A headmaster and student’s reunion

Boboy and I had a fun evening last week  teaching the kids at the Pinoy Dream Academy ( a reality TV show about artists in training)  how to be in a group. It was a strange feeling for me to enter the academy again since my stint as ‘headmaster’  two years ago. The physical layout had changed and the whole cast of characters, students, faculty save for Monet Silvestre, Kitchie Mlina and Joey Reyes had changed as well. Nevertheless, it was great to be there and  see the staff behind the show and to visit.

We taught the kids how to harmonize, to think as one unit when singing with a group, to listen to each other, and a few other techniques to speed up the gelling process which they needed to do to sing as three separate groups that weekend.

I felt I was looking at the same type of kids I was helping train two years back–wide-eyed, lean and hungry for fame and fortune. People ask me constantly how I feel about the new batch. The main difference between the two, and I admit I say this because I was more emotionally involved with PDA 1,  is the earlier group seemed to have had it in them  in a more fierce and intense way. People like Panky, Rosita, Yeng, Iya, JR, Irish, Ronnie, Yvan and the rest had that yearning to be somebody in a way that was more palpably felt by the viewers. Some gave it their all in  brief shining moments. But what great moments they were. Some are still glowing up to now. Some, although not present in the TV world as of the moment will still, I believe, make their mark in some way someday. We will see.

Batch 1 also had the advantage of being the first group to tell this type of story to a TV audience in the Philippines– the story of artists on the make with all its sordid details. Batch two has the burden of being compared. Don’t get me wrong. I am not being negative about Batch 2. There are some students there  that stand out as well.  I like some of them especially Bugoy and Liezl maybe because they do not fit the pretty boy-mestiza mold of the regular, run-of-the-mill  ‘young stars’ currently shining in the firmament. Their talent shines easily and brightly.  I wish all of them the best.

*     *     *

Still on PDA mode, I enjoyed a lunch with some of the students of batch 1. Yeng, Ronnie, JR and Irish joined me for a late lunch  at Ebisu  in Eastwood the other day. It was great reminiscing with them, and talking about their take on what they went through. I’ve always imagined what it’s like for them to now watch youtube episodes of their lives in the academy then. They admitted feeling good  watching  their teachers cheer every performance they did which was not obvious to them as they were performing live then. We also  had a good laugh at some of the  then ‘burning’ issues they went through. The pain and tears have  lost their sting in the past two years and had been redefined as growing pains.

I did appreciate and relish their view that  the Company and I, and the entire teaching staff had prepared them well for the world outside. I was surprised and touched to hear them quote verbatim, the five rules of creativity I had taught them which they said they try to live by. We had great bonding that day. I am  grateful and proud to see these former raw talents on the way to promising careers or at the very least become performers on the make with the right tools and attitude which we inculcated in them.

Some of them have achieved much, but it seems that they are hungrier now than when they entered the academy. The taste of success is sweet and intoxicating. One can never have enough!

Good luck guys!  There’s a whole big audience waiting to see you shine–again and again.

*      *      *
TCU begins in a few days. If you’re still dilly-dallying about joining, write to emailjimp@gmail.com NOW. Or call 4265375 and 0916-8554303 and ask questions or make a reservation. Chase the dream before it gets away.

A crisis is a call to greatness

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Due to recent budget cuts and the spiraling cost of energy, THE LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL has been turned off! We apologize for the inconvenience.  — Forwarded text message

We are all witnessing it, and many are experiencing it firsthand — businesses closing, layoffs, downsizing, being declared redundant, restructuring, rising prices of everything and other doomsday scenarios unfolding all over. Everywhere I look, I wonder at how people are managing or will manage their lives during this bleak season. According to the economic analysts on CNN, BBC, and other cable TV channels, it doesn’t look like we have hit rock bottom and no one knows how long it will take for this current crisis to unravel. In short, there can only be more bad news ahead.

And while all this can scare anyone out of his or her wits, the whole scene has a familiar ring to it. Remember the ‘70s when we woke up to a gas shortage so severe that each car owner could buy only up to 10 liters a day and only if they had government-issued coupons? Remember the long lines at the pump, with restless and nervous drivers cooling their heels in their cars? Remember how bleak everything seemed? Remember gasoline rising 30 cents and the rallies and deaths that followed? Yet, somehow, things found their way back to normalcy.

Every time we look at the horizon and see a gathering storm, we seem to forget how we coped in earlier perilous times. At every occurrence of crisis, we act like innocents being slaughtered for the first time. It is totally understandable to see panic in our present situation, with the price of gas price rising not just by a measly 30 centavos, but by one peso every week! Admittedly, we live in different times and there is probably very little solace we can take in comparing today’s reality with earlier crises. Yes, the world has changed a lot since the late ‘70s.

And yet, I dare say, perhaps more as an act of faith, that there is something, some built-in strength in us, that will make us overcome these daunting obstacles just as we did before.

I remember, when I was a young boy, being mesmerized every time my mother and her siblings would talk about the war years. World War II brought really hard times when, as a people, our parents had to reinvent their lives under a hostile occupational force. The threat to everyday living must have been far greater and more immediately direct then than what we are experiencing now, since not only did they have to worry about where to get the next gas tank fill-up or meal, they also had to avoid being arrested, incarcerated, tortured or killed whenever they had a simple run-in with the brutal and mercurial Japanese forces. 

Those times demanded a lot, and many times, it meant great sacrifice through pain and suffering. When you read about accounts of survivors of great upheavals, you wonder what it took to survive and pick up the pieces to eventually rebuild their lives and thrive. One thing I am sure of is that giving up and lying dead by the wayside was not an option for those who eventually reached the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. They had some things going for them which, at the time, they didn’t know they possessed, and one of them was character. In a major way, the horrific situation was the defining moment that made them the people they eventually turned out to be. No wonder historians proclaimed our parents’ generation as the greatest generation that ever lived.

