Stairway to Heaven

Maiba naman. Here’s a post I made for blogkadahan upon their request. They choose a differnt topic from time to time and I was happy to be asked to write about a great theme—sex! I thought I’d share it here, too. This is a re-edited version.

A Woman’s Sex

It has the original mouth but remains wordless;
It is surrounded by a magnificent mound of hair.
Sentient beings can get completely lost in it
But it is also the birthplace of all the Buddhas of the ten thousand worlds.

A poem by Ikkyu, a Japanese Zen Buddhist priest and poet:

‘Let’s talk about sex’, as the song by George Michael goes. Sure, why not? After all, one can’t escape it because it’s one of the primal urges we are born with. A male fetus gets a hard-on every 30 minutes. That media is so sexually charged is because they know we can’t resist the allure of sex.

Sex has got to be one of the biggest stories in most everyone’s life. Woody Allen likes to joke (with more than a grain of truth) that a man spends the first 9 months of life trying to get out of the womb and the rest of his life trying to get back in again! Ok, it is pretty big in mine. (Er…the story, that is). And not surprisingly, it carries with it all these conflicting feelings—pleasure and pain, affirmation and guilt, pride and shame, seriousness and comic laughter, holiness and profanity, etc. It is one of life’s great renewable resources. (You only have to rest a few minutes after and you want it again!). This crazy, paradoxical thing called sex makes the world go around. Everyone who was ever born has wondered, fantasized, and pined for it. It is definitely one of the big ticket items in this lotto game called life. You’re always hoping for the right combination.

And sex is the reason for its own pursuit. Certainly, it commands respect. It is smarter than many of the smartest people I know. I’ve seen people jeopardize relationships, health, money, future just for sex. I’ve also seen people’s lives enhanced when they awakened to their sexuality. Every flirtatious glance promises an invitation, a promise that is hard to resist. If you have not tried it, let me tell you that it is more wonderful and infinitely better than a new pair of shoes, white bread, a new car, an i-pod and having million dollars.

Overrated, you say? well, yes and no!. Read on.

There is a lot to what Freud said about sex being the great raison’d’etre for everything we do. He implies that, say, the reason a young man grooms himself, becomes an athlete, tries to do well in school and everything else is to make himself more attractive to those he desires to engage in horizontal activities with. And I am not talking about wrestling or sleeping either. Why does a man want to get rich, get a high position, own a lot of goodies? Isn’t it because he becomes more attractive to women? Who was it who said that the greatest aphrodisiac for women is a Mercedes Benz? And what’s the whole make-up and fashion industry all about? Even for its owners who make oodles, it’s not really all about money. You can’t make love to a dollar bill, but it can buy you sex. (Ok, maybe a hundred dollars!).

Speaking of make-up, an anthropologist writer who wrote The Naked Ape says that wearing lipstick is an unconscious attempt to reproduce what a vagina in heat looks like, and it comes from our primate past when we were still walking on fours. Whoa, that is wild!! But I can’t help but see the connection.

Scientists suggest females in all mammalian species desire males who can support their offspring and so look for powerful, strong alpha males to impregnate them. Generally, women are more faithful than men (perhaps in exchange for security) since their goal is to find males who can protect and assure survival of their offspring. Males on the other hand want as many offspring as possible. Males spew out 6 million sperm cells every time while women only release 1 egg. Men have sex to assure progeny. Women have sex for security.

I am putting it crassly. This is sex on the basic level. Surely, sex is more than this, you might say. Of course you are right!

Which brings me to say that Freud’s observations only go so far. I think the reason why sex is so attractive goes beyond reproduction and ensuring the continuation of the species. It is, to put it simply, a great thing to engage in. Why? Because it is so—elastic! It can be a little experience not worthy of comment or it can be THE best, most memorable event. (Even when it is just so-so, say, like in a solitary activity, it is still good). Like many people, I have enjoyed it on different levels–from the earthy, sensual, purely physical up to the ecstatically divine, and heavenly.

When it is with The Right One at The Right Moment, it’s an out-of-this world experience and its intense, sensual pleasure can touch the very core of who we are. And the identity of who we are which unravels when we surrender to that awesome pleasure vortex of sex as we let it take over us completely, is nothing short of divine. Kosmic! We melt as separate human beings and awaken even if just momentarily as the very Universe itself. Yes, Orgasm is the Big Bang recreated! As millions of sperm are released when a man comes, so do millions, billions of stars burst out in empty space– a supernova coming to life. (Imagine Carl Sagan having sex! Millions and billions of stars. ha ha).

