Edsa, poetically revisited

Sunday, February 24, 2008








I thought I’d write about something different for today.

This being the time of the year when we both celebrate the wonderful, historic and inspiring events that took place on EDSA 22 years ago, and at the same time gnash our teeth and curse ourselves for what we’ve done with the golden opportunity years after, it is only fitting that I devote some space to this event that is indelibly part of our being the people that we are.

As I am writing this, I am taken back to a time in 1986 a few months after EDSA. Cory was installed president. I had just written Handog ng Pilipino sa Mundo a few months earlier and still had not shaken off the high that came with the critical and commercial success of the song.

I wanted to do more stuff like it; I wanted to write not just the usual pop songs about love but songs with non-traditional themes, those not always associated with the current music played on radio. I wanted to write songs about current history.

I called award-winning writer Joey Reyes and asked if he was interested in collaborating on a song project for an album my friends Danny, Boboy and I were recording then. The vision I had was a song about EDSA in the style of Don Maclean’s American Pie, which was poetically cryptic and full of allusions. At that time, I remember being so mesmerized with Maclean’s musical narrative about the history of rock and roll. I wanted a song that would describe the events, people, movements and the zeitgeist that would describe our own recent history similar to that Maclean style, but in Pilipino.

Joey and I both agreed that the song should cover the breadth of pre-EDSA history up to the revolution itself. Below is what Joey came up with, lyric-wise. Try to identify which persons, places, movements or phenomena are being alluded to. Transport yourself to the time when events were unfolding dramatically during the sunset years of the desperate Marcos era and meander about up to the time the dictator was flown out to Paoay and on to Hawaii by helicopter. Try to recall the characters, the headlines, the spirit of the times. Now read Joey’s poetry and see how much you can identify.

Here are a few hints: There’s a US president alluded to, and a former priest turned rebel, an exile in Utrecht, a building that collapsed, “The True, the Good and Beautiful.”

Okay, that should help you get situated. The text below is very rich in historic allusion. Anyone who can decipher everything is a real history whiz.

If you want to listen to the music as sung by APO, you can go to http://apojim.multiply.com/music and look for the title below.

Kung Sino-Sino, Kung Saan-Saan

Words by Joey Reyes, music by Jim Paredes

Performed by APO Hiking Society


Hawak kong peryodiko

Na kung saan bawat tao

Minakinilya lang ang halaga

Siyang tula ang sandata

O silang may tapang kumanta

Ang dating sinusumpa’y ginawa ng bida

Iniwan ang kapilya niya

Sa bundok siya ay nagtago na

Walang altar kung saan siya nagmisa

Nagsilabasan ang hantik

Pati bundok mukha’y inukit

Nagsayawan kami hanggang umaga


Kung sino-sino

Kung saan saan

Kaaway kaibigan

Kilala ko sa pangalan lamang

Silang alamat, multo at talino

Bumubuo ng aking kasaysayaan


Pati dagat pinatuyo

Ngunit nang templo’y gumuho

Kami napipi sa madugong ganda

Ngunit langit ay nagdilim

Nang kalapati’y paslangin

At sa kalye ang luha ay bumaha

Mula sa pula niyang libro

Natuliro na lang si Pedro

Iniwan ang bukid at siya’s sumama

Sumabog ang entablado

Sinabayan ng delubyo

Binihag ang mga matatanda



Pati ilaw sa gintong telon

Hinugis ng munting alon

Ngunit sabi di yan ang totoo

May babaeng napaiyak

At luha naming pumatak

Tuyo na ang kamay ng babaeng pilato

Nagpainom si Pandora

Ngunit tumutol ang iba

Kaya naghikab na lamang ang demonyo

Sinimulan sa kandila

Liwanag niya’y nakagiba

Nag-alsabalutan ang tatlumpong balo



Bumalik na si Gabriela

Hindi itak ang dala niya

Kundi ulan may sinag na dilaw

Nakita ko sa may pintuan.

At siya’y napangiti lamang

Habang namulaklak ang bagong araw

Lahat sila’y nakatingin

Bibit ng ibon ang sakitin

Nilunod ng sigaw ang ating awit

Pati sila’y sumayaw na rin

Sa sari-saring tugtugin

Ang awit palang ito

Likha namin

* * *

The Tapping the Creative Universe (TCU) workshop begins its 38th run this March, fresh from a successful Sydney run last January.

Last week, I suggested to those who are in transition in their lives and paralyzed by inertia to just “jump and the net will appear.” If it doesn’t, what may happen is you may discover that you can grow wings!

This workshop will awaken your awesome creativity, which may have been dormant these past years, and give you on experience of unlimited joy, power and achievement. If you are in-between dreams, relationships, careers, lives, or feel that parts of you are stuck, this is the workshop for you.

TCU will be held from March 10 to 14, and concludes on March 17, from 7 to 9 p.m. at 113 B. Gonzales, Loyola Heights, Quezon City. The fee for the six-day seminar is P5,000.

Those interested can get a copy of the syllabus by calling 426-5375 or 0916-8554303 or send e-mail to emailjimp@gmail.com and I will be happy to respond.

Gigs, fines, columns, museums and ‘getting into trouble’

Had a three-song gig two nights ago at the 70’s Bistro. It was a fund-raiser for drummer-musician-artist Noe Tiu who passed away last week due to a stroke. Noe was a good friend and he did a lot of our posters, artwork, and we enjoyed his great company and spirit. You will be missed Noe!

