visas, repertoires and class ‘performances’

Got my US visa today. With the 9 other people that comprise the APO Experience performing entourage, we practically breezed through the interview at the US embassy. What a relief! Every time I find myself lining up for any visa prior to a travel, I am reminded of the wisdom of John Lennon’s song ‘Imagine’, especially the line which goes, ‘Imagine there’s no countries…’ Far out! Kung pwede lang sana!

I don’t understand why people have to get visas. (Well, to be honest I actually I do). I envy certain nationals —Aussies, Brits, Japanese, French, Americans, etc.. who can enter most countries without any visas at all. By the strength of their nations’ standing in the world are they accorded certain priveleges. We Filipinos, on the other hand must suffer the humiliation of applying for visas while being suspected, scrutinized, questioned upon entry by immigration officials everywhere. Perhaps it is because we are poor and the rich countries are afraid we may stay and steal jobs from locals. And it doesn’t help that many of our kababayans have done exactly that!! And I guess we all have to pay for the deeds some of our desperate countrymen had committed.

I read in a book somewhere that with globalization, national passports will become passe and multi-national ones will take their place. In other words, one will stop carrying Filipino or American passports but will soon be holders of Microsoft, Sony, Apple, etc. travel papers. Multinationals, after all are bigger and have more clout than some countries. Hmmm.. come to think of it, I would rather suffer with the old system than be in this more sinister one.

With the paper work all done, we can now concentrate on the tour which kicks off in Vegas this October 15. We are getting good feedback about the number of people planning to watch in the different venues. I am hoping for success in every place. But to make sure we deliver the right goodies, I would like to ask you readers, especially if you are watching, what songs you would like us to do. Your answers would really mean a lot. We have some planned already, but we would really like to hear from you to confirm whether we are off-the-mark or bulls’ eye in our choices of songs.

My class will be over by Tuesday, October 4. I always end the semester early to give my students the chance to review and concentrate on their harder subjects. After all, my class called Special Topics in Performance and Practice is an elective, and frankly, all I aim for is to excite my students, to wake them up to the fascinating topics that I bring to the classroom. It is a discussion class. I give very few reading materials but I make them write a lot of papers. I value their opinions and I grade them not according to whether they can repeat what I said, but how well they can explain their understanding of the subject matter in their own words.

This Thursday is make-up day. I am giving them an opportunity to change their lowest grade by asking for a performance. Some will do interpretative poetry reading. Some will, through visuals and a lecture, explain to the class what they are passionate about. It could be their hobbies, interest, whatever. Some will sing and /or dance. The only thing I ask is that they strive to give a performance that will take the rest of the class to a place ‘where it has never been’. After all, that’s what a pitch is all about. Thus, no performances executed without full commitment will be tolerated. Show up with heart and full dedication. If you can’t be excellent, at least strive with all you’ve got.

This works out for them and for me since we both get a reprieve from writing and reading papers. In place, they get to go ‘out of their heads’ and into the practical experience of everything we talked about. The next class after this session is final exam day! I am preparing great essay questions that will bring out the best understanding they have of the various topics..

Students come in different shapes and sizes. I see them in various stages of being closed or open. Some are a challenge since it seems they come in with closed minds and fixed opinions and fear walking the edge of what they know. Some are lazy, hilo. Very few new knowledge is allowed in. They are the ones who have a hard time believing that a net will appear when they make a leap. But there are others that are such a joy—those who listen and participate, those who write so well that I look forward to reading their papers. I put theirs under the stack so that I end the tediousness of checking papers with excitement and anticipation!

But it is for the closed ones that I feel I was meant to teach. They challenge my patience and skill and help me get better. Sometimes, I feel that their appreciation of the class will happen years later, if at all when they grow up a little and realize that not only was there more to the class than what they allowed in, but more importantly, more to them than they could appreciate.

The open ones make real the saying which goes; ‘when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.’ They are not only ready but are so hungry to learn, to absorb and process the new topics that are being introduced. They keep teachers committed to the profession by their disposition and gratitude. Bless them. Without them, there would even be fewer teachers now.

I can’t believe another semester will soon be over.

a song, a workshop and a farewell

I know this blog has been unusually quiet. I was wonderfully and unexpectedly gifted a very nice Mac Powerbook by Lydia but the unit I got was defective and was replaced only yesterday. I absolutely love this Mac. To use it is such a joy I’ve forgotten why I even went PC in the first place.

Been incredibly busy finishing a recording for an NGO group that wanted a song to inspire public teachers to encourage kids to read. I really like what I wrote. The study and final version was sung this afternoon by Agot Isidro who is such a joy to record–very professional and very good. When I get permission, I will include a link so you can hear it. Meanwhile, here are the lyrics.

By Jim Paredes

Believe in the power of your dreams
That every tiny prayer is never lost
But always heard and answered

Believe that you are not alone
That there lies in every heart
The longing to reach out and touch another

From a tiny acorn
Comes a mighty tree
Within us lies the answer
To how we can be free (Free to be all we can be)

Believe that we can change the world
It’s all within our hands
We have the power to make it so much better

Believe that God is on our side
That we will find the way
Each time we fall and stumble in the darkness

Believe and hold this to your heart
That every single time you open someone’s mind
You liberate a being

Believe that all was meant to be
That you are here to bring some light and hope
To comfort those who need it

From a tiny droplet
Can start a mighty wave
Nothing’s ever wasted
We can all be saved


Don’t believe it when they tell you
That there’s just no hope at all
Hold on to the strength within
The voice that says no one’s too small.


