In praise of snobbery

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) Updated September 26, 2010 12:00 AM

I have always been a believer in democracy. The clans I come from the Misas and Paredeses are intensely politically opinionated and have always had democratic leanings. A great many of us were anti-martial law activists. We expressed our indignation at the Marcos regime in various ways, to the point that members of my family were incarcerated.

Democracy, as EDSA and other events have shown us, is something we Filipinos have repeatedly and collectively expressed a desire for. There is a strong egalitarian constituency in our country that believes in equal justice and equal opportunity for men and women, rich and poor. And I think that is a good thing. Sadly though, while this constituency can be easily coaxed into voting for certain candidates in every election, it has been largely unserved by the candidates they elect, and by appointed officials. I must confess this makes me doubt my belief in democracy, sometimes.

Today, I want to talk about egalitarianism and democracy, not to extol, praise or defend them but to point out what I feel are their annoying flaws. While I have always chosen the democratic approach to everything, I have to admit that I can be a complete snob in many ways.

To declare oneself as a bit of a snob can hardly be construed as egalitarian. Visions of Marie Antoinette and her unguardedly contemptuous statement urging the masses to “eat cake” when there was not enough bread to feed the poor, easily come to mind. No, I am not in any way charmed by her insensitive rhetoric. But yes, I risk being misunderstood by declaring myself a snob at the outset.

One can be a snob in many ways. And some of them may be healthy. I am far from being of the bejeweled, perfumed elitists that often come to mind when we think of the word. But I am a snob when it comes to my taste in music, TV shows, food, or almost any craze that the rest of the world goes for. For example, I may initially like a song or a musical group or talent, but the moment the world discovers and goes gaga over them, that’s the kiss of death as far as I am concerned. I almost immediately distance myself and change my allegiance.

The easiest way to turn me off is to try and sell me something by saying it is the latest craze or fad. The only way I will subscribe to something is when I know I am one of the first to do so. So it is not hard to imagine that I was an early Mac user in a PC world and one of the first to have an iPhone, iPod, iPad and other such delightful gadgets. It’s not so much about brand loyalty but more of being ahead of everyone else in discovering the next big thing.

I am thankful that some of my favorite musical artists like Caetano Veloso and Joyce have not gone mainstream in the Philippines. Otherwise, I would have a hard time professing my undying love for them.

But being a professed snob notwithstanding, I can spot trends, and know quite often when something will make it or not. I can read trends even if I do not always subscribe to them. In politics, for example, I have been largely successful in predicting who gets elected, and knowing which issues will catch on with the public.

My annoyance with egalitarian practice is not that it gives the unconnected, nondescript poor the opportunity to join, participate and lift themselves up from poverty. As a matter of fact, I praise that and wish there was more of this going on in our democracy.

What gets my goat is the crazy idea that everyone, the unthinking, the idiotic, “even the dull and the ignorant” (as described in “Desiderata”) can have their voices heard, and yes, even taken seriously. Now, that can really make me want to rethink the idea of democracy. Just look at the chismis shows and much of the stuff on TV. On cable, there are the Jerry Springers, Howard Sterns and a lot of what passes as entertainment or what is supposedly “media-worthy.” Ironically, the hallowed concept of freedom of expression can and often manifests as shock TV, scandals and hyped-up mediocrity. It belies the value of democracy as a noble system of uplifting the masses, portraying it instead as a circus attraction.

The people we really need to be hearing from, the unique and exceptional talents, crystalline thinkers, creators of astounding beauty, and people with deep but practical perceptions are exceptions in every society, whether democratic or not, and are hardly ever heard. They are the precious grains taken from tons of chaff. They are society’s crown jewels. In short, they are the true elites, rare and valuable human assets whose gift of brilliance should be shared with everyone. Do you see many of them in media? Of course not.

Media executives will point out that there is little demand for them. The media have long subscribed to the monetary value of the shallow circus masters than the cultural value of the true elites who have something great to contribute. The result is that ordinary viewers can now hardly recognize TV fare that can elevate.
In other words, they have been anaesthetized into a stupor that they can hardly detect, much less appreciate good taste, breeding, intelligent points of view when they encounter them. I once asked a top TV executive who was so ratings-driven that it hardly mattered to him how shows in his station were selling warped values if he would give Jesus a show were He to suddenly show up. He looked at me with great annoyance and disdain.