The gig was fun. It’s a small venue, not a fancy one but has a lot of character and spunk.This is a place where lots of young bands learn their chops. Tomorrow night, we will be doing a concert at Crossroads. It will our first time in the venue. I have not seen it yet but I hear it is a 2000 plus seater. I am excited to do the show with the bbest band abyone can ever have. If you are thinking of watching, call 4265301 (APO office) and resreve your tickets.

* * *
A cousin who lives in Switzerland was telling me that a millionaire friend of hers was recently fine 40,000 Swiss Francs (about 38,000USD) for… are you ready for this? Speeding! YES, SPEEDING.

Apparently, the penalties for road violations is proportionate to what you earn. It makes a lot of sense when you think about it. If a millionaire was charged a 100 dollar fine for speeding, it would hardly be a deterrent. But if you had to pay an amount that hurts, then you will make sure you follow the rules. This is something we can apply here.

If Boyet the taxi driver is caught speeding, a 500 Peso fine would hurt, for sure. If Lucio Tan is the one caught, would, say, 1 million or more be a proportionate penalty?

* * *

My first article for Hills News, a local publication in Baulkham Hills in the Sydney suburbs was published last week. My beat is travel and leisure. I wrote about Boracay and immediately got a response from a reader who enjoyed both Boracay and my article. I am so thrilled to be able to truthfully claim that I am a columnist in Manila (Philippine Star) and in Australia.

One of my dreams is to talk with the world as my audience and to see my books published internationally. One country at a time.

* * *
The day my column on Jun Lozada was published at the Philippine Star, I got a text from Carmen, Jun’s sister who texted my secretary Ollie through a number she saw in the workshop announcement attached to my column. She said that I wrote the article like I knew Jun personally and thanked me for it. Last Monday night, I met Jun and his family at the Mass for Truth at the Gesu Church at the Ateneo de Manila Campus. I shook his hand, congratulated him for his courage and truthfulness. I got a hug from him. Later on, as Jun went to the front of the church were the media was waiting for him, I talked to his nephew, his brother and sister for awhile. I know how they feel and the pressure that they are all going through.

I remember what author Joseph Campbell said about life being an adventure. Everyone is always kicked out of a place of comfort, and thrown into the unknown. This is a pattern one sees everywhere in all cultures and throughout history. In the twists and turns of the journey or mission being undertaken, everytime the hero is at his wits end, or about to give up, someone comes in to point the way to a new direction so that the journey can continue. The journey will require that the hero go through fire to purify and steel himself. When he has learned what he must learn, he will return to impart what he knows to his people.

Campbell points out that every person’s life is a hero adventure. One may choose the adventure or may be thrown into it without choice initially. We soon learn that the choice is there for us to continue or stop. When we refuse the call to go on with the adventure, we stagnate and kill our own spirit.

Life is like mythology and the the mythical template is always like this. Campbell talks about the neccesity of leaving one’s comfort zone (Adam and Eve’s Eden, Frodo’s Shire, Shakyamuni’s palace, for examples) as the start of the journey. Come to think of it, even at the very start of life, we already by necessity have to leave the comfort of the womb.

This mythic theme of ‘getting into trouble’ is clearly demonstrated in the lives of Luke Skywalker, Buddha, Jesus. Also throw in as examples, Rizal, Ninoy, and the lives of countless ‘ordinary’ people who said ‘yes’ to the challenge. By saying ‘yes’ and carrying it through, they became bigger than what they were. They became at the very least, ‘extraordinary’.

So Jun, don’t despair. You are in good company. For every twist and turn, trust that there will be a ‘Gandalf’ or an Obi Wan Knobi or an angel who will be there to guide you.

* * *

On February 21, Thursday, the new MCAD (Museum of Modern Art and Design) is opening it’s doors for their very first exhibit. The MCAD is the newest and most modern museum in the Philippines to date. For their first exhibit, they are featuring eleven personalities and how they have influenced contemporary life and culture. One of them is none other than yours truly. You are all invited to be part of this. We would be so happy to see all of you there.

Please come. If youy cannot today, the exhibit runs for 6 months. Below are the details of the exhibit:

roots out notions of the contemporary in recent works by…..

JUSTINO ARBOLEDA, agricultural engineer
JUNY BINAMIRA, boat designer and builder
BUDJI LAYUG, designer / stylist of domestic environments
CLODUALDO DEL MUNDO, JR, scriptwriter and filmmaker
NEAL OSHIMA, photographer
JIM PAREDES, songwriter and performer
TONY PEREZ, playwright, novelist, and painter
JUDY FREYA SIBAYAN, conceptual artist
INNO SOTTO, couturier
RAMON VILLEGAS, jewelry designer and antique dealer


MCAD (Museum of Contemporary Art and Design) is at the School of Design abd Arts building, De La Salle College of Saint Benilde,
950 P. Ocampo St., Malate, Manila

The evening’s DJ will begin the program of rock music from the last 30 years, at 6:00pm, on February 21, 2008.

Choose your own dress code. Come in haute, avante, or nondescript couture. Bring any attitude.

Tours of the building commence at 5:00pm and end at 6:00pm.

Indoor parking is available on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Jun Lozada, everyman

Jun Lozada, everyman
Sunday, February 17, 2008

When I started writing this column last year, I told myself that I would refrain from writing about politics. I have been largely successful, save for one or two paragraphs where I wrote in jest about the political situation when I made my predictions for 2008. But Philippine politics is a demanding beast that gnarls and howls and threatens to bite, making not dealing with it close to impossible. It’s an in-your-face intrusion into our lives that just cannot be avoided.