There was a special toughness about them. In a way, they were a “no excuse” generation. They felt responsible and were answerable for their own survival and that of their loved ones. They were self-reliant. They did whatever it took to live through hell, dust off the ashes and build a new, more prosperous future. They had no moral ambiguity, and were decisive because they had to be.

Similarly, although more extremely, in his 1946 book Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl wrote about living as a concentration camp inmate under the Germans and shared his insights on the human condition under great duress.

He described how they lived and the commonality of their experience. But more than the reactions of his fellow inmates, he wanted to find out if there was a way he could predict who would survive the camp and who would not. In his findings, he came upon the astounding conclusion that the survivors consisted of people who felt invested in something that would still occur in some future. There were those who wanted to see their newborn sons, or who wanted to publish their life’s work, for example. More importantly, he noticed that those who had plans for some future outside the camp chose to entertain them and were motivated by them. 

The key point was that everyone had a choice at all times on how to cope, although not everyone was aware of it. And the ones who were aware of their choices and acted on these lived to experience a future. The capacity to see beyond the present darkness, Frankl noted, is a winning trait that all true survivors possess.

Many times, we define life by the outer conditions and situations which we have no control over, and we end up feeling helpless and victimized. We forget that while the objective condition is a given, our take on it is not. It is something left for us to create. We can give it any value we want — positive, negative, exciting, scary, challenging, inspiring — it’s up to us! Our biggest problem might be our lack of awareness. We are simply not aware of the autonomy we possess to define what we wish to experience.

I was talking to my son about taking on a certain job and I could feel his hesitation. He finally expressed his fear that he may get bored or may not get over his negative feelings about certain people he has to deal with. Feeling his fears, I pointed out to him that boredom and negative feelings are not conditions dictated to him by the world. These are purely internal matters over which he has 100-percent control. He could allow himself to succumb to these transient negative moods or he could decide to summon a different, more positive experience.

Every time I feel “cornered” by so-called negative situations, or when I feel the world ganging up on me, I try to remind myself that no one can give me a bad time without my permission. They can only do so if I allow them to, and I will only say “yes” to them if I am not conscious that I have a choice about how to feel. This knowledge empowers me to be creative and find new ways to experience the world.

I like to ask my creativity classes to find the difference between two activities — say, climbing Mt. Everest, and changing the oil in one’s car. They automatically assume that climbing Mt. Everest is the superior, more desirable experience. Then I ask, “What if you are the type who has a fear of heights and dislikes snow, and who happens to love auto mechanics — wouldn’t changing the oil of your car then be a more desirable experience?”

The difference lies really in the one who is experiencing the activities.

So I ask, what are the more positive responses we can have to the high prices and the instability around us? One, we can read about it and understand all the issues to be better anchored in this choppy sea of storms we find ourselves in. We can also remind ourselves that we have been through something like this before and we survived. In fact, we are probably in a better position, character-wise, than citizens of richer countries who have lived in a prosperous and stable environment for so long. We could teach them a thing or two about rolling with the punches.

To the description “the greatest generation to have ever lived” which has been used to describe the people who lived though WWII, I wish to add, “so far.” We are in a new time now, and who knows what kind of men and women will rise to the occasion and define the spirit of greatness that can stand up to its new challenges and thrive?

If the older generation outlived and defeated the Great Depression, the War, fascism and occupation, and even managed to create prosperity for the world, today’s generation is faced with the greater challenges of saving the environment, inventing a more sustainable future and creating a new, more equitable economic system. Al Gore has posed the challenge to the US to be oil-free in 10 years. The Green New Deal group, an organization of environmentalists, scientists and economists, has warned that we have only 100 months to fix the world. This time frame is roughly equal to the duration of World War II.

Let us not stop dreaming, then, of life beyond all these storms. As Frankl wrote, we have a lot of choices even in the tightest and direst of situations. Every crisis is a call to greatness. If we surmount this, we may just steal the well-deserved thunder from our elders and claim the title of”the greatest generation” that has ever lived.

* * *

Do you want to be free of blocks and creative inertia? Would you want to meet and bring to life aspects of yourself that know what greatness, happiness, endless creativity and joy are all about? Here’s an experience of a lifetime:

The 42nd run of “Tapping the Creative Universe (TCU),” a workshop of “creative awakening,” is on once again. If you are in search of a more empowered, creative and joyful life, this is for you. Get rid of your blocks and start living. NOW is the time to do it.

The next session runs Aug. 4-8 and concludes Aug. 11. It will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. at 113 B. Gonzales, Loyola Heights, Quezon City. Workshop cost is still P5,000. Please contact emailjimp@gmail.com or call Ollie at 0916-8554303 or 426-5375 for any queries or for reservations. Visit http://tappingthecreativeuniverse.com for the syllabus, FAQ, testimonials and other details.

FAQs about TCU


Sorry to upload this primer again.

I get a lot of queries and questions that show a hesitation about attending the upcoming creativity workshop. Due to the number of people asking  via email, I have decided to make a Q and A to give everyone an better idea of what the TAPPING THE CREATIVE UNIVERSE (TCU) workshop is  about.

Can you describe the workshop?

It’s a workshop that unleashes dormant creativity. It is where the participants uncover, face and overcome the issues that block their productivity, creativity and joy.

What kind of people have taken TCU?

All types—CEOs, housewives, students, engineers, businessmen, teachers, writers, painters, nuns, military, priests, counselors, retirees, OFWs, trainees, etc. of all ages from 18 to past 70. Normally, I do not accept students below 18 unless I can talk to them first and determine if they are ready for it.