While a circus may be entertaining, it would be good to balance this with exposure to other kinds of shows, books, ideas, events that stimulate the spirit, mind and senses and give audiences a higher sense of awe and thus be inspired.

I say give the “elites” more exposure. We should be hearing and watching more of them. We need people who are distinguished because of their depth of intelligence and talent. They have something important to share that can change and elevate us. They are the salt of the earth. They spice up our lives.

We need more people like Cheche Lazaro and Winnie Monsod. More National Artists exposed on TV. More museums, libraries and less malls. More servant leaders like Jesse Robredo and Leila de Lima instead of the trapos that inhabit many government posts. We need elites from the academe, showbiz, arts, politics, media, sports and religious sectors to expand our sense of what is possible for us as a society and as a nation.

“Each honest calling, each walk of life, has its own elite, its own aristocracy based on excellence of performance,” wrote James Conant. And I appreciate democracy when it does exactly this. I am hoping more Pinoys become “snobs” and show appreciation for the brilliant and the true instead of the dubious, scandalous and mediocre elite. We must choose our icons and beacons if we want to go up notches higher than where we are now.

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1) Jim Paredes 2nd Songwriting Workshop on Oct. 9 and 10 from 1 to 6 p.m. Fee is P5,000. Address is 113 B. Gonzales, Loyola Heights, QC.

2) Basic Photography Workshop on Oct. 16, from 1 to 6:30 p.m. Address is 113 B. Gonzales, Loyola Heights, QC.

3) Creative For Life: The Two-Day Run on Oct. 23 (9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) and Oct. 24 (1:30 to 5 p.m.).

Call 426-5375, 0916-8554303 and ask for Ollie. Write me at for questions and reservations.

Craving more of Thailand

By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) Updated September 26, 2010 12:01 AM

MANILA, Philippines – For a travel destination to be something to crow about, it has to have many things going for it. For one, it has to have infrastructure to accommodate visitors. Two, it has to have people who are hospitable and friendly. Three, it has to have great cuisine. Four, it has to have fantastic sights and events. Five, it has to be safe. And six, it has to offer a wonderful shopping experience. I can say with no reservations that Thailand has all of the above in abundance. And for exotic uniqueness, it even has a King!

I recently visited Thailand as a guest of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) whose marketing representative for the Philippines is Dave De Jesus. I was there for a tourism trade show — where buyers and sellers of tour packages meet and connect to do business — with other writers Stefanie Cabal, JJ San Juan, Jackie Oiga and Buddy Recio.

On the first night just a few hours after we arrived on Thai Airways and checked in to the Siam City Hotel, we watched Siam Niramit, an extravaganza in a beautiful cultural complex built just for these events. It was an eye-popping theatrical showcase of Thailand’s history, customs, dance, music, humor and religion presented in all its glory and majesty with marvelous light and sound effects and gimmickry rivaling Las Vegas and Cirque du Soleil. With a cast of close to a hundred (not counting the elephants and goats), it was nothing short of spectacular. I was so impressed by it that I told my travel mates that this show alone was already worth a visit to Bangkok.

The next day was the official welcome day. The trade show had its usual cocktails and entertainment. The day after was when the trade booths and conferences officially began. Thai tourism officials rattled off statistics about the country’s tourism growth rates in the past and their projections for the coming years. They proudly pointed out that Thailand was voted Best Leisure Destination in the Pacific in 2009, and Best City Tourist Destination in 2010 by tour organizations everywhere. Their “Amazing Thailand” branding, as they explained it, seeks to balance monetary and emotional value for tourists. It makes sure that the visitors’ hearts and minds are charmed, and that they are more than satisfied and want to return again. Their aim is to fully captivate tourists with everything the country and people have to offer.

The charm offensive seems to be succeeding very well. It is clear that Thailand’s short- and long-term tourism programs are much better thought out and executed than ours in the Philippines and the rest of the region. They have something to offer almost any kind of tourist: golf, water sports, events, conference settings, weddings and honeymoons, medical tourism, film destinations, etc. I could only sigh as they described the giant leaps in their visitor traffic. We Filipinos have a long way to go.
The awesomely imposing Sanctuary of Truth in Pattaya

Lately though, they have been leaning heavily on domestic tourism to offset the negative fallout brought about by occasional eruptions of political instability — quite recently, the recent Thaksin-funded rallies that left the Bangkok Central Business District paralyzed and invited negative travel advisories from foreign governments.