A question popped in my head when I saw Jun Lozada shed tears during his press conference at dawn on Wednesday morning: As a crying lady brought down Marcos in 1983, will a crying man bring down GMA in 2008?

What a story Jun Lozada was telling. It had all the riveting elements of a thriller: kidnapping, abduction, greed, treachery, hate, lies, cover-ups, denials. It had twists and turns and details that kept us at the edge of our seats. How could it not? It was a classic tale about timeless themes that have fascinated mankind since the beginning of time: about good versus evil, the weak versus the powerful, one versus the many, conquering one’s fear and regaining self-respect.

There was Jun Lozada, a small government functionary, a self-described probinsiyanong Intsik, battling powerful forces that tried mightily to stonewall the truth and protect the corruption that has been putrefying in high places.

While watching parts of the Senate investigation, I was amazed to see some of our “honorable” senators — these worldly men and women of power and means, these wheeler dealers, powerbrokers and protectors of dubious interests who love to strut and grandstand and admire themselves while they demean their invited witnesses — not only backing off but seeming to short-circuit in the presence of the startling honesty and candor that Lozada exemplified. It was like watching darkness being repelled by light.

In his testimony before the Senate, Lozada exposed how powerful people have abused their power and how they have prevented us from seeing the truth. It is quite a spectacle to see people in high places, the almighty men and women who rule over life and death in our country, rattled out of their wits by the simple but devastating narrative that Lozada was relating.

Watching him tell what he knew about corruption boggled my sense of scale. How limitless greed can get! How willing some people are to simply pass on P5 billion to our national debt which future generations will have to pay for, just to satisfy their greed!

Lozada is Everyman who decided to own up to what he knows. He is not a swashbuckling witness, but a hesitant, almost doubting weakling who, by his own admission, was a coward who almost lost his nerve to go to the Senate and tell all. And that is why it was breathtaking to see him muster every last ounce of his courage and tell what he knew. It was clearly a wrenching experience for him as he paused for air, caught his breath and wept momentarily, only to come back and tell more.

I imagine that, before he decided to talk, he was a man in crisis. Hunted by the Senate, he was sent abroad by his bosses to avoid testifying. But he was torn between wanting to live a quiet, peaceful existence with his family, and following his conscience. He was so deeply conscience-stricken, he just had to follow what was important to his soul and unburden himself of the truth as he knew it.

The choices before him were not easy. He could choose to be quiet but spend the rest of his years bothered by his denial of the biggest challenge in his life, or he could jump into the fire, speak his truth and just hope to come out of it alive.

Truth is not easy to handle, much less befriend. It can be powerful stuff and one must develop character to live with it and dispense. It can cut like a knife when shielded, withheld or distorted; it tatters every falsehood it encounters. The bearers of truth are most often never at peace until they set it free. And even when they do, they realize that truth may have set them free but it cannot guarantee their safety. But to show its gratitude, truth guarantees peace of mind and spirit.

M. Scott Peck, author of People of the Lie, described evil as “the militant denial of truth.” We have seen this many times in our political history where politicians have denied wrongdoing despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. I am not suggesting that politicians have a monopoly on evil. I am suggesting that in each person’s life, he/she harbors evil of some sort and to varying degrees; that he/she must admit and come to terms with so that he/she may be set free. It’s just too bad for politicians that the evil they harbor, when exposed, is almost always disgustingly tawdry.

It was disarming to hear Jun Lozada readily admitting to his own shortcomings when it was insinuated that he wasn’t quite a pure knight in shining armor but a man whose armor may have a few dishonorable chinks and scratches. To me, it showed his total surrender to the truth at that very moment. He was not using it to vilify others or protect himself. He was setting the truth free, and allowing it do what it must, regardless of who got hurt, including himself.

To me, this entire saga is a watershed in our political and psychological journey as a nation. The tolerance of corruption is one of our worst dysfunctions as a people and it may prove to be the fatal flaw that will sink the GMA administration. In the light of this, I daresay that a new radical template for character, a new paradigm, has emerged from the muck of our political life which may just be what we need to save us from perdition. And all it is is the concept of simple truth-telling.

A new type of hero may have been born, coming not from the usual places — not from showbiz, politics, the Church, the academe, sports or the military. Jun Lozada does not look the part at all. In fact, he is your average, ordinary kind of person, a regular guy who, like all of us, is flawed and compromised. But what sets him apart is his courage to shore up what remains of his self-respect and draw the line in order to preserve it. This ordinary little man, in the eyes of his countrymen, is 10 feet tall.

I was most struck by the almost religious undertones of Jun Lozada’s journey towards the truth. It is the parable of Everyman. The image of the reluctant, unlikely hero was so compelling, I could see the promise of the Beatitudes unfolding.

Blessed are the poor in spirit,

for theirs is the kingdom of heaven;

Blessed are the meek,

for they shall possess the earth;

Blessed are they who hunger

and thirst for justice,

for they shall be satisfied;

Blessed are the pure of heart,

for they shall see God;

Blessed are they who suffer

persecution for justice’s sake,

for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

I have not felt this upbeat about the possibilities for our country in a long time. I only hope that Jun Lozada remains steadfast to the truth so that the rest of us may see the same greatness and courage in ourselves. For only then can we can regain our pride and dignity — in our own eyes and in the eyes of the world.

* * *

It’s getting closer! If you’ve been wanting to do this but are still plagued with inertia or doubts. I say “jump and the net will appear.”

