Older and yet younger

The Philippine STAR 04/29/2007

Last week, the APO did a show in Mississauga near Toronto, Canada where I appeared onstage with a head of salt and pepper — okay, almost all white — hair. The Misa genes inherited from my mother gave us Paredes sibs premature gray hair. I have been dyeing my hair a dark shade of brown since my 30s, but I let it grow back to white in the past three months because at this point in my life, I finally can enjoy the naturalness of it. Besides, it goes with my status as a grandfather of a four-year-old.

As we were going around promoting the show before concert night, I could tell that people were talking about how much older I had gotten since the last time they saw me, obviously because of my white head of hair. It does not really bother me that much even if it causes a minor commotion among fans of APO who seem to be shocked that we have aged. Sometimes I think people expect us to be frozen in time, even as they themselves grow older.

After much internal debate, three days ago, I succumbed and went to the parlor to have my hair dyed back to the brown-black color that people are used to just to make it easier for our audience to concentrate on our performance and not speculate about how much older we had gotten. We have five more shows to do in the next three weeks and I don’t want anything to stand in the way of our music.

Looking back, as a young person many years ago, I used to think of aging as maturing intellectually. In theory, people grow old. I knew that. But my appreciation of it was conceptual. In other words, it was something that happened only to other people. It was almost impossible for me — an impetuous, vain, young man — to imagine that the day would come when I, too, would grow older.

It was hard to imagine aging while my body was supple and strong and my shoulder-length hair was swaying with the wind. As a young person then, I could stay up as many nights as I wanted and just collapse into sleep when I needed to, pretty much the way my son Mio does now. My body was made to party.

There were no diets, no restrictions to what I could do with my body. Maintaining it was simple. I ate when hungry, slept when tired, and looked for non-stop activities to expend energy when I was awake.

It seemed not too long ago when my body, in all its narcissistic glory, felt invincible and immortal. Death was, like aging, something that happened to other people. There was no such thing as mortal danger. There were only adventures and kicks to indulge in and live through and talk about later. I was young and that was eternal, or so it seemed.

Life as a young man was certainly more about the thrills that hormonal highs and adrenalin rushes bombarded my body with constantly than about the delights and mysteries that my neo-cortex discovered and began experiencing in my early 40s.

At the onset of my 40s, one of the things I noticed was my eyesight seeming to blur, and all too suddenly. I was always proud of my 20/20 vision and waking up every day to notice the deterioration was quite upsetting. The wrinkles, the thinning hair, a few aching joints and the noticeable slowing down of my body became obvious soon after. And so it goes.

In the showbiz workplace, the term kuya, which the younger stars used to address us with, had been replaced with tito. A few years later, it has now become “Sir Jim.” I guess that sort of puts me in the category of “kagalang-galang at matanda.”

But paradoxically, in my 50s, I feel younger than when I was in my 20s. As a young man then, I was too full of myself to really appreciate the implications of even my own parents’ aging, much less anything that did not concern me directly. I was too constricted and opinionated to get outside my own narcissism and embrace the world and others.

I was also too scared, or maybe just too self-conscious, to really go for what life had to offer. I was too cynical and too negative to see the opportunities that presented themselves for me to pursue. The beautiful body-machine I possessed was controlled by the ego’s demands, and my ego was too much of a segurista. Who was it that lamented how youth is wasted on the young?

I was probably not the worst case of negativism and narcissism in my generation, but still, I feel I missed out on a lot. Since I thought I already knew everything, I did not bother to try many other things.

Now, as an older person, I have learned to let go of the many fears and guilt that spoiled what could have been numerous opportunities for joy, growth and happiness in the past. I am more forgiving of myself, and as a result, of others as well. I also feel less uptight and opinionated. I am even learning to appreciate people and points of views that I readily condemned before. In fact, I find myself embracing many of them now.

And this newfound joy and liberation, ironic as it seems, is the gift that comes with aging. Advancing years and the body pains it brings have made me more awake and responsive to life. While I may feel the limitations aging has imposed on this body, it has also given me direction and purpose.

Others may argue that aging is the dimming of the light, the forcible abduction into the night that one, at best, can only rage against. I tend to look at aging as a point from where a person can look back at how he or she has lived so far, appreciate and accept himself or herself, warts and all, and with the remaining time left, go for the last unfulfilled dreams.

To burn brightly and tell one’s story to the world is what I am talking about. At best, I have about two decades left to sing, write, learn and teach, to love, laugh, be silly, make mistakes, to serve, give and experience joy, to learn from suffering and drink from the bittersweet cup of life.

I therefore approach aging awake and conscious so as not to miss out on its gifts the way I missed out on some of the gifts of youth.

We need not go kicking and screaming and holding on to life before the big blackout. As James Hillman put it, “We have the option to build up to a lasting, glorious, and memorable sunset like no other.”

missing home, toilet seats, the blues and music idols!