In the next four days, we went shopping around Bangkok, enjoyed its varied local cuisine, got a luxuriously relaxing massage at the Rarin Jinda Wellness Spa Resort and spent an extra two days in Pattaya, a resort town two hours’ drive by car.

Massage is a great tradition in Thailand. It is a well-developed hospitality industry that many visitors enjoy. There are many types of massage — shiatsu, Swedish, Thai, etc., from luxurious ones that cater to tired bodies and (as many tourists know) even erotic ones that offer much more. Even within the trade show, one could get a quick massage to feel re-energized.

I had two massages while I was there. The first massage in Bangkok was the traditional Thai massage where one is stretched, pressed, folded, bent and squeezed, and let me tell you, it was wonderfully refreshing. My second massage was in the Pattaya branch of Rarin Jinda. This time, I tried the hot stone treatment. Frankly, I was not ready for the pleasure it gave me. One and a half hours of pure bliss went by so quickly as the masseuse scrubbed a smooth hot stone on my oily body. That experience seems to have moved my pleasure threshold a few notches higher; I am not sure if I can still enjoy any other type of massage the way I used to. I felt like a new person as I walked out to the lobby.

The people of Thailand — how can you not love them? They are naturally helpful and hospitable, so eager to please foreigners. Every person you meet, from receptionists to waiters to greeters, vendors, sales ladies — everyone welcomes you with the traditional palms-in-prayer position and with a nasal voice, says “Sawasdee” in greeting. Even this jaded traveler got the feeling that the gestures were mostly heartfelt and genuine.

There are also the much-talked-about transvestites of Thailand who are not just tolerated but quite accepted and, sometimes, even admired. We watched the world famous Tiffany show in Pattaya and it was quite entertaining. It had a little bit of can-can, burlesque and Broadway all wrapped up in one big cabaret show. The dolled-up “girls” sashayed, danced and sang onstage, and afterwards, they even greeted the audience and posed for photographs at the lobby. Throughout the performance, I surrendered all doubt and suspended all my disbelief and simply enjoyed the beauty of the “women” parading before me.
Siam Niramit, the theatrical extravaganza is worth going to Bangkok for.

I even heard some women in the audience express their insecurity upon seeing the beautiful transvestites. The success of Tiffany’s and shows of this sort which have been going on for years speak volumes about Thai society’s tolerance of all forms of sexuality.

The highlight of the trip for me was visiting the Sanctuary of Truth in Pattaya. It was absolutely breathtaking to see this gigantic wooden palace by the sea that stands majestic but unfinished. Started in 1981 and scheduled to be completed by 2025, this project was conceived and designed by the late Mercedes Benz dealer and Thai millionaire Khun Lek who also built a museum. His children continue the work he began. A team of 250 woodcarvers now works non-stop to make sure every square inch of the palace will have a carving by the time it is finished.

As I gazed at the palace, its massive wooden pillars and ornate sculptures, I couldn’t help but be impressed by the magnitude and breadth of the originator’s vision. Buddhas, bodhisattvas, deities, sacred monkeys, Ganesh figures, and many others were abundantly and artistically present everywhere.

Surely he knew that the seaside is not an ideal place to construct a wooden palace, considering the effect of the salty sea spray on timber. Which suggested to me that constructing and then preserving the palace may be a never-ending job. There is something poetic and ancient about such an effort. I would not be surprised if the Sanctuary by the Sea becomes a world heritage site.

There are a lot of words to describe Thai cuisine and “boring” and “bland” aren’t among them. Thai food runs the gamut of hot to burning hot! It is spicy, rich in taste, texture and aroma. Whether one eats at a market stall, a seaside tourist restaurant, a bus stop, a fast food place or at the Four Seasons Hotel’s Spice Restaurant, the experience is scrumptious, and delivers endless thrills to the palate. There is nothing subtle about Thai food. It screams out loud as if to celebrate the joy of eating. Thai cuisine is simply one of the best in the world.

There is a story that the King himself shared the royal recipe with the public, to more or less standardize the taste of Tom Yum, Pad Thai, takho, and other dishes served in Thai restaurants everywhere.

