On becoming a mountain

On becoming a mountain
HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) Updated January 31, 2010 12:00 AM

As a writer of a weekly column, I often like to flatter or delude myself by fancying that my readers and I have a special thing going — that they eagerly await what I write and avidly devour my writing. The “fancy” is of course, mostly self-flattery, and I admit that it can be self-delusion. I say this because while it is true that people do read me (and that is quite a thrill), there is the temptation to exaggerate on how many people do, and how much I actually affect my readers with what I write.

I have to congratulate myself though with the fact that I have kept this column alive for more than three years without missing a single week.

While I have some loyal readers who comment regularly and positively, there are also a few who have read me, not to praise but to find something wrong with what I have written. They like to point out the chinks in my armor. They sometimes like to tear up whatever I’ve put down and cut me down to size. If I could compare the situation to a Western, they are those who look at me as the guy to size up and test how fast I can draw my gun. They want to pick a fight and see how fast or “real” I really am. I’ve pretty much learned to live with the idea that I cannot please everyone, and though their comments may be painful at times, I have learned a thing or two from them.

Every Monday, my writing day, I feel like the girl in the fairy tale who is imprisoned in the basement by the king with the royal order to spin gold. I must come up with something by the end of the day! Often enough, Rumplestiltskin, the magical dwarf who saves the poor girl in the story, shows up and rescues me and I come out with something passable or engaging enough to see print.

But there are times when Rumplestiltskin does not come to turn my words to gold. Nor does the inspirational cavalry show up and I am totally left to my own devices. Time like these, I start by writing a paragraph, deleting it, writing another, and deleting it again. I rest a while and return to the laptop and do it all again about four more times and sometimes I still do not feel I’m on to something worthwhile.

But I am getting better at dealing with this situation. The trick is not to give up easily. Continue writing, and do not judge your work harshly. Just plod along till you detect a flow and get into it and what it wants to say. To allow the critic within you to reign over the process and “correct” yourself while you coax the muse to reveal herself can only produce disastrous results. When you allow your inner critic to take control at this early stage, writing the first draft becomes impossibly hard. Before you know it, you are paralyzed with writer’s block.

You have to make it as simple and as effortless as possible — as easy as, say, breathing. Write without thinking too much or passing judgment. Don’t think of your reading audience, or your spelling, grammar, syntax, etc. All those can be corrected later. Just follow the flow of where you want to go. In other words, just write! What can be simpler?

Strangely enough, I hardly encounter this problem of the critic taking over when I am engaged in songwriting. For one, 90 percent of the time, I do not have a deadline when I write songs. I write when I write, as I write even without a project or a deadline. But even in those few times when I have a deadline, I hardly fret about what I will come up with. I can always deliver something decent in this creative arena. Why? Because I have always done it. Somehow, I have access to the creative faucet that controls the flow and I can turn it on and off at will.

Songwriting to me, is quite easy, and far more intuitive than writing a column. There is less discipline and reasoning. All one has to do is catch the “feeling” or the emotive wave and there’s a song, right there! With just a little polish, it is good enough to record. My confidence comes from my belief that when I stare at my guitar or piano I know there is a song somewhere there just waiting to be composed.

I often wonder how the creative process unfolds with painters or sculptors. The blank canvas can surely beckon a painter to draw something, anything, as a slab of marble can engage a sculptor to visualize a work. When asked how he carved the “Pieta,” Michaelangelo supposedly said that the “Pieta” was already inside the stone. He merely had to liberate it.

What a wonderful statement! Surely, he could have liberated a thousand other statues in place of the “Pieta.” He could have sculpted horses, a beautiful maiden, or whatever else he felt like. But his intention was so focused and unconditional —that is, the belief in and clarity of his artistic vision and intention to carry it through. That was truly a statement of artistic faith!

When I am sure-footed about what I am doing, or when I am feeling quite centered in my life, I like to visualize that I am a mountain. This metaphor is especially applicable when I do my Zen sits.

There is something solid and immovable and sure about a mountain. Mountains are reference points for people who need direction. Nothing can be surer than knowing where one is in relation to a mountain.