Is it any surprise then to read a lot of spiritual, mystical writings of saints and monks that have sexual overtones? A medieval nun’s journal I read (I can’t recall who) used to pray to God to ‘break me with your battering ram!’ And aren’t nuns vows vows akin to being ‘married to Jesus’? In Tantric sex, each assumes that the love object is a god or goddess. And Tantric deities like to consort for hours! Sex indeed can be a stairway to heaven. The metaphors are, to my mind, quite telling. There are many more examples of this. The writer M. Scott Peck, after observing the sexual-spiritual connection posits that the spiritual among us ‘must be horny’, and then curiously asks, ‘but are the horny spiritual?’

An intriguing question, and my answer to that is, like Peck, a ‘yes’. Sex, and yes all other activities that are potentially addictive are tastes of heaven. But just like Icarus who flew too close to the sun which melted his wings and killed him, these potent gifts are only good for us in moderation. Alas, too much heaven, contrary to belief can be toxic. And mindless, unconscious , meaningless sex can kill its very appeal and attraction by making its endless mystery a profanity.

Sex, where one is consciously awake, alive and present to its great mystery and the loving exchange taking place is infinitely better than sex for physical release alone. (For that, you don’t need a Significant Other, just any body will do. Gamitan lang talaga!). Where the first engages in intercourse with ALL of the universe till there is nothing else but ecstasy, the latter is simply the rubbing of skin to relieve an itch!

The word ‘orgasm’ in French is ‘le petit mort’, which literally means ‘a little death’. We ‘die’ into the experience by surrendering to the shuddering pleasure of an orgasm. We forget we are living in the mundane world as we taste heaven.

As I mentioned earlier, you may dismiss all this as ‘overrated’ and you may be right. Actually, everyone is right whatever his/her opinion. Like I said, sex is indeed elastic. Everyone is an individual when it comes to sex. Kanya-kanyang kiliti! And often, a person’s experience of it says a lot about who he/she is than what sex is.

But the long and short of it is (hmmm…) we do need both the crass and the sublime. Or more accurately, we need the crass to get to the sublime. We all do what we must do in this life—get a job, make money, get famous, acquire prestige or power, go to Vicky Bello to have greater access to it. Some may even lie, cheat or buy it. Sabi nga ni John Lennon, ‘whatever gets you through the night..’ And all that may get you inside the building. But with greater and greater consciousness each time you do it, you may go higher and higher until you get to the penthouse. And it gets even higher.

So tell me, have you been to heaven lately?

‘..if i could tell one thing to the world..’


I ran the TCU workshop yesterday and it was a lot of fun. It was the debut run in Sydney. I wish to thank all those who attended, most especially Gabby and Ressee Mangulabnan who organized it for me. It was a long, magical day. I was bone tired when I came home but I felt alive and animated. I was happy that I made many new friends. I was grateful that I had the privilege to touch their lives, but more so because I had learned so much from them.

Salamat sa inyong lahat!

I can’t believe some of my students are already on their 8th week of guitar lessons. For those who really do the assigned homework outside the 30-minute or 1-hour sessions they do with me, it’s clear that they are progressing at a pace that amazes their parents and even themselves. As their guitar teacher, I am so happy since their efforts at learning chords, strumming techniques, inversions, transposing and rhythm are beginning to produce results. Slowly but surely, they are moving towards more exciting discoveries and they are even beginning to sound better.

Every week, I look forward to passing on new lessons and songs they can learn in the hope that they can progress even faster.

Two weeks ago, I finally relented to requests to teach voice lessons as well. I was hesitant at first to do so since I am clearly more comfortable teaching something I have been doing all my life. I still think of myself primarily as a songwriter before being a singer. But then, haven’t I been singing all my life too? Why not teach voice then? While I am not the greatest singer in the world, I have done enough singing and have attended enough voice lessons and coaching to know how to produce results.

This has opened a new vista for me as well and it is something I look forward to in the week. I have met some great people and very talented kids

One thing I’ve realized is that I can teach anything that I set out to learn. I have never studied formally any of the things I had done that has given me any income. I do not have any degrees or academic training in music, writing, teaching, workshop design and facilitation, performing, photography, and my other creative pursuits. And yet I have made semi-careers out of a lot of them and at certain times have even done quite well enough to be recognized by my peers and my milieu. I am to say the least quite thankful.