Why is that?

The workshop works best with people who have actually lived and worked and faced disappointments and frustrations that have affected or blocked their natural, in-born creativity. I feel that many times, people who are too young react to the workshop intellectually, and not in the experiential manner that I would want them to. Thus, deep and lasting change does not happen as much.

Why six days? Is there a one day run?

If I could hold it longer, it would be better. It works quite well when people learn new concepts and try them out ‘live’ at home or at the office or other situations. They are able to experience the workshop in real life and not just theoretically.

In the US and Australia, I have offered the workshop as one day affairs because people are too busy to commit to 6 days. Strangely enough, it works quite well too as former attendees can attest.

How exactly does the TCU help unblock people?

By allowing one’s creative self to emerge above the contrived, made up self.

TCU is an action-oriented workshop which believes that when people get a glimpse of their innate creative selves, they will re-experience and remember a joy that they had forgotten. The exercises, habits, tasks and the concepts introduced in the workshop are tried and tested ways to get people to always be in touch with their creative states. By doing certain things and following certain steps, one can be constantly creative and happy. I suspect these practices can serve people for life! I know it helps me with mine. I have been on a creative streak for many years now.

If I am, say, a writer, or a CEO, or a housewife for example, how can the workshop help me?

First of all, let me be clear. The workshop will not teach you how to write, or cook, or do business, dance,  sing or whatever you do in your occupation. I do not know what to teach you about such things. However, I can awaken in you the enthusiasm and joy of being who you are and what you do and teach you the practice to be able to do things as well as you can and do so consistently in a creative and joyful manner. There’s a method to it although many times, it s a spontaneous experienv=ce that seems to happen. I will introduce to you the practices of being the best, joyful person that you can be and  doing what you do.

What’s the batting average among those who have taken it? How successful has it been in transforming lives?

I’d say in all humilty and honesty that the success rate is probably about 90 percent. Five years after people have taken it, I still get congratulations from students for helping them with their newly transformed lives. Many came to the workshop stuck in their lives, stuck between marriages, occupations, dreams, relationships, or simply unable to overcome inertia. Many have done really wonderful work in getting new phases of their lives going after the workshop.

What if I am a shy person? Will I be forced to participate?

Participation is encouraged but not forced. It’s best to seek your level of comfort and start from there. But let me say that people only get from the workshop what they are willing to put in. Progress is an individual thing. Some really go the whole 9 yards while some are more timid. That’s OK. Nobody will force anyone to be or do anything.

Didn’t you teach the same thing at the Ateneo de Manila University?

Yes, I taught it for a number of semesters. In a semester run under the confines of a university, the dynamic is different but it works as well too. I feel very honored that many students, years after they graduated are telling me that my course was one of the subjects they not only learned a lot from, but enjoyed the most. One of them put it well when she said that it was a ‘life course’ that has done her well in many facets of her life even after school.

Anything else you want to say?

TCU is a workshop for people who want change in their lives. This is not an easy workshop to join and finish. It is not always being offered, There is a lot of work involved. I will work hard and you will work harder but I guarantee you, you will love to do the work. I only facilitate. You will discover and wake up to your own greatness.

When: August 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 11

Time: 7 to 9PM

Where: 113 B. Gonzales, Loyola Heights, QC

How much: Still 5000 Pesos

Please contact emailjimp@gmail.com  or call Ollie at 0916-8554303 or 426-5375 for any other queries or for reservations. Visit http://tappingthecreativeuniverse.com for the syllabus, and testimonials and more details.

Travel habits picked up along the way

As someone who travels a lot on work related trips, a plan and a schedule are so important to have. There are things that need to be accomplished, flights to be arranged and taken, accommodations to be set, meetings to be attended and a million other things to consider to make sure everything goes well.

With the amount of travel I have done in my life and will still set out to do, I’ve developed some habits that have made me tide through them sometimes seamlessly, and at other times merely surviving through the skin of my teeth. But at the very least, I can say that with the habits I have learned, things get done even in the worst of situations. Most importantly, I have continued to largely enjoy traveling as part of my work. If I stopped enjoying it, my career as a world performer  (I sing in a band) would have to stop.

I thought I’d share with you in this article some ‘must dos’ or ‘must pack’  advice just in case you plan on a career that will often find you on the road. Here they are:

1) A good toiletry bag and lots of zip lock.

Bottles of cologne, shampoos and other liquids always evaporate somehow and can soil one’s toiletry bag. Put them in zip locks to prevent contaminating medicines, shaving kits, and other stuff.

2) Throw a good handy Swiss knife in your luggage.
I have discovered that occasions always arise when I always end up needing a knife, a nail cutter, a tiny screw driver to fix my sunglasses,  a nail file, a pair of scissors, etc. You never know what you will need it for, but you surely will. Get the best, most elaborate Victorinox Swiss knife you can get, the one with the magnifying glass, toothpick, ball pen, etc. It will always be useful.

A spokesman of the knife company  said it in jest but no less brilliantly when he reacted to the story that the TV adventure hero McGyver was going to stop a fleet of tanks with just a grenade and a Swiss knife. He uttered, ‘what does he need a grenade for?’

3) Flatten and roll up your clothes as a space saver.

A traveler will ALWAYS need more baggage space for stuff picked up along the way.

4) Always get a calling card from the hotel front desk and bring it with you.

If you are ever lost, it comes in really handy. On the 6th leg of a long trip, I sometimes forget the name of the hotel I am staying in, and that can be problematic when I have to take a cab back to the hotel after a city tour.

5) Put a big, bright and screaming sticker on your luggage for easy identification.

It helps in spotting your bags when  so many look the same as hundreds of them on the conveyor  belt are passing  by.