It’s a cloudy, overcast day in Washington DC and I am all alone in this big house owned by Doden and Babylou Besa. Doden, a classmate and old friend are out with Danny, Boboy and a few other friends playing golf despite the warning of rain. They say it never rains in the golf course..

Winnipeg was fun although a bit tedious. All we did was promote the show. We only really had a week to do it but still managed to get a 40% crowd on concert night. More than the numbers, what was gratifying was how well we were received by our mostly first-time watchers. It was great and it melted the cold for most of us who were beginning to get sick.

I spent my last day in Winnipeg photographing two gorgeous half-Pinays at the Forks, a touristy area downtown. That was fun. Will post pics soon.

Every time I travel to North America, I am pleasantly amazed at how fully stocked and generally clean public toilets are. I keep wondering why we can’t seem to do this as a standard in the Philippines. I laugh when I remember a Fil-am niece of mine asking where all the toilet seats are in the Philippines since she sees so few when they go around and have to use a bare toilet. Is there a toilet seat thief who collects all these and sells them off somewhere? Or perhaps a toilet seat collecting syndicate that has hoarded these for its own twisted and sinister ends? If so, what could they be? Then there are the missing rolls of toilet paper, the paper towels and the soaps to wonder about as well.

I miss my family in a major way. I wish I could just pack up and go home to Sydney. It will be another 2 ½ weeks before I see Lydia in Manila and I am so looking forward to that. I carry her picture on my cellphone. Then it’s Sydney for me after a few more shows.

I am torn when I read my daughter’s blogs as they talk about where they are at present. Clearly, they are going through the ‘blues of the unsettled’, or growing pains of finding their place in their universe. An Oprah episode discussed this once and the panelists said that the hardest time for young people is the age from 20 to 25 thereabouts. It’s a time of confusion, craziness and a doubting of oneself and capabilities.

As a parent, I wish I could help and rescue them from it so they don’t have to go through it. But I also know that each person is meant to go through his/her own life making their own right or wrong decisions by themselves. That’s how it is. At best, we can only be supportive and be there when they ask for help.

Everyone starts of from a comfort zone but sooner or later, we all get booted out of Eden, into the adult world where pain, suffering, confusion meet us on the journey. The awakening that must happen will be the only thing that will rescue them and help them convert all this energy into productive living. I know they will do it as many others did. But I still suffer with them nevertheless.

My generation, as all others before me, went through it too. I remember being 23 and a college graduate and had this great fear of applying for a job and working. Part of it was because I could not handle rejection.

I just wanted to sing with this struggling group called APO and stay doing it until it stopped being fun. Little did I know that I had serendipitously landed myself a career, a job and a calling at the same time. But the realization came years later as I struggled, cried, rose and fell, had big doubts about everything I was doing for sometime. I was my worse critic I loved to beat myself up and had no solid belief in the dream that we would amount to something. I may have looked confident but I was not. During that time, there was no one I knew who entered showbiz coming from Ateneo. It was scary since I could not even pattern my life on anyone else’s.

But I just plodded along and did the best in whatever I was doing. Many times I was whistling in the dark, faking it to make it. What else was there to do? I just showed up and did what needed to be done. I was not too concerned about money even if there were bills to pay. Somehow, I would always have the money for rent, for groceries, gas etc.

I believe that the Universe takes care of things like logistics and money matters if you are doing the job that you were meant to do. That’s one of my major articles of faith.

I did not have parents who could rescue me financially but I did not sweat over it. We were very middle class, not exactly poor but we counted the small change. One thing I knew then was when you didn’t have a lot of money, you didn’t worry, or if you did, just a little. When you start to have a lot, you worry much more.

When times are rough like now, and I struggle with loneliness, cold and weariness, I remind myself that everyone gets this feeling now and then. This goes with every job whatever it is if you’ve been doing it long enough. What is important is to remind myself that THIS feeling shall pass. This job is what I do. A big portion of my life work is about writing, performing music. That’s why I am away from my loved ones. That’s why I am in a cold place right now. And so I must learn to continually accept and allow the flow of the work to happen. I could give myself a harder time by dwelling on my feelings too much. Further resistance will get me nowhere near I want to be.

In a few days, I will finally be face to face with my favorite artist. Her name is Joyce and she is from Brazil. I discovered her in 1991 when I was in Rio de Janeiro and I bought random albums in a music store. To my surprise, I had stumbled on a great talent. I have about 15 albums of Joyce now. She will be performing at Yoshi’s in Oakland near San Francisco on May 9.

There was a time when I was listening to her so much her music was background to my dreams during sleep. I jokingly asked my wife once that if I ever meet Joyce, would she look away if I behaved like a hopeless romantic? Joyce is an attractive woman, based on album covers taken years go. But I guess she is in her 50s now, a little plump, older looking, but never mind. She is still oozing with talent and that will still seduce me to drunken pleasure as I enjoy a night of her music and singing.