When I ponder on questions people ask about the ‘methodology’ I use that makes me excel at what I do, I can only come to the conclusion that whatever it is I choose to LOVE to do, I always learn quickly and well. When we love something or someone, we learn to pay attention and so become intimate with the details. And to know the details about anything is to be intimate with it. Love is not a general pursuit. It is always specific. For example, I can take great pictures when I am ‘in the zone’ with the subject. The subject becomes a ‘love object’ in the sense that there is nothing else but IT! I know the whole universe about it by paying attention. So it is with making music. Nothing escapes me when I am listening to the inspiration that is almost always there. And so it is also with teaching, doing workshops, fatherhood and everything else. All this paying attention especially in everyday living is probably the main reason why despite my unconventional life, I am still a relatively sane person.

I have consciously made it my spiritual practice to pay attention to whatever it is I am doing, experiencing or whatever IS before me. As a consequence, I almost always find fascination in the so-called ordinary. When one is present, there is no such thing as repetition and so boredom seldom creeps in. If I were to tell one thing to the world, I would tell them that the secret to being happy lies not in some Shangrila out there, or a bank account or anything ‘extraordinary.’ It lies in things as they are, and in you just as you are. Just be awake to it.

When we were young, we always used to hear from our parents and teachers that God made each one of us special. I found that rather strange and suspicious since if we were all special, then it meant we were all the same and therefore ordinary. My simple mind came to the conclusion that what all that talk about being special actually meant was that God’s imprint was in everything including the mundane and the ordinary which meant there isn’t anything that is not special—and therefore not ordinary. In short, one didn’t need to look or go anywhere else. It is all over that one can’t miss it. The special is in the ordinary and the ordinary is in fact, special. Read below my favorite poem:

To see a world in a grain of sand
And heaven in a wild flower
To hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour

William Blake

Look at anything long enough and it can become a portal to the transcendent. To recognize the ordinariness in the so-called special person we love is to know what love is. We learn that we love a person not because he/she is special. The truth is he/she has become special only because we have chosen to love them. Or to put it more accurately, we ‘wake up’ to the reality that our beloved and every sentient being on earth bears the face of God.

My daughter Ala is off to a new adventure. Ever since she joined the Greenpeace boat that sailed around the Philippines promoting environmental concerns, she’s been hooked. She is a walking encyclopedia on issues about ecology, has turned vegetarian, and now is on a mission to help highlight Australia’s contribution to China’s pollution.

Here’s a message from her:

Would you all like to make a difference together? Would you like to take a leap of faith on me, believe that together we can make things happen?

I have just said yes to a very special challenge, together with a friend. I invite you to walk alongside us on it.

Here is the lowdown of this project:

Who? Lucy and Ala!What? The Greenpeace Great Wall of China Challenge

The primary goal? To raise 5,500 AUD each (11,000 AUD), half of which is due by August 25, 2006, for Greenpeace’s climate change campaign activity.

The secondary goal? To trek the Great Wall of China, the only man-made structure visible from outer space, with Greenpeace China!

Read on here!!!

In the months to come, she will be blogging very actively. Please bookmark it, or if you have a livejournal, please add her as a friend.

the balance sheet so far

Recently, people have been writing me and asking advice on whether they should move to Australia or not. To be honest, that is such a hard question to answer even if generally, my blog entries about OZ since we moved have been quite positive. The fact is, what may work for me may not work for anyone else. That’s just how it is.

Besides, I don’t want to be blamed later on if things do not work out for anyone. If somehow, I may have given the impression that it is nothing but heaven here, read on. To all long-time Filos reading this, if I write anything not to your liking, don’t feel personally attacked. I know your take on life here may be vastly different from mine, and I say good for you. This is my take on this place after close to four months of living here. And a take based on such a short time might as well be as accurate or inaccurate as a snapshot of, say, a plane above (as I wrote on my article in Newsbreak). You don’t know if it is landing or taking off.

Life here is generally quite pleasant and there are a lot of things to be thankful for. OK, I may sound so parochial and petty after you read this list, but I AM grateful that there are:

-no tricyles. That means I do not wake up to the sound of motorcycle roaring which is getting more and more commonplace in Manila.

-no jeepneys.

-no out and out idiocy in the political scene (at least hindi lantaran dito pero I’m sure meron din)

-not too many grizzly murders, rapes, acts of cruelty and violence in the news (so far wala pa akong nakikita. But then, I only got a TV a month ago and hardly watch).

-No OA delivery of the news ala Mike Enriquez or TV Patrol complete with sirens and highly dramatic musical scoring. Sometimes I wonder though that maybe the reason why crime reporting seems so much more disturbing back home is because it is in the vernacular. Iba pa rin kapag sa sariling wika natin nadinig. If you don’t believe me, try saying the words describing your private parts in both english and Tagalog. O, ano ang mas ‘shocking’?.