6) Pack extra batteries (already charged if they are rechargeable) for your camera.

It would be quite a disaster to be in a beautiful, scenic place and discover that your camera is without any power.

7) Write down on a piece of paper important information like passport, credit card, cell phone service info and emergency numbers to call in case you lose them.

I have lost my wallet with 4 credit cards to pickpockets in Rome and I was lucky to have all the info with me and so had the loss reported within minutes saving me the trouble of having to explain unauthorized and illegal purchases.

8) Bring the usual emergency medicines—pain killers, acetaminophens, anti-allergy tablets, anti-diarrhea pills, and other prescribed stuff you need to take daily.

For all daily medicines, bring extras in case you face a delay in coming home.

9) Check the expiration date of your passport.

Some countries demand that a passport’s validity is at the very least good for 6 months. To avoid the embarrassment of being interviewed extensively for this reason, or worse, being denied entry, keep your travel docs updated.

10) When shopping, learn a few local words that will help you when you want to bring the price down or get a bargain.

Most of the time,  the effort is appreciated by the locals and it can translate to better prices. And while you are at it, know the words for ‘toilet’, ‘thank you’, and the tipping practices.

11) In a poor country, don’t haggle for too big a discount because they often give it.

The truth is, you can afford not to, and they need the money more than you need the merchandise. I sometimes feel that it is too exploitative to bleed them for more discounts when the goods are already at bargain basement prices. And don’t be way too generous with your tipping too. Too much unnecessary tipping can be disruptive and spoil them as The Lonely Planet book on Nepal advices.

12) Lastly,  allow yourself a day or two to just savor the local setting.

Go where the spirit moves you.

‘A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving’, as  Lao Tzu likes to put it. It is a good attitude to have. In my case, it is not rare for me to just hop on a bus, destination unknown, and get off when I see a lot of  people congregated in some park, plaza, a historical landmark or a shopping center. As long as I have a calling card of the hotel, and some taxi money in case I can’t figure out the train or bus routes back to the hotel, I gallivant  around,  as I always feel safe and excited enough to meet the locals, enjoy strange accents, go ‘adventure eating’, or just get lost in the new setting.

Every travel, in my view must make you feel somehow more expanded, and more at home in the world. James Baldwin put it so well when he said, ‘I met a lot of people in Europe.  I even encountered myself.’

Staying ahead of our real age

I recently attended a birthday lunch hosted by a good friend here in Sydney. Menchie Montierro turned 47, which according to some lifestyle experts – if a person reasonably takes care of herself  in today’s world – would only be equal to 37.

Why, because, presumably, the current generation is better fed with proper nutrition, and unlike the generation before it, is generally non-smoking. Furthermore, it benefits from more inoculations, fluoride, mega-vitamins, and was ‘saved’ just in time from the dangers of lead paint and sweets that destroy teeth and bodies and a host of other ills uncovered by new medical discoveries.

If you imbibed all the stuff that’s good for you and avoided smoking and the other bad habits that have been declared dangerous by the medical world, and you exercise – Congratulations! You are ten years younger than your birth certificate says.

But even if biologically, one may be younger than one’s real age, a lot of people still feel old after they pass the 40 mark. It’s probably because the world is being configured more and more as a young people’s playground. All of the marketing tools of advertising, media, and even lifestyle gurus seem to believe that the main market these days is the ‘youth’ market. Everyone else is part of the secondary, or worse, the ‘fringe’ market.

And yet, as you talk to people old and young, you realize that there is an irony here. While the world belongs to the youth, the young everywhere are in a rush to get older, and the old who are nearing ‘older’ are anxiously trying to do their best to delay getting there for as long as they can. The young want the status and the authority that comes with age, while the elders want the free spirit and the youthful energy that fuels not just the raging hormones of young people, but also their dreams and aspirations.

There are some things we must keep in mind at all times that should serve us throughout our lives, regardless of how old we may be. This article is about the habits we could develop starting at any age if we want to live out the rest of our days in a happier, healthier and more well-rounded way. Here a few tips to stay ahead of our real age, not just biologically but in all other aspects.

1. Say ‘yes’ to the unknown.
Let’s face it, the world is changing at such a fast pace that we are almost always finding ourselves in a new place. As Yogi Berra said it, ‘The future ain’t what it used to be.’ I can still remember life without the internet, cell phones and a host of other stuff. As a young man in my 20’s, I thought I was way cool since I had a beeper on my belt and a CB radio in my car. I thought then that I was a very contemporary dude living in the cusp of modernity. But alas, the essence of modernity is that it is perpetually in a transient state. Post-modernism will always barge into our comfort zone and rearrange the furniture, or even throw them out and bring in new ones.

To resist change is futile. We either ride it or get left behind. And riding it means giving an affirmative response to new things that appear on our horizon. There will always be an unknown quantity in our lives. So the more we embrace the unknown, the more we grow into complexity and the better we become adept at embracing even more of it. Many times, I find familiarity in new things or what used to be ‘the unknown’, and this happens every time I embrace and accept something new. Once I stop resisting, it immediately becomes a part of me. Once we integrate change, it’s hard to imagine life without it. The unknown, I believe, is just another aspect of ourselves waiting to introduce itself to us.

2. Eat, drink and take in only what’s good for you.
A lot of people I know who are not yet what to me is ‘old’ already suffer from a host of illnesses like gout, kidney stones, liver damage, emphysema and a host of other serious health problems. Though some of them may blame the genes they were born with, I suspect that a lot of it is caused by believing too much in the invincibility of their youth as they indulged in mindless consumption of food and substances even when they knew these were not good for them.