I have been to Thailand three or four times before this trip for a one- or two-day stay. I have always found it pleasant but this is one trip when, as a traveler, I have fallen in love with the place. There is so much more to see and experience in Thailand than I ever imagined. Whether it is culture, shopping, eating or clubbing (like we did as we enjoyed a unique and literally freezing bar called Minus 5 in Pattaya), there is something for you. Thailand’s charms manage to work their way deep into a visitor’s being.

“Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living,” wrote the traveler Miriam Beard.

I must say that I am now smitten and I am craving more.

* * *

For more information, call the Tourism Authority of Thailand at 911-1660 or e-mail or

The kindness of strangers

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) Updated September 19, 2010 12:00 AM

My many travels and travails: The author Jim Paredes found himself alone in a train station in Tokyo and couldn’t find an English speaker; in Vienna he rode a bus with lots of “white” tourists; and in Nepal, a shopping bag he left in a shop was returned to him.

I am an avid traveler. I love the idea of being in a new place. Somehow the world of what is possible becomes infinitely bigger simply because I am in an unfamiliar place. In a setting where millions of people do not know me, and I know practically no one save for my fellow travelers, the air is filled with excitement and potential.

Everything is foreign — the language, the currency, the people, the place. Except for the few familiar clothes I have with me, everything is practically a first-time encounter. My room is a hotel room. There are strange accents everywhere and the people I encounter do not share anything with me, except perhaps being human.

It is in situations like these where I get fresh insights into humanity. Here are a few discoveries I’ve made during a few travels.

Once in Tokyo, I found myself standing alone in a train station, feeling quite lost. I had fallen asleep and missed the station where I was supposed to get off. People were rushing everywhere and I was standing in the midst of this human traffic, unable to comprehend the Japanese signage that told which train went to which destination. Knowing that there are very few Japanese who can speak English, I thought that perhaps I should look for a Caucasian among the crowd to ask for directions.

After a few minutes, it was clear that I was probably not going to find an English speaker, and so I went up to a Japanese lady and tried to ask for directions in the best way I could. She smiled and bowed in usual Japanese fashion. I mentioned the station I was going to. By her reaction, it seemed that I was quite far from where I had wanted to be. She promptly took me through two escalators to a different platform and stood with me in silence as we waited for a train. When we saw the train coming, she motioned with her fingers that my stop would be three stations from where we were. I thanked her profusely. It was only after I had entered the train and the door closed that she bade me goodbye and turned around to go where she was going.

The whole episode must have delayed her for about 15 minutes. I was quite embarrassed knowing that she must be a busy person like most everyone in Tokyo and yet she took the time to be helpful and accommodating to this foreigner. Her kindness has made Tokyo quite a special city to me.

In the late ‘80s, the APO and our wives were traveling through Europe. We were in Vienna where we had just arrived from Germany a few hours earlier. After asking for directions to where we wanted to go, we hopped on a bus. It was quite an experience for the new travelers that we were to be in a bus where everyone was white and looked so different from us. I must admit, we were uneasy being “different” from everyone else on the bus.

Matters got more complicated when a bus inspector came and started checking for tickets. We did not know that we should have gotten our tickets before riding the bus. We took out our wallets and, to our embarrassment, we realized that we had not changed currencies since we had just arrived three hours earlier. We tried to explain our situation to the inspector and offered to pay in US dollars or deutschmarks. To our pleasant surprise, people on the bus started taking out coins from their pockets and bags and paid for our tickets. All we could do was show gratitude by smiling and saying thank you.

I can never forget that moment because of the kindness people showed to the strangers that we were. It’s hard not to have faith in humanity’s goodness when something like this happens to you.

In 1997, my wife and I took an adventure trip to Nepal. We wanted to go to a totally new place where we could just go with the flow of whatever was waiting for us there. We wanted the thrill of seeing and experiencing something that was outside the usual Westernized destinations we had been to. The only assurance we gave ourselves was making sure we checked into a good hotel. If things turned out too rough for comfort, or if worse came to worst, at least we would have a refuge where we would be comfortable. We took a plane from Bangkok and landed in Kathmandu.