But this artist has not always been sure of himself. In fact, it took me quite a while to accept the truth that I am an artist. It was a gradual realization through the years that started with my merely entertaining the possibility that I could be one.

The humility I felt in accepting myself as an artist was not a put-on, false modesty or anything like that. It was more of an expression of real doubt because I was very insecure about my own talents. When I looked around and saw colleagues who had degrees in music and who wrote wonderful songs, I felt small and insignificant. I feared that I could be a poseur! The few songs I created early in my career, though quite nice, according to some fans, were to me only products of chance. I was not really talented. I was merely lucky to have written a few good songs.

It took me quite a while to accept the possibility that I could actually be talented!

I sometimes ask myself if I was born an artist or if I developed into one. I don’t really know since at a certain point in high school, I considered being lawyer.

But now, at my late age, I am more sure than ever that I am an artist. That is something that will not change anymore through time, or whatever other circumstances happen in my life.

I have become a mountain.

Breaking up is hard to do

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) Updated January 24, 2010 12:00 AM

The APO held a press conference a few days back to promote our upcoming Valentine show. It was billed as APO’s last Valentine gig and it will be held on Feb. 13 at the SMX venue in the Mall of Asia.

At the presscon, we decided to finally announce that the APO Hiking Society as an entity would be winding down and doing the last shows of our 40-year career. By end of May, APO will stop performing, recording or being a showbiz entity altogether.

There was a deafening silence in the room. The media was speechless. At first we thought that there was no interest in the announcement, thus the silence. But the barrage of questions and emotions expressed that came after indicated that the announcement we had just made was more of a shocker than a sleeper.


Yes, Boboy, Danny and I are calling it quits. But before we do, we have a few more shows to do here and abroad. So if you are an APO fan, or if you’ve never watched us, now is the time to do so. We will have several farewell shows towards the end of May, most likely in small venues. We don’t want to be stressed out doing a big-venue extravaganza since we really want to enjoy our last few shows.

In the first two days after we announced that we were disbanding, I received close to 600 tweets, Facebook notices, and e-mails expressing regret, respect, dumbfoundedness, admiration, sorrow and other similar emotions. They were not any different from what we in the APO are feeling as well.

So why are we splitting up?

Ironically, we made our announcement at a time when many people are telling us that, lately, we have been doing the best concerts ever in our career of 40 summers. We have been on a roll these past five years. While we have managed to keep the older generation (meaning people our age) interested in us, our current audiences have had a lot of people watching us for the very first time. Kids are discovering us, digging our music and enjoying our shows. And we are more comfortable than ever performing together. Musically, we are tight and our stage rapport is wonderfully intuitive and smooth.

Forty years is a long time and as much as we have projected unity all throughout or career, we have also had our differences. Monolithic as our triumvirate may seem, Danny, Boboy and I are actually very different people who like doing different things — our individual hobbies, passions and pursuits — outside of the collective effort of APO. And that was a good thing.

For years, we believed that whatever knowledge, reputation or advantages we personally gain from what we do individually, can only add to and enhance APO’s reputation. Everything we do adds up to the wealth of experience we all can delve in and profit from as a group. That’s how it was and it indeed served us well.

Thus, Danny is into Pidro, his T-shirt company and is doing consultancies. Boboy is into acting and golf. I am into writing, teaching, photography and workshops. Aside from these, the three of us have gone into collaborative social causes that range from environmental, electoral, educational, nationalistic — all pointing in the direction of people empowerment and the enhancement of our democracy.

But as varied and mixed as our interests are, APO has always been our home base. APO is the repository of all our experiences where we process everything, which has somehow added value and benefit to the group and made our shows, our spiels and our songs richer and more interesting.

Then there is also our friendship which has sustained us, given us a lot of joy and allowed each other the leeway to be different yet accepted, distant at times but not becoming alienated.

But 40 years is a long time. The repetitive nature of any career can get boring. That’s why in the past few years we have been individually looking at other horizons. We are all creative and, by nature, there is a gnawing restlessness in all of us that needs to be constantly fed with new experiences. And our personal journeys have brought us to different paths, made us drift apart and led us to interests that demand more and more of our time, making our commitment to APO and all its obligations less tenable.

