About time

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes

Five hundred twenty-five thousand moments so dear

Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes

How do you measure, measure a year?

How about love?

Seasons of love… — From the musical Rent by Jonathan Larsen

Time is something we either have too much or never enough of. It is rare that we have just enough time on our hands, and even if that were the case, it would
barely be enough. Time is a part of existence that is as integral as another element, which is space. Our lives, we might say, are all about how we fill up time and space. Time and space, and us… are inseparable.

Time wears disguises. Or rather, we like to dress it up. We clothe it with an old man’s demeanor on December 31 and welcome it donned as a toddler on January 1 of every year. We also describe time as too “short” when a moment is pleasurable and happy, implying that we could have had more of whatever we were doing at that time. Many times, when the happy moment has passed, we crave more time.

On the other hand, we call a moment “long” when it is boring, unpleasant, threatening or meaningless. A moment of danger or a boring presentation can seem to last forever.

A comedian on TV once remarked that he visited a place so boring, he spent three days there in one night. A friend of mine has a comic description of boring and it is this: imagine participating in a raffle where the first prize is a weekend in a vacation spot, and the second prize is two weekends.

Einstein recognized time as relative and though he described time in abstract terms, he could deduce concepts that, as time passes, have turned out to be accurate and true. But mortals like us do not need to comprehend Einstein’s theory of relativity to understand time.

Why? Because it is real to everyone alive. It is remarkably real though we can’t smell, hear, see, touch or feel time. But we know it as real because we are living through it. To be alive is to be bound in time and space.

We like to imbue and shape time with our thoughts and emotions and intellectual constructs because only when we imbue it with qualities does it seem real. It is an arena where we allow ourselves not just to experience feelings, thoughts but also to live or play out our lives. It is a theater where we become. And the way we use time affects the quality of our becoming.

A moment in time can be anything from something so meaningless that we are hardly even aware of how we are living it, to something so intense that it can shake us to the core. It’s up to us what we want to do with it, or what we want it to be. In short, this arena is where we are allowed to create what we wish to experience.

And consciousness plays its part in all of this in many ways. It recognizes, affirms, creates scenarios, finds meaning, connections and theorizes not just about the unfolding of time, space but of consciousness itself. Consciousness — our thoughts and reflections — makes the abstract dimensions of time and space tangible and real. What would otherwise just be a stretch of time is parceled into chunks of meaning. Examples of how the mind has done this are the creation of calendars, birthdays, anniversaries, the 35-hour workweek, overtime, leap years, and concepts like “24/7.”

Imagine time and space without our consciousness hovering over it. Without it, what are time and space for? Would they even exist? And even if they did, who would know? There is a Zen koan that asks, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is there, will it make a sound?” To me it means that consciousness is crucial to everything that happens. Consciousness affirms everything. In effect, nothing “happens” without it.

Consciousness, therefore, animates time. Andy Warhol put it simply when he said, “They say that time changes everything. Actually, you have to change it yourself.” Without us as a part of the equation, nothing happens.

One of the greatest, most mind-boggling theories I like to ponder is the Big Bang theory, in which everything supposedly just came into existence from nowhere. Prior to it, there was nothing! Time and space, among other things, were supposedly born out of the Big Bang. From nothing to everything, in one instant.

When monks meditate and have satori or enlightenment, it affects how they experience time and space. In the enlightened state, they stumble upon the oneness with everything. Now let’s take a second look at that statement. What satori or oneness with everything actually means is that there is only One — no subject versus object, no differentiation between the world and oneself. There is only the moment, or this. And all this implies that at the moment of satori, time and space collapse. They are no longer separate objects from “us.” There is not even an “us.” When subject and object are fused into one, time becomes timelessness.

That’s saying a lot right there. And saying nothing, too, since the experience of satori is, in fact, beyond words or description. Any attempt to do so would merely capture the shadow of it, but not the experience.

If all this sounds confusing, it’s because it is expressed in words. Words by themselves are not what truth is all about. They merely point us to the direction of the truth. Only the experience of truth will make it real for us.

And we only experience what is real when we apply consciousness in full-throttle, or presence to any moment we are in. It does not matter what time or place it is or whatever we are doing. It doesn’t have to be Christmas, New Year, a birthday, or any other occasion deemed important by the world; it doesn’t have to be in any place like an expensive restaurant, or Paris, Rome, or anywhere “special.” It can happen while we are doing the dishes, or meditating, or simply sitting.

Full consciousness applied to any moment induces timelessness. Isn’t something you love to do worth doing with attention and presence? When you are doing something with full attention and abandon, doesn’t time stop?