Kathmandu was quite pleasant actually. On the first day, we found ourselves in the shopping area, a collection of mostly makeshift stalls that sold handicrafts, antiques and curios that Lydia likes. It was quite a charming market that sold what looked like medieval stuff — brass works, old wooden antiques, prayer wheels and, curiously, horns made of human femur. It was exhilarating to be in a place that seemed to be lost in time.

Carrying bags of stuff we had bought, we waited for transport to take us back to the hotel. Then we remembered that we had inadvertently left a bag of goods in one of the stores. We turned around and in a rush, we went through the labyrinthine pathways frantically trying to remember where the store was. When we finally found it, the saleswoman was apologetic. She gave us back our bag explaining that she had been looking for us for the past hour.

Nepal is not a rich country. In fact, the value of their currency at that time was one half of the peso and the goods were so cheap, even without discounts. We would have charged it to experience if the woman had told us that the bags were not there. And so it was heartwarming to experience the honesty of this humble Nepalese store clerk who made our first visit there extra memorable.

Robert Louis Stevenson once wrote that “There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign.” He is absolutely right. And it is those moments when local people in a foreign land break the barriers by showing to visitors things that are familiar and desirable to everyone everywhere — friendliness, honesty, kindness, hospitality. A warm smile can make one feel very welcome.

The writer Dagobert D. Runes said it even better: “People travel to faraway places to watch, in fascination, the kind of people they ignore at home.” Humanity is the same everywhere. And the marvel of it all is, what we find commonplace at home can be a big deal when we encounter it in some unfamiliar place. Travel makes us awaken to an inner destination that lies within us. We leave home to find it everywhere.

* * *

Here are four exciting workshops I will be conducting.

1. “Creative For Life workshop” at the Fort (six-session run). Sept. 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 27 at 7 to 9 p.m. Venue is at Meridian International College, 1030 Campus Ave., 2F CIP Bldg, McKinley Hill, Fort Bonifacio. Call 223-6468, 426-5375. Also call 0916-8554303 and ask for Ollie or write me at for inquiries.

2. Glamour photography — Sept. 25 at 1 p.m., Bulb Studios, Molave Compound, 2231 Pasong Tamo ext. near Nissan and Allied Bank. Call 0917-8974865, 0918-8121967. Models Jean Harn and Che Ram.

3. Jim Paredes 2nd Songwriting Workshop on Oct. 9 and 10 from 1 to 6 p.m. Fee is P5,000. Address is 113 B. Gonzales, Loyola Heights, QC. Call 4265375 or 09168554303 and ask for Ollie. Write me at for questions and reservations.

4. Basic Photography Workshop on Oct. 16, from 1 to 6:30 p.m. Address is 113 B. Gonzales, Loyola Heights, QC. Call 426-5375, 09168554303 and ask for Ollie. Write me at for questions and reservations.

We need a cultural revolution

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

Illustration by REY RIVERA

The only positive thing I can say about the hostage- taking crisis is that it has made it clear to us that much of our way of life and governance is severely dysfunctional. For many years now, we have been getting the feeling that there is a new social order waiting to be born but, for some reason, it hasn’t been delivered. This recent international incident has made it clear that the old order is almost beyond repair and we must put the new one that we have been yearning for, into being. And it should be done now.

Changes in our society have come way too slowly and in increments. It’s time to speed things up. Many are still hopeful that P-Noy’s ascendancy will change things. At least, we are assured that he is personally not corrupt. But that alone will not change a lot of things. A whole lot more needs to be done, quickly and decisively, if we are to see drastic changes in our country within our lifetime.

Although EDSA happened 24 years ago, I believe that it is still playing out. EDSA has many themes: good versus evil, dictatorship vs. democracy, old vs. new, etc. But its meaning and intensity is different for everyone who speaks for it. Clearly there is a great divide between the impressions of a trapo, a sitting politician and the governed.

I belong to a group called Artists’ Revolution that is calling for a cultural revolution. We are calling for a change not only in the personalities who govern our country but also in the very structure of our society and the paradigms that run our lives (with the latter being the most important).

A cultural revolution will require a radical change of values and mindset that will result in a realignment of priorities at all levels of society, in government and in the way we live our lives. To simplify, here are a few key points that define what we mean by a cultural revolution.

