Home again, workshop again, diving again and ‘dirty words’ (again)


I am back in Sydney by March 31st. I can’t believe how much I miss the place specially since Lydia, Mio and Ala are there. It’s been two months since I was last home. When I get there, I wil end up missing Ananda and Erica who are in Manila.

To all my guitar, voice students and to all those who wish to seek my services for photography, and those who wrote asking about my books and CDs, I will be there soon and will mail your orders. I can’t wait to see my students again. Yes, I can take in new ones. I will begin lessons by April 2.

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I’ve had two runs of my TCU workshop this year. One in Sydney last January and one in Manila this month. Both were great runs and one big reason was because of the venues I chose. In Sydney, the beautiful grounds of the Assumption convent was quite conducive. In Manila, I held it at my home. I was so happy that the particpants in both places loved the venues.

I will be having another run in Manila by May 10 and it will be the usual 6 day run. I’ve been receiving so many inquiries about TCU lately. Here are the details:

What: Tapping the Creative Universe Workshop 4Oth run
Where: 113 B. Gonzales, Loyola Heights, QC
When, May 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 19.
Time: 7 to 9 PM
How much? 5,000Pesos

Please email me at emailjimp@gmail.com for a syllabus or to reserve.

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Last Holy Week, I had the great pleasure of spending it in Buenavista Island in Davao. I had forgotten how magical the island was that the Ayalas had developed and cared for since 1986. The trees seemed taller and more firmly rooted now since the last time I was there. The plants were lush. The beach was greater than ever.

Best of all, I finally got to go diving again. I must admit I was pretty scared about it since I hadn’t done it since more than two years back. I was afraid I may have forgotten my skills since my last dive which was in Anilao, Batangas. I was scared I would hyperventilate, or not be able to equalise or chicken out and go right back out of the water soon after. I was surprised how naturally I took to it again. The two dives I had in Davao were dive no. 202 and 203 if my count is right. It’s great to get wet and crazy again!

I was quite happy to be with some of my favorite relatives–the Ayalas of Davao. I have had the great priviledge of knowing them intimately, traveling and holidaying with them and enjoying their great friendship and trust. Tito Chito, Mafe, Mike Gauss, Mayumi, Cheska, Lani, Pimee, Uno, Raffy Anna Marie, your hosipitality and generosity have touched many people and I thank you for it. You guys are the best!!

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This one is for Ripley’s. It’s not one of those highly dramatic tales of survival or anything like that. In fact, this could also could go to the comics section, because it is hysterically histrorical somewhat.

A few years back, a niece of mine from the US got married here in Manila to a Mexican-American and that occasion of meeting Mexicans in the Philippines was quite an eye-opener for them– and for us. Last week I had an Anerican nephew visit Manila with his Mexican wife and we threw a party for them. There are many things we have in common due to our common Spanish heritage. The words palengke, tiangge have their roots in Mexican culture.

But both visits also opened our eyes to some funny and shocking aspects of our colonisation under the Spanish. I am talking of other common words we share with Mexicans but with damatically different meanings in our respective contexts..

It was during a stop at a little store in Tagaytay where one of our Mexican guests asked about the breads and pastries. He pointed to some small round white -colored kakanins and asked what they were. The lady said they were ‘puto’. Immediately, I heard a chuckle from him and when I asked why, he explained that ‘puto’ meant ‘male prostitute’ in Mexico.

When he proceded to ask about some other stuff, he heard the word ‘panutsa‘ which sounded alarm bells among the Mexican group. Politely, they tried to suppress their laughter but to no avail. When we asked why they were laughing, they had to explain with great embarrasment that ‘panutsa‘ was a crude word for vagina in Mexican. But what pulled all the stops was when they heard the word ‘mamon‘ which got them laughing to tears. Apparently, mamon as a slang word means ‘c__ck sucker’ in their language. When I explained what it meant in Filipino, they laughed to tears especially when I mentioned that we have a nickname called ‘pusong mamon‘ when we want to describe someone who wears his heart on his sleeve. Putting it in their context, it would be unimaginably bizarre to meet someone with ‘ a heart of a c__ck sucker’! Sheeesh!

My curious mind couldn’t help but come to the conclusion that the colonizers were really having great laughs at our expense, ridiculing us by introducing all these words to our culture and pretending that they meant something different! They must have had a hysterical time laughing at then stupid indios for our ignorance. I guess it’s no different from the fun we have when we teach the wrong Tagalog words to our American nephews and nieces when they visit. I remember laughing when my brother-in-law Marty taught my nephew to say, ‘Lola, nagkalat ang tae ko’ to mean that ‘he was having so much fun.’