I once wrote a song that had this line: “Love is for making memories of time.” Without love, what would time mean? Rumi, the Sufi poet, said as much when he wrote:

“Come out of the circle of time

And into the circle of love”

That’s a great way to experience timelessness.

23 tools to brainwash and influence people through mass media

Here’s something from Devon White which I picked up on the net. As you read this, think of TV shows (if you are in the Philippines) like Wowowee, The Buzz, MTV, the news and practically all shows on TV now, and you will see the tools at work.

In contrast, I have been watching SBS channel here in Sydney and their documentaries at night are just simply wonderful and outstanding. You don’t get the feeling that you are being dumbed down.

till at last the child’s mind is these suggestions, and the sum of the suggestions is the child’s mind. And not the child’s mind only. The adult’s mind too all his life long. The mind that judges and desires and decides made up of these suggestions. But all these suggestions are our suggestions!
– Aldous Huxley, Brave New WorldThe opinions and behaviors of people and societies are easily swayed. Every decade, every year, every week, those who control mass media change the climates of human thought. New pop stars, fashions, and fads are paraded center stage and then exit stage left followed by floods of expendable cash, leaving the path of sordid garbage known as “popular culture” in its wake.

Now the power to rule the world and wag the cultural dog is at your fingertips. What follows are simple instructions, a manual, a playbook of sorts, some simple behavioral tools to influence and take advantage of the nervous systems of all your peers.

The 23 Tools:

1. The key to truly effective brainwashing is to work at people’s most fundamental awareness. Shape them at the neurological level so they develop the faculties to take your input and call it “thinking for myself.” Enable them to stop thinking.

2. Limit any and all faculties for self-awareness and self-sensing. Destroy instinct and intuition. Actively and endlessly encourage external awareness. Make people dependent on your external input for as many decisions as possible.

3. Speed up messages so that the pace and rhythm of information is disorienting and visually biased.

4. Condition people to being bombarded with hundreds of thousands of signals a day. Teach them to attend to this stream of information and to call it Reality. Never let them ask what “reality” is.

5. Framing is everything. Decide what you want people to believe and make sure that any choices you give them are within a framework which assures you of your result. This is called the Illusion of Choice. “Do you want to sweep the floor before or after dinner?” Repeat this formula for economic systems, politicians, news stories, competing product brands and entertainment.

6. Appeal to the lowest common denominator. Make sure that all shows model conflict resolution of people with an emotional and intellectual maturity no greater than that of a six year old. Make it funny so no one notices.

7. Keep people passive. Encourage the Couch Potato Alpha Wave Escape Plan as the healing elixir for all that ails.

8. Don’t make people think. Their days are hard enough as is. Bypass the need for opinion making by giving people ready-made opinions. Do it as though you don’t have a conscience – they are probably too stupid to make their own decisions anyway.

9. Ensure that there are no ongoing storylines with meaning or purpose beyond immediate sensory stimulation. Avoid universal themes as much as possible. Make absolutely certain there is no cultural, societal or global story or mythology present that conflicts with the myths of comfort and consumption.

10. Never encourage responsibility, or so much as suggest that humans could be involved in co-creating their future and the realities in which they reside.

11. Encourage group-sanctioned individuality only. By making ‘individuality” the new conformity you are generating a powerful illusion of free choice.

12. Sensationalize the superficial.

13. Keep information bytes infinitesimally small. Promote Attention Deficit Disorder. Several decades of television have already set this in motion.

14. Repetition is key. Repeat important messages as often as possible.

15. Repetition is key.

16. Repetition is key.

17. Bypass rationality by any means possible. People don’t need logic to accept information. Belief is emotional. Always remember: WAR=PEACE.

18. Remember –- two half-truths make up a whole truth.

19. Demonize self-knowledge technology of all kinds. Throw around words like “cult” and “brainwashing.” Marginalize anyone involved in such pursuits.

20. Keep old models of consciousness alive and well. If you can get away with referring to people’s states as being phlegmatic or sanguine instead of programmable and intentional, do it.

21. Keep people’s attention on what really matters. Emphasize what’s wrong as much as possible.

22. Always give the impression that Everything Is Under Control – but just barely so – hammer into the populace the idea that their greatest fear could strike at any moment.

23. Teach people that they are their thoughts and emotions. Reinforce this by teaching them to feel bad about their ideas, and to feel bad about feeling bad. Remember: Identify, identify, identify –- this will widen the empty void inside of them that only shopping can cure.

By sticking to these simple premises you should be able to produce entire societies capable of ending world hunger, but too selfish to care. You will be able to bring about massive consumer mindsets and buying habits so powerful that logic and reason become superfluous in making the sale. You will be the new face of media. Good luck!