Watch out Joyce! I’m coming at you with camera, an album for signature and lots of fan drool.

Adventures of a fan

By Jim Paredes
The Philippine STAR 04/22/2007

I have been in showbiz and a public person more or less for more than three decades now and I have met and worked with many famous people in the local and international scene. Some of them have endured and some were mere flashes in the pan. There are those whose work and presence left a lasting impression. But sometimes, it is the uniqueness of our encounter that has made them unforgettable.

The first international star I met was a big one. In October 1975, I was walking along Rush St. in Chicago with my friend Eddie Munji when, at the corner of my eye, I thought I saw Muhammad Ali and his girlfriend Veronica eating in a small restaurant by the side of the road. Eddie and I quickly approached the door to take a closer look and almost immediately, the waiter put up the CLOSED sign to protect his famous customers. But Ali saw this and he signaled for us to come in and asked the waiter to open the door. We went in and excitedly began to chat with him. In less than a minute, some 25 other people who were outside also recognized him and went in.

When Ali heard we were from Manila, he got quite excited and animated as he talked about his just concluded “Thrilla in Manila” fight with Joe Frazier. He spoke of how difficult that particular fight was and talked and joked a lot about other things. He was truly a showman. Seeing he was so game, I asked him why he was eating in this small restaurant while there was a bigger, more prestigious-looking one on the other side of the street. He looked at me in the eye and said that the spaghetti was only a dollar and eighty cents here. We all burst into laughter.

He then obliged our request for autographs before he walked outside with Veronica to a Volkswagen Beetle parked in front. And as if the night was not as memorable as it already was, his Beetle would not start! We all had to push the car to send him on his way. And as he waved goodbye, we broke into applause.

What a story!

Another really famous person I had a memorable encounter with was Raissa Gorbachev, First Lady to Mikhail who lifted the Iron Curtain and ended the Cold War. It was in the winter of 1990 and I was in Moscow for a conference on the environment that was attended by leading politicians and spiritual leaders of different faiths from all over the world. I was part of a small contingent of artists who somehow got invited to the star-studded event. I saw the Dalai Lama in the conference and shared an elevator with Al Gore.

After the welcome remarks given by Mikhail Gorbachev before the crowd of about 400 delegates, there was a break in the session and everyone went out to mingle and talk. In one corner, I saw Raissa Gorbachev standing practically alone. I rushed towards her to get an autograph but almost immediately, a very smartly dressed group of muscular security men appeared from nowhere to form a cordon sanitaire around her. I didn?t realize that behind me was a throng of people who were also running towards her, and soon enough, they were pressing on me as I pressed on the arms of the security people who were protecting her. The crowd behind kept pushing and soon enough, I broke through the cordon and was pushed towards Raissa. Believe it or not, my forehead hit her head quite hard. We were both stunned and awkwardly stared at each other for a few seconds. When I came to my senses, I pulled out a piece of paper and a pen to signify with the widest, friendliest smile I could muster that I merely wanted an autograph. She looked at me, smiled briefly, and signed her name. And I was politely whisked away.

One of the greatest thrills of my life was spending four days in Sundance, Utah as one of 70 artists invited by Robert Redford and some celebrity environmentalists. When we arrived and settled in the patio to await Robert Redford who was going to address us, we were told politely that we were not to approach him, ask for autographs or pose for pictures. I thought that was quite an unreasonable request considering that it would be our only opportunity to do it. My view was bolstered by an Indonesian artist who needed to have a picture with Redford for his local newspaper that had paid for his ticket to Utah. I gave him my camera and asked him to have it ready and to snap me a nice one after which he would ask the artist-delegate beside him to snap another one for him.

When Redford walked in, he shook hands with everyone within proximity. Luckily I was quite close and I took his hand. And as I introduced myself, I positioned myself for a picture and smiled when I heard the click of the camera. I was so happy and felt a sense of achievement to have succeeded in having a picture taken with him. Soon after, my Indonesian friend came closer to have his turn but just as he approached, Redford was called to the side by the Sundance staff and so he lost his chance. Redford stayed a while longer to give his welcome speech and left soon after. I felt sorry for my Indonesian friend, but I had proof that I met the legendary Robert Redford.

In 1991, I went to Rio de Janeiro to attend the Earth Summit. It was the “We Are the World” of the environmental scene and I felt that I had to be there as one of the founders of the Green Earth Movement in the Philippines. Without knowing anyone in Brazil, I flew halfway across the world and before I knew it, I was hanging out with Brazilian artists and artists of other nationalities. I met Gilberto Gil, who became Brazil’s Minister of Culture, and saw Caetano Veloso, two extremely famous Brazileros, at the summit.