These are some of the reasons why we are disbanding, although there are individual reasons as well. I will leave it to my friends to state the reasons that are theirs alone.

While all of the above are true for all of us, I speak for myself when I say there is no compelling reason to want to end APO. The only reason I see is that since it is bound to happen someday, it is best to end APO while we are still respected players on the scene. If breaking up is inevitable, why not do it now?

We can’t complain; the past 40 years have given us a good run.

APO has always been a united endeavor. It is a synergistic organization and that’s why it has worked so well all these years. More than three individual members, it has always been the “we” that has given APO life.

The group has been the longest-running commitment the three of us have made in our lives. We have been APO longer than we have been married to our wives, longer than we have been parents, or students, or any other endeavor we have said yes to individually. Ending it is therefore a very big deal for us, collectively and individually. It is not just a life-altering move, it is also a monumental reminder of the impermanence and finality of our mortal experience.

I have many conflicting feelings about our decision to disband, even as I am comforted by the messages I have received from many people: that APO’s music has been a signpost and a soundtrack to their lives as Filipinos; that we have made our mark as real OPM artists; that we will live in their hearts; that yes, there is meaning to everything we have done.

I do love performing with my friends and the three of us invariably feel great every time we pull off a concert doing our original stuff that we have creatively (and sometimes courageously) conceived, executed and perfected throughout our career. I cannot begin to express how much I will miss all that.

But I believe that as much as we are called to vocations and unions, we are also, at times, called to move on to other things. We have given our best years to APO, which has given us so much more in terms of the joy of performing, affirmation as artists, material blessings and stature.

It is only right that we honor it by ending while we can still perform together at our most joyful best. Anything less would be disrespectful to what APO has always been about and to the management, musicians, crew and our audience who gave us full support all these years.

I end with a promise that all the shows we will be doing from now to the end of May will be the best we will ever do. To be truthful, that is not anything new, since that is a promise we have kept all of these past 40 years.

* * *

This is the last call.

Experience your most empowered, creative and joyful year, and the rest of your lifetime.

The 50th run of “Tapping the Creative Universe” workshop is set for Jan. 26, 27, 28, 29, 30 and Feb. 1. It’s from 7 to 9 p.m. at 113 B. Gonzales, Loyola Heights, QC. Cost is P5,000 for all six sessions.

* * *

Write to emailjimp@gmail.com, or call 426-5375, 0916-855-4303 for inquiries and reservations

Clever new words and meanings

Clever new words and meanings

The Washington Post’s Mensa Invitational once again asked readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition. Here are the 2009 winners:

1. Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period of time.

2. Ignoranus : A person who’s both stupid and an asshole.

3. Intaxication : Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts until you realize it was your money to start with.

4. Reintarnation : Coming back to life as a hillbilly.

5. Bozone (n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.

6. Foreploy : Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of ge tting laid.

7. Giraffiti : Vandalism spray-painted very, very high

8. Sarchasm : The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn’t get it.

9. Inoculatte : To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.

10. Osteopornosis : A degenerate disease. (This one got extra credit.)

11. Karmageddon : It’s like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it’s like, a serious bummer.

12. Decafalon (n.): The gruelling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.

13. Glibido : All talk and no action.

14. Dopeler Effect: The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.

15. Arachnoleptic Fit (n.): The frantic dance performed just after you’ve accidentally walked through a spider web.

16. Beelzebug (n.) : Satan in the form of a mosquito, that gets i nto your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.