When you survey Filipino surnames with Spanish roots, you will discover that some of them are downright derogatory in Spanish. The surname ‘Cagado’ actually is past participle for ‘to take a shit’. Some other names are just funny. ‘Achacoso’ means ‘somebody who coughs a lot’. There must be other names that the old prayles imposed upon us much to their wicked delight.

I have an idea on how to get even. It would be a hysterical situation if we file a diplomatic protest for something not just because it happened about 150 years ago, but because of the meaning of the words involved. They would have to apologise in public. Now how do you do this diplomatically considering the words involved? This would test the mettle of diplomats on both sides. I’d like to see how the news covers it. Ha ha.

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The liberating wisdom of Carl Jung

Sunday, March 30, 2008

This article is inspired mainly by Carl Jung whose wisdom I have been recalling lately. The most recent occasion was when I watched Barack Obama talk about the racism issue in America that’s been dogging him ever since his pastor highlighted it in an inflammatory sermon in their church. I was absolutely stunned that a politician would refuse to take the safe and simple route of merely denouncing what his pastor had said and get himself off the hook. Instead, Obama chose to present the complexity of racism in his society with all its shades and ambiguities.

As I watched him speak, I knew that I was listening to an extraordinary leader who, while condemning what his pastor had said, also admitted that he had learned a lot of goodness from the man. He said he could no more denounce his pastor than denounce his own white grandmother who made remarks about blacks that made him cringe.

Have we entered a new era in politics, a new age in the conduct of public life where a public figure does not have to pander to the public’s biases and small-mindedness? I asked myself that question as Obama spoke. All too often, leaders and famous people tend to sell themselves to their public as 100-percent good and perfect, without any flaws. As much as possible, they present themselves as completely deodorized and sanitized, even if they end up appearing one-dimensional and unreal.

Carl Jung said that every man casts a shadow, and the greater the man, the bigger the shadow. And like a statue at midday to sunset, the shadows cast from midlife to the end can only get longer and greater. The more we know of our heroes, the more we see their feet of clay. As a psychologist, Jung had seen enough to be distrustful of anyone or anything that presented him/her/itself not just as someone or something pristine and perfect but also of pure origin. In a loaded statement, he once said, “Show me a man who is sane and I will cure him for you.”

This makes me think that perhaps a great mistake our political and moral leaders continuously make is dictating how we should think about a lot of things, such as birth control, euthanasia, divorce, etc. They make pronouncements suggesting that they have thought out the issues for us and that we should trust that this is what is good and what we should believe. Often enough, theirs is a narrow viewpoint which, in many instances, is not even well thought out. But going against religious opinion is not easy since it always claims to have the moral high ground.

I have both admiration and pity for Councilor Joseph Juico of Quezon City who sponsored a bill on family planning that went against the Church’s stand. Although I know he was coming from a place of compassion for the poor and had good intentions, he got pilloried for it.

Remember some concepts, such as the existence of limbo, the rule about overnight fasting before communion, and a few other beliefs and practices that gave us a lot of anxieties before? It was much ado about nothing, as it turns out, since they have mostly been revised or put to pasture by the very institution that imposed them on us.

Anyone in a position of power and influence whose aim is to control and influence our thinking instead of stimulating discussion will end up “caricaturing” the issues. Things tend to get divided into simplistic arguments, disregarding life’s complexity. That’s because their premise is that people cannot grasp subtleties or complicated situations.

M. Scott Peck, the author of The Road Less Traveled, believes that the most committed sin of humanity is laziness. This seems to be true when you realize that it takes much more effort to go the extra distance and understand the many nuances of issues than to just surrender to a simple explanation of something already sorted out by someone else. It takes a lot of personal work to pay attention and think, to take full responsibility for one’s beliefs and actions. It is so much easier to trust our leaders to do the thinking for us.

Many times we find we are trapped in “either/or” thinking, limiting our courses of action. Either/or thinking is borne out of a blocked mindset. Examples of this are, “One is right and therefore the other must be wrong.” Or “One must gain and another must suffer.”  This cramped way of thinking about our choices results in dualistic, simplistic analyses that render us unable to see the many other aspects inherent in any situation.

How about replacing “either/or” with “both/and”? How about accepting that people and situations can be both good and bad (as opposed to good or bad), easy and hard, simple and complex. People are not simply either villains or heroes, but both. They can also be saints and cads, intelligent and stupid. Doesn’t this sound like a more realistic proposition?

Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy, both writers of Gnostic spirituality, posited the funny but wise notion that while it is true that there is virtue in looking at our bodies as sacred temples, on occasion, it is okay to look at them as fun nightclubs as well! Plotinus talks about looking in “two directions at once.” Zen points out the importance of the Middle Way between opposites. And I dare say that neither Plotinus nor the Zen practitioners are lost, wishy-washy, or non-committal about life. In fact, they see life in its completeness.

I have a friend who, when he found out that his father — who was a respectable, straight, very Catholic, upright citizen, politically correct in every way and, from all indications, a good man — was dying, had such a deep and aching longing to connect with him. Interestingly, he wanted to ask his distant father a few things that he had never dared ask before, like whether he ever had a girlfriend apart from his wife, or an extramarital affair, or if he ever cheated on his taxes. In fact, he was hoping that he could elicit from his father a confession of a more imperfect life other than what his family could see so that he, being a more flawed son, could still aspire for the greatness he saw in his dad.

I have thought about all the great people I have met and known and I know that none of them is/was perfect. They all have their faults and dysfunctions. If all I knew about them was the great deeds they did or the perfection attributed to them by everyone else, I would not see them as real people.

I once knew a great man who had a severe drinking addiction. Interestingly, what made him great to me, aside from his many achievements, was that he totally accepted himself as he was: a flawed man who was capable of great things. In a way, we all are exactly the same. The main difference is that he still chose to fly and follow his bliss despite his limitations.

But the difference between him and many of us is that he knew his own shadows intimately, and it was not surprising that, because of it, he could easily understand and even forgive other people’s faults.

“We cannot change anything until we accept it. Condemnation does not liberate, it oppresses,” Carl Jung wrote. One might say that the act of embracing his faults made my friend comfortable in his own skin and once that happened, he could quickly identify with the rest of humanity.

While we accept things as they are, it is also necessary to take sides. In this way, life is indeed paradoxical and, in fact, it’s being so cannot be avoided. Life, after all, is about both acceptance and choices. But to be able to do so in a fruitful and enlightened way, it helps that we are capable of appreciating and coming to terms with both its complexities and the consequences of personal commitment to change not just the situation, but ourselves as well. And that involves embracing both one’s light and shadow.

I’d like to leave you with something provocative from Jung. He once boldly stated, “I’d rather be whole than good.” That may upset some of the purists and moralists but I find it to be a statement that expresses not only great honesty but genuine liberation.

Life is beautiful

Sunday, March 23, 2008

I’ve been wracking my brain trying to think of a flat-out, “Exhibit A” redemption story to share, today being Easter and all. But alas, I cannot retrieve anything from the top of my mind or even from the fringes of my memory. I guess I will have to change strategies. Besides, you readers will have your fill of insights from church pulpits and other Sunday columnists about the resurrection of Jesus, so I need not delve into that.

Instead I will take a less dramatic stance and write about something “smaller.” I would like to write about the barely noticeable but important little redemptions that happen to us daily. I would like to venture the proposition that there is every reason for every person living in this world to wake up every day with gratitude in mind. I know that we all come from different circumstances and my proposition may seem like a tall order to some. After all, while some of us may be living in a bowl of cherries, there are others who may be in desperate straits with nary a glimmer of hope to see them through.

Still, I believe there are enough reasons to celebrate daily living. Here are some reasons why I believe life continues to be beautiful.

The sun rising and setting daily is one good reason. Every day, for eons and ages, it has done so and it will continue to do so for a long, long time. This gives me a lift, somewhat, because it is in itself a cyclic redemption story. Morning breaking the darkness of night to usher a new day is something we can always depend on. Dusk at the end of the day is an inevitability. It is a major part of how our lives are organized. Day followed by night followed by day and repeated endlessly in the field of time is the backdrop of where our lives are played out. That, in itself, is a great wonder to ponder.

That life itself goes on is an equally marvelous reality. “Life will find a way,” says the main character in Jurassic Park, the movie and the book. This continues to assure me that God has not given up on the world. I know that the book character was not necessarily referring to human life alone but to life in general. The impulse and the will to live is the software that inhabits and runs every living, sentient being.

This to me is one of the most amazing things about life. Throughout history, we have heard stories about human survival under severe duress and impossible odds and they have inspired us. And if we look at nature and every specimen of flora and fauna and how each manages not just to stick around but to evolve and thrive through the ages, we can’t help but be awed as well. To me, it seems like life has this great ability to morph into any form to continue to propagate itself in different ways. It will adapt and transform into anything because life has to go on, one way or another.

The fact that we humans have the uncanny ability to live in the perennially changing now is mind-blowing. We have the capacity to press the reset button of our lives when we need a fresh beginning and always start anew. When you think about it, this is not just an ability that we are gifted with. It is also an imperative that we should adopt to live life to the fullest. When we live in the past, we are crushed by the weight of our personal histories and all their toxic baggage.