I was invited to perform at the end of one of many meetings going-on at the summit. Since I did not have a guitar with me, I asked my hosts to provide me one. They said that there were other singers there and I could just borrow from them. To my surprise and delight, there was only one other singer there aside from me, and it happened to be a guy whose songwriting I really liked. He was John Denver. What was amazing was after I introduced myself, we sat down and immediately got comfortable, as if we had known each other forever. I could feel that our bond as singer-songwriters who felt strongly about the environmental cause made us bond so naturally. We talked about many things as we waited a good two hours before taking our turns singing. He graciously lent me his guitar but not before he told me that it was a special one given to him that had all the specs he was looking for in a good instrument. You could tell he loved his guitar. I sang ahead and soon after, he came out and did his signature song, I Wanna Live.

I have had the extreme pleasure of spending three days with an author whose works I devoured with pleasure and passion. After I read Conversations With God, I vowed that I would write and ask Neale Donald Walsch to come to the Philippines and give a talk since I felt his message was something people had to hear.

It was unbelievable to sit down with my favorite author and actually discuss his writings. Neale, who has become a friend (enough for him to write a blurb for my third book Writing On Water) is not only a deep, insightful person, he is also funny. He loves to kid around. He is also inspiring and very encouraging of his fellow writers. During one conversation over lunch, he scribbled words on a piece of paper, which he presented to me as possible titles of a book I could write based on phrases I used. He particularly liked my use of the phrase “soul-killing,” which he thought could be half the title of “Soul-killing, Soul Healing,” a future inspirational book.

Once while we were in a car on the way to his hotel, he was quietly reading my second book Between Blinks and he came across passages he liked. He quickly asked for his yellow pad from his wife and wrote a recommendation for my book, which he gave to me to use for future reprints.

Neale is as warm as his writings and as sincere as his soft-spoken voice. I knew I had a real friend in him. Two years after his trip to Manila, my brother Jake who lives in Florida, attended one of Neale?s talks and later introduced himself to Neale. Upon hearing his last name, Neale asked how we were related. When Jake said I was his brother, Neale smiled and told him, “Get outta here. Jim is my brother.”

One thing I’ve learned is that despite my many years both as a denizen in this jaded world of showbiz and celebrity, there is a part of me that can still be wowed and impressed. Anyone can have their 15 minutes of fame, and remain a fan. I think it?s great to be both. When Antonio Carlos Jobim died, Bill Clinton just had to pay tribute to the greatness of his music.

To be inspired, so that one may pass it on, is what it’s all about.

Law and Order

Philippine Star
Humming In My Universe
April 15, 2007
Jim Paredes

The first thing that strikes me every time I return to Manila from abroad, especially when I come in from Australia, is the high level of chaos that rules our lives here. The airport is still somewhat orderly, but it kinda ends there. After coming out of the NAIA or Centenial airport and hitting EDSA, one is amazed, no, shocked and depressed at how disorderly and wild the traffic is, how dirty and shabby the buildings are, how unsightly the power lines are that hang across a big portion of the sky and how undisciplined and cavalier the people are about crossing the streets and using the side walks. Are there even sidewalks? I’m not sure.

Then there are the billboards, those monstrous pictures that rape what remains of the sky and the cityscape that not even the death of a few people and a Presidential order can put an end to.

In less than two minutes, I can count what would be considered numerous and wanton traffic violations where one could lose a license in an uber orderly place like Sydney. But of course I am not in Sydney, and boy, do I know it. And what is amazing is, even while I am distressed at what I see, within two days, Sydney can already seem like a faraway place and my Manila instincts kick in and I am a ‘native son’ once again, who survives and even thrives in the craziness that is life here. I find a kind of parallel with the Disney version of Aladdin where Aladdin sings, and I paraphrase, ‘welcome to the land where your hands get cut for stealing… but hey, it’s home.’ (Italics mine).

Our first few months in Sydney were quite confusing and traumatic for my family and me. To our unaccustomed eyes, everything was just way too orderly and too much ‘by the rules’. Even just trying to get proper identification to be able to do things like rent a house, open a bank account, pass the driving test and get a driver’s license was problematic. To this Filipino who was raised in a jungle that regarded traffic signs, laws and lanes as mere ‘suggestions’, there were just too many rules.

In Australia, every ID one carries — a Philippine driver’s license, passport, credit card, etc. is assigned a corresponding number of points. In order to rent a house, for example, I needed 100 points. A passport gives you only 50 points. An overseas credit card is hit or miss. Luckily, I had friends who vouched for me and even signed my rental contracts just to get me housed initially.

You can get a feeling of alienation when you go to a government office and try to explain that the ‘Maria’ in your name is not your real name, as my wife Lydia was trying to communicate. They would not give her a driver’s license because her passport had a ‘Maria’ before her proper name ‘Lydia’, while her other ID, a US license, just had ‘Lydia’ on it. We felt like we were banging our heads against the wall trying to explain that every other Filipina has a ‘Maria’ on her birth certificate. But rules were rules. We finally found a solution by going to the Philippine Embassy and getting a letter that said Lydia and Maria Lydia are one and the same person.