The Tapping the Creative Universe (TCU) workshop begins its 38th run this March, fresh from a successful Sydney run last January.

This is a workshop that aims to awaken your awesome creativity that may have remained dormant these past years, and give you the experience of unlimited joy, power and achievement. If you are in-between dreams, relationships, careers, lives or feel that parts of you are stuck, this is the workshop for you.

TCU will be held from March 10 to 14, and concludes March 17, from 7 to 9 p.m. at 113 B. Gonzales, Loyola Heights, Quezon City. The fee for the six-day seminar is P5,000.

Those interested or can get a copy of the syllabus by calling 426-5375 or 0916-8554303 or send e-mail to emailjimp@gmail.com and I will be happy to respond.

The glory of love (and effort)

A few days before Valentines, we got a call from a young man who booked APO for a most unusual engagement: he wanted us to sing one song to his estranged wife on his behalf. When the call came, we were so delighted that we immediately said yes.

Yesterday, at 9:15 AM, Danny, Boboy and I met this young man at a Starbucks in Makati. He said that he had to make a gigantic effort to win his wife of two years back.  They seemed to have made of mess of things big time. We did not care to probe more and find out the details. He said he would be happy if this major effort of inviting us to sing to his wife would result in her saying yes to even just having coffee with him. Lunch, or dinner will hopefully  follow in the future  and if his plans and prayers turn out right, he would like to have another weddimng ceremony with her to start anew.

The plan was simple. Someone would go before us to the girl’s office which was a building across Starbucks, approach her office  cubicle with a bunch of flowers. A minute later, we would enter and sing accompanied by just a boombox, the song “PANALANGIN”.

At around 9:30, a messenger bearing a bouquet of red roses proceeded to her office and promptly handed her the flowers. Before she knew it, Danny, Boboy and I were there near  her cubicle serenading her. The sight of seeing her with the expressions of shock, delight and being overwhelmed was simply priceless! Althroughout the song, she blushed, sang a few lines, and beamed a shy smile.

Soon after we started singing, everyone in the office stopped working, got out of their cubicles, brought out their cellphone cameras to capture the event.

After the song, amid shouts of ‘more’  from her smiling officemates, we kissed her on the cheek and whispered, ‘somebody loves you’, and promptly exited her office.

Back at Starbucks, the young man who hired us for this unique gig was so happy that everything worked. We thanked each other and wished him the best of luck. From there, we proceeded to Bellevue Hotel in Alabang for our Valentine rehearsals and show that evening.

A few hours after the serenade yesterday, we got a text from the young man to tell us his wife called him to thank him and that they had scheduled lunch!!!

Ahhh…. it’s nice to be Cupid!

About Sorry Day

I am sharing with you an email I wrote to an egroup I am part of comprised of all Aussies.  Here I am talking about my experpence of Australia as a migrant but most importantly, my views on Kevin Rudd’s historic apology to the Aborigines for Australia’s kidnapping of hundreds of thousands of their children from 1901 to the 1970s in the aim of ‘civilizing’ them.

I have mainly been a lurker here on this egroup but I read with delight, fascination (and sometimes a headache) the lively exchanges from everyone. I’ve attended one or two discussions in Glebe months ago, which I enjoyed, and wish to attend more,  time permitting. I am also a relatively new resident of Aus–one and a half years, although I must admit that I spent loads of  that time overseas since I do a lot of concert touring.

Years before moving my family to Aus, I took a long hard look at Canada, and the US also and after weighing everything, I chose this country. When I got here, I found a land with few people (compared to bustling Manila), a society which was a little too orderly for my taste initially but after a few months began to like it.

I have met a few Aussies and I must say that I like Aussies generally. They can be quite friendly, relaxed  and quite welcoming. I love the informality and the straighforwardness. I also find that Australia as a country is coming unto its own in the world. I see greatness in many  Aussies–athletes, actors, scientists, politicians, artists, etc. I feel a sense of energy, positive spirit here.

Of course, I also have encountered some unpleasantness.

My son, on the first day of school was rudely greeted with a “why don’t you Asians go back to the boat that took you here’  taunt, which startled him.  My son,  quick-on-the-draw replied with, ‘why don’t you go back to the jail where you came from,’  almost instantly and that almost provoked a fight.  He was shocked and quite bothered about the experience–about what he was subjected to, and the unexpected retort that came out of him. Luckily, things turned out quite well over time, and he and his classmate have become great friends since. He hangs around with many white Aussies now  as well as Asians and other nationalities.

As an Asian, I had a vague notion of  what the past White Australian policy was  about. As I was growing up in Manila (born 1951), most everyone I met who spoke of Australia even without ever visiting it spoke of a beautiful country but with lots of racists. When I moved here in 2006, I learned from old time migrants that as late as the 70s, many of them were still denied hotel  accomodations in certain parts of Aus not too far from Sydney simply because they were not white. An old Filipino I met recalled that a hotel in Canberra flatly refused his family accomodations one winter night due to his being non-white, and only succumbed when he said that his young children needed a warm place to stay. They were allowed to stay in the kitchen for the night.

As someone who has been traveling constantly and for so long in the US, Europe, Asia, the Middle East,  I am aware of and have experienced a few times a parochialism and a small-mindedness  coming from some white Aussies I have met. To be fair, every country has them. I have met a few who have never traveled beyond NSW, who know nothing outside their little lives and suburban culture. Some of them are benignly ignorant, but there are some who have an arrogance and a misplaced superiority about them. The mindset is no different from some US residents,  (mostly) republicans I have encountered who assume that their country  and faith is not only the one true religion but that they are superior to everyone. In their view, their country is not just the center of the universe but that they also speak the lingua franca of the world.