When we live in the future, we are not grounded in any solid reality because, to be realistic, the future may never even come for some of us. Yet we waste the precious “now” worrying about potential problems and difficulties that may or may not arise in some imagined tomorrow. How silly it is to be too anxious about the future when we could just literally drop dead any moment and that would be the end of the story. Sure, we need to plan, but we mustn’t sacrifice the present for it. When it arrives, that is the time to deal with it.

If we worry and fret about something bad happening before it occurs and it does end up happening, we end up experiencing it twice! Now is all we really have. The present is all there is. It’s as good as it gets. Eckart Tolle posits that all anxiety is caused by living in some past or future. The present is pristine and perfect. In his writing, he asked simply, “What can possibly be wrong with anything right now?”

I am grateful that if we look with fresh eyes, any object in the universe can be a portal to enchantment, magic, poetry and even sacredness. Is it because the world is alive and can speak to its inhabitants? At least that’s what our ancestors believed. Since the dawn of time, man has looked at the heavens, the mountains and everything around him and has been able to see beyond the literal world of things and open a dimension to the divine. Anything ordinary and mundane, through the gift of true “seeing,” can sparkle with wonder and elicit a holiness and reverential respect from us. The ancients could invoke the presence of the gods and goddesses in almost every facet of their lives.

In the modern world, many people claim that it does not seem as easy since science has already unraveled a lot of the mysteries around us. But, while science may have shed light on many of nature’s secrets, I believe that science itself is God unraveling. God resides at the very heart of the computer chip of my iPhone. Science and technology are just the latest marvelous manifestations and disguises that God likes to show up in these days. There’s so much more to life than we can imagine, and there’s infinitely more to know about God.

I am grateful that life is unpredictable. Although sometimes, this unpredictability can be upsetting, I generally look at it as a blessing. I have heard of stories and met enough people who, based on their past histories, should not be where they are today. Think of Barack Obama, the son of a single black woman, who is now aspiring for the presidency of the most powerful nation on earth. Think of the countless people everywhere who have overcome their past and have done extraordinary things. These are people who have turned the corner and found themselves in unbelievable circumstances they never imagined. I like it that not everything is in the hands of man. While life is dynamic with potential and is waiting for us to live it in any way we wish, it’s good to know that a few curve balls and graces are thrown our way when we least expect them.

So let’s celebrate today by acknowledging the countless redemptions happening all around us. May your eyes awaken that you may see every aspect of your life sparkle with wonder.

10 life lessons I learned in high school

Sunday, March 16, 2008

I was recently asked to give a talk to first-year high school students in an all-male school. My initial reaction was to say “no” since I could not readily imagine how someone like myself who is three or four generations older than my audience can possibly give advice to today’s youth. It’s been something like 34 years since I was a high school freshman and that’s eons ago to the contemporary youth. How can I address people who look at people my age as ancient and whose attention span is probably much shorter than mine when I was their age? Besides, what could I possibly say that would be interesting to them?

But I knew I was just being difficult. I have made it a habit to consciously catch myself when I am just being negative; when I do, I counter it. So I ended up saying  “yes” to the invitation. My strategy was to cull from my own experience when I was their age. I would start by reminiscing about my own early years at the Ateneo High School, an all-male enclave like Claret High School.

I noticed two things while I was walking things through in my head: a) how amazing it was that I could still remember a lot of what I went through during my formative years. I can still remember the sights and smells, and most of all, the pain and joy of discovery in the journey to becoming a man. And b) how much like a parent I sounded to myself as I thought about what I wanted to say.

That Thursday morning, I entered a gymnasium with about 400 kids and a few teachers who showed up for my talk. After the intros I tried establishing contact with the audience. I stated the fact that a lot of kids their age find themselves in a state of limbo since they are becoming less and less the children they used to be, but are not yet quite the adults they aspire to become. To be sure, it’s an awkward stage to be in. Add to that all the major, definitive changes in one’s physique that are constantly happening. Changing hormonal levels can make one easily depressed, angry, horny, excitable, moody and sensitive all at once.

When I knew I had their attention, I proceeded to give them 10 pieces of advice which actually worked for me when I was growing up. Some I learned firsthand while some I learned from my own folks.

1) Remember that you are now capable of actions and decisions that can have life-long repercussions. I remember having classmates who died while in high school all because of recklessness — riding a motorcycle, getting into a fistfight, or even accidentally getting shot by a best friend who brought a gun to a class night sleepover.