Aussies are sticklers for proper identification and documentation. Every car on the road bears the name of the owner on the windshield together with the sticker of registration. Everyone carries a Medicare card. Your driver’s license is the only ID you will need to prove who you are and that is why it is issued only with meticulous scrutiny and care.

Traffic and driving are something else. The Aussie style of driving is anathema to the Filipinos’ defensive driving techniques. Aside from driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road, theirs can be described as offensive driving. If you are in the wrong lane, you may very well get bumped. With a much higher density of cars in Manila, it is simply amazing how much fewer accidents we have here compared to those in Sydney. It’s because we operate not by officially set traffic rules but by intuition that we have acquired through the years which I sense has something to do with our views on personal space — our ‘singit’ and ‘makikiraan po’ mindset. In Manila, horns are tooted to let other cars know where you are. In Sydney, it is used to express expletives.

But frustrating as it is, I can’t help but admire how, especially after I got integrated into the system, things can work almost seamlessly. I can go to a doctor and not worry about bills. My son can take any public transport to and from school for free by showing his school ID. The trains (which they all laugh at for being late and chaotic) generally provide wonderful, safe and predictable rides to almost every destination. I can pay bills, including taxes, through the computer.

I recently witnessed an election in Australia, and compared to what we go through here, theirs is practically a non-event. I saw no more than 10 posters and actually met a candidate distributing his own flyers! No vehicles with loudspeakers parading around neighborhoods. No ballot-snatching, assassinations, charges and counter charges of cheating, intimidation, flying voters, etc. People are required by law to vote under pain of a fine. If you can’t vote on election day, you can vote earlier by mail.

Weeknights in Australia are lonely and quiet compared to the Philippines. Lights are out by 9 PM and the streets are quiet and abandoned, at least in the suburbs. When Aussies ask me what the Philippines is like, I tell them it’s a party place. While Aussies may drink and party hard with friends, we know how to party harder and better with friends, family and even strangers we have just met.

An interesting arena of the clash between Pinoy chaos and Aussie orderliness happens regularly at our home in Glenwood, a suburb of New South Wales. When Mio’s friends come over, they are visibly amazed at the amount of activity going on in the house.

Once, his friend Brett slept over and while Brett was having breakfast the next day, I could see him looking around and minding everything going on. There was Lydia, cooking while entertaining a Filipina friend sitting by the kitchen counter as Ananda, my grandchild was running around the house shrieking gleefully while resisting orders from Erica, her mom, to take a bath. Ala shouting from the shower asking mom to make her some longanisa and rice. Our TV set was on with no one really watching. And I was in the sala close by playing the guitar.

I laughed when I heard Brett ask Mio if it was like this everyday in our home. Mio looked at him quizzically, and asked him why he asked. Brett then said it was so ‘cool’ and ‘happy’. In his home, no one really communicated or even sat down together for breakfast. They pretty much cooked and ate on their own and left soon after for work or school.

I notice how more and more of Mio’s Aussie friends are hanging around the house and enjoying themselves. I see them less and less as strangers or ‘other people’. I can see their fondness for Mio and how at home they are in our place.

I am quite sure why we Filipinos come out among the top of surveys as one of the happiest people in the world. There are nationalities that seem to have it all but have high suicide rates and stress levels. There must be a heavy price they are paying for all that orderliness. But I am sure, we Filipinos could be even happier with a little more dedication to law and order, and adherence to systems and social programs that will benefit the greater number.

In Carolyn Myss’ book, Sacred Contracts, she describes how people’s lives are manifestations of contracts entered and signed in heaven before joining the sphere of time and space. It seems to me that the contemporary Filipino’s destiny is to become a foreigner because of the number of Filipinos now living abroad and the many more who wish to follow. Perhaps, the real purpose of the Filipino diaspora is not about surrendering our nationality or becoming less Filipino. Maybe it is for us to learn from societies that subscribe to the more straight and narrow paths, while we in turn teach them to lighten up and enjoy life the way we naturally do.

While a dose of discipline won’t hurt the Filipino spirit, a little more chaos could be good for the Aussie soul. ###


The new APO tour has started. This is the Nth tour in our long career and will take us to 7 cities for seven shows in a month.

Jet lag is, for me, tougher than ever. Been in Toronto for three days now and I just got my first really good sleep last night. There is a twelve hour difference between Manila which was my last destination. It was bitingly, cruelly cold but has gotten better in the weekend. I have forgotten what winters are like. I was shaking the other day at temperatures close to -2 C. What keeps me warm are our kababayans we meet everywhere.

The show tonight is for all practical purposes already sold out. There are just a few tickets at the venue but they are going fast, if they haven’t yet as of this writing.