At my age (47 or less, biologically speaking), I am grateful I had the discipline and the common sense to stop smoking early in my twenties. I also did to not get into the habit of binge drinking, indulging recklessly in drugs, or eating a lot of stuff that was not good for me. I never really ate a lot of the bad stuff like chicharon, lechon, fatty stuff. I always know when I have had enough. I even went vegetarian once for a year and a half, but stopped when I felt that my muscle mass was shrinking in spite of exercise.

Yet, it is not impossible for me to get sick suddenly since my genes make me prone to certain illnesses. But as much as I can help it, I try to stick to a good, non-toxic diet. People like to argue that we only live once, in order to justify the awful things they put into their bodies. I argue back that if indeed we are only to live once, it is better to enjoy life with a healthy functional body.

3. Get educated constantly
More than any time in history, more people past 50 are going back to school to earn a new degree or to undergo training to embark on a new career. I have met a lot of people my age or older who are considering going back to the academic world for personal growth. Whether one does it for career advancement or for sheer enjoyment of learning does not matter. What counts is that one continues to absorb new stuff and apply it to one’s life. And one need not go back to school to do this. All one has to do is to develop the love for learning new things.

One of the most disempowering clichés that grates the core of my sensibilities is the one that says, ‘You can’t teach an old dog new tricks’. I don’t believe age is the factor that prevents us from learning. While it is true that our brain cells diminish as we get older, I believe that it is more laziness, or even stubborness that prevents us from learning anything. By all accounts, being lazy or stubborn is not an exclusive trait of the aging. Try talking to young people and you will know what I mean.

4. Be forgiving of yourself and of others.
Letting go of resentments, hurts, traumas and other toxic baggage is a wonderful way to ‘refresh’ one’s life. It erases the slate and one can start anew. It’s like dropping a heavy burden, sprinting towards life’s challenges and feeling the wind on one’s face instead of the fear and loathing that comes with harboring ill feelings. When we forgive, we cut the strings that bind us to the person we hate. We are free.

Dr. M. Scott Peck, in his book What Return Can I Make?, tells the story of a young Filipina, age 9,  who claimed to talk to Jesus. Naturally, in no time at all, she became a sensation and there were hordes of people visiting her and wanting ‘blessings’ from someone who was in contact with God Himself. The bishop in the area was naturally worried and sent a priest to investigate.

The priest then visited the girl and asked her if she would be talking to Jesus soon. The girl answered, ‘Hopefully’. The priest then instructed the girl to ask Jesus what his (the priest) sins were since he would be going to confession in a few days, and to tell him what Jesus says.

A few days later, the priest returned to the girl and he asked her if she had indeed met with Jesus again. She responded affirmatively. Next, he asked her if she had inquired from Jesus what his sins were, and again she said ‘yes’. When he pressed the girl to tell him what Jesus said his sins were, she told him that all Jesus said was, ‘I forgot.’

We all know intellectually that to forgive is the way to go but we all hesitate to do it, or never get to do it at all. Yet when we do, we are staggeringly amazed at how wonderful it is and why we took so long to do it.

On this topic, I have noticed that those who find it hard to forgive others also find it had to forgive themselves.

5. Set aside time for fun.
I am impressed by people who work hard but I am suspicious of workaholics. People who do not have time to simply enjoy or loosen up are on an unsustainable path. Sooner or later, stress and pressure can suck the life out of them and they lose the capacity to feel, laugh or be fascinated by anything. You can tell you are a workaholic not only by the fact that you are always working but also when you equate ALL your self-esteem with what you do. You are also most likely a person who likes to be in control at all times because you are always living up to higher and higher expectations of others and yourself. While it can be argued that these are the people who raise the bar, I say that these are the people who end up neurotic and unhappy.

I think it is important to have the ability to drop everything and slip into fun mode. I subscribe to Gandhi’s view that, ‘There is more to life than to increase its speed’.

6. Follow your bliss.
This is Joseph Campbell’s advice to anyone who wants to have a meaningful existence. ‘Follow your bliss and doors will open where there were no doors before.’ And not only will these doors open, they will open only for you.

Underlying this is the belief that once we decide to pursue what our passion is, the unfolding of life becomes more compatible with what we need to do. Resources appear and the people we need to direct us to the bliss become accessible. Do I believe this? Absolutely. For me, these are not just words from some tooth fairy but   real experiences that keep on happening. A whole lot of my life is testimony to this. In short, what will make you happy is what you are probably meant to do in the first place. I am not talking of a shallow pursuit of mindless kicks but the consciously chosen option to say yes to that which gives us joy and makes life’s pain not just bearable but worth it.

So whether we are staring at the hill, standing on top of it, or have gone over it, there are habits we can still pick up that can give us not just more mileage for the journey but a purpose for traveling in the first place, which is to enjoy the scenery.

*     *     *
Need a growth spurt? Wanna feel alive?

The 42nd run of “Tapping the Creative Universe (TCU),” a  workshop of “creative awakening,” is on once again. If you are in search of a more empowered, creative and joyful life, this is for you. Get rid of your blocks and start living. NOW is the time to do it.

The next session runs Aug. 4-8 and concludes Aug. 11.

It will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. at 113 B. Gonzales, Loyola Heights, Quezon City. The cost of the workshop is still P5,000.Please contact emailjimp@gmail.com  or call Ollie at 0916-8554303 or 426-5375 for any other queries or for reservations. Visit http://tappingthecreativeuniverse.com for the syllabus, FAQ, and testimonials and more details.

Mama Mia, Manila, WYD, etc.


Saw Mama Mia last night! GREAT! I haven’t enjoyed myself this much in quite awhile. Meryll Streep, one of my all-time favorite actresses really delivered another superb performance. It’s so refreshing to see talented people take on roles fearlessly and do something amazing with it. And her singing was not bad at all.