2) Learn to play a musical instrument, a craft or an art. It is important to get intensely interested in something. It was learning the guitar that gave me a “parallel language” which I used to deal with and express my angst-ridden inner emotions. Without the guitar, I could have become an emotional recluse or a wreck. All that teenage funk must be channeled to something that will help you get in touch with your own emotional life.

3) Choose a mentor. It is extremely helpful that a young kid can get close to an adult who not only can be a role model for responsible behavior but who can also give much-needed advice in many matters. There’s nothing like an older person who can be around when you need him. It is also empowering to meet a mentor who believes in you. I was lucky to have had people like Ed Garcia and Onofre Pagsanhan during my high school years. They were mentors who cared about what I thought and felt, and saw the goodness in me when I could not see anything redeeming in myself.

4) Learn to control your urges. Like I said, raging hormones can get you thinking of nothing else but sex for long periods of time. Sex, like all things wonderful, must be entered into with full consciousness and attention and great control. You either control it or it controls you. Not controlling other emotional states like anger, moodiness and sensitiveness may also lead to many unwanted consequences.

The same goes with the urge to be violent, or the need to prove oneself by taking drugs, committing             petty crimes to gain acceptance, and surrendering to undesirable peer pressure. To be in control assures survival. To not be in control can result in becoming a victim.

5) Cultivate some kind of spiritual life. I remember being in high school and noticing that my classmates were either quite religious, or were totally disinterested in any kind of spirituality. Overall, I think that my having developed a conscience (largely through my mother’s influence) and the whole Ateneo mantra about being “a man for others” have shaped me to be the person that I am today. And while I have outgrown many of my religious beliefs as a young man, I still consider myself quite spiritual and I am happy and comfortable with that.

6) Remember that many of your high school classmates will be your friends for life. Anyone who has been at least 20 years out of high school will confirm this. High school years are golden years you will always look back to with fond and bittersweet memories. On a more practical level, the eminent Dr. Tony Dans, during the graduation rites at the Ateneo high school last year, pointed out that your old classmates will be the people you will run to when you need doctors, lawyers, architects, priests, etc., when you’re grown up. You will end up staying with them when you visit abroad, or even become their business partners, and so it is always good to treat them well.

7) Get close to your parents, or at least do not alienate them from your life. Remember that your parents went through essentially the same thing you are going through now, although under different circumstances. While the dynamic of wanting to assert independence on your end and their wanting to have parental control over you may seem irreconcilable at times, with a little patience on both sides, you can arrive at some sort of age-appropriate working accommodation.

8) Get into a sport. Though I now see its importance, this was something I barely indulged in while in school. I was too much of a klutz and too self-conscious about my own awkwardness to play any sport. I couldn’t even get coordinated enough to dribble a ball while running, much less shoot. But I joined the school band and thus participated in many interscholastic “tribal” sports competitions. It’s important to get into some sort of team spirit and effort, to work at goals that are bigger than oneself and that require group effort.

9) Learn about the opposite sex not just by having girlfriends but also by observing your own sisters and mother. The worst sex education one can get is the one you learn exclusively from your male classmates. When you can look at the opposite sex and understand them without your testosterone getting in the way, then you will have become not just a wise male but a desirable one and a potentially good boyfriend and partner.

10) Teach yourself discipline and study habits. It does matter that you have read a few books and can write coherently by the time you get to college. It does matter that you have the discipline to concentrate and do homework and tasks. As someone who taught in college, I find that I am more partial to students who have a wider literary reference when they speak or write essays than those who hardly read.

Furthermore, the readers in class submitted better papers because they could explain themselves more intelligently. Students who are habitually casual about what they are required to do never quite make          the grade when it counts. I was somewhere between a good student and crammer in high school depending on the subject. In the subjects that I used to cram and study only the night before the tests, I never really got good grades. Stephen Covey was right when he said that you can’t plant a tree and expect it to bear fruit overnight.

My talk was followed by a spirited Q and A which brought back more memories of my own adolescent years. The questions ranged from why their parents were “unreasonable,” or why kids in school are too cliquish, to why their parents do not give them freedom and privacy. The more questions they asked, the more I realized that minus the iPods, the cellphones, the gadgets and the media-saturated upbringing they are exposed to, today’s kids will have to go through what kids of every generation have gone through. And they will always need the guidance and care of the adults in their lives.

On, Off, and a Go signal for APO’s big one

‘It’s not something safe and theoretical. It’s alive, potent and dangerous.’ That’s how I explained the workshop to a caller last night who was having doubts about joining. Upon hearing this, she signed up.