Aus though has been a constant marvel for me  and my family since we moved. As Filipinos raised in Manila, we have always been exposed heavily to the American way of life and  culture, and so the whole commonwealth feel of things and way of life here is new and fascinating. The sports are different, for one. The government structure and the electoral process is new to us as well. The vocabulary and accent can be daunting and amusing and refreshing at the same time.

I was happy to be here during the elections. When I listened to Kevin Rudd during the election campaign, I was so fascinated to see a man who seemed to understand people beyond his own culture. The way he talked, his views on a lot of things such as the environment, education, health care, and politics suggested to me not just a newness but an openmindedness  and compassion that was so absent from John Howard. Howard, quite frankly not just looked stern but sounded stern and insensitive, and to me was not too far from the mold of George Bush, though more intelligent. Of course that’s hardly an achievement. Furthermore, he seemed to me to idolise American capitalism too much for comfort and for the wrong reasons.

The night Kevin  Rudd won is something that’s hard to forget. To many Aussies, it may not have meant as much but it was quite a pleasant sight to see the leader of Australia presenting his family to the nation, and seeing a Chinese son-in-law as part of his family. It was a moment not lost among many minorities. I’ve always admired Australia’s multi-culturalism, although there’s a lot more to be done before the melting pot truly turns into a good brew. I felt good that, one, Rudd  was fluent in another language and has spent a lot of time abroad and is a Chinofile at that, was elected the leader of this great country, and that two, the people knowing this, voted for him.

Today, I saw his  Sorry speech on the internet and saw the reaction of many Aussies. I felt so proud that somehow, I am part of this society, and I am so inspired that there are leaders like him who feel that  issues such as these are as important as economics, and other problems.  He is a leader who will not just impact Australia but perhaps the human race  as we collectively evolve to new possibilities. As someone who still has to be completely  integrated into Aussie life and culture, I felt a feeling of real compassion touch me which went beyond what I knew of Aussie life and history. His act of apology  touched me as a human being, and brought me  close to tears.  I especially was moved when he suggested to non-native Australians to imagine what it would have been like if they had undergone what native Australians had undergone. What he did today is a not just a class act but a new bold template for dealing with age-old proble! ms in race relations.

To me  he comes close to what an integral leader COULD possibly be. His committing Aus to the Kyoto protocol suggests this too.

I must admit I have not met any Aborigines yet. I  have only seen pictures of them mainly, save for a few I have seen performing in different places around NSW tourist spots. I’ve been planning  on traveling around Aus specifically to see what their lives are like and learn more about their age-old culture. But inspite of the little that I know, I always understood  that the European colonization of their land must have been a shock they have yet to recover from. Filipinos were colonised too by both the Spanish and the Americans, and that has caused us a lot of psychological complications we have yet to fully recover from as well.

Today is a great day for Australia. I am hopeful that Rudd’s  apology on behalf of himself, the parliament and the nation is a first step towards true healing. It is not just a great giant step for Australia. I am hoping the rest of the world learns from this..


It’s in the details



Sunday, February 10, 2008








A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.Lao-tzu, Chinese philosopher (604-531 BC)

I am watching CNN as I write this and I am riveted by the showdown between two likeable Democratic nominees who both could make great American presidents. I am in awe of how much effort they have put into campaigning to be where they are today.

When I think of how much they want to be president, I marvel at what I imagine is the daily sustained effort they have to put in to make this happen. Everything they do counts toward a vote or the loss of one. I count in my head how many handshakes, conversations, speeches, personal appearances, photo ops each candidate has had to go through and will continue to muster if they are to be their party’s candidate and win the election.

This is an article in praise of the seemingly insignificant small efforts that make up the stuff of life. Often, we only see the big, broad strokes, forgetting that the mighty oak begins its life as a tiny acorn and it takes a while for it to be the majestic tree we admire and appreciate.

Very often, we are on the lookout for the big deal, the shining moment, the headline news or the big extravaganza in our lives. We are addicted to the gigantic, the dramatic, the “life-changing” event, person or thing that will move us. In fact, many times, we ignore the small stories because there is no story but the big one, the one that rivets our attention and makes us go, “Wow.”

It’s amazing that, to many of us, the only significant things, events or people that count are those that can stimulate us or affect our emotional state in a palpable way. And their value to us is all about how intensely they can do this. If they do not, they are not really of any importance to us. Perhaps this is one of the neuroses of modern times.

The continuous onslaught of titillation and stimulation from the media that arouses awe, fear, anger, elation, laughter, tears and other “peak” feelings has made of our lives a frenzied madness. We feel alive only if we feel all or some of these. Otherwise, we climb the walls out of restlessness and boredom. We find that we are uncomfortable with silence and non-activity. It’s as if life and the world have stopped and, during those moments, we can get not only antsy and bored but seriously prone to depression.

When this happens, we forget that the big picture is literally comprised of tiny pixels, that a forest consists of many trees, a symphony is composed of many notes, and to know, appreciate or love anything is to know and embrace its intimate details.

In my own life, my schedule is sometimes so tight and I am so totally immersed in “big” things. At such moments, I speed up and get a high feeling the wind on my face. But when my schedule suddenly lightens, I feel a big letdown. I know I still have to perfect the art of adjusting from 100 KPH to 5 KPH.

Sometimes, I do it well and sometimes I fail miserably. But when I succeed, I notice that it is all about paying attention to the details in one’s situation or action, no matter how fast or slow life is.

