I predict 2013 will happen

I predict 2013 will happen
HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 30, 2012 – 12:00am

Illustration by REY RIVERA

Nostradamus was known to sit late at night and make his accurate predictions for mankind. He wrote them in quatrains.

It is late at night as I write these predictions for 2013. This is the only similarity between Nostradamus and I. Like him, I also write late at night. But I have no idea what quatrains are.

With regards to accuracy, I make no claims. I have done this a few times before so I guess my record speaks for itself. But don’t ask or tell me what it says. I have not heard my record speak and I do not want to know what it says.

I do not use Tarot cards or any paraphernalia for divination. But I do claim that all these predictions came to me in a vision — a vision that makes me break out in sweat. It is the vision of a calendar screaming out the deadline for article submission.

Here we go:

1) Owing to the success of his Twitter account, His Holiness Pope Benedict will now open various accounts on Facebook, Skype, Instagram, Streamzoo, Linked-in and other social media. Apparently, he has realized the power of social media. A Vatican spokesperson has predicted that Benedict will be the most modern Pope ever who will use cutting-edge technology to engage the postmodern world with his 16th-century views.

2) Traffic in Manila will continue to increase, so much so that MMDA, anticipating more road rage, will install big video monitors everywhere along EDSA. This is to help pacify motorists. MMDA is hoping these will make people relax while in traffic, and feel like they are just seated in their cars in a big drive-in movie theater.

3) Another Paquiao and Marquez boxing match will happen in 2013. It will be between Aling Dionesia Pacquiao and Joey Marquez. This time, Pacquiao will have a big chance of winning.

4) China and the Philippines will finally solve the Spratlys issue. In a big and bold diplomatic move that will involve Madame Auring and geomancers, the Philippine government will persuasively convince the Chinese that the Spratlys and the controversial shoals, if annexed by China, will result in bad feng shui. But as a gesture of friendship, the Philippines will carry the burden for China. China will immediately withdraw all claims and send P-Noy two pandas as a token of appreciation.

5) Scientists will discover and confirm the real reason behind the increasing number of typhoons that are coming the way of the Philippines. Apparently, it has nothing to do with climate change at all. It seems Mother Nature all along has been quite upset because of the awful names given natural weather phenomena. Because of this, PAG-ASA in 2013 will abandon the already assigned typhoon names like Auring, Brising, Dante, Emong, etc. and instead replace them with nicer ones like Kimberly, Kirsten, Beverly, Holly, Kitty, etc. The weather will improve greatly to everyone’s surprise and delight.

6) A missing Mayan slab of stone will be discovered which will explain why the end of the world did not happen. Apparently, the Mayan gods who have been watching over the world have taken a liking to all kinds of telenovelas. It may have affected the disposition of the gods and made them change their minds since it will still be a few more weeks before these end. And sequels are already planned. Interestingly enough, all these will be confirmed by the CBCP.

7) The US will finally decide to ban all guns. Instead, the Second Amendment, which gives everyone the right to bear arms will be replaced with the right to bare arms. In one masterstroke, gun violence will end and the wearing of sleeveless clothes will help Americans adapt to global warming.

8) A frenzy of infrastructure construction will happen in 2013. SLEX and NLEX will be connected. MRT and LRT will be merged. A train will link all airports in Manila to Clark. Lastly, St. Luke’s and Veterans Hospitals will become official branches of the New Bilibid Penitentiary.

9) The “Occupy Wall Street” movement which was a big phenomenon in the US and some parts of the world will be adopted as a business strategy by Henry Sy, and his SM empire. It will involve occupying every space left in the Philippines and filling it with malls, drugstores and condominiums but without adequate parking.

10) Accident-prone people will have the option to now surgically implant protective gear inside their bodies that will automatically release air bags upon impact, just like in cars. Helmets will soon be a thing of the past.