The house is all fixed with chairs, tables, a projector, sound system and is ready for the 38th batch of students of my Tapping the Creative Universe workshop. I am quite excited since this will be the first time that a full workshop will run in this house which has been the setting of much of my creative output since 1986. This where I wrote so many songs that made it to APO’s list of certified hits. I also wrote 4 books in this house plus commercial jingles, blogs, articles and other creative works.

The TCU workshop has not stopped weaving its magic. Once again, it will be a time of big ‘aha’ moments and self-discovery for my students and myself.

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Here’s something we had in Sydney last year which was a huge success there. They will be holding it here soon. I am reprinting an email sent to me that explains everything!

On March 29 2008 the Philippines will join countries around the world as we literally ‘turn the lights out’ for Earth Hour– an event that will fuel awareness on climate change and prove that when the people of the world work together, they can make a difference in the fight against global warming.

Earth Hour will take place throughout the Philippines from 8 to 9 in the evening on Saturday night, 29 March. WWF invites you to participate by shutting off lights for 60 minutes, organizing your own “lights out” event or by forwarding this mail to your friends, workmates and family.

Launched in Ajustralia on the 31st of March 2007, Earth Hour moved 2.2 million people and 2100 businesses in Sydney to turn off their lights for one hour. This massive collective effort reduced the city’s energy consumption by 10.2% for one hour. With Sydney icons like the Harbour Bridge and Opera House turning their lights off and unique events such as weddings by candlelight, the world took notice. Inspired by collective effort of millions of Sydneysiders, many major global cities are joining Earth Hour in 2008, turning a symbolic event into a global movement.

YOUR participation will go a long way in spreading the message that we, as individual droplets working collectively–can create an impetus far more powerful than the mightiest of rivers. For more info, log on to WWI Earth Hour page at www.earthhour.org. or drop us a loibe at 632-9207931, 9207923, 9207926.

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Lastly, I am announcing this early that the APO will be having a major, major concert on September 20, 2008 at the Araneta Coliseum. This will be the kick-off concert to celebrate our 40th year together in 2009. I am happy and proud to announce this. We are very excited to be brealking ground inn terms of longevity, creativity, originality, and just plain good old fun and joy!

We promise you a concert that will be kick-ass, unique and entertaining.

This will be a show to remember. YOu can actually reserve tickets already by calling 4265301/ 4260103. A number of people who have heard about the concert are reserving tickets now. A number of friends and fans from abroad are already planning their trips around this.

More on this as the date gets closer.

Obsessing on a beloved









Obsessing on a beloved
Sunday, March 9, 2008

Today, I want to write about an obsession. I use the term “obsession” loosely here. Something qualifies as obsession if it has rendered me sleepless from time to time, or has moved me enough to spend a lot of time, money and effort in trying to understand, master, befriend and reach a profound understanding of and accommodation with it.

To me, an obsession is a topic, a condition of reality that can keep me hooked for days, weeks, months, even years, engaging my faculties, talents and emotions  to a level that can affect or realign my priorities. My continuing obsession is with the perennially worrying conditions prevailing in our country, and most acutely these days.

When I was in high school in the late ’60s, there was a   very charismatic priest named Father Castillo who, addressing the entire student body, proclaimed that his generation had failed to reform the Philippines. He looked at us and, with dramatic solemnity, said that it was our turn to change things.

At different junctures in my life, the thought of “saving the Philippines” has haunted, fascinated, inspired and challenged me.

I was a college student during the First Quarter Storm in the early ’70s when some concepts of nationalism captured my fancy. The APO then was a group of awkward teenage Ateneans who were well-versed in the English language and were gaining popularity singing English songs in different girls’ schools. We were writing songs exclusively in English then.

Things changed drastically one day when we found ourselves performing in a concert with the Juan de la Cruz band. I was blown away by the fact that they sang in Pilipino and the crowd got quite excited about their performance. A profound inspiration hit me — we had to start writing original Pilipino songs. The concept of writing pop songs in Pilipino was exciting, radical and so new, and it played into the rebelliousness of my youth.

This simple act of writing in Pilipino opened my eyes to the richness of Filipino culture, language, history and politics. As we continue to perform all over the country today,  it is not lost on me that Pilipino pop songs have probably contributed more to awakening Filipinos from all over the country and the world to their common Filipino-ness than speeches made by politicians.

Through the years, I have written and sung many songs about the lighter side of Pinoy life, love, our habits and character, and some special events that have moved us as a people. Writing those songs was my way of serenading the Filipino spirit.

I have had many conversations with people everywhere about facets of life in the Philippines, and I have expended much passion defending, arguing, promoting, or just making sense of what our country and people are all about, and why we behave the way we do.

I have reveled in the national euphoria over the accomplishments of Filipinos in the world arena. And I have wept and cursed on occasion recalling our struggles that have ended in failure and disappointment.