-no TV station wars

-no debilitating traffic (OK, this is arguable if you’re coming from the city at rush hour)

-walang nagsisiga sa garden

-no pollution

-no long queues at government offices. Kung meron man, mabilis ang movement.

-no bumps or potholes on the road

-free health benefits (great!!)

-free tuition (fabulous! PET, CAP you can all go to hell!!). OK, it’s free unless you opt for private school. And yes, I know that college has to be repaid later on, but coming from the Philippines, the perks they offer to get educated are BIG DEALS.

-quiet neighborhood.

-nice to drive around.

-garbage is collected religiously

-I get to hang laundry and do the dishes (I love it. Believe it or not, these can be spiritual practices).

-prices though expensive, are stable

-friendly people

-strong showers

-a huge country to explore.

-a very family centered society.

-soccer fever!! I never thought I’d get into it.

Some of the things I miss

-our maids. Over here, if you don’t cook, you don’t eat. Much as I don’t like it, I actually (though grudgingly) respect it. It’s quite an admirable set-up. di ba?

If you don’t clean up, you live like a pig. But having said that, I still miss our kusinera and maids who keep our house clean.

-no great intellectual stimulation so far. I have not seen a really big bookstore like the Barnes and Noble outlets in the US. If there are, they aren’t that many. But luckily, I have discovered the Ken Wilber readers group here and I have attended meetings last June and this July. I still have to find the schedules and venues of authors, intellectuals, and teachers giving talks and workshops around here.

-too few bargains on things. Except for veggies and fruits at Park Lea at 4PM on Sundays, you don’t encounter really great buys the way you do in the Philippines. Maybe I just have to discover them.

-friends in Manila. Man, if I could just bring them all here.

-the party town atmosphere of Manila. People here are just not as fun as we are back home.

Some of the things that baffle me.

-When I applied for a business license, I scrolled on the possible descriptions that come closest to what I was applying for and saw “brothel’. (No, I wasn’t applying for a brothel permit, it was one of the businesses listed). Yes, prostitution is legal and there are cat houses everywhere. Television late at night can be quite racy including ads for meeting dates, and escort services and all that.

By itself, this does not baffle me since I have been to other countries that have this. What makes me scratch my head is that I find Aussies quite innocent and even quite conservative compared to many nationalities, and yet, they allow this. Hey, I’m not complaining!! It’s just a curious thing for me.

Some of the things I am not too crazy about

-Too many rules on everything (well, I appreciate it for some things, to be honest, but many of them are too rigid for my taste).

-Too many certifications for everything. You have to be certified to be, say, a tourist guide, pet trainer, a librarian, car painter, etc..I know people who had to repeat the training they got back home even if it was superior only because they were not certified locally. What a total waste of time and resources.

-Really long distances between places.

-Winter. Am a T-shirt and shorts guy. It’s getting harder and harder to dress like this lately.

-Cleaning the car. Cutting the grass.

-Getting out of a warm shower during winter.

-The dreariness of suburbia.

The houses look the same in many towns. Depending on one’s mood, this can elicit different reactions. The uniform ‘coiffured lawn and model home look’ everywhere can be disarmingly charming, or it can drive you nuts. Too much conformity everywhere for this artist. It’s hard to live in a right hand world if you are left-handed, ika nga.

-The so-called ‘local experience’ that employers look for before they hire you.

It’s the chicken and egg thing. They won’t hire you unless you have local experience but how do you get local experience unless you are hired? I know many qualified people having to undersell themselves so that they can get work. Sometimes you just have to shake your head in disbelief. Oh, if the local people only knew that many of the foreigners they are hesitant to hire are actually better than them–Clark Kents waiting to show their talents like Superman.

I’ve always felt that rich countries like the US, parts of Europe and even Aus should do more in encouraging their citizens to be more well-traveled, learn other languages and expose themselves to foreign cultures and customs. This way, they can be better judges or at least understand the background, character and capacity of immigrants within their ranks. Also, they can have a better, more enlightened take on the rest of the world. America is hardly waking up to the fact that with the way they are raising their kids without discipline and addicted to instant gratification, they will lose their superpower status in less than a generation. (Read Time Magazine). Their self-absorption and vanity is making them less likely to want to understand the rest of the world. Too many kids are dropping out of school. They have much to learn from Asians who go out of their way to understand the world..

-the super strict driving test.

I know there are virtues as to why this is so and one of them is that it saves lives. Having said that, it seems rather hypocritical though to demand such rigid compliance while doing the test (including matching OA head turning when you turn, and left turn signals when you leave the roundabout) when right outside the RTA and everywhere, licensed people on the road are not doing it.

-the super strict ID system.