11) Now that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has gained respect by launching a satellite into space proving that NoKor is as modern as any First World nation, he will now do the next “impossible” thing. In an unprecedented, audacious, radical and unexpected move, he will order his scientists to study the cutting-edge science of planting rice and vegetables to feed his country.

12) In a bold move, the DOJ will arrest 100-plus prominent people involved in various crimes in 2013. They will be detained in a small, exclusive detention center that will be called Twitter Jail since it will only have a maximum number of 140 characters.

13) Korean superstar Psy will abruptly end his successful career and will disappear for months. But he will surprise everyone when he suddenly reappears again but this time as Kim Jong Un’s missing twin. His influence in North Korea will be far-reaching. This will be evident when the goose-stepping military will do their yearly Patriotic Parade March in “Gangnam Style.”

14) Heart and Chiz will continue to date and their love will blossom. Heart will carry a locket with Chiz’s picture in it to show her love. But Chiz will refuse for the simple reason that he does not want to cause a scandal by being seen in public with a Heart on.

15) Because of the RH Law, many brands and styles of condoms will now be available. There will be the loose fit for hip-hop users. There will also be the glow-in–the-dark, heat-seeking condoms for the visually impaired. Lastly, there will be condoms that will be beautifully designed but riddled with holes. These will target the fashionable but conservative users since it can be a fashion statement while still conforming to CBCP teachings. To the surprise of many, this condom will be manufactured by PAGCOR since it will be a gamble or a game of chance for anyone to use them. This will start a huge debate on which is the bigger sin: using condoms or gambling.

16) Lastly, I predict 2013 will happen.

Taking back Christmas

Taking back Christmas
HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 23, 2012 – 12:00am

Most of the world celebrates Christmas even if the season means different things to different people, societies and cultures. We are aware that throughout Europe and all areas of the world that have been Christianized at one time, there is great celebration everywhere. Even in some Arab societies, the yuletide season is evident in malls and other places, most likely because of their Christian populations. But I have heard of Muslims who do something special on Christmas day like hold family dinners, or exchange gifts, as they go along with the good cheer that pervades all over the world.

The ambassador of Christmas in these non-Christian parts of the world is Santa Claus. Children are mesmerized by this obese man with a long white beard and a positive demeanor who rides a sleigh pulled by reindeers and delivers gifts to people everywhere. It is quite a compelling image actually, and so wondrously magical for Christians and non-Christians alike.

In the Christian world, the attention is focused on both Jesus and Santa, although more and more, Santa seems to be defining Christmas for a great many people. This is brought about by secularization and materialism that is shaping the world.

In my own childhood, the story of the birth of Jesus and Santa’s gift giving were both present, although I felt the Jesus angle more than the Santa one. We were 10 in the family –– middle class, Catholic with few resources. Thus, Christmas was more about the advent wreath and the spiritual preparations that went with the season like Simbang Gabi, the Belen, family get-togethers, noche buena and caroling. The food we enjoyed during the season was better than what we had the rest of the year, with oranges, apples, grapes, ham, cakes and pies on the table. We had cards or gifts for everyone. Often, we made the Christmas cards and gifts ourselves. As I said, we had meager resources but that certainly was no hindrance to our enjoyment of Christmas. It was great family time and it was always fun. And I felt a lightness of spirit, a connection to the child in the manger and its spiritual dimension.

At the same time, I enjoyed the gifts that were strewn my way by relatives, ninongs and yes, Santa, whoever he really was.

I have seen Christmas change through the years. Perhaps it is a function of having gotten older, or because we have moved up the social ladder and are now a bit more affluent. But these days whether for the rich or not so rich, Christmas has come to mean endless traffic, runaway expenses, acquisitions, lots of useless gifts received, binge drinking and partying, and endless social obligations.

All these result in physical exhaustion and a depletion of yuletide cheer and joy. Gone is the rejuvenating spirit that used to light up the holidays. There are actually people who anticipate the season with some anxiety, wishing they could just get it over with. To them, Christmas has lost much of its wonder and meaning. I myself have actually expressed the opinion that perhaps, as a society, we should celebrate Christmas only every other year, if only to be relieved of the debilitating traffic that steals the Christmas spirit from everyone.