17. Caterpallor ( n.): The color you turn after finding half a worm in the fruit you’re eating.

The Washington Post has also published the winning submissions to its yearly contest, in which readers are asked to supply alternate meanings for common words. And the winners are:

1. Coffee , n. The person upon whom one coughs.

2. Flabbergasted , adj. Appalled by discovering how much weight one has gained.

3. Abdicate , v. To give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach. –

4. Esplanade , v. To attempt an explanation while drunk.

5. Willy-nilly , adj. Impotent.

6. Negligent , adj. Absentmindedly answering the door when wearing only a nightgown.

7. Lymph , v. To walk with a lisp.

8. Gargoyle , n. Olive-flavored mouthwash.

9. Flatulence , n. Emergency vehicle that picks up someone who has been run over by a steamroller.

10. Balderdash , n. A rapidly receding hairline.

11. Testicle , n. A humorous question on an exam.

12. Rectitude , n. The formal, dignified bearing adopted by proctologists.

13. Pokemon , n.. A Rastafarian proctologist.

14. Oyster , n. A person who sprinkles his conversation with Yiddishisms.

15. Frisbeetarianism , gn. The belief that, after death, the soul flies up onto the roof and gets stuck there.

Saying yes to life

A few days ago, at lunch with my daughter Ala, I told her how happy and proud I was that she did a great job on her first day as a courtroom sketch artist during the arraignment of Andal Ampatuan Jr. the other week. It was a job that came from out of the blue just the night before the trial by way of a call from someone she knew who worked in the Supreme Court.

A few days before the call, Ala was talking casually with that same friend about courtroom sketching which, for all practical purposes, was already a lost art, having been replaced by camera-toting media. But two days later, she got the call asking her to do precisely that. Her friend explained that since her bosses had decided to restrict the coverage by media, they needed someone who would witness the proceedings and sketch it for everyone to see. And her friend had no one else to call at 11 p.m. for the sketching job the next morning.

Ala accepted it in an instant.

My daughter is here on vacation and was actually scheduled to go back to Sydney on Jan. 13. But she had postponed her trip to see more of her friends after the Christmas holidays. She had no idea that something as big as this would come her way since she had just graduated from art school in Sydney three weeks earlier.

It was a bolt out of the blue, the kind of offer that makes you suspect that, somehow, the gods are revealing a new track for you to follow.

I am reminded what Joseph Campbell wrote: “We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” John Lennon wryly put it, “Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.”

Now Ala’s problem is how much longer she should stay in Manila to perform this non-paying job, while her life and boyfriend await her return to Sydney.

There is something disturbing yet somewhat magical (depending on the person involved) that happens when one’s plans are suddenly disrupted, schedules are altered, or projected futures are put on hold or radically changed. While it can get us all riled up and upset, it can also awaken in us the sense of aliveness so wanting in a life that has become predictable.

The number one thing we complain or fuss about when things suddenly change is our lack of preparedness. On one level, this is true. We are never prepared for many things, say, the death of a loved one, the sudden loss of income or job, or illness. And we probably will never be fully prepared, even when such things are expected.

On another level, preparedness for unforeseen circumstances loses its centrality when one decides as soon as possible to accept a situation and deal with it. Yes, the world is unfair, but one can decide to stop crying and instead make the most of it.

Even people of faith are not immune from such tests of spiritual mettle. A religious friend in Facebook often describes her life and her relationship with the divine as akin to following the orders of an “untamed God” especially when talking about the vicissitudes of life. God can seem to be irrational, unpredictable, inconsiderate, and yes, seemingly cruel. That’s why we need faith, put simply, to make us say “yes” and to accept lovingly a situation that we do not always understand.

I was in a predicament more than 10 years ago when I lost a job on TV that gave me 90 percent of my income. It was a rough ride on many levels. I had lost a lot of money and my ego was crushed. It affected me materially, emotionally and, yes, even spiritually.

Even if the signs were there that the show was on its way out, I was actually in denial. I went through the classic gamut of emotions that people who experience great loss go through. I went through shock, then denial. Bargaining soon followed until I realized the futility of trying to get back what was lost forever. It took a few months before I found the serenity to accept what I could not change

When acceptance finally came, I got a firm grip on myself and calmed the swirling tide of self-pity that I was drowning in. In place of the big disappointment, a great wave of energy came over me, which seemed to awaken every aspect of my being, especially those that I did not even know existed. I awakened to new powers of discernment and dormant talents that would never have emerged if I had continued being too comfortable living a predictable existence.