This should be a fun night. We have our trusty ninja band that can kill an audience at a moment’s notice. They have been our band for some years now and they can really kick ass. And the Rogers Theater at the Living Arts Center, our venue tonight is just beautiful.

Mike Rodas, a professional lighting director who drops everything he has going in the US to be with us when we tour is with us once more. Mike is so galing and experienced and it shows all the time. In every show, his lighting is a work of art. He has actually worked with biggies like Tony Bennet, Linda Ronstadt, a lot of the more contemporary talents including Prince, Alicis Keys, etc. But APO is special to him. He always joins us when we tour North America and for that, we are thankful.

Will write and update again later after the show. Meanwhile, I’m cooling my heels in my room waiting for the sound check.

The show went really great last night. Before the show, I was not feeling too confident since we were stepping out of our comfort zone with two songs we were singing for the first time. And I was not physically light enough to perform and felt wqe were under-rehearsed. My body still felt dragged down by jet-lag and I was sleepy somewhat. My spirit was kinda lethargic.

But just as we always ask for before every show during prayers, we got everything in abundance. I think it helped that it was my mom’s birthday yesterday and she must have watched over us and checked that wqe got everything we asked for. The house was full. The technicals were excellent and we had a crowd that was there to have a good time. And because they did, we did too.

After the concert, we signed hundreds of autographs, posed for pics, had dinner and posed for even more pics. I slept late, woke up early but felt very refreshed when I did.

Thank you Toronto even if the show was held in Missasauga! You guys in the audience were terrific. Winnipeg, we’re coming at ya’ soon!

The Original and 300!

I found a video I have been looking for which I have been so wanting to share with everyone for a long time. It’s the original video of Handog Ng Pilipino Sa Mundo which multi awarded director Mike de Leon made. A brief background:

This is the definitive video that captured the mood of EDSA1 or the People Power Revolution of 1986. When this was shown on TV a few months after the revolution, people were quite touched and moved.

However, it’s stint on TV abruptly ended after Mike De Leon pulled it out because Manoling Morato of the MTRCB had decided to censor the part where the pictures of the dictator and his wife were being slapped by the people.

A lot of EDSA veterans saw the censoring as a sign that the new dispensation was ‘watering down’ its commitment to the ideals that people fought for and was already succumbing to the call of ‘reconciliation’ by the Marcos loyalists.

We may all have our disappointments regarding EDSA. Nevertheless, here is the video which to me captures the purity and the idealism of the time , at least before the politicians started to fail us. Notice that Mike De Leon linked the EDSA1 revolution to the overall struggle for our independence which began even before the American occupation.’


I just saw the ultimate guy, gay, chick flick and it is none other than 300, the movie!! It’s a testosterone, blood and guts, massacre and mayhem, and yes, an orgy of dismemberment and death, with of course valor, courage, principles and uncompromising machismo practiced in its most savage glory and gore!

When I came out of the movie house, I was bouncing off the walls with my adrenaline kicking in and having this uncontrollable urge to scream ‘THIIIISSSS ISSSS SPARTAHHHH!, and kick anyone. But somehow my more benign nature took over, thank God. But when I passed by a Barrio Fiesta restaurant, I suddenly imagined this crazy cook with a butcher’s knife attacking a pig carcass in the kitchen!!!

Bwahahahahahahaha! I loved the movie. See it!!!

Overcoming the fear factor

The Philippine Star
April 8, 2007

‘What would you do if you weren’t afraid?’

This was the question asked by Brian Johnson, CEO of zaadz.com, a cutting edge internet site that boldly states its goal ‘to change the world’. This question, which came in an email a few days ago really hit me since I’ve been feeling a bit down lately. I felt really sad leaving my family in Sydney and returning to Manila to prepare for an APO tour in the US and Canada. I fear being physically away from them and the loneliness it brings, and losing touch, missing out and being irrelevant to their lives.

Indeed, what would I do if I had no fear of any kind, like fear of failure, or fear of loss of approval or money, fear of losing a loved one, fear of being embarrassed, judged, condemned, etc. Even just imagining what could happen to us if we could only overcome all these blocks is invigorating to the soul. At this time when I can honestly say that I no longer have as many fears as I used to and that I continue to consciously confront whatever fears remain, the question is still a good one.

There are a lot of things I would like to do but what stops me is the belief that no matter what I do, they will not happen. I must admit that, in a way, this is fear masquerading as cynicism and ‘practicality’. A corollary question is, what would we BE, if we were fearless? Ralph Waldo Emerson knew that to go against one’s fear was the main antidote to fear. He said, ‘Always, always, always, always, always do what you are afraid to do.’

Since Easter is a time of renewal, I have prepared a list of things that I know would liberate me in ways that I would like, if I had the courage to pursue them. Some are important while others are just vanities. I don’t know if they would pass for fearlessness, or just plain hubris or bravado. Call it anything you like. Here’s a list that excites me.