Mama Mia is a must-see again and again.  I saw it as a theater musical and as a movie. I enjoyed both, but the movie was even much more fun. Pierce Brosnan was so game doing his bit. Do not miss it!

*       *       *

I leave for Manila today to resume my career of gigs with APO, workshops,etc. I am not excited at all to go home. I really am liking Sydney more and more and I feel sad about leaving. I had many students during this last trip here and many of them are very talented. I feel sad to leave them even for awhile because their attitude towards their music lessons is so inspiring.

I also took a lot of fotos of young, beautiful Filos in my studio here in Glenwood. I just love photography, and I am happy to have taken so many good shots of them.

I know I will feel better once I get to Manila since I am actualy able to adjust to any place almost all the time. But still, if I had a choice right now whether to stay put here or go back to the Philippines at this time, I would opt to remain for a few uninterrupted months. But it is not to be since I have gigs waiting including APO’s 40th anniversary concert at he Araneta Coliseum this September 20.

That’s life. Once we start rehearsing and all that, I should feel better.

*      *      *

It was a thrill to see Aus Prime Minister Kevin Rudd welcome young people from all over the world to Sydney for World YOuth Day. Amid a record-breaking crowd, he greeted people in different languages including Tagalog. He said, ‘Malugod ko kayong tinatanggap sa Australia’ followed by loud applause from the happy and sizeable Philippine delegation.

Kevin Rudd is a fantastic guy who speaks fluent Chinese so he is quite comfortable with people of different cultures. It’s a good feeling to be in a country with inspiring and dynamic politicians. I wish I could say that about the Philippines at this time.

*      *      *

The city is awash with the enthusiasm of young people from all over the world. Their zeal for the Catholic faith is infectious. An American girl was interviewed on TV and she expressed how mind-boggling it was that hundreds of thousands of young people from all over are gathered as one to receive ‘the body of Christ”.

I have not gone anywhere near where the delegates are but people ae saying that traaffic is bad, the trains are full but festive and there are flags and banners everywhere. Tomorrow, Lydia is going to the city with Reggie, a cousin of mine to be among hundreds of thousands who wish to see the Pope as he parades about town.

Sayang. Wala na ako dito.

*      *      *

I am rather embarrassed to put this. I have almost 1000 pending applicants who wish to connect to me on my multiply site. Obviously, I cannot say yes to everyone and I feel sorry about that. It helps though  if you do have a photo, and a message in helping me decide.  I prune my list once in a while since sometimes, I get too many entries I am not interested in reading.

Also, I  block any user who tries to sell me something. So please take note. About commenters, I WILL delete comments that insult, degrade or belittle anyone. I also will not tolerate people who wish to just use my page for their own interests. If you want people to read your rant or vitriol, make your own site, build equity and influence so that people will visit it,  and post it there.

Some of the best things are still free

Sunday, July 13, 2008

In an age when many basic commodities we need to live seem to be in worryingly finite quantities, I try to see what remains within the grasp of human power that we can still enjoy almost infinitely, within our physical limitations. Surely there must be some things we can enjoy again and again while we are alive that can keep us sane and happy without fear that someone will overprice, franchise or put a tax on it until it becomes unreachable, and eventually, inaccessible.

Let’s zero in on at least five areas of life that we can still indulge in for free: humor, music, sex, meditation and beauty. While there are those who may be enterprising enough to entice people to buy or own their creative expressions of these topics in the form of performance, ideas, concepts, knowledge, etc., recognizing and exercising our capacity to enjoy these on various levels is still, to my knowledge, free.

Today, I would like to celebrate the joy that these human themes and activities bring to us.

1. Humor. Humor is actually insight, even if deliberately twisted. Often, something is funny because it is unexpected and it barges in on our consciousness spectacularly like a three-point shot. It is a human activity that tricks the brain into enjoying its capacity to wonder by posing strange propositions. An example is when Jerry Seinfeld asks deadpan, “I wonder if illiterate people get the full effect of alphabet soup?”

I appreciate humor most when it mixes and matches or deliberately confuses realities that seem oblivious to each other, or do not connect on an obvious level but do in another, like when Dave Barry advises us to “Never under any circumstances take a sleeping pill and a laxative on the same night,” or when Steven Wright asks, “Why is the alphabet in that order? Is it because of the song?”

It is not so much that one can make a joke and share it with others that makes humor fun but the fact that we have a sense of humor at all, which makes us capable of finding some things even privately funny — that’s the best thing about it. If you can laugh at yourself, even privately, then you are a pretty  evolved person.

This wonderful capacity to see the lighter side of existence is a saving grace that can see us through anything. Filipino humor is tops in this regard. It has saved us from bloody coups and revolutions. We’ve had Marcos, Erap and coup jokes. Now we have GMA, First Gentleman and ZTE jokes. Good or bad, we literally laugh our way out of the pain brought about by our problems.

2. Music. “Imagine life without music,” the Tower Records billboard once posited. It would be a colorless, stagnant, and sterile existence. There are few things more magical than music. It is amazing that artists can originate something out of thin air, literally, and with the help of skill and some instruments, make it a living spirit. I know that when I am making music, I am opening myself to inspiration from somewhere beyond the usual. I become a divine gateway. There is something heavenly about it. “Music is God’s gift to man, the only art of Heaven given to earth, the only art of earth we take to Heaven,” wrote Walter Savage Landor.

And not only does music take on a life of its own, good music gives life to everyone it encounters. Someone once said that “music is what feelings sound like.”

Everyone needs to have their feelings not just expressed, but also acknowledged. Music does this only too well because it engages us on many cognitive levels. And it’s not only about stirring up our feelings. Music can elegantly capture moments in our lives, and even entire eras, and transform these into golden memories. Music is, indeed, the soundtrack to our lives.