1. Modernization. We need to take many big steps to become a fully modern state. To continue with the present inept and inefficient ways of governance is unsustainable. The system is clearly breaking at the seams. Our people need to be served efficiently. Life in our country, most especially in the urban areas, can get disrupted so easily by floods, traffic and police matters. The system is so fragile that even Baclaran Day or a midnight madness sale in a big mall can cause vehicular gridlock in the city for hours, wasting hundreds of thousands of hours of productivity.

Our people are ready for the introduction of, say, a national ID system like they have in Singapore that will facilitate citizens’ transactions not just with government but with banks and other private sector businesses. We responded quite well to commuter trains and automated elections. Many ordinary Filipinos are quite tech savvy and already are living modern lifestyles. But we certainly need a better-trained police force. And yes, we need the Reproductive Health law to manage our population. So much needs to be done. We should be able to adapt quickly to a more systematized way of doing things.

Modernization and innovation should be key policies of this government. Modernization is the next big wave as more and more people articulate their desire for greater efficiency, productivity, affluence and comfort.

2. Excellence. As I watched in horror at the bungled attempts by the police to end the hostage crisis, this mantra kept playing in my mind: “Casualness produces casualties.” There was obviously a lack of seriousness in dealing with the situation. Strategies were not well thought out and so the event was not managed properly and it ended tragically.

Hindi na pwede ang pwede na. Let us put an end to this culture of mediocrity. Years of a mindset content in delivering (and receiving) the minimum or merely passable quality of goods and services have caught up with us. We have not studied or learned to keep up with the latest in technology, systems and governance. Thus, we discovered to our horror that our so-called SWAT teams are unprepared to deal with an emergency. They have no gas masks, no bulletproof vests, no guidelines, no discipline, no real training. The list is endless.

If we begin, each one of us, to personally adopt the discipline of doing our best to deliver world-class services and goods to our countrymen, would certainly put us in a much better place as a nation. For too long we have been content to live with things that are below par, like media content and government services. We have tolerated inaction and even corruption and the general decline in governance. And when we try to explain this to ourselves, we get mired in excuses that no self-respecting people should be using.

I particularly hate the phrase, “Only in the Philippines.” It is a patently racist remark, ironically heaped by Filipinos upon themselves. Also, I believe we have long gone past the expiry date of using our colonial past as an excuse. Other countries have had it worse and they are moving past us and progressing towards a quality of life we can only dream of.

3. Pride in being Filipino. This is not the usual platitude we like to hear to feel good about ourselves. This is a survival skill we need if we are to make it in the world. It is important for a people to be grounded in who they are and be comfortable with themselves. Our present damaged culture sends so many wrong signals to our people. I particularly despise those ads that espouse white skin as desirable and a mark of beauty. I also look down on people who laugh at our countrymen when they cannot speak English well. We are Filipinos. It is not only regrettable but a great injustice that many from the educated classes cannot communicate well with a great number of our countrymen in our lingua franca. P-Noy’s frequent use of Pilipino in his public statements will go a long way in changing this anomalous situation.

I also have a problem praising, without qualification, Filipino artists who make it big abroad on pure talent alone. Sure, I applaud them for their accomplishments. They certainly deserve the adulation since they are among the world’s best.

What I am ranting about is our inability to see the treasure within ourselves. The truth is, we hardly noticed Charice and Arnel and even Lea Salonga when they were singing their lungs out here. Only when America and the UK took notice did we, as a people, give them a second look.

Even having said that, I must point out that I believe that if we are to contribute to world culture, we must go in there as ourselves, promoting our own culture. The Brazilians, Jamaicans, Africans and other peoples gave their music to the world in their own languages. We still have to duplicate Freddie Aguilar’s singular success with his song Anak which made it big in Asia and the rest of the world.

We already know that the Filipino hardware (talent, ability) is something to crow about. Let us begin to also take pride in our cultural software — our cuisine, our songs, dances, paintings, sculpture, movies, fiestas and cultural themes that comprise who we are.

These are just some of the elements that we need in order to fast track our coming into our own as a self-respecting nation and people. It is already beginning to happen in little ways in some areas. But we need a conflagration that will burn down our old paradigms and structures and securely build these new ones. We need a cultural revolution.

* * *

I will be holding four workshops. Two are in Cebu and two are in Manila.

1) “Creative for Life Workshop” (one-day