand seeing them suffer, even if it was for their own good. Besides, we were afraid it might affect their “self-esteem.” We also gave them gifts at the slightest excuse — something we did not enjoy when we were growing up, unless it was Christmas or our birthday.

In effect, we wanted to make our kids feel “special.” I am sure our own parents also thought we were special, but the difference was, our parents did not indulge us in the way we have indulged our own children. They lived by stricter rules which were not as ambiguous as ours today. Whereas their rules were mostly spelled out in black and white, we gave our children greater “understanding” and bent the rules accordingly.

Throw in the new ideas that were practically unheard of in our parents’ time — concepts like “self-esteem enhancement,” “individualized learning” and other modern notions that we embraced and applied. These not only opened us up to “shades of gray” when dealing with our kids, but in many ways, they trapped us there.

While our parents may have seen us as special, we were still treated like the other kids. To us, today’s parents, the “specialness” (in our eyes) of our kids may literally mean to us that they are “exceptional,” and thus deserve to be exempted from the rules that apply to everyone else.

Our kids are brighter, taller, more intelligent, better looking than us, thanks to all the nutritious food we did not get when we were growing up. To be sure, it’s a different world they are growing up in. The choices open to them are much more varied than those we ever dreamed of. And their choices extend not just to lifestyle and career options, but to moral ones as well. I believe that our children navigate a more ambiguous world of morality in this fast-changing world than we had to when we were young. One reason is because, for better or worse, we introduced them to a more understanding, forgiving personal God than the one our parents introduced to us when we were growing up.

While I tell my kids that I wish to see them grow up independent and living their own lives, I am often greatly tempted to intervene and sort things out for them. But I hold back because I feel that they are old enough to “save” themselves and they should assume full responsibility for the choices they make.

Evolution tells us that every generation is an improvement over the previous one. I sometimes wonder if this is true though, since I see the young today as less tough than we were, with less patience and a greater feeling of entitlement.

The late Anita Roddick, founder of the Body Shop chain, expressly told her kids that they would not get any inheritance from her when she died. She had decided to donate everything to charity. She impressed upon them that they had to work for their own piece of the pie, so to speak.

I’ve told my kids the same thing, but I am not really sure that I can follow this through with when the time comes.

I hear from many parents that they try to be their kids’ “best friend” to make sure that communication lines are always open. That sounds fine, but in truth, many times we could probably have served them better by being more like their parents than their barkada.

But however we raise our kids, it is important to know where they are at, at any given time in their lives. The writer-humorist Josh Billings said, “To bring up a child in the way he should go, travel that way yourself once in a while.” And that means not just remembering how we were at their age but never forgetting that our parents probably fretted too about how we would turn out as adults.

* * *

Have you been shooting pictures without really understanding how your camera works? Has it been mostly hit or miss?

I will be giving a workshop on Basic Photography on April 3, 2010. This will be a hands-on experiential approach which will cover basic knowledge of the SLR camera and its functions, techniques on lighting for outdoors, indoors and including studio lighting, composition, the use of different lenses, portraiture and landscape techniques, motion or action photography, and a whole lot more.

This is a one-day workshop only. We will proceed immediately to shooting pictures as we discuss the theories. I will work with a limited number of students only.

Participants must have a DSLR digital camera capable of manual settings.

Workshop date: April 3, 2010, 1 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Place: 113 B. Gonzales, Loyola Heights, QC

Cost: P3,500

Please call 426-5375, 0916-8554303 (ask for Ollie) or e-mail me at for questions and reservations.

Musings of a political animal

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) Updated March 14, 2010 12:00 AM

Our hierarchy of concerns varies depending on our age and circumstances. Most of our lives, we worry about family, children, money, health, religion, country, sex and other basic needs.

Admittedly, as a young man in high school, the opposite sex occupied my consciousness for the most part. But I also found myself thinking about topics like music, religion and spirituality. But as much as I was moved by those topics, I was also quite fascinated with politics and how to solve our country’s problems.