In the process I like to believe I have sharpened my intuition about how we Filipinos think. For example, I have this instinctive understanding of how our people vote. I can also almost effortlessly pull, out of my hat, witty, satirical and accurate comments that can summarize the general state of our country’s affairs at any given time.

I believe this is due to the fact that whatever we pay attention to or care about will reveal its secrets to us.  Often I feel I can easily detect the subtle and drastic shifts in the national zeitgeist. It’s as though, in some psychic way, the Philippines is a woman I have known, devoted my time to and loved intimately.

So intimately, in fact, that I am eager to get away from her at times. When I left for Australia almost two years ago, I was happy to breathe some fresh air in a foreign land in place of the staleness coming from the political and social scene that was suffocating me here. The new, vibrant scene of Aussie life, culture and its functional political and social environment revived my spirit and inspired me to once again gaze at the Philippines, and imagine what kind of a place she could be if we borrowed and applied a few things from Australia. I have asked myself many times how the Australians, whose ancestry is comprised mainly of the lumpen of British society dumped onto that continent centuries ago, have managed to build a functional, beautiful and free country. I don’t see why we can’t do the same.

As I write this, the TV is on and I am riveted to the news about Jun Lozada, the isolation of Malacañang, more details about the unfolding ZTE scandal, and the moral bankruptcy that threatens GMA’s standing as our president. At once, I am both angry and excited.

I know that something is definitely up. This is not a run-of-the-mill crisis we are undergoing. This is our moment of truth, where the best and the worst in our people will surface. I am happy that the youth participated in large numbers during the big Makati rally but I am not ready to admit that my generation has failed and that I am passing on the torch to them. What I want to say is that this is a golden moment, just like the eve of EDSA 1.

This is a time when we can see clearly that our cultural, political operating systems need a drastic upgrade or a total rewrite.

This is also the time when we can continue the process we began in 1986 and accomplish with finality a few things that we were not able to do then.

While I see no one among the proclaimed presidentiables who excites or inspires me one bit, I still feel optimistic. Why? Because large numbers of our people are awakening not only to their sense of outrage but also to the realization that we are prisoners of a dysfunctional system of our own making. As Pogo said in the cartoon: “We have seen the enemy and he is us.”

This is a time when we can awaken to who we can be and the new possibilities we can create out of this mess we are in.

While this is a time of fear and uncertainty, it is also a time of courage, creativity and deliberate action, but this time guided by painful lessons learned from the past.

“Kay sarap pala maging Pilipino” is a line from a song I wrote 22 years ago. I say it here like a man renewing his vows with his beloved. Or a citizen committed to fighting for his country.

* * *

The Tapping the Creative Universe (TCU) workshop starts tomorrow!!

This is the last call.

This workshop will shake you out of your inertia, awaken your awesome creativity, which has probably been dormant for some time now, 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.

Parenting now

Sunday, March 2, 2008      

Recently, some baby boomer friends (born right after the Second World War) and I we were exchanging views on how we have raised our kids so far. I discovered three things during the conversation. One, that the topic continues to be a hot one for our generation who now have grown-up offspring; two, that people can get really worked up about it; and three, every parent I ever talked to about child rearing these days is in doubt, anxious and constantly needing assurance about the correctness of his or her methodology.

At a talk before a school PTA, I described parenting today as akin to driving without a rear-view mirror. Unlike our parents and the generations before them who seemed so sure of the template they were following on how kids should be raised, parents these days have great doubts about applying the same methodology and rules in bringing up their own children. After all, by most accounts, the world doesn’t seem to be the same as the one our parents, or we ourselves, grew up in. Things are changing so fast nobody really knows where the world is going. Somewhere along the way, we’ve all come to the same conclusion that baseball manager Yogi Berra did years ago when he said, “The future ain’t what it used to be.”

When we were young, parental influence and control was almost total and rarely challenged. These days, while parents are out working, kids are being raised at home not just by their yayas but also by the all-pervading “third parent” which imparts a whole other set of values that are often in conflict with what we teach our kids. I am talking about the media — television and the Internet — and their stranglehold on our children. These modern sources of values that are grounded more in commercial interests than anything remotely altruistic is a major source of concern.

In this brave new world where the allure of advertising, consumerism, TV and the Internet compete for our children’s hearts, minds and souls, how does one raise a family?