1) Risk big money in a line of business that I am passionate about without paying too much attention to what the almighty market dictates. In other words, to boldly pursue my dreams without worrying about money. For example, I would like to have a music label and record stuff that few would want to touch like jazz, the classics, old Kundimans and Filipino folk songs. I would include all the non-commercial but great compositions that my musician friends play to themselves when they want to be in touch with their own musical integrity.

2) Start a movement in the field of education that would impact on our society the way Gawad Kalinga has. I would like to start a school that would become a template for education with humanist values and a high degree of competence. It will be affordable to poor but deserving kids who otherwise will not be properly educated. The template will aim to produce proud and educated graduates well-versed in Filipino culture and who can express themselves in an intelligent way in both Filipino and English.

3) Own a TV station and create programming that I enjoy. To give you an idea of what I watch on TV, I like BBC, Discovery Channel, intelligent talk shows like Larry King Live and Hard Talk, the History Channel etc. (Ok, so I’m not a fun guy when it comes to TV). It will offer no gossip and will not resort to mediocrity, ridiculousness and toxicity just to earn revenues. TV has been called the third parent, in place of moms and dads who are working or are abroad. When you think about it, it is probably the most influential among all three parents. It is only right that TV rises to the occasion.

4) Take dance lessons. This IS a biggie for me. I would like to overcome the idea ingrained in my brain that I cannot dance. If I can’t dance well, I can at least dance better!

5) Spend on re-recording my music compositions but this time with a full orchestra. Also, continue to write and record new stuff till the day I die.

6) Become a world teacher. I would like to dialogue with the world through my writing, my music and my presence. I would like to give talks, workshops, write books that will appeal to a great number of people all over the world and touch them in ways that will expand their sense of who they are. To put it in lofty terms, I would like to help propel everyone I meet a few rungs higher in the consciousness evolutionary ladder.

7) Call on and talk to the movers and shakers of the world the way U2 singer Bono does. I believe artists have much to say to them about how they can make the lives of people on earth more fulfilling and creative.

8) Run for public office. I have actually attempted this in the past and it remains a truly great fear and challenge. In the mid 90s, I actually ran for Barangay Captain and lost. But I felt no regret about losing since I did not want it that much anyway. But as I approach the last few decades of my life, I want to do something worthwhile. It is counter-productive to just talk about our national problems to death or complain the way we love to do. It may be the last idealistic thing I may ever do—that is, if I can truly muster the decision to do it. Running for public office is a scary and challenging thought and if I ever do, it will be done with a lot of preparation (I will study), deliberateness, thought and purity of intentions.

I have realized that there is nobility in descending from the high horse of vicarious involvement and tackling issues in effective down-to-earth ways that truly liberate people. I would like to affect policies in the field of culture, education and the media to bring our national consciousness into a clearer, higher, more functionally creative level so that we can develop a liberating culture that will actually serve our needs.

9) Leave my family, my work and all my concerns for six months to a year and live as a monk somewhere. There is a side of me that is contemplative and takes seriously the big questions that introspective men have attempted to answer through the ages. These are questions like, who am I? What is my mission in life? What is my true nature? I want to tread fearlessly into the heart of such intriguing questions even if it means entertaining doubts about what I have been taught. In short, I want to meet God without a middleman and get the answers straight from Him.

10) Go sailing for three months by myself. There is something grand but equally dreadful about being alone in the open sea. It will bring me face to face with both fear and courage. I was terribly impressed with this young Aussie boy who at 16 sailed around the world alone for several months. It took every ounce of bravery and strength for him to do this.

11) Have many photo exhibits, including daring ones showing erotic nudes that are beautiful and artistic. I’ve actually had one serious exhibit that I spent for. The fear factor in holding one is not just losing money but also, what if no one comes? Thank God, it was successful both artistically and financially.

12) Do a cage dive with great white sharks. This is in my to-do list together with my dive buddy Redford White.

13) Show unconditional kindness and generosity to the underprivileged by sharing what I own. However, the fear that I will run out of my own resources always comes in and prevents me from doing it.

14) Bet a crazy sum on one roll of the dice at the casino. It would not be about the thrill of gambling and winning but an exercise in non-attachment. The challenge here is mustering the willingness to accept whatever happens. It isn’t too different from the Tibetan practice of making elaborate designs on sand (mandalas) and erasing them after.

Fear is something we will always have, and it is not a hanging offense to recoil when we are faced with it. But I try to live by the title of a book I read a few years ago called ‘Feel the Fear But Do It Anyway’. It’s a great strategy that works. After all, as the New Agers cryptically put it, ‘What we resist persists. But what you look at eventually disappears’.