Devon White specializes in PR for the brain, promoting integrity, responsibility and conscious evolution through online video and lecture-performances on sex.

As a trained hypnotist, video podcaster, writer and teacher, he supports broadcasting which goes beyond simple stimulus-response conditioning to engage the intentional, participatory and evolutionary functions of the brain. In other words – he thinks it’s really cool if you know how your brain works and use it to participate in the co-creation of your world. But he’s not a brain-centrist–he’s all about the body.

To find out more about Devon and his efforts to stimulate “a cultural climax” you can visit him at his website, www.SexWithDevon.tv.

mind, body, spirit, music and movies


Last weekend, I went to the Convention Center at Darling Harbor to see the Mind, Body, Spirit Festival which was on its last day. It took me a whole week of waiting for the sun come out. The weather kas been horrendous lately, and and so I thought I should not miss the chance to enjoy the sun and go to the city to see what the festival was all about. The affair was a grand one. It was a whole community exhibition of organic healers, new agers, meditators, natural homepathists, and a few quacks that exhibited their wares.


There were all sorts of services and processes–from massages, seminars, workshops to whole courses in various aspects of healing. There were products and knick knacks of every kind like crystals, potions, wonder drinks in this ‘we-are-the-world’ of the natural healing movement.

I would have dismissed this whole exhibit as largely quackery if I had seen, say, one of those pyramids that Johnny Midnight, the radio commentator in Manila, used to sell to the public. It’s good there was none. I dropped by the Brahma Kumaris booth where they offered 15 minute meditations to tired shoppers. There was also a stage where singers perforned healing songs, and exhibitions on the power of chi and the sort.



After about an hour and a half, I stepped out outside to Tumbalong Park to see a throng of people leaving. They were there for the Egyptian concert that had just finished. I managed to buy some Baclava from a stall that was selling its stock at give-away prices. With just 5 dollars, we had great dessert for a week.

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I also attended a Tomkins exhibition concert at an RSL near Ashfiled about a week and a half ago. We had great access since the leading guitar maker in Aus is Allan Tomkins who happens to be a friend of Toti Bautista, the guy who invited me. The gig was an evening of good old American country music and some Aussie originals. I am no big fan of country music but I decided to go because of the guitars. Strangely enough, the concert was not too bad. It was actually alright and even entertaining at times.


But what I found somewhat funny was the way the singers did their country songs. You could have sworn you were in Nashville, USA. The spell was only broken when they talked in between the songs and gave their ‘thaanks maayt” in their thick Aussie accents. The songs they sang were performed quite well. I did not get the names of the performers, and I probably would not remember them anyway since I do not really resonate with this kind of music. But I would have tapped my feet if they sang ‘Achy Breaky Heart.’ Ha ha.


Tomkins guitars are not just great sounding but look really spiffy, too. They can appeal to the old, traditional country gentlemen types or to young but serious guitarists. They start from 2000AUD up. This is definitely on my dream list.

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Mio brought home a DVD of ‘V for Vendetta’ last night. He was raving about the day before and he thought I should see it, and I am glad I did. The movie had my utmost attention, and fascination for two hours. Thanks to the Wachowski Brothers who also produced The Matrix, the movie was fantastically rivetting from beginning to end. It had a 1984-Bush, Cheney, Carl Rove, Neo-con flavor of right-wing terror and touch to the whole thing.

One of the outstanding scenes for me was when the protagonist introduced himself to the lady in distress at the beginning of the movie. Dressed in Guy Fawkes mask, below is what he answered when asked who he was.:

‘Voilà! In view, a humble vaudevillian veteran, cast vicariously as both victim and villain by the vicissitudes of fate. This visage, no mere veneer of vanity, is a vestige of the vox populi, now vacant and vanished. However, this valorous visitation of a bygone vexation stands vivified, and has vowed to vanquish these venal and virulent vermin vanguarding vice and vouchsafing the violently vicious and voracious violation of volition! The only verdict is vengeance; a vendetta held as a votive, not in vain, for the value and veracity of such shall one day vindicate the vigilant and the virtuous. Verily, this vichyssoise of verbiage veers most verbose, so let me simply add that it’s my very good honor to meet you and you may call me V. ‘


Watch it. If you have some idealism in you, you will not just enjoy this but find inspiration. I will also be watching Across the Universe this coming week.

Crazy Science 101

I am a big fan of science. I marvel at new inventions and cutting-edge technology, read about the latest gizmos and can talk about them for hours. But unashamedly, I must say that while good, solid science may impress me, what fascinates me more are the pseudo-sciences, conspiracy theories, exceptions-to-the-rule types of things and folk wisdom — the strange science that you hear from older people, or while shooting the breeze with friends, or from those with street smarts who spend their time observing other people and spinning personal theories about human behavior.