I am no expert. I have no college degree or a Ph.D. that can back up my theories or that endorse my methods. All I can say is that these rules I share with you today have worked for my own family:

1. Be around. There is no substitute for showing up and being there especially during your kids’ formative years when you can still greatly influence them. I have great concern and compassion for families with absentee OFW parents. I can only imagine how torn they must be. As a performer who was quite often absent when my kids were growing up, I can imagine the anxiety OFW parents feel and the effect of years of their absence on their loved ones. This is an issue we must deal with as a society.

2. Be fully present. Aside from just being around, be involved, caring, attentive and genuinely interested when you are with your children. When we pay attention, we awaken to the beauty, wonder and the gifts that they truly are.

3. Listen first so you will be listened to. This is one lesson that I apply not just to my kids but to everyone I meet. It’s the old adage about doing unto others as you wish them to do unto you. People give back what you dish out to them.

4. It’s about the children, not about you. Often, parents project their own dramas and issues on their kids and this puts a lot of undue pressure on them. Our kids are not there to raise us and take care of us. As much as possible, we should not burden them with our own problems. We are there to parent, not be parented.

5. Be consistent, yet flexible. Too much authoritarianism is a setup for rebellion.

6. Create your own family rituals, and make a big deal of them. In my own family, dinners often are open, noisy, happy events where a lot of storytelling and sharing happens. It has not always been like this. There was a time when people around our table ate quietly, ignoring each other, and left the plate with nary a word exchanged. That was until I put my foot down and demanded that everyone talk to each other. For a start, I told them to share three things that happened to them in the course of the day, every night at dinner.

The following evenings were tense and the conversation seemed contrived and forced but I did not budge or allow any excuses. After a few nights, signs of real conversation began to take place, and not too long after, dinners extended to more than one hour because we all had discovered the joy of the art of conversation.

7. Give them space and privacy when needed. This is a sacred rule that I follow.

8. Don’t miss out on opportunities to laugh, cry, go out together, and other ways of bonding. Sooner than you think, the kids get older, move out and have their own lives. While you can, eat out, travel, enjoy, share, laugh, cry, have heart-to-heart talks and just be together. These will constitute memories of a family life they will cherish and pass on.

9. Support them in whatever career they choose. This is something my own mother practiced. But while her children were free to choose their paths, she only asked that we strived to be the best in what we did.

10. As best as we can, let’s walk our talk. We cannot preach one thing and do another. Teaching by example is still the best way to impart values.

11. Be a happy, responsible and loving adult they can emulate. Too often, too many kids do not have adults they can look up to who can actually mirror adult behavior. Wouldn’t you like to be that to them? To be that, we must work on our own happiness as well. We can only give what we have.

12. Teach them everything you know to be true — but accept that they will want to discover their own truths as well. As parents, there is so much we have learned in our own journeys that we do not share with our kids. There are the painful lessons we learned as we were growing up, and new ones we continue to grapple with. But as much as we want to share lessons, we must remember that certain lessons need to wait to be shared when they are more grown-up. Age-appropriateness is a consideration.

My parents taught me a lot of values that I am grateful for. However, as an adult, I realize that not everything they taught me is applicable in my life. Some of the lessons may have been true for them but not necessarily true for me. There are many truths I had to experience and learn on my own.

I believe that the aim of all parenting is not for our children to become carbon copies of us, but for them to come into their own. Successful parents are those who actually allow and encourage their children to “outgrow” them.

13. As much as possible, thank and acknowledge everything positive you have learned from your children. My children are not just great sources of joy but of continuous wisdom as well. As much as they have learned many things from us, we have been “forced” by our children to grow more and more into responsible adulthood that we often rejected. Children have the amazing capacity to “kidnap” their parents and take them to scary places, to realities they do not wish to experience or confront. Issues such as sex, courtship, money, responsibility and what a true mature adult should be, are just some of them. Through our children, we discover patience, humility, sacrifice, discernment, wisdom and understanding, and become better people for it.

14. Keep in mind that adulthood is all about balancing the following:

a. Work (career, living, job)

b. Sex (relationships in general and specifically with the opposite sex)

c. Money (trust, responsibility)

d. Spirit (God, art, intangibles)

e. Food and all physical intakes (drugs, eating habits, health issues)

To be able to negotiate these five areas in ones’ life is to become a healthy, happy and balanced adult.

We baby boomers may worry that in the desire to give our children what we never had, we may have spoiled them or made them too soft. Or worse, we may have given them a false sense of entitlement. That is a valid concern. But in the end, whether we were excessive or not, I am hopeful that the love that accompanied all our efforts in bringing them up may temper the effects of our imperfect parenting and make them the people they were truly meant to become.

* * *

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

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

This workshop will 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 who wish to get a copy of the syllabus can call 426-5375 or 0916-8554303 or e-mail emailjimp@gmail.com and I will be happy to respond.