There is more and more of this materialistic frenzy in the season’s celebrations rather than the commemoration of the birth of Jesus. In my view, too much of the materialism and too little of the spiritual gifts of the season is what brings the ennui and depression that many fall into during the Christmas season.

I decided a few Christmases ago that I would stop succumbing to the call of the malls and instead listen to the bells of good cheer and universal love. I simply stopped fretting over the obligatory gifts and numerous parties that social pressure foists upon everyone. Instead, I decided to take on a happy disposition, attend a few parties, give quietly and anonymously to some charities, and set aside a few gifts for people I am close to.

It is my way of getting Christmas back. And so far, it has worked for me. I will spend for plane tickets to get the family together and to have those special bonding moments. These are gifts that allow family time to happen and make everyone closer to each other as we celebrate a meaningful Christmas. It allows us to celebrate our love for each other and strengthen family ties. The memories created will live beyond the thrill of the new must-have gadgets or whatever material gift I may lust for. In place of that, we enjoy the special moments of Simbang Gabi and an intimate time at home as we feast on much anticipated food prepared with love and care by family members.

One might describe this as a conscious awakening to discover the Christmas spirit and cheer. I get into the mood of it because I summon the mood. I do not rely so much on the outward environment to put me in the proper feeling. And I try not to be focused on an ideal Christmas. I accept every Christmas as it is. There are times when it is a season of plenty, and other times when it requires a more modest celebration. But what really counts is I can share whatever I have with family and friends.

This Christmas, may you and your family have a share of both Jesus and Santa. But may you have more of Jesus to bring you closer to one another as you appreciate the joy that He has brought to the world.

From my loved ones to yours, have a blessed Christmas!

The separation between Church and faith

This is the complete essay I submitted. What you read in the papers and the earlier links were the edited.

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 16, 2012 – 12:00am

Illustration by REY RIVERA

MANILA, Philippines – As I write this, the RH bill is being debated in both houses of congress and will soon be put to a final vote. The whole RH issue has been bruising for everyone. Both sides of the issue have galvanized their forces for all-out war where each is claiming moral ascendancy. One may say both sides have been bloodied. And both have, at times, behaved badly.

I have had many discussions with proponents of both camps. I admit I am pro-RH. I also admit that I am for women’s right to choose to be informed so they can plan their families and have more control over their own lives. And yes, I have read the bill.

I still do not understand when bishops claim that the bill is pro-abortion when it clearly states it isn’t. Are they stupid or illiterate? Of course not! So why are they saying this, and so many other absurdities that insult the intelligence of many Filipinos, Catholics and non-Catholics alike?

The answer is simple. They fear that the RH bill is the last stronghold before full secularization takes over this bastion of Catholicism that is the Philippines. They fear that soon it will be followed by divorce, abortion, same-sex marriage, etc. They feel they are losing sway over the population. The issue is power.

As many have noticed, the bishops will say anything, do everything — lie, cheat, intimidate, threaten and fool the people to win this war. And they have on their side the politicians who are willing to do cartwheels to nail the so-called Catholic vote. I do not know how this will play out in the end but one thing is becoming clear: more and more Catholics are aghast at the way their Mother Church has handled itself on this issue.

The Church has done more condemning over the RH bill than at any time I can remember. I lived through martial law, the Erap and PGMA eras, and I have not seen a more spirited negative campaign mounted by the Church as this one. In the past, churchmen and women have spoken out and risked their lives in defense of rights and certain moral issues, and I admire them deeply for that. But the Church as an institution never did shout with this level of vehemence as it does now.

In light of this condemnation gap, I wish to ask the bishops this: Is wearing a condom really a bigger sin than the suspension of human rights of an entire nation involving torture, extrajudicial killings and unprecedented levels of corruption?