Music has power to move and inspire and make you dance, sing, jump, shout, laugh, cry, make love, and many more. It also bridges people by momentarily making everyone forget their separateness and feel oneness with others. Go to any big concert and you feel there is something larger than yourself. You experience something between tribal bonding and universal unity when everyone is singing, dancing or waving their hands in the air. In this trance, the crowd realizes momentarily that we are the world, and that there is really no “other.” Our sense of hearing fills up all the other senses and floats us upward into an ecstatic oneness.

3. Sex. Sex is at the top of the heap of free thrills. You can pay for it if you wish, as funny man Steve Martin half-jokes when he says that “sex is one of the most wholesome, beautiful and natural experiences that money can buy.” Humor aside, in many ways, we do pay for it because it is also the most misunderstood among the freebies given to us, even if the first law of life is that it is sexually transmitted. For many people, it takes a lot of psychological processing to remove the guilt, fear, unworthiness, low self-esteem, previous trauma, etc., before they can enjoy sex. While sex is a natural urge, comedienne Bette Midler once asked, “If sex is so natural, why have so many books been written about it?”

There is almost nothing more basic in the instincts department than the sex urge. That’s the reason why the matter of sex elicits such strong reactions. It is a very potent brew that can take us in opposite directions — from mystery to the mundane, from the sublime to the pedestrian, from love to hate, from heaven to hell, or vice versa. It has been said that sex is a fantastic servant but a mean master. And you can tell how potent a subject sex is by the number of funny quotes you can find about it. Look up religion, death, and sex quotes on the Internet and you realize that the humor applied to the topic of sex is many times a lot of nervous laughter.

Sex is also an equalizer because one can indulge in it in almost unlimited permutations of position, gender, age, attitude and circumstance. It holds in its allure the rich, the poor, male, female, gay, straight, high and mighty, famous and nondescript, saints and sinners, etc. But the best thing about it is its ability to be a renewable mystery to every human being who has discovered it. You may think you have had your fill or have unraveled its mysteries right after you indulge in it, but wait awhile. Sex has the wonderful ability to refresh, and become beguilingly mysterious and attractive again and again and again.

4. Meditation. Yoga, prayer, retreats, Taichi, zen, etc. — take your pick. These spiritual exercises have been around for ages and will continue to be so for as long as man exists. People need to center themselves, and the more fast-paced the world becomes, the more people need to hold on to things they believe to be eternal.

The other day, I saw on CNN a restaurant in Japan that operates in “slow” mode, as opposed to the concept of serving fast foods. It is an establishment that glorifies the step-by-step, complete process of preparing food, cooking, serving, and for the customer, eating, enjoying and savoring every mouthful of the meal. The business of food preparation and eating takes time, and that is the whole point. The restaurant operates completely in the present mode and it is not for anyone in a rush or with a deadline to meet. One goes there to be alive to the moment and appreciate the nourishment of something as humble as a meal which, when you think about it, is quite extraordinary in itself. Try to imagine that everything present on the table for you is there because it has an “appointment” with you, and every meal becomes a profound spiritual experience. And everything else you encounter in normal days becomes magical as well.

Meditation as a practice is what’s keeping a lot of people feeling grounded, sane, happy and liberated these days. When one is in touch with his/her inner life which meditation does, one feels like a solid ship even in a tumultuous sea. Meditation practice  seems to work even for Billy Joel, the pop singer. He wrote:

They say that these are not the best of times

But they’re the only times I’ve ever known

And I believe there is a time for meditation

In cathedrals of our own.

5. Beauty. Many believe that beauty is a rarity. Some people actually pay big money to acquire it. And yet, to a gifted few, beauty can be found everywhere. It might be more accurate to say therefore that what is really rare are people who are alive to the beauty in everything.

I have met a few who see the goodness in practically everything and they are a peaceful, joyful lot. And as much as they see beauty everywhere, they also seem to have it, communicate it,  and actually create it constantly in their lives, relationships and work. They seem to spread beauty everywhere they go.

If you can develop this capacity to uncover the beauty that is found everywhere, then you are a wealthy man and no circumstances, not even any unfavorable economic downturns, can alter your circumstances. Remember the movie Life Is Beautiful, where the hero could consistently find hope and even joy in the midst of the Nazi occupation of Italy? This is a life skill that will not only guarantee relief from hardship but bring triumph and redemption. And it is absolutely free.

And as simple and unbelievable as it may sound, it may be all we need in these times.

* * *

If you are in a rut, it’s high time to get out of it. Read on.

The 42nd run of “Tapping the Creative Universe (TCU),” a  workshop of “creative awakening,” is on once again. If you are in search of a more empowered, creative and joyful life, this is for you. Get rid of your blocks. You have probably entertained attending this workshop. How long will you wait to wake up to your own life? Now is the time to do it.

The next session runs Aug. 4-8 and conclude Aug. 11.

It will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. at 113 B. Gonzales, Loyola Heights, Quezon City. The cost of the workshop is still P5,000.Please contact emailjimp@gmail.com for a syllabus or call Ollie at 0916-8554303 or 426-5375 for any other queries or for reservations. Visit http://tappingthecreativeuniverse.com for more details.

What money can’t buy

Sunday, July 6, 2008

I am having an out-of-money experience.  — Author Unknown

It’s on everyone’s mind nowadays as we see the oil price index rise to stratospheric levels, the stock market plunge, the price of food, transport, tuition, electricity and practically everything jump to dangerously impossible levels. Everywhere you go, people are complaining about it and many are having great anxieties about the future.