When I think of all the different roles I have played in my life — father, husband, friend, teacher, APO member, photographer, Filipino, migrant, etc. — I measure my success by how much I learn about each one through long periods of time. The more details I pick up regarding a particular role, the more competent I feel and the more I seem to care about it.

I think of my experience being a dad to my three kids. One thing I have learned is that I cannot claim to be a good father if I am not there to spend time or pay attention to my children. I can claim to love my children “generally” but that profession of love is meaningless unless I spend time with them and every small and big effort that entails.

It’s all in the details, a lot of which involve the undramatic and mundane business that fatherhood entails — listening, giving advice, earning money, and showing up daily as a reasonable, functional, exemplary adult role model. And, as every father knows, that requires acts of discipline and efforts big and small. All these mundane moments fly in the face of the notion that the main meaning and purpose of life is supposed to be the great job, the prestigious award, the big salary, the moments of glory, the dreams and ambitions we strive to achieve.

In large measure, life is comprised mostly of the moments in between the big events when nothing important seems to be happening. And to one who thinks that “real living” has to be about the big song-and-dance routine or the shining moments when one’s emotional cup runneth over, the in-between times may seem as exciting as watching paint dry. It takes a certain sensibility to be able to appreciate such moments that are not about doing or achieving anything. More aptly, they are about simply allowing things to just be and appreciating them as they unfold.

The in-between times are no different from the way Miles Davis describes music. He says that music is not just about the notes but the rests, or the silence moments between them. Without the silence, music would just be continuous noise in different keys. The silence makes the music elegant and artful. They are inextricably coupled to produce the wonder of music itself!

People who practice Zen and other meditative practices point to the moment between inhaling and exhaling as a blink of time so subtle that if one is aware of it, one is probably in the moment. I believe that it is our tiny, largely unrecognized, unappreciated but sustained efforts that really count. It is those moments when we just seem to be plodding on that hold up the sky, so to speak, and that make everything, especially the big things, possible. The daily grind consists of small acts of perseverance which I know are as important as the end goal or the ambition achieved.

In a love relationship, the true test is not necessarily the fabulous, expensive gift that can bring your partner to ecstasy. I believe it is more about the little, sometimes too-subtle-to-notice efforts that show devotion and a silent but intimate love. It could be a soft touch while sleeping, an embrace for no reason, or the quiet but attentive listening while a lover talks of everyday things. There is a line in the song What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life? That to me points out a silent moment in a lover’s mind that says a mouthful.

I want to see your face,

In every kind of light,

In fields of gold and

Forests of the night;

And when you stand before

The candles on a cake.

Oh, let me be the one to hear

The silent wish you make.

To feel alive, we need not go for the big holiday, or the wild adventure. A reliance on the large, the elaborate or the intense to make us feel good is no different from an addict’s need for a shot in the arm to get to addict heaven. We have heard of kings and powerful people who have taken their lives because they felt it was meaningless or they were simply bored.

True living is in the details.

* * *

“Have you lived 1,000 days, or have you lived the same day 1,000 times?”

The Tapping the Creative Universe (TCU) workshop begins its 38th run this March, fresh from a successful Sydney run last January.

This is a workshop whose main aim is to awaken your awesome creativity that may have remained dormant these past years, and give you the experience of unlimited joy, power and achievement. If you are in-between dreams, relationships, careers, lives or feel that parts of you are stuck, this is the workshop for you.

TCU will be held from March 10 to 14, and concludes March 17, from 7 to 9 p.m. at 113 B. Gonzales, Loyola Heights, Quezon City. The fee for the six-day seminar is P5,000.

Those interested or can get a copy of the syllabus by calling 426-5375 or 0916-8554303 or send e-mail to emailjimp@gmail.com and I will be happy to respond.

People of color

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Then it’s the blue ones who can’t accept

The green ones for living with

The black ones tryin’ to be a skinny one

Different strokes for different folks

And so on and so on and scooby dooby dooby

Ooh sha sha

We gotta live together

Sly (Stewart) and the Family Stone

Okay. This article may turn out to be quite nerdy and bookish, but I think you’ll find it interesting. I’ve been wanting to write about Spiral Dynamics but have stopped myself from doing so. In truth, I am intimidated by the topic because I thought that in order to do it justice, I would need a lot of print space. Furthermore, it is a complicated topic with lots of nuances and I will surely fall short of giving it the clarity it deserves.

But I was able to read a very short summary recently in thinkarete.com which showed me that it is possible to discuss Spiral Dynamics in broad, simplistic strokes.

Spiral Dynamics is a very engaging theory put forward by Don Beck, Chris Cowan and Dr. Clare Graves.

According to the SD people, Spiral Dynamics is “a map to the nature of human nature. It is a point of view and a way of thinking better about differences in leadership, learning, management, social structures, economics and virtually every other area where human coping strategies have an impact.”

Basically, SD posits that people and cultures evolve and pass through different stages of development. Not everyone is in the same place at any given time. In short, different strokes for different folks. SD color-codes these stages for simple discussion. As you read on, think of societies, institutions, world events and people throughout history that fit the descriptions. For this article, I will discuss just a few of these stages represented by colors.

Red. The world is viewed through tribal sensibility. Societies like these are clannish, always feel threatened and are always stuck in survival mode, ready to defend themselves and kill, if necessary. Nature, diversity are adversaries. There is a need for control. It’s them against us. Dictatorship or autocracy is the preferred political system. Justice is defined as “an eye for an eye” at best. If you could compare this stage to a child’s development, it would be the “terrible twos,” as in, “I’ll blow you up if you piss me off.”