Live your own life

The Philippine STAR 04/01/2007

Have you ever experienced this? You meet an old friend and he/she asks a routine, mindless question like, “How’s life?”, and you are stumped and quiet, not knowing what to answer? It’s as if there is so much to say if only you had a good grip on your current story. Sometimes you don?t know where to start. Or maybe life’s very complexity, which seems full-blown to you at the moment, prevents you from giving an easy, casual reply.

It happens to me sometimes when I am in one of those phases when I am deep in thought about many of life’s intriguing twists and turns. These are the times when I am in a contemplative mode (which can last for weeks and even months) and when life and all its angst and unanswered questions and complications are top of mind. The philosophical questions, which are normally distant concerns, are burning and pressing, demanding to be heard and answered.

A lot of people like to read self-help books, or consult or follow others on a path. They figure that there are people who are wiser, more intelligent than they are and so all they need to do is use “the formula” that has worked for others. Which is all very good, if it works for you. But I must warn you that at best, a formula will only work part of the way. And the sooner things go wrong, the better, since you will really have to carve your own path to realize your higher mission.

I speak of “original experiences,” or situations that when they happen seem like they apply only to me, and I can?t take comfort or advice from anyone. It’s like they were tailor-made by the universe for me alone to get real and live life out of my head. So, I must ditch other people’s interpretations and solutions and follow my own take on things because absolutely no one else can give me a satisfactory answer that fits like a good pair of shoes. I must walk it alone.

My daughter Ala is presently grappling with the choice whether to work for an MA in Development Studies, or pursue art, which she loves. I recall what it was like being fresh out of college and being under intense pressure to look for a regular job or go back to school and take an MBA. I actually applied for a job and got it, but because I did not really want it, I never showed up. I even took the entrance exam for a prestigious business school but never bothered to find out if I passed or failed. I realized that the whole exercise was silly since all I was doing was complying with the wishes of others who were so afraid that I would fail in the artist?s calling that I had chosen.

It was a confusing time. I was definitely being called out of my cocoon. There was no one to run to for advice, or maybe it seemed that way because I really could not take any advice that did not coincide with the gut feel I had about what would make me happy. It was scary to imagine the possibility of my being wrong and them being right. I was sure of only one thing: the realization that I had to make my choices, even wrong ones, as part of my process of coming into my own.

It happens to everyone. And even after you’ve gone through it, it could happen again and again. If it hasn’t happened to you yet, just pay attention. You are bound to encounter an unexpected event where you are called to find the unexplored path, the road less traveled. There are trials and tests along the way and the idea is to come up with a whole new range of fresh responses that open to unique possibilities. Your actions then become part of the repertoire of interpreted experiences for other people to model.

And what lies beyond our decision to follow the stirrings of our hearts? I dare say that when we do it right, we find our bliss.

But to do it right and find it, we need to pay attention to the pulse of this new life we are suddenly in because it will lead to the X spot, the deep calling. We need to be intuitive and at the same time analyze, be honest and brave enough to tell the difference between cheap thrills and true bliss, and make the right choice. To discover our bliss is to find our treasure which, as Joseph Campbell put it, is the magnificent “aha” moment of being face-to-face with “the privilege of being who we are.”

“Life is like arriving late for a movie, having to figure out what was going on without bothering everybody with a lot of questions, and then being unexpectedly called away before you find out how it ends.” That’s Joseph Campbell trying to find a metaphor for each person?s experience about how we make sense of it all. It explains how people can be living in the same time and space, but have a different take on the meaning of everything. Even if we are all watching the same movie, we have a different and unique story to tell about it. And what is asked of us by life is simply to live it as we see it.

I gifted my daughter Erica a song when she turned 21. To this day, I still feel it applies to her, and to me as well.

Live your own life
By Jim Paredes

Don’t take my word or anyone else?s
What’s right for me may not be right for you
I have my own dreams
I live my own story
And someday soon you?ll be living yours too

Enjoy your own joys
Gain from your own pain
Dream your own dreams
Dance to your own song
It’s the only way to go
It’s the only road you’ll ever know


Live your own life
Feel it so you know it?s real
Hold on to your own truth
Live life without any fear
Decide your own fate
With bated breath the world awaits
Make your own mark
All you gotta do is start

There are no two people in this world who?ve got the same point of view
There’s no one else who’s gonna live your life better than you

Cry your own tears
Believe in your own cause
Don’t be afraid if sometimes you feel lost
It’s the only way to go
It’s the only way you’ll ever know
Everything you need is inside of you
You?re the fire and breath of your own soul
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At long last!

I actually finished writing my fourth book more than a year ago and I’ve had it in the back burner all this time. It is now finally available.

I decided to make it available through lulu.com, a print-on-demand publisher on the Internet, so that it is accessible to anyone in the world. Depending on where you live and how soon you want it, the book can cost anywhere from around $15+ to $20+. The website will have all the info.

As Is Where Is can be ordered at http://www.lulu.com/content/721014, or try http://stores.lulu.com/store.
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