With the way prices are spiraling, not a few seriously worry about their savings and the little assets they have. Will we be able to afford life in the next coming months or years in the style that we have been accustomed to, is a question I ask myself often these days. Other questions that beg for reassuring answers are: Will we be able to surmount this financial obstacle and move forward towards more acquisition of wealth enough to be ahead of inflation, recession, depression? Will I have enough for emergencies? Will I have enough for next month’s expenses? When will all this instability end ? Are the good times over?

Money and the economy are on everyone’s minds. People are tightening their belts and making do with the diminishing power of their income, which is becoming increasingly inadequate.

As an artist, I wonder if people will, in the near future, still have the resources to buy books, music, pictures, art, watch concerts and indulge in the so-called finer things in life. And yet I know from experience that when we were experiencing all that hardship under the later years of the Marcos regime, with the economy charting a negative direction of growth, we were booked solid for concerts. Just the same, it’s moments like these when I am almost always tempted to entertain the useless thought of imagining if I would be in a better situation today had I taken up, say, dentistry, law, architecture, etc. years ago. I don’t know whether economically I would be ahead; I do suspect, though, that I would probably be an alcoholic now if I had gone down a different path.

Money means many things to many people. For some, it is the root of all evil. For others, the loss or the immediate gain of it in fantastic sums is the cause of major anxieties, to be sure. Those are the two most common experiences of money. The pursuit of it, the earning, spending, saving, planning, and the creation of it demands a lot of energy from us. And a lot of that energy is spent on the acquisition, but more so, I suspect, on speculating. And we are constantly speculating whether what we have is enough. 

But what exactly is “enough”? Enough , I suppose, is anywhere between  “enough” to tide us through,  or to move ahead. Or it could be the best type of “enough” — to have enough to not ever worry about money, if there is ever such a state.

I know there are people who do not worry about money and I am completely fascinated by them. I have met a few and am in awe at how they live through life with aplomb and lightness. I notice that such people seem to have the following characteristics: one, they are not rich materially and are disinterested in accumulating money in large amounts; two, they hardly seem to worry about the economic twists and turns of their fortunes; three, they trust that the universe will provide; and four, they have a cheerful disposition and are passionate about life.

One may argue that these people are living in cocoons and are not facing up to the realities of living in this world. From a materialist point of view, that assessment may be spot on. I am reminded of a quote from Oscar Wilde that goes, “It is better to have a permanent income than to be fascinating.” But from the perspective of someone concerned with general happiness and well-being, it is a desirable state to be in.

“There’s no money in poetry, but then there’s no poetry in money, either,” Robert Graves said. He seems to summarize how the materialist and the “What, me worry?” types tend to be totally indifferent toward, or often completely disdainful of, one another, and ne’er the twain shall meet.

I also know that for many of us who are more often slaves of the material world than free poets, there is nothing like life’s reversals of fortune to knock some spiritual sense into us, and remind us to look at our own self-worth outside all monetary considerations. In other words, what are we really, without our little pile of wealth, status and all the trappings? To paraphrase M. Scott Peck, the decline in our fortunes often signals the start of our spiritual journey. It implies that money often prevents us from ever expanding into territories outside the gross realm of material acquisition. But the loss of money often leads one to clutch at philosophical ruminations, religious conversions, or to put it simply, the awakening to things that money cannot buy. After all, when we can’t have money, we belittle it, scoff at it and those who have it and align it with what it is powerless against.

It is gratifying to the soul to list what money cannot buy. To show that the best things in life are free, in the creativity classes I hold, one homework assignment I give is to list down 10 things we are all getting for free right now. It usually leaves a few students stumped until they realize that one must open one’s eyes to see what is already obvious — air, scenery, sound, the ground, gravity, health, one’s thoughts, etc. And when I make them do a list of 200 things, they find themselves close to the realm of greater awareness, even poetry, as they explore the more subtle presence of gifts that are everywhere, such as the smell of coffee that is comforting, the presence of other live human beings in the room who dream, love, fear, ache, laugh and rejoice at probably the same things we do, to name just a few observations.

The sudden loss of money can, indeed, make us feel and become more authentic to ourselves and to others. Somehow, when we are talking from the depths of our empty pockets, we seem more real. There are no pretenses because there is nothing to hide. On the other hand, when our money talks exclusively, very little else about us can be heard or known.

On Australian TV last night, I was watching an obnoxious heir to a sizeable wealth brag that he would often tell people he disliked to “shut up because my family can buy off your family.” This shows how well money can dehumanize someone who allows his wealth to be all he is.

Is there a middle ground? Can one be a poet and a materialist at the same time?

Logan Pearsall Smith has a cynical answer to this: “Those who set out to serve both God and Mammon soon discover that there is no God.” Or how about this quote from Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.: “A man is usually more careful of his money than of his principles.” I can understand where these two quotes are coming from. Often, I have looked the other way at the expense of more noble callings to earn an extra buck. But on balance, I have willingly parted with money as well, for charity, and even for principles.

One of the most sobering reflections on the topic I have ever heard was from Jon Santos, a comedian and good friend who puts things in such wonderful perspective. In the middle of a conversation about the economic problems people were facing, a conversation that was turning more pessimistic every second, Jon wisely pointed out that “at least we were not in Burma.”

Being present to other realities can often lift us above our own problems.

* * *

The 42nd run of Tapping the Creative Universe (TCU), a workshop of “creative awakening,” is on once again. If you are in search of a more empowered, creative and joyful life, this workshop is for you. If you have not joined this session, now is the time to do it.

TCU will be held August 4 to 8, concluding August 11, from 7 to 9 p.m. at 113 B. Gonzales, Loyola Heights, QC. The cost of the workshop is still P5,000.

Please  write to emailjimp@gmail.com for a syllabus or  call Ollie at (0917)855-4303 for any other queries or for reservations.