Blue. This is a mindset that posits a higher power ruling over good and evil. Society’s rules are based on beliefs anchored on what it considers as sacred texts that are interpreted literally. Spiritual life is mainly about mass religion with a very traditional bent. Think of the Old Testament, the Ten Commandments, the Koran, the Talmud. It is absolutist, dogmatic, unwavering, and yes, quite non-rational. The fundamentalist stance is the only view that is valid. Rules are paramount and rigidly followed. Capital punishment is part of the justice system.

At this stage, adherence to religion as described by SD people is “mythic membership” and obedience to it is everything. For example, “blue” sensibilities killed Galileo for saying that the world revolved around the sun. In today’s context, institutions or societies that reject evolution or the scientific method are largely “blue.” In the local context, certain “blue” groups vote monolithically during elections.

Orange. The dawn of the individual, and the pursuit of personal ambition are what this is about. This probably had its first seeds in the Renaissance. Think of pioneering and expanding. In its early stages, it was expressed in an ugly way through colonialism. Now it’s about Wall Street.

Orange, in truth, can be very exploitative. Academia, pragmatism, liberal democracy, capitalism, science are held in high esteem. Prosperity and economic progress are the ideal. The industrial revolution was an “orange” project. In this setup, there is a lot of skepticism about anything unexplained by science, which means that religious institutions have limited power over society. It’s a secular, modern world.

Green. Think of globalization, environmentalism, pluralism, multi-culturalism. This can be a mindset of humaneness and sharing. There is a lot more openness. There is universal concern for human rights, conflict resolution, poverty alleviation, etc. Compassion and rehabilitation are necessary elements of justice. Morality and meaning are relativistic and situational. Spirituality is more about the personal experience of God as oneness with everything than rituals of organized religion.

To be sure, there are many more shades of color, and their value systems and worldviews overlap and merge at certain points between adjacent colors.

The stages or colors mentioned above are part of what SD calls the “first tier.” There are more stages after these, and the system is open-ended. More on this later.

But meanwhile, here’s the rub. People at any specific stage or color are convinced that theirs is the true perception or worldview.

As a result, each color probably looks at all the others and feels quite offended, or even aghast at what it sees, especially because their worldview does not comply with their own. For example, green may perceive orange as crass, power-hungry capitalists motivated solely by greed and profit, and condemn orange people as destroyers of the planet.

On the other hand, orange will look at green with scorn as tree-hugging New Age hippies who would rather save the blue-tailed moths, do yoga or look at crystals than get a job and be productive members of society.

Blue gazes at everything it sees and, in one fell swoop, it condemns everyone but feels sorry for them since they are all destined to go to hell because they do not subscribe to the God which blue worships.

Meanwhile, red does not see any value in discussing anything. It looks at everyone and says, “F___ you! I’m blowing your *ss up.”

I am being simplistic here, but you get the idea. And even if, as they progress, these stages seem to allow a wider latitude for tolerance, none of them are open enough. Why? Because the basic flaw shared by all first-tier colors is that they have an “either/or” relationship with the others. Either you see it my way, or it’s the highway. No single color, not even green, can appreciate fully the validity of other perspectives.

Here is where the second-tier stages come in. The second-tier stages are composed of consciously evolved worldviews and perspectives that “transcend and include” (Ken Wilber’s term) all the previous colors mentioned. In this higher tier, for the first time, it is possible to hold multiple perspectives. As Ken Wilber lightly put it, “No one is smart enough to be 100-percent wrong.”

While I present these stages in an offhand, almost caricature-like manner, it is important to state that, aside from their pathologies, each stage has its virtues. And the second-tier stages do a better job of seeing this than first-tier perspectives.

Where did second-tier thinking come from? The answer has to be “from the first tier,” since we all necessarily pass through each tier to get to the next. Today, more and more people have the surplus energy, time and resources to explore their inner selves and so are more open to second-tier thinking.

How, then, do second-tier people see the world? For one, they have no problem seeing the need to take care of the environment and having a prosperous economy, which, in the eyes of the green group, may seem mutually exclusive. They also appreciate the need to use power and aggressive action when needed, yet do not “lose it” by being excessive. In other words, second-tier people have infinitely better-thought-out responses to any given situation.

To reach second tier (yellow to turquoise) demands a more conscious, deliberate approach to everything. It means becoming more accepting, less judgmental, holistic and integrated in approach, and consciously taking charge of one’s evolving — all the while taking into account the diversity and stages of development one may find himself in.

Thus, the need to curb global warming (primarily a green concern), for example, may involve the orange reliance on science boosted by blue’s view of the holiness of life as described by sacred text. The second tier does a marvelous job of managing all this better than any color or stage at the first tier.

Spiral Dynamics is such a fascinating subject and there are many sources to explore. Read Dr. Clare Graves, or try Ken Wilber’s many books on how to live an integral life.

Watching the Davos discussions last week on CNN, as world leaders talked about terrorism, the global economy, the environment and the Middle East, I felt that, to get out of the mess the world is in and to get us to a better place, we truly need new consciousness and leadership. Tony Blair scored when he said “idealism is the new realism now.” He also said that politics today is not about being left or right, but being open or closed.

For the new world to come to fruition, it must first be imagined. Old stories and myths must be set aside and new thinking must come in. Second-tier consciousness may be the arena where this will happen.

* * *

Okay. It’s time to walk the talk!