These are theories and conclusions that are astounding not only because they seem to be true but more so because they are so off-the-wall. How on earth they came to such conclusions may comprise even bigger mysteries than the theories themselves.

Oftentimes, these theories may not be airtight true, but could possibly be true. But if solid science requires 100-percent proof, a 50-50 probability is good enough for me. These are the kinds of theories that people send to the Myth Busters show on TV for verification. Here are some of them.

1) The strange but seemingly accurate theory that the size of one’s neck is half the size of one’s waist. And you can supposedly test this by zipping up a pair of pants and, while holding the waist end to end, you wrap it around your neck. If both ends touch at the back of your neck, then that’s your pants size.

I remember shopping a few years back at a department store in the US for a pair of trousers. A saleslady approached me as I was wrapping the folded waist of the pair of pants around my neck to see if it would fit me. The sales lady gave me a quizzical look and immediately asked what I was doing as she pointed to the dressing room. I explained that I did not have to try it on since I already knew the pair I was holding was too small. She looked at me in total disbelief. As I explained, I had her attention, which turned to fascination even as she laughed at the crazy science of the whole thing.

I am currently in Australia which, according to the radio news I heard awhile ago, now carries the dubious distinction of being “the fattest nation on earth.” Obesity is rampant here and this has me reexamining the pair-of-pants theory. Lately, every time I see any person who falls within the medical classification of “morbidly obese,” I automatically look at his waistline and then his neck to see if the theory has universal application.

It’s hard to tell, and in most cases, it could go either way. If anyone can prove or disprove this theory by actually measuring the trousers of a very fat person vis-à-vis his neck, I would appreciate it if you could share your findings with me.

2) When two people offer to pay the bill at a café counter, the one standing closest to the cashier ends up paying most of the time. This is a theory that my daughter offered for this article. She said she has observed this while watching people at the café where she works. This is good, valuable knowledge to know if you want to be politically correct and appear gracious (by offering to pay the bill) but not part with your hard-earned wages (by staying as far away from the cashier as possible). This way you save both face and money. I am assuming this is not just an Aussie trait but a universal one. It’s worth testing even just to debunk it.

3) Aussies, Brits and New Zealanders kiss tilting their heads to the right while Americans and Canadians tilt to the left. That’s according to Little Theories of Life by Peter Fitzsimons. Why is this? He claims it has something to do with whether the country where you learned to kiss (and drive) has the steering wheel on the left or the right side of the car. His theory assumes that most first kisses happen in the front seat of a car. When I told an acquaintance about this, she burst out laughing as she swore she noticed this the first time she was kissed in Australia.

Considering that we drive on the right, like the Americans, I am assuming we Pinoys probably kiss the same way. Unless of course your first kiss was in the back seat of a car… in which case you might have gotten more than a kiss!

4) The length of your forearm is the same length as the soles of your feet. This is true for me and for the members of my family here in Sydney. And if you want to know whether a pair of socks will fit you, wrap the part from toe to heel around your fist. If it covers your fist, it’s a sure fit. Please check and write me if this is true for you or not.

5) Here’s another theory from Fitzsimons: “All else being equal, the dominant partner in any sexual relationship will always sleep on the side of the bed closest to the most likely source of danger.” He notes that the exception to this is when there are young children. In such a case, the dominant partner will pass the job to the submissive one who will sleep beside the crying babies.

For couples who aren’t sure where they stand vis-à-vis one other, observe. This practice could settle once and for all who the dominant partner really is.

6) People with long ears will have long lives. This Filipino belief is supposedly proven by the number of old people with pronounced earlobes.

Many will point to this phenomenon as incontrovertible proof that the ear theory is correct. But think about it. Anyone who has lived, say, 80 years or longer, has had a greater share of the ravages of the earth’s gravitational pull, causing the sagging of their body parts. Thus, anything elongated without bone support will hang and look longer. We are, of course, talking about ears here.

7) In another of Fitzsimons’ tests to determine who is more dominant without having to be a voyeur in a couple’s bedroom, he states that between two right-handed people who are holding hands, the dominant person is the one who will be using his or her right hand to hold the partner’s left hand. According to Fitzsimons, this is because the dominant one will assume he can use his more comfortable hand to hold anything and the submissive one will give way.

8) Here’s something that many people swear by. It has really gone beyond theory and has solidified into belief: the notion that washing one’s hands after strenuous activity will cause the shakes, or pasma as we call it. Thus, people will wait a few hours after a hard game or a massage before taking a bath.