Many Catholics are shocked at the behavior of some of their leaders. They see them as not only arguing with flawed reasoning but resorting to name-calling and behaving less than scrupulously by condemning everyone who is not on their side of this issue.

Gone is Christian tolerance and compassion in accepting that people who are not on their side may have arrived at their position after much examination of conscience and prayer. Gone is the humility that accepts the possibility that the Church could be on the wrong side of the issues. After all, it has been wrong many times before.

In place of humble discernment and respectful tolerance is an arrogance and dangerous bravado that makes some of them say the most incendiary and idiotic things, the most recent of which is blaming the devastation of Typhoon Pablo on support for the RH bill.

How is it, dear bishop, that God would choose to kill hundreds of poor helpless people, including women and children, because the country is discussing the RH bill? Isn’t He a God of compassion and love? How does mass murder fit into the paradigm of love? Is it not entirely possible and more plausible that the reason for the typhoon is we now live in a new world of climate change where nature is behaving differently and so typhoons like Pablo and Sendong are now more common and frequent? Aren’t you totally out of line, dear bishop?

What is a Catholic to do when confronted with idiocy and vexation from the leaders of the faith? What is a Catholic to do when he/she believes with all his/her heart, soul and conscience that passing the RH bill is an act of compassion that will help the poor and ignorant in our society exercise more control over their bodies and their lives, a stand the Church sneers at? What is a Catholic to do when his/her leaders are silent in the face of ridiculous assertions of anti-RH politicians who defend plagiarism, lie about facts, and kowtow to the church for no other reason than to preserve and promote their political careers?

And what does it profit the Church if it gains in the political and temporal sphere but loses its reason, and conscience, and many of its educated followers?

I have yet to hear the bishops condemn guns, cigarettes, alcohol, junk food, and other vices that are clearly harmful to life. Why is there a fixation on the unborn but a deafening silence on issues affecting the living? Are you really just pro-pregnancy or pro-life in the full sense of the word? I have also yet to understand how the RH bill is worse than genocide, as another bishop asserted.

Many Catholics are trying to find the space where they can still keep their faith while following the dictates of their conscience, which means rejecting all that they see wrong and rotten in the behavior of many of the leaders of the church.

That is the dilemma we face today, and the squeeze is getting tighter. I have met a number of priests who feel this too. They understand, empathize and even quietly support the laity who are in this situation. But they do so quietly through text and private conversations.

Many of my friends have taken the position of simply ignoring the bishops, hoping that they will eventually fade away. Many are hoping that the church gets hit by lightning, the way Saul was, and begin to see the light. I really do not know how else to cope with this situation, short of leaving the church, as many have done.

The RH bill is only one issue. More and more, issues such as gay rights, same-sex marriage, women priests and divorce will have to be faced squarely. If the church does not take a more tolerant, inclusive stance, it may lose many more good people. A positive step it can take is to accept that many conscientious Catholics stay up at night tackling these issues as honestly as they can, and still end up on the other side of Church teaching as it stands today. In my view, they are living honestly, which sadly means, they live the reality of the separation between church and faith.

Driving my own train

My article this week on Humming in my Universe, Philippine Star December 9, 2012

By Jim Paredes

Grasping at metaphors to try and make sense of my life, I have settled on the image of life as as a journey on a train. My life is a train that keeps going and its fuel is time. I don’t know how much fuel there is on my train, but it keeps chugging along, never stopping.

I look out the window and the scenery is changing all the time. There are days, weeks, months and even years when I bask in the splendor of the greenery, of bountiful mountains and verdant hills, of rich varied landscapes in different hues that inspire and make me feel very much alive.

There are also endless days and nights of desert and flat lands when the rich colors fade into the monochrome of arid sand and lifeless terrain. Or it could be insanely boring endless tracts of nothing but snow so white, I can’t tell where the earth ends and the clouds begin.

For most of life, I go with the scenery hoping that the view will be ‘better’ or more exciting, if I am looking at something undesirable; or that, if it is a wonderful view, that it stays that way.

But at certain points, I wake up to the realization that I am not necessarily just a passenger on this train ride. Could it be that I am the driver of the train? Is it possible that I can choose to decide where this train will go?

When I look at my life, I have a great feeling of gratitude for everything that has happened to me, both the so-called good and bad, pleasant and unpleasant, the beautiful and ugly things that I have experienced. Being a passenger on this journey of life has been truly wonderful and life-affirming.

But I am no longer content wih being a mere passenger on this train. I want to drive the train and bring it to destinations that I want to go to. I want to abandon suggested itineraries, recommended destinations and set out to explore on my own. I sometimes wish to go where the train has never been.

As one goes through life and begins to age, individuation, or the call to be the person one was meant to be, rings ever louder. No longer content to take the beaten track, one seeks to meander down roads not yet taken, or the ones without a clear path.

To be sure, I have done some of that in my earlier years. And at my age now, I continue to want to do more.

I have learned a lot about saying ‘yes’ and ‘no’ to life’s invitations. These days, my ears are attuned to deeper, more meaningful callings, stirrings that suggest new commitments and promises.

The stirrings come in waves. The approaching wave I see now is something I have faced many times in the past, and like a real wave, i have met it head-on. It has washed me to shore, totally powerless and dazed, but yearning for more.

I will go direct to the point. I speak of the quest to know God and life’s meaning. Decades back, when I first heard George Harrison’s song, ‘My Sweet Lord’, I felt it was talking to me about how much I wanted to know and understand God, and all the great questions of life. I knew then that I had crossed a line that few people are comfortable with. I was exploring a spiritual realm outside my religious training. I was having a God experience outside the approved box that religion had put God in. Whoever it was who said that religion is the kindergarten of spirituality is correct. The point is, eventually, one must move out of kindergarten and explore on one’s own.

I don’t know how much fuel is left in my train. But I do not wish to be taken on too many more unplanned trips. I want to deliberately plan the routes to take my train to.

There is still so much to learn, important, life-changing questions to pursue, and the goal is to pursue them.

I often ask myself what I want to do before the ride ends and a multitude of suggestions surface. Many of them are about enjoying more of life, or experiencing what I have not yet done. I must admit that these are, in a way, ‘materialistic’ desires in my bucket list, but I do not belittle them in any way. I would still like to do them. But I also have items on my list that have nothing to do with physical pleasure, comfort or more thrills. They have to do with wanting to make a difference in people’s lives. I want to be able to move the consciousness of people forward to where we can all experience greater and grander versions of what we know about ourselves so far. To put it grandly, I would like to be part of the effort to move the path of evolutionary consciousness on a higher plane.

There are things I can do quite adequately, such as teaching, writing, making music, performing and communicating in special ways. I would like to keep doing these,i but more frequently and more intensely and for bigger audiences.

I like inspiring people. Inspiring others inspires me as well. It’s a healthy symbiosis that ends up blessing everyone involved.

My train is currently running at a pretty good speed as it has been doing for many years now. I don’t know for how long it will keep going before it sputters, loses speed and finally careens to a stop. But hopefully, before it does, I, the train driver, would have taken the train and all its passengers to a higher level of understanding, consciousness and humanity that no one thought existed or was possible.

I have always pursued causes I believe in. But at this age, I know that the world will never run out of problems to solve or cure. One can keep trying to patch cracks, fill holes, or even out things and there is something laudable about that.

But I also believe that there is a viable alternative — to accept the world as it is and make peace with it first, as Nelson Mandela and Mother Teresa did. That kind of peace truly inspires. We can throw away the anger that drives us to change things and instead dwell on the peace that comes from that holy acceptance. And maybe, the inspiration we get from all this is what will really change things in an irreversible way.

A Christmas play list from a Christmas song junkie

Philippine Star published December 7, 2012
By Jim Paredes

One of the best things about Christmas is Christmas carols. It is an understatement to say that as a young boy, I was completely enthralled by Christmas and its many facets, especially the music and songs that pervaded the air during the yuletide season. I still am completely taken over by Christmas carols at my age now.

I remember being mesmerized by the classic songs. I was totally taken by the beauty of ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’, ‘The First Noel’, ‘Silent Night’, ‘Joy to the World’, ‘We Three Kings’ and ‘O Holy Night’. There were also the ‘Carol of the Bells’, ‘O Come Emmanuel’, ‘Hark the Angels’, ‘O Come all Ye Faithful’ which I had memorized in its Latin version, ‘Adeste Fidelis’. These solemn songs evoked the holy splendor of that wondrous night when Jesus was born.

But there were also the plain fun Yuletide songs that had no religious connotations like ‘Rudolf the Red-nosed Reindeer’, ‘Frosty the Snowman’, ‘Jingle Bells’, ’12 Days of Christmas’, ‘Santa Claus is coming to Town’ and ‘Winter Wonderland’. Never mind if the songs evoked images of winter frost, snow, and ice which I have not to this day experienced in the Philippines no matter how I tried to wish them to materialize. There was something magical about them too. They just brought so much good cheer and glad tidings that infected people with that special feeling of ..well…Christmas!

I have close to 300 Christmas songs in my music player. And all the songs above are there, plus many more.

As a songwriter-singer, I embarked with Danny and Boboy on a Christmas album called PaskonAPO sometime in the early 90s. It was one of the things we wanted to do as recording artists. I actually still want to do another one since the topic of Christmas is inexhaustible. The strange thing about doing a Christmas album is the time you need to write the songs and do the recordings. You start as early as May and you finish it at the latest by October to give the recording company enough time to manufacture the album, produce the cover and to market it. The net effect of this schedule is, you find yourself in a Christmassy mood and frame of mind for practically half of the year. It is surreal but wonderful.

PaskonAPO was a successful album critically and commercially. I am proud that we made certain songs that helped define the Christmas zeitgeist for a lot of Filipinos.

I continue to avidly collect and listen to Christmas songs. I enjoy versions by new artists of classic songs with a twist, and I have fallen in love with newly written materials too. It is not hard to like Christmas songs unless… well… you hear them in disco version!

I would like to share with you some of my ‘new’ finds, more or less. The recorded songs may have been around for some time but I may have just discovered them. Here is a list of songs that have defined Christmas for me in the past 10 or so years.

1) ‘Kumukutikutitap’—Lyrics by Joey Reyes and music composed and sang by Ryan Cayabyab, and found on his One Christmas Album. The song just brings out the wide-eyed kid in me as it evokes memories of being mesmerized by the lights of Christmas.

2) ‘The Holly and the Ivy’- The best version of this uncommon song I have heard is by Maureen McGovern. Simply Beautiful. You can find it in her This is Christmas Time Album. There are too many songs in this Christmas collection that I like.

3) ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town’- A very contemporary, very New York take on the song about the beloved man in a red suit. Tongue-in-cheek funny and amusing. Also by Maureen McGovern

4) ’12 Days of Christmas, by First Call. If you haven’t heard of this vocal group, I would venture that you have not come close to experiencing the celestial grandeur of the season. The album is called An Evening in December and it is jaw-droppingly wonderful.

5) ‘Winter Wonderland by Jewel’. Sung in her clear plaintive voice, it has a touch of country Western complete with twang and yodel, and slide guitar which surprisingly works out very well.

6) ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ by the late Luther Van Dross. This song is already achingly beautiful to start with. Luther gives it that touch that makes you sigh and cry away any Christmas ennui you may be feeling. Yuletide melancholia at its tempered best.

7) ‘Angels We Have Heard on High’. Point of Grace is a group I discovered by accident on the internet. I have not heard this song as gloriously sung as this group has done. There is a touch of orchestral pop/rock which brings the song to a magnificently, gloriously higher place

8) ‘Pasko Na Sinta Ko’/ ‘Miss Kita Kung Krismas’—APO’s version of these two songs in a medley arranged by the late Eddie Munji III has stayed with me since the time we recorded it many moons ago. The counterpoints are quite brilliant, if I may say so. If you feel sad this season because a loved one is missing, this is the music to marinate in.

9) ‘Heto Na Naman’, composed and sang by Ryan Cayabyab. A totally infectious song that is mildly cynical about Christmas. It leaves you with an LSS (Last Song Syndrome) that you can’t shake away .

10) Jingle Bells by Barbra Streisand. It’s practically a remake of this universally loved song. I like it because Streisand takes it to a higher level of fun interpretation-wise, and carries it through some vocal hoops with flying colors.

There are so many more songs I can recommend. I particularly like ‘Lata ang Aming Tambol’ by the APO, a rambunctious song about the Pinoy tradition of street caroling. The old Sinatra Christmas album still does it for me. The Christmas classics as done by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir is beautiful in an old- fashioned way and solemn. Commercial as it is, The Carpenters’ Christmas songs are still great. So is the song ‘Christmas in Our Hearts’ by Jo Mari Chan.

While I may be a Christmas song junkie, there are some songs that do not move me at all. One of them is the Live Aid song for Africa called ‘Do they Know it’s Christmas?’. The Maria Carey, Cristina Aguilera R&B versions of the classic songs leave me cold, too. And disco versions of the classics just don’t cut it for me.

May these recommended soundtracks of Christmas songs bring you more wondrous delight and cheer this holiday season.

A song for Roger and Eddie

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 2, 2012 – 12:00am

The author and Roger Herrera: He was very pleasant to have around — no dramas, no sumpong.

It has been a bad two weeks for OPM. We lost two great musical luminaries. Roger Herrera was a super-talented and accomplished bass player, and Eddie Munji III was a guitarist, brilliant arranger and my good friend. I was lucky to have spent a great deal of my career working on various projects with these two geniuses and thus benefitted enormously from their talent and friendship.

Roger Herrera is probably one of the most recorded Filipino musicians of all time. The other is the drummer Jun Regalado, Roger’s longtime partner in music. These two musicians were already recording albums, backing up famous singers since the early ‘60s. During that time, the likes of Pilita Corrales, Bobby Gonzales and Diomedes Maturan, among others, recorded album upon album of Filipino folk songs, popular covers and the like. Their preferred bassist was Roger, and the drummer was Jun.

When I started recording in the ‘70s, more than ever, Roger and Jun were the musicians that arrangers wanted to work with. If my count is right, they played in almost all of APO’s 28 albums. They were versatile, playing in any style and genre. And they were particularly great to have during live shows.

At the time I met him, Roger’s high stature among his fellow musicians was beyond question. They called him “Senyor” out of respect and affection. Even if he was 20 years older than I, I always felt that Roger was very young at heart. For one, he went around on a motorcycle. How cool was that?

He was also always learning new things and played with enthusiasm. I was just a newbie on the scene then who could not even read or write music, but he treated my suggestions and concerns with seriousness. He was very pleasant to have around — no dramas, no sumpong. He was light, friendly, and sessions with him were always smooth and easy. And to top it all off, he played beautifully.

Roger was such a permanent fixture in the music scene, the “old reliable,” that it was a shock to all of us when he passed away quite suddenly. He was still actively playing live jazz in different clubs and no one expected it. Apparently, only his family knew he had been undergoing treatment for a rare form of cancer.

The last time I saw Roger was in 7th High at the Fort, where he played bass with the Maritess Salientes trio. He proudly showed me a bass guitar which he had made. We joked around a bit, posed for pictures, and that was it. The next time I heard about him was when he passed on.

Eddie Munji: Every recording session was memorable.

I first met Eddie Munji before we left on a 57-city tour of the US and Canada in 1974. He was the guitarist/ bass player of the Balikbayan Roadshow that we did with other artists for the Department of Tourism. I was part of a little-known group called the APO Hiking Society.

Common to Eddie and the APO was the fact that we were all young men going to the US for the first time. It was a magical trip, to say the least. Visiting new places, experiencing snow, crisscrossing two countries by land and doing all those shows in all those cities was an unforgettable experience.

When we got back to Manila, Eddie and I shared an apartment in Project 3. We bonded over a common interest in music. He shared his jazz records and taught me a lot of chords. I felt a kinship with him. Soon, he was doing arrangements for APO’s live concerts. It didn’t take very long to get him involved in APO’s recordings and in other projects of Jem Recording, a new progressive music company that Danny, Boboy and I were part of.

Eddie arranged a lot of APO’s hits, including Panalangin, Mahirap Magmahal ng Siyota ng Iba, Siyotang Pa-Class, Awit ng Barkada, Salawikain, Lumang Tugtugin and Handog ng Pilipino sa Mundo, among many others. But the project that really bonded us together was the “Pinoy Jazz” album that I, as producer, gave him free rein to do for Jem.

Every recording session was memorable. The musicians we contracted were the best there were, and it was obvious that they were playing music that delighted them so that the recordings weren’t the usual studio sessions. Everyone wanted to show off and they did! Eddie’s arrangements were not only novel but bordered on pure genius. We knew we were creating something really special.

Eddie never went to music school but he managed to learn everything he needed to know, and more. Before he learned to read and write notes, he would memorize songs from the radio by drawing up and down patterns on his bedroom wall to remind him of how the melodies ran. He also liked to read and appreciated intellectual discourse, even if he never went to college.

He was also quite moody and sensitive. Sometimes, he would take forever to finish an arrangement while the musicians waited inside the studio. But for all the trouble, the outcome of Eddie’s work was always worth the wait.

What was rare about Eddie was that he related to his work almost purely on the level of unadulterated creativity. Watching him during recording sessions, it did not seem like he was working to earn money to pay for stuff. It seemed more like he did what he did because it delighted him.

Eddie was a kind, gentle soul. We laughed a lot; he had a marvelous sense of humor. But he was also eccentric in many ways. He liked to just disappear from the scene for various reasons. When he felt that he had slighted you or that he did something wrong, he would disappear. It would be months, sometimes years before he would drop in again. He would come by unexpectedly, once in a blue moon, simply showing up, and we would pick up where we left off, as if we had just seen each other the day before.

He spent the last 10 years of his life in Cardona, far from the recording studios and the live music scene. In this eastern part of Rizal, he worked with school bands, doing arrangements for them. I found out during the wake that Eddie had applied to be the arranger for a school band in Cardona, and easily got the job. When his students looked him up on Google, they were amazed that the man who was working with them was way too accomplished to be doing what he was doing for them.

I last saw Eddie about four months ago. I invited him to guest in my Internet show at radiorepublic.ph. At first I wasn’t sure he would say yes, since it had been years since our last contact. I was pleasantly surprised when he readily agreed to do the show. We talked about him as a musician, and he discussed his approach to arranging songs.

Eddie passed on just three days after Roger did. According to jazz singer Skarlet who called up Eddie to tell him about Roger’s death, Eddie remarked how sad he was to hear it, but after a minute he said, “I will not miss Roger. I still hear his work played on radio every day.”

In the same way, I will not miss Eddie as much since his music lives on. Every time I hear Umagang kay Ganda, I will remember the great work he did with that song. But as a friend, his passing is a great, devastating loss.

Eddie, I will miss your quiet and beautiful ways. We did wonderful things together and I am grateful for that. I will miss your stories, and most of all, I will miss your friendship. Goodbye, Ed. I know you are enjoying your gig up there with Roger. And I am sure heaven is quite pleased to have two of its geniuses there playing divine creations.