Change won’t happen unless you decide to really do it. Break that inertia and sign up.

“Tapping the Creative Universe,” the cutting-edge creativity workshop, will have a run in Manila from March 10 to 14, concluding on March 17, from 7 to 9 p.m. at 113 B. Gonzales, Loyola Heights, QC. The workshop fee is P5,000.

For reservations, call 426-5375 or 0917-8554303 and ask for Ollie. If you want to know more about the workshop or would like a syllabus, write to emailjimp@gmail.com.

Don’t wait too long. Seats are limited.

Fame, succes, work, writing, recording and Jack Nicholson


Lydia watched Burt Bacharach in Sydney last night and she met Glen Baker, a rather famous person in Aus who is a judge on Australia’s Star Search and is a well known music critic. She met him through Craig Pelihopa, a good friend of ours who we’ve known way back. Craig invited Malu and Lydia to a pre-concert dinner. Lydia was so surprised when the topic turned to APO and Glen Baker said that he had 3 APO albums.!

Am not sure what albums he has but he said he bought them after seeing us in Manila. How cool is that? ha ha. It’s nice to know someone famous in Aus knows about Danny, Boboy and I.

* * *

The 37th run of TAPPING THE CREATIVE UNIVERSE in Sydney last January 19 was just great! We had a group of 14 people in the beautiful Assumption Retreat place at Plumpton. Too bad it was raining because it would have been nice to have had some of the workshop modules outside. Next time, I intend to consider holding it overnight since they have rooms for attendees there. That will really be something.

* * *

I am back in Manila. I felt I was dragging myself to the plane out of Sydney this time since I really enjoyed my rather long stay with my family. I actually felt bad about leaving. More than at anytime, I really feel that we as a family (and even individually) are getting into the groove of not just our new life but even the national life of Aus. We can now discuss the politics, the news, and enjoy and get into the significance of things such as Australia day, etc. I am also sort of getting known as a voice and guitar teacher. I’ve been getting a lot of new students and I feel good about that. And I am grateful that despite my many visits to Manila, we are able to continue lessons each time I get back.

I go through this mild ‘depression’ every time I stay long in Aus and have to go back to Manila. It takes me a few days to muster my spirit to get into the stream of life back here. Maybe the jetlag has something to do with it. Strangely enough, the three hour difference between Sydney and Manila is more disturbing to my biological equilibrium than the 12 to 16 hour difference between Manila and the US.

I am here to do shows with APO. I also hope to take some pics, hopefully for magazines. I will also be doing a few talks for a school, a company and do a run of my TCU Creativity workshhop this March. This will be quite busy but I am not complaining. I would rather be busy than not doing anything.

* * *

It’s been around 15 months since I wrote my first column for Philippine Star. I can’t believe I did not miss even a single week. I’ve sort of gotten into a routine weekly to make sure my column is ready by Thursday for the Sunday issue. I write on Mondays and Tuesdays mostly.

Now I am starting some writing in Sydney as well. I will be a contributor to a community paper called Hills Life Magazine as a travel and lifestyle writer. It’s a monthly publication for the area of Baulkham Hills. I will be part of the first issue this year. Will let you know more details once I see my name in print. If you are in the area, watch out for it.

* * *

It’s too early to talk about it, but I will, just to make sure we don’t delay things again. The other day, I submitted my first two songs to Danny and Boboy for the next APO album. It’s been quite a while since we did one and we are excited about it.

All these years, I’ve continued to write songs, but admittedly, most of my efforts have been directed towards writing books and columns and blogs. Sometimes, I would notice that I would even stop listening to songs for months.

To make an album now after all these years is not easy. For one, the whole market and approach have changed dramatically. But call us old fogeys because we are deliberately avoiding the approach of almost all artists and record companies, and that is to go with the sound that’s popular and marketable now. In other words, make a piece of work that is out and out commercial, and try to sound like other people.
We are talkng a simpler but more authentic approach. We will be honest and just write what we feel like! No obvious, commercial formulas. The most important thing a songwriter must write is not what people are listening to but what his heart wants to say. Authenticity will out. And after so many albums in our long career, and a long hiatus from the recording studio, I would not mind doing an album like this as we approach our fourth decade. When I think about it, most of the songs we made that broke ground and became popular were spontaneously written and not at all tinged with any self-conciousness. They were songs that reflected where we were at the time we wrote them. That to me is still the best approach.

On my own, I recorded an album in the early 90s of stuff I wrote which I considered personal and not necessarily commercial. I went to the studio with songs I made about my mom, my family, mid-life, zen, a song for a daughter who turned 18, etc.. One might say I did the album solely for myself with little or no thought of the ‘market’ in mind. I was at a point then when I was tired of having to always please people before pleasing myself, what with a noontime show, a very public life and all that. It was a very liberating experience for me and the album still gives me joy when I listen to it. It was called AKO LANG, and it’s not in the market anymore.

Recently, I got some inquiries about it. I called the record company that released it and I am buying the few copies left since they won’t be bringing it to the stores to sell anyway. If you are interested in purchasing a copy of this collector’s stuff, let me know.

* * *

Before I left Sydney, I had a fun pictorial with my friend John Fick and his wife Pam. I was the model, Pam was the make-up artist and John was the photographer. Really had a lot of fun. John took some really good ones which I will not post just yet except for the last shot which was my impression of Jack Nicholson. Since my forehead continues to get wider, I may as well look for someone famous to emulate who is suffers from the same condition.

Well… I still have a few more years before it gets as high as Jack’s. Ha ha.