During my short but memorable stint working in an ad agency, we were looking for a creative pitch for a company that was marketing rubber gloves. How do you convince people to wear rubber gloves? And on what occasions? Our first instinct was to exploit the fear of pasma to get people to wear the gloves for certain activities like washing dishes. But when we researched the phenomenon of the shakes, to our surprise, we found no scientific evidence at all to back up this almost universally-accepted theory.

9) Finally, there is a theory, origin unknown, about sex in Australia. It says that if a newly dating couple puts a jelly bean in a jar every time they have sex, and once married continue to do so for the first 12 months, and then take out one jelly bean each time they have sex from thereon, they would never reach the bottom of the jar.

I don’t know about Aussies but I am sure this would not apply to Pinoys! We would be scratching the bottom of the jar in just a few weeks!

The power of memory

Sunday, November 11, 2007

All alone in the moonlight
I can smile at the old days,
I was beautiful then
I remember, the time I knew what happiness was
Let the memory live again.

— Andrew Lloyd Webber, Trevor Nunn and T.S. Eliot

Memory is a powerful thing. It has many useful functions. It helps us store, retain, and subsequently retrieve information. It helps us remember things, events, places, thoughts and even feelings and, in doing so, it frames or situates us in our world.

If a stranger we are talking to somehow brings back a pleasant thought, memory or feeling, we will most likely be friendly and accommodating to that person. However, if the person evokes negative memories of any kind, we will most likely dismiss him or her, or at the very least end the engagement as soon as possible.

Memory, so to speak, arranges the furniture of our world for us.

Memories are interesting because they are man-made, fully dependent on how we spin them. For example, the Marcoses and the Aquinos will have two different recollections of EDSA.

In the history of mankind, memories have been put to use for various purposes. Since the time man realized his capacity for memory, he has learned that it can be used selectively — and it can be colored, treasured, honored, defiled, ignored, forgotten, enjoyed or celebrated. Memories can also be used to reinforce theories about our reality and our opinions of people and events, renew friendships, rescue or ruin relationships, instigate fights, evoke nostalgia, discourage or inspire others to act for big causes.

The malleability of memory makes it a powerful force, and we must be aware of this to make full use of it. In fact, just like everything we encounter, we create and recreate memories for our own end.

Decades ago, Jean-Paul Sartre, the eminent French philosopher, probed the topic of memory in an essay. He wrote about missing his wife who was away for quite a long period and noted the manipulation of memory when a person misses someone. Memory is not static — it can be bent, twisted, watered down, intensified and reshaped, depending on our need.

One who misses and longs for a loved one will find his memory of the person colored and biased, with a heavy dose of romanticizing. The absent person, at least in the memory of the one left behind, becomes some kind of a mythical, iconic and perfect being. The reason we deify the missing is because it is easier to elicit within us emotional reactions that we can control and which we can indulge in over and over. And the end result is that it keeps us focused and hooked on the person.

But then, perversion can happen. Sartre points out that the missing person, in the hands of memory used without discernment, loses some of the real qualities of who he really is. He is “refined” to fit a picture, and toned and colored to elicit the reactions we want. The person loses dimensions of himself as scenes from our selective memory play over and over in our minds. The person is trapped in time, a time of our choosing, and is transformed from the irrepressible human that he is into a wondrous though ghostly and ethereal being.

This probably explains why Rizal, for example, has become a sacred mythical symbol for some religious cults.

Sartre compares the process of indulging in this type of idealization of memory as “masturbatory,” where the object of emotion plays out a defined role and delivers what is expected in a static, predictable movie, to the satisfaction of the one who remembers.

The scene in our memory is scripted to play the same way each time. This may work well, until the person suddenly returns and shows up in flesh and blood with all the quirkiness, unpredictability and unevenness a human presence realistically possesses. And the spell is abruptly and unpleasantly broken.

And the very live person’s presence with all his candor and unpredictability can be a very jarring experience. The movie in the mind that played quite well unfolds in a runaway fashion and moves in a space and time that has never really happened before. And that can be initially distressing, until we adjust to the person’s live presence once more.

All this brings up some questions. Of what value is memory if it can be mangled like this? If memory can be altered, how can we trust it?

The very idea that we humans can alter the past is a powerful one. In Time magazine’s coverage of the anniversary of the French Revolution, French historians were quoted as saying that they are still trying to figure out what really happened several hundred years after the fact. What they meant was, they were exploring the meaning of that tumultuous time in history in the present world. They were looking for its relevance to the now.

Every generation looks at history using its own biases and reality and relates to it in its own way.