If you have a ‘Maria’ before your name in one ID (say a passport)and none in another ID (say a license), you are inviting BIG TROUBLE. Sometimes, a little common sense could help in making things easier for everyone without sacrificing security. The spirit of the law should prevail over the letter of the law. But it’s not so in this country.

What I wish they could have here

-More commercial areas that are compact but exciting enough for young people to hang around in especially in the suburbs. Parks are nice but an Eastwood or Greenbelt type of setup, say, in areas like Norwest would be fabulous.

-More accessibly priced software and DVDs. OK, I know royalties have to be paid but can’t they find a way to bring down prices without resorting to piracy?

What I wish will not happen here

-that Australia becomes too much like the US in its economic policies, and its political world view. I was talking with some people and they expressed fear that in fact it is becoming so not just with its support of the US in Iraq and with the new laws on employment. In a similar article I read on the legacy of the Howard years, the Aussie writer pointed out that Australians have stopped thinking of themselves as ‘classless’, and have actually changed their view about how compassionate they are. They now look at themselves as ‘meaner’. If that is true, then it is sad.

-that multi-culturalism, a proud legacy of the pre-Howard years becomes a dirty word.I love SBS! There is much to learn from other cultures, and I salute SBS for continuing to promote this.

-that Australia abandons environmental protection for ‘progress’. Right now, Australia is the biggest exporter of coal in the world, which happens to be quite a dirty technology. And Australia still has to sign the Kyoto Protocol that will put a cap on its emissions. While this country has clean air and a well-cared for ecological system, the environment inevitably respects no national borders. Look at Chernobyll. If we dirty any part of the world, it will eventually get back to us. As they say, what goes around comes around!

FAQs, models and covers!

FAQ about TCU

Been getting calls, emails about the TAPPING THE CREATIVE UNIVERSE Workshop. I have people who have signed up. Some people have been writing and asking questions which the flyers do not address. Here’s a short FAQ that covers most of the concerns:

Will I have to share personally during the workshop?

I understand that sharing can be an intimidating thing to people. No, you do not have to. But after so many runs of the workshop, I have observed that 99 percent of the time you will since the topics are quite engaging. It will encourage you to participate but not force you to. Honestly, you will get as much or as little as you are willing to put in from the workshop.

What can I expect to get from the workshop?

You will get to meet and know your own blocks to being happy. You will also learn ways to to diagnose why you are not able to move towards a more creative, joyful life and help you unblock to get there.

Is this workshop for creative people? What if I am not creative?

This workshop is for people who want to engage life more fully in all aspects and do so more joyfully. Creativity, as defined in this workshop is not limited to activities of artists, writers and the like. Creativity is engaged by all types of people, not just the so-called creative types. If you do not think you are creative or living creatively, then this workshop will wake you up to your dormant creativity.

Is this workshop biased towards or against any religious belief system?

No. It will however make you a more creative and spiritual person.

What can I learn from this workshop which I cannot learn from books?

You will go beyond academic knowledge into the experiential realm. It s one thing to know something intellectually, and quite another to actually experience it. As the saying goes, the map is not the territory. Or to put it another way, there is a huge difference looking at a menu and actually eating the food. TCU will open you to the experience of your own creativity.

If you have further questions, write me at

Filo Girls Rock!!!

Lucy Watmore, a beautiful Pinay-Aussie model whom Ala did a TV ad with in Manila a year ago graced my studio last Thursday night. And what a visual treat she was! She was not only ravishing, pleasant to wphotograph but a very professional subject easy to work with. As usual, Erica’s make-up was flawless. Salamat, Aycs. To readers of this blog, enjoy!

Mabuhay Ka Edd!

I was interviewed by Edd Aragon, one of the coolest Filos I have met in Sydney. Ed is a nationally awarded kababayan who does the editorial cartoons for the Sydney Morning Herald. He is a free artistic soul and this is what makes him endearing. He also has a very unique set-up in his home where musical instruments are everywhere. I have been with him on two occasions–one at Ding Roces’ home and the other at Ed’s house during his birthday where we jammed on a few songs. For an article he is doing for the Bayanihan News, he drew a great caricature of yours truly which I wish to share with you. Can you guess what his favorite APO song is?

You should score Edd Aragon’s collection of caricatures of famous Aussies. I was so lucky to have been gifted a set by the artist himself.

A Pinoy’s life in OZ (so far)

Lastly, I wrote a cover story for Newsbreak Magazine. It was for the celebration of 60 years of diplomatic relations between Paquiao Land and OZ, and you can score it already at the newsstands. Got an email from a good friend Ging Naguiat who emailed me a copy of the cover.