When I look back at my life, I would say that political concerns have dominated my consciousness.

Maybe it’s because my family has always been exposed to politics and politicians who were either relatives or friends. Or it could be because my father worked closely with President Ramon Magsaysay and died with him in that plane crash on March 17, 1957. But I have always felt a stirring in my heart whenever I think of the Philippines.

I must also credit my mother whose unwavering belief in fairness and justice and her concern for the less fortunate moved me deeply. Her compassion for the poor was always evident. She always shared the meager resources we had with people who came to her for help. And the Philippines, to me, always seems to be needing help, from as far back as I can remember.

I cannot deny that I am a political animal. In fact, I often wonder how some people can exist without even a hint of interest in the socio-political questions of our time and the future of our country.

In my college years when the First Quarter Storm engulfed my generation, I studiously read newspapers, books, political treatises and manifestos, listened to lectures by various political personalities representing different stripes about the problems the Philippines faced. I read as much as I could about our history and why we are as we are.

I admit I was in awe of what seemed like the boldness, daring and correctness of the activists who walked the talk by dropping out of school and joining the armed struggle. The backdrop of all this ferment was the corrupt, repressive Marcos regime which seemed like it would last forever.

However, while I was sympathetic to the call of armed struggle, I was not bold enough to drop out of school and fight the system with violence, as others were doing. (When I think about it now, I must have been some kind of a pacifist even then, although I had not thought the position through. All I knew was that violence repelled me even if it may have been necessary). Besides, I was more interested in music, girls, and other mundane concerns of people my age.

But I was cynical about change through peaceful means. The armed struggle was, sadly, the only way to battle martial law, or so I thought, until Ninoy Aquino was assassinated and people power came into being. When I saw throngs of people showing up to peacefully but militantly challenge the dictator in the campaign for the snap elections in 1986, I experienced a paradigm shift.

While many people in the Left whom I admired looked at participation in the elections as a historical “folly,” I wholeheartedly embraced the Cory campaign, showed up at the rallies, and marched with cause-oriented groups. I wrote songs and performed with the APO Hiking Society to rally the troops, so to speak.

The people rose and spoke boldly and eloquently, and we won the elections. The marginalized Left had to eat crow and they have joined every electoral exercise since, even as they continue to challenge the government militarily through armed struggle.

These days, I am again fired up, just as I was in the ’86 election campaign. I am supporting Noynoy Aquino, Mar Roxas and the entire Liberal Party slate. I am going all out for them because I do not see any change happening if Manny Villar and his ilk become the leaders of this land. Villar, with all his money, can buy everyone—media, local politicians, opinion makers, the poor, even the Left and the NPA, as he recently claimed. He can even buy Gloria, if he hasn’t already come to a political accommodation with her to guarantee victory for himself, and for her, a friendly government that will absolve her of corruption.

Meanwhile, the Aquino-Roxas campaign is struggling with insufficient funds and organizational problems. But to their credit, they have a lot of spirit and the support of ordinary people everywhere who believe in the possibility that change can happen with the true opposition in power. Their base of support is people power, with its many moving parts, that hopefully can come together in May and carry them to victory.

For many people, this election is the election of their lives. They see the Aquino-Villar showdown as the fight between good and evil, a newer, more reformist leadership versus the old order. For me, it is all of the above. It is a showdown between money and the lust for power on the one hand, and idealism and the spirit of change on the other. In many ways, it is a lot like Marcos versus Cory all over again.

If Villar wins, the message for all of us will be clear — that winning the presidency is all about money and the old ways of seizing power in this country. To be acquired, the presidency must be bought with money, deception and all the elements of old style politics. Woe to the un-moneyed, for they will never hold power in this country.

I know some of you will find my take on this to be cynical and simplistic. But I am in my late fifties and I am both impatient and practical about change. There are other candidates in this electoral contest who represent change, and I have entertained the possibility of supporting them. But I am betting on Noynoy and Mar because, realistically, only they come close to winning and thus can make change possible.