When we look at our own past, whether as individuals or as a people, it is important to link it to where and who we are now, where we want to go, and how it can serve us.

My mother lost my father at age 40 when he perished in a plane crash in 1957. The thinking then was that when we lose someone we love, to marry again would be a dishonor and irreverence to the memory of the loved one who died. To allow that thinking is to be condemned to a memory, a past that is static and will only become more so as time goes by.

In order to move on, we must learn to distill our memories to their essence by summarizing them into themes that will ultimately serve us. My father’s life had many facets, but it is the facet of love, giving and joy that I choose to remember. That memory is liberating and applicable to my life today.

The past can be reframed. Things that happened before that may seem like tragedies that can be reframed to tell a different story. The past can either haunt us or bless us depending on what we want to read from it. For example, I may have looked at my early years of trying and not succeeding in having my songs recorded as a time of failure then. I can certainly look at them now as the hungry years when I was on the make. In hindsight, they were great years not just of struggling to be recognized but they were character building as well.

The past is not a story written in stone. We can revisit it and draw new conclusions from it at different times in our lives. It’s really up to us. And that’s how memory serves us.

Old friends, travels and harvests

A few nights ago, Lydia , Nanette De la Cruz( a good friend here in Sydney), and I went to Corregidor, a lounge in Rooty Hill, a suburb of Sydney to watch Janet Basco’s show. She had just arrived that day from a show in Perth but the strain of a 4 hour plane and a concert the night before was not present at all. As she stepped out on stage, she looked amazingly fresh and raring to go.

I must confess that I am a snob and am not one so easily coaxed into watching concerts. I am hard to please. I do concert-performances for a living and I know what it’s like. I have worked with many artists and have seen too many people do shows that do not entertain me in any great way, or to put it bluntly, do nothing to me. I have my own theories about what makes a great performance. Don’t get me wrong. While I may be picky, I still watch certain entertainers occasionally.

I believe performances of any kind to be worthy of being called great performances must do at least one of two things: they must surprise and delight, and/or must take their audiences to a place where they have never been. And mere emulation or copying of some famous foreign singer or a hit song does not do it for me.


I take pride in the fact that I ‘discovered’ Janet Basco 30 years ago. This was in 1977 when we were guests at Student Canteen, the original, seminal noontime show held at the UST that day. She was a student representing the high school. She did a simple yet beautifully sweet performance which led me to approach her and ask if she was interested in recording. The rest is history as they say. She signed up with Jem Records where I was working then and we did a few recordings. It was the early days of OPM and so we were quite bold in experimenting with different genres of music. Janet recorded originals in samba, ballads, and even translations of great foreign hits. The music we recorded then, if we can only find it now I believe will still resonate with today’s music lovers.


That evening at Corregidor was a magical one. I had seen Janet perform many times in the past but that night floored me. I was quite surprised and delighted at how Janet had become so at home on stage. She spoke with candid charm and an honesty that was disarming. As a result, she easily owned the stage. And the audience acknowledged it  by listening raptly to her spiels and songs. Pretty soon, she had us eating out of her hands.

Contrast this to the way many performers handle spiels. A lot of young (and even old) performers go on stage with rehearsed scripts which they have not run through enough to make their own. That alone usually tranlates into a cringe experience for their audiences. Some of them can be downright embarrassing,  starting off sounding ‘profound’ and correct and then suddenly, a spontaneous awkward or stupid remark jumps out of nowhere which is totally unconnected or even silly. It exposes a shallowness, or worse, a phoniness or a put-on. Something just doesn’t fit ‘right’, if you know what I mean. I know it takes a while to find a comfort level on stage where one can be him/herself. It may take years. And the way Janet spoke from the heart spoke volumes of the many lessons performers learn through the years–to communicate with their audience as you are, and be comfortable about it.

She sang a few medleys–Manila Sound, Bacharach, Willy Cruz, a jazz medley, among others. The solo standout songs for me were Streisand’s ‘Something’s Coming’, ‘Lately’ by Stevie Wonder, and a jazz song (I can’t remember the title) that started accapella but breathtakingly connected to the music in the exact key– a mean feat that requires perfect pitch to pull off. She had goodies for every type of person in the audience, from the mababaw to the more demanding as she dished out hits and even rare songs. But what clinched every number aside from her vocal prowess was the fact that she clearly enjoyed herself performing on stage.

janet lounge3.5

It’s been thirty years since I first saw her perform. Little did I know that my simple invitation for her to sing would launch her in the direction of a life career. In this age of youth worship, I hope that the older seasoned performers, those who have mastered their craft very well and have much to contribute to making a more discerning, discriminating audience will continue to perform again and again. The young ones can certainly learn a lot by watching them.