In between breathing, I also had to rush another recording the other night which was long overdue. But before that, my TCU workshop opened to a good crowd of 19 participants. It had a very nice vibe to it perhaps because it was in a new venue, my in-law’s house instead of the usual rented hotel function room. It’s good to be running it again. As always, I learn as I teach. I enjoy as I spread joy. I create as I am recreated.

I saved this news for last since it is the most serious.

My step father Othoniel Villafranca Jimenez died three days ago In Medical City due to complications brought about by lung cancer. Since my mom’s death eight years ago, I had seen him only once and just for awhile. I was able to see him again three days before he passed away. I saw him lying in bed very sick and almost unable to talk. I had a surgical mask on since I was told he had pnenumonia. When I saw him, he mistook me for my brother Raffy. I pulled down the mask to identify myself and held his arm while I massaged it. It had been years since I talked with him.

My last words to him that night was something that just jumped out of my heart as I watched him lie weak in bed. Even if ours was not an easy relationship, I whispered an ‘I love you’ to him and he answered the same–something we never said to each other in all this time. My voice broke somewhat just as I saw tears streaming down his cheeks. I gently pressed his arm one last time, turned around and left.

The next day, I visited him once more. He was all tubed up with life support and even as the doctors claimed he was not fully conscious, he was clearly restless, probably rebelling against the machines that were hooked up to him. He recieved his last rites last night in his room and when life support was withdrawn, he peacefully departed to be with his Maker. As my brother Raffy put it, we know he will find with his Creator the peace which life could not give him.

I write this with mixed feelings–sadness and a tinge of bewilderment as I grapple with that portion in my life with him which I am still trying to fully understand. Some things will take time to fully process. Otto, I wish for you eternal peace and joy as God takes all into His loving arms. No more pain and sadness. Only eternal love and acceptance. Godspeed!

Last time(s)

Since Webstats4U statistics say that my second biggest batch of readers come from North America, I would like to announce that the APO will be going on tour again in the US starting this October 15. First stop will be in Las Vegas, next is Atlantic City, 3 in Texas, 1 in San Francisico area, 1 in Hawaii and a few more being arranged. Check our schedules and ticket info by following the APO link. Do catch this if you haven’t seen us. It will be the last one in a while. And it will probably be the best ever.

I asked my readers awhile back on who could give us a good title for this tour. The truth was we already had a working title but we wanted to hear brighter ideas and someone came up suggesting the exact same title, “The APO Experience”. Since I promised a prize if we chose your title, just the same, I will still send you a signed CD for that. Please write me. YOu know who you are! Congrats!

* * *

This will also probably be the last time I will run this in a while. Schedules are piling up and major life changing events are about to take place, but more on that later.

Here’s what I want to convey:

Are you stuck some place in between dreams, careers, purposes, directions, loves? Do you want to experience a breakthrough in your life? Have you lived 10,000 days or have you lived the same day 10,000 times? If you want to unblock and re-awaken your creativity, re-energize and clarify your purpose in life, you may be interested in this cutting edge workshop.

I am very pleased to announce the 27th run of my creativity workshop, Tapping the Creative Universe (TCU). Dates: September 19, 21, 23, 26, 28, 30

TIME: 7 to 9 PM.

Venue: 31 M. Jhocson St., Loyola Heights, QC

FEE: Five Thousand Pesos for all six sessions inclusive of coffee, tea and juice.

It is advised that enrollees attend all sessions. Certificates will not be awarded to anyone with more than one absence.Enclosed is the syllabus of the workshop. If you are interested, do write to me at or call 9290230 and I will answer all queries or take in your reservations. Remember, the course runs for 6 days spread out over two weeks at two hours per session.I will also send a location map for those interested.

This will be the last run of this workshop for quite a while!

Allow me to brag a little and share some endorsements from some who have taken the workshop:

Ramon Mendoza, IT Consultant, 52

“The TCU workshop was truly inspiring. I want to
attend it again.”

“TCU has changed my life…for better. I recomemded
it to my husband and it worked for him too.

Athiporn Arriens

“Every writer dreams of having his works published some
day. TCU has opened a portal in my mind, and enhanced
my adventures in creativity. Furthermore, it developed
my skills as a writer and made me realize that there
are countless opportunities for recognition!”

Jard M Gerona, writer

“TCU was a fun learning experience for me. At 50 (when
I took the course), I was the oldest in the class of
about 2 dozen or so people who were mostly in their
late twenties to early thirties (some are friends of
my kids). Thanks to my ex-classmate Jim Paredes for
teaching me useful tips on creativity.

Just do it!”
Rene Ongpin, retired stockbroker.

“TCU helped me unblock my creativity and get in touch
with my inner self. I have discovered that there is
more to me than what I know and there
is no other time but NOW to do whatever I should. =)”

Lara M. Garcia, 34, Ghostwriter/Researcher & Vocal

“TCU has tremendously helped me to focus my energy and
passion to what truly matters: (i) here, in the now —
by paying attention to life’s everyday details, and
(ii) my divine gifts — by expending them where they
will make huge and real difference.
It was a very liberating experience for me. I am also
very grateful to have met my lifetime friends through
TCU. Through TCU, I am also beginning to re-discover
my true self.”

Bettina Gancayco (wife, mother and civil
servant of the World Bank Group)

Age, Forever 21 — hah-ha!!

“Learning to live each moment to the fullest has had a
tremendous impact on me.”
Wouter Lincklaen Arriens, musician, 47