With GMA running for a seat in the House, my assumption is she will go for the speakership, and so, with my vote, I am giving Noynoy not just the presidency but the Senate as well. I want the forces of change to be strong and vibrant so as to counter the still significant forces of reactionary politics.

I am writing this in Sydney on Thursday, a day after leaving Manila. My heart and mind are still engaged in the political arena back home. I will stay here only a few days so there is no point in easing up on my enthusiasm about what is going on back home.

In contrast to the frenzy of our politics at home is the calm of Australian life where people enjoy socio-political institutions and processes that deliver on most of their promises to their constituents. I have this dream that one day, our people will have something that can deliver as well.

People are anxious about the possible grim scenarios that can happen in the next few months. We could lose. Automation could fail. There may be cheating, or even a failure of elections which could make GMA stay longer in power. I know many people who stay up late at night over endless cups of coffee worrying, strategizing, planning for any eventuality.

These days, I am constantly singing a line from a song written by Ryan Cayabyab for the country’s centennial celebration which goes, “O bayan ko kailan ka tatayo?”

The outcome of the campaign these next two months will provide the answer to this poignant question.

What if our next president was a poet? Or a teacher? Or a chef?

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) Updated March 07, 2010 12:00 AM
We’ve had lawyers, actors, economists, technocrats, singers and entrenched warlords run for public office in our country. Judging from the behavior of most of our leaders on all levels of our political life, the professions they come from hardly make a difference to the governed. Generally, I have not seen any value added by the professions politicians bring into office in terms of actual governance. Maybe, in terms of winning, actors have an advantage, but once elected, they all behave more or less the same way as everyone else.

I know this is a cynical statement, and is not entirely true. Once in awhile, a politician brings his profession and expertise into the job, and it makes a difference in governance. Bayani Fernando, an engineer, was a mayor and MMDA head, and from all indications, he did think and act like an engineer. His solutions, decisions and actions showed it, for better or for worse. Fidel Ramos, an engineer and a military man, attacked every problem with the instincts, logic and focus of a battlefield general.

Sometimes I wonder what it would be like for the governed if politicians brought with them the passion, instincts, practices, habits, language and the true values of their original professions. And what would happen if the political process was flexible and open enough to allow other “untried” professions and occupations to serve in public office?

What would that be like? I have put on my whimsical hat and am daydreaming as I write this.

If poets ran the government, what could we expect? Ah, legalese and literalism would be thrown out the window and poetry and free verse and a playful soaring spirit would be our guiding light. Congress would open with a poetry reading in lieu of a prayer. Debates would sound like balagtasan. Officials would be wearing berets and goatees, and official sessions and functions would be more bohemian, with lots of flamboyance, and definitely less staid.

Imagine public announcements expressed in new ways: “From the toil of your labors emerges forth this humble waiting shed so that your weary bodies may find comfort from nature’s onslaught.” A project of Mayor so-and-so!

Or imagine going down EDSA and instead of the usual billboards with commercial enticements, we find quotes from poets exhorting our spirits to fly. No Vicki Belo ads of semi-naked women. No tacky ads selling instant noodles and whitening creams. Instead, something inspiring from, say, Kahlil Gibran: “In the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasures. For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.”

What a different experience life in Metro Manila would be.

Or what if our president was a preschool teacher? Cabinet members would have to fall in line in alphabetical order before they enter a cabinet meeting and greet the president in unison: “Good morning, Ma’am!” The meetings would begin and end with an action song, complete with hand and body movements. Officials who need to heed the call of nature would have to ask permission: “Ma’am, may I go out?” Furthermore, presidential memos would be illustrated and worded very simply.

The program of government would be explained to everyone through a school program. And at the State of the Nation Address, everyone would receive an award or recognition. And we just might achieve political harmony, for once.

What would it be like if our chief executive was a chef? The president would be really popular, I predict. Hunger would be addressed first and foremost. And the government would be feeding the multitudes not just with the usual nutri-buns, canned goods and rice.

The National Food Authority would be known as the Nation’s Basic Menu Office. Emergency food packs would include coriander leaves to go with the munggo and the sardines. They would also be called “dishes,” not meals. Galunggong would be served in at least 10 different ways. The Palace would open its kitchen, menu and recipes to anyone who wishes to know what the President eats.

Arguments among cabinet members would be settled like an Iron Chef competition. The one who makes the best culinary concoction wins! The people would rate the president’s performance according to how he has affected the population gastronomically!

Okay, how about if we had a no-nonsense major-doma as president? You know, the chief maid who runs the entire household, and the house? She’s the one you see in telenovelas, the surrogate mother who knows where everything is and the state of affairs of everyone in the family. More than a housewife by training and practice, she executes the orders of the head of the house and when she is good, the house hums like a solid ship.

She is naturally bossy, breathing down the necks of people to do their jobs. So, the garbage would be disposed of, she would live within the allowed budget and — who knows? — she may even balance it. She would call on those who do not do their jobs well and scold them. All deadlines for infrastructure completion and other projects would be followed strictly. She would have her finger in every aspect of running the country. Her chismis network, which extends to the entire neighborhood, would be the template for how the intelligence services should gather information. With her ear habitually to the wall, she would know everything before it even happened.

Heads of state who visit would be met at the dirty kitchen!

She would make it her business to know what pleases her boss — the boss being us, the Filipino people — and we would be happy and secure knowing that we were in her safe, solid and efficient hands.

But seriously now: we have elected sportsmen, doctors, teachers, radio announcers, priests, even a mechanic to high offices in our country. Presumably, they carried the passion, instincts, habits and values of their professions into the job. But looking at the outcome, I can’t help feeling that, perhaps, if they had been truer to their original professions, we would be in a better place today.

Lito Lapid could have made a good legislator if he had played his part in the Senate like his movie roles of rescuer of the downtrodden, the poor and powerless, and fighting for them as he did in his movies. And Robert Jaworski could have conducted himself as a pushy risk-taker who got results, while fighting for his bills in the Senate, the way he used to do so effectively in the basketball court. Sen. Juan T. Flavier played his doctor persona to the hilt and the people loved it. He made his passion his political direction and advocacy.

Now we have a real estate mogul running for president. Can we expect him to follow his instincts and convert every piece of idle land in the country into a subdivision? Can we expect Noynoy, the economist, to passionately pursue bread and butter issues that affect the poorest of our countrymen?

Since our elections are mainly free-for-alls and there is no law banning any profession from running for positions of leadership, all we can really expect from those who want to lead us is to be good public officials by contributing what they know and serving with passion, no matter what profession they come from.

At least, this way, for better or worse, the people will get what they voted for.

* * *

I am running my Basic Photography Course again. This will be a hands-on experiential approach which will cover basic knowledge of the SLR camera and its functions, techniques on lighting for outdoors, indoors and including studio lighting, composition, the use of different lenses, portraiture and landscape techniques, motion or action photography, and a whole lot more.

This is a one-day workshop only from 1 to 7 p.m. We will proceed immediately to shooting pictures as we discuss the theories. I will work with a limited number of students only.

Participants must have an DSLR digital camera capable of manual settings.

The workshop is on April 3, 1 to 7 p.m., at 113 B. Gonzales, Loyola Heights, QC. The cost is P3,500.

Please call 426-5375, 0916-8554303 (ask for Ollie) or e-mail me at for questions and reservations. Send an e-mail with your contact numbers to insure a slot.

APO’s Schedule from March 8 till May 29 when we say goodbye..


Below is our schedule so far till we say farewell on MAY 29, our very last show. There are more shows added before this, to be sure. The tentative ones should be decided on and finalised quite soon. If you have any questions or wish to reserve tickets, , feel free to call the APO office at 4265301/ 4260103, or email Betta, or manager at