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I will be leaving for Manila again by the end of the month for a last Christmas hirit before the year ends. When I was young, I wished for travel anfd I guess I got it and continue to get large doses of it to this day. Danny likes to rib me over the fact that I mainly work in the Philippines to support my family in Australia. He calls me an Aussie W. Ha ha. That’s Danny Javier’s wit for you.

* * *

We gathered a few friends over at home last Saturday to celebrate our thirtieth wedding anniversary. It was great to see friends from long ago and new immigrants who became our friends here in Sydney. Our kids Mio and Ala (and Erica via long distance) decorated the house and went the extra mile in ensuring that the party would be a memorable one. They put their parent’s memories to the test by asking us to write on separate pieces of paper (without consultation) the anwers to questions they asked about our courtship 30 years ago: first theme song, first date (where), title of first movie we watched, what our first fight was about. Lots of fun. These kids are wonderful. Oh, there were prizes for every answer we gave including free Starbucks coffee, a movie, a DVD of choice and tickets to Burt Bacaharach at the Sydney Opera House next year.

It is good to be at that point in life when things we planted in the past are bearing fruit. Throughout our thirty years, we planted love, patience, tolerance, humility, effort, faith, joy, forgiveness, sacrifice, humor and laughter, tears and they are now allowing us to enjoy a harvest of memories, love, lessons learned and many more plus great, wonderful, loving and beautiful children to show for it. We have not stopped planting. There are many more years of harvests to enjoy.

See pics.

See you next time

Humming in my universe

By Jim Paredes

“Why should we be startled by death? Life is a constant putting off of the mortal coil – coat, cuticle, flesh and bones, all old clothes.” — H.D. Thoreau

Since it’s that time of the year when we think about the dead, I thought I’d write about the ‘otherwordly’ realm. No ghost stories or anything paranormal since I suspect that’s what everyone will be writing about. I thought I’d write about something that more and more people are starting to believe in, and that is reincarnation.

Reincarnation is an ancient concept that is widely believed by many religions—Hinduism, Jainism, Sikkhism, Kabbalah, Sufism and even Gnostic Christianity. Basically, it says that a person who dies is ‘made flesh’ once again to inhabit the earth as a new personality in another time, or times. There is a thread that ties these lives together as the soul purportedly goes through several life travels to repay karma and to evolve.

Many people believe in karma and logically, they must also believe in reincarnation. I have met quite a few who claim to have had a past life or two. While it can neither be proven nor disproved, I find it funny that many of those who talk about their so-called past reincarnations, always claim connection to some ancient royal line. They were almost always princesses, princes, queens or pharaohs or some other glamorous title-holding royal who lived in some exotic time. No one claims to have been, say, a mere shepherd, a fisherman or a slave.

I had my brush with reincarnation (I like to romanticize that I actually did) some years back during a visit to Nepal. Nepalese culture and society acknowledge the phenomenon of a living Goddess in their midst called the Kumari Devi. The Goddess is supposedly the reincarnation of the Goddess Taleju who, according to legend, appeared as a young woman to the King of Nepal centuries ago. Daily, she would visit the king to play chess with him, until one day, the king made a pass at her which displeased her. As a result, Taleju ordered that the king from then on would have to undergo the rite of ‘legitimization’ yearly, in her hands, personified by a reincarnated pre-pubescent girl known as the Kumari Devi.

By tradition, the Kumari Devi is a young girl with 32 outstanding characteristics who must undergo rigorous tests. And once chosen, she remains a Goddess until she menstruates. Then another rigorous process is done to find the next personification of the Kumari Devi.

My brush with this reincarnated being happened in her courtyard. Normally, tourists who wish to see the Kumari Devi put money in a bowl in the courtyard and call out her name. She very rarely responds to calls, but to my luck and surprise, the two times I called, she bestowed fleeting glances at me from her second floor window, much to the envy of the other tourists around.

Another reason I find reincarnation fascinating is because I have relationships with certain people that cut deep on a level and quality that seems different from other deep and close relationships I have. My sister Lory, my son Mio, my co-APOs Danny Javier and Boboy Garrovillo are just some of the people with whom I have a special bond that seems to be intensely close and intertwined. I have often wondered whether my relationship with them in this life is part of karmic ties and dramas that originated in some past life.

Some scientists have given suggestive evidence that reincarnation may be factually true. There have been many investigations done on this subject. Scientists have examined the memories of people who have asserted that they have had past lives and put their claims under an investigative, historical microscope and found them to be quite plausible in some cases, and very believable in others.

I have not really made up my mind whether or not to believe in reincarnation, at least in the literal sense. I do know that it serves a purpose for man to believe in such things. Christians believe in a God who created man, and God is the be-all and end-all of existence. Similarly, reincarnation suggests that we did not come from nothing, that there was a precedent, and therefore a source of our existence. Furthermore, it suggests a continuation of some sort of life after death. When taken to be lyrically or symbolically true, it suggests that our lives are actually bigger than we can ever imagine it to be – originating from somewhere and unraveling repeatedly through many generations after our death until we reach the state of perfection of one who is enlightened.

Through the continuous cycle of rebirth and death, we are purified and reborn into higher versions of what being human can possibly be.

It is pleasant to think that we can come back in another life and do what we failed to do in our previous one. It is exciting to listen to people who entertain the possibility of reincarnation talking about who or what kind of person they would like to be when they return. Royalty? Someone famous? An actor or an actress, a rock star or a world leader? I have met people who choose to come back as animals.

In my case, if reincarnation is at all possible, I would like to come back as an era, a period of history with a certain ambience. Think about the renaissance, or the 60’s, some impressionistic era that captivated artists. Or how about something similar to the hippie movement that dared to dream something different. I would like to be a spirit or zeitgeist where a great number of people are captivated by the idea of being free spirits expressing themselves as creatively as possible. Call me a New Ager, but I resonate with how the 60’s group, The Fifth Dimension, described the Age of Aquarius:

‘Harmony and understanding
Sympathy and trust abounding;
No more falsehood or derision
Golden living dreams of vision
Mystic crystal revelation
And the minds true liberation

I’m almost sure the vision of Aquarius will not happen in my lifetime, although there are those who argue that it is already beginning. Perhaps. Whether or not it is, I just want to end this piece with this simple phrase:

‘See you next time’.

2, 30, 3, the next one and being transnational

I finally succumbed.

I got not just one but 2 iphones!! I gave one to Lydia for our 30th anniversary and she thought it was such a cool gift. I’ve been using an iphone for about two weeks now and let me say that the iphone is a different type of cellphone experience. I have been a Nokia guy for the longest time and switching to an iphone where the menu and functions are laid out differently required a few adjustments. But they are adjustments that take only a few minutes to get used to and a few uses to make it an easy habit.

The iphone is a very intuitive instrument. Everything responds automatically according to how icons, arrows and the like are laid out. I just love the instant access to internet, email, youtube, maps, google earth and the photos and music. To tell you the truth, it is not hard to get ecstatic about it. It is a GREAT phone. But having said that, I still wish it had other functions that are missing like cut and paste, and a good bluetooth that works not just for the ear piece.

I had my iphone unlocked in Greenhills. These guys who do this are real techie geniuses. On the internet, I have been following the cat and mouse game between Apple and the hackers, and it seems that our Pinoy hackers are at par or even better than those who put the ‘latest’ solutions on the net. Saludo ako!

As I mentioned above, Lydia and I celebrated our 30th anniversary last October 29. I know it sounds corny but it really does seem like just yesterday since we tied the knot. Thirty years after 1977, Lydia and I were smiling while having dinner at the thought that here we were–still together, alive and kicking, happy and in a foreign country at that. One never knows what life will bring or how it will turn out!

Been here in Sydney for almost a week now and I have been having great sleep. I love the way this place is quiet and laid back. Even if I do a lot of chores, it is a restful place. And I am amazed that every time I come here, I make no adjustments to feel at home here in our little abode. I just slip in seamlessly to the rhythm of life here.

But then, when I am in Manila, I also love the way it is vibrant, loud, chaotic and sometimes dangerous. And no matter how ‘Aussified’ I become, it IS home as well.

All this traveling back and forth has qualified me as a transnational. I live, work and give expression to aspects of myself in both places. The world is my oyster. I love it.

For those readers who live in Australia or New Zealand, I have copies of my books here in Sydney and you can order them by writing me at emailjimp@gmail.com. They sell for 15 AUD each but will give it for 40AUD if you get all three titles plus shipping costs.

Also, I have recieved in the past some inquiries about when I will be holding the next TCU workshop in Sydney. This i the creativity workshop I have been facilitating for some years now. I have done two in Sydney and 1 in Melbourne and many more in the Philippines and the US. If you are interested, read below:

The 37th run of TAPPING THE CREATIVE UNIVERSE, a cutting-edge workshop that will open participants to an increased level of awareness, joy, creativity and productivity is on again.

When: November 25, 2007
What time: 8 AM to 6:30 PM
Where: As of the moment, it will be at my house in Glenwood unless I get a great number of attendees.
How Much: 100AUD$

If you want a syllabus, please write at emailjimp@gmail.com.