It’s as if the Universe had kicked my butt and threw me off to parts unknown, to a newer adventure, or a new mission.

I realized that I had a lot of time on my hands and began to do things that I had always dreamed of doing but never took seriously. I wrote four books in five years, taught two subjects at the Ateneo University, ran creativity workshops and expanded my intellectual and spiritual horizons like never before. I was wide open to life and it felt like I was more adept at dealing with what my friend called the “untamed God.” I was coming from zero and was not afraid to engage it and whatever or wherever it wanted to put me. What else could I possibly lose?

Saying “yes” opens us not just to transforming our outer world but more importantly, to awakening to an inner one. It is where the real change happens, for in the process, where we thought we had retreated with our backs to the wall, we find a liberating, endless spaciousness where our spirit can dance. Where we dreamed that we would triumph over our enemies, we conquer the bigger adversity, which is ourselves.

This template of experience has actually been around for sometime. And yet, each one who goes through it feels it is a process uniquely his own. But as Joseph Campbell puts it so marvelously, “Where we had thought to be alone, we shall be with all the world.”

* * *

Is there a dream dreaming you? Are you just living in someone else’s life? Would you like to live your own life and experience the greatest privilege of being who you really are?


There lies in you so much more than you know. Meet the bigger parts of yourself and set yourself free. Demolish what stops you from living your dream, or what prevents you from living a happy, productive, meaningful life. Experience your most empowered, creative and joyful year, and the rest of your lifetime.

The 50th run of “Tapping the Creative Universe” workshop is set for Jan. 26, 27, 28, 29, 30 and Feb. 1. It’s from 7 to 9 p.m. at 113 B. Gonzales, Loyola Heights, QC. Cost is P5,000 for all six sessions.

Write to emailjimp@gmail.com, or call 426-5375, 0916-855-4303 for inquiries and reservations.

You asked for it. You got it, Sydney!


Everyone laughed their heads off and loved him when he fronted for Joey Albert in Sydney last October. he brought the house down! A whole lot of you asked when he was coming back.

Good news! Norman will be back to do a Full Show for everyone this March 13 at the Lyceum, Castle Hill RSL, 7:30 PM. Address is 77 Castle street.

He will be performing with talented Filos Cleo Diana, Abigail Cruz, Claudette Punsalan and Chelsea Castillo.

Ticket prices: 65 AUD (VIP) and 55 AUD (GOLD)
For ticket reservations, Call: 0410698299 and ask for Conrad Isip

We guarantee a really funny show! Call now for reservations.

APO bids farewell..

Yes, it is true. The TV news said it right.

APO is winding down. We, (Jim, Danny and Boboy) announced that we have decided to stop performing, recording and singing together.

We are doing our last Valentines show this Feb 13 at SMX in Mall of Asia. We still have other concerts to do before and after Valentines but only until end of May. If you can, do catch the last few shows we will be doing abroad and around the Philippines. The Last Shows will be at the end of May probably in a small venue. Right now, we don’t want the stress of a big show and may do a few small ones instead. We want to enjoy it till the end. More on this soon.

The next few months will be our last opportunities to perform for you. I hope you can catch one of our shows because we really enjoy surprising and delighting you. We promise they will be the best shows ever.

Writing deadline

Been writing a column for more than three years now, and I have not missed a single week. I have been pretty much reliable and have managed to come out with something for my column in Philippine Star each Sunday for the past 168 weeks or so. My editor must be happy.

Yet every week, I go through the ritual where I stare at the computer screen wondering what to write and worrying whether I will be able to write anything at all. But sure enough, I always come up with something. Of course I can’t say I will ALWAYS come up with something decent but this process has delivered the articles for as long as I have had a column. Based on the outcome, the output seems a sure thing. But based on the process, it is still iffy, at least to me. It’s a real problem for writers, this waiting for inspiration, or the alignment of the planets and stars so that spirit wakes up and animates my laptop screen with words

Writers and God have at least one thing in common. We can both create something out of nothing. The difference is, I don’t think God worries whether the sun will come out, or night will follow day as scheduled while writers move heaven and earth each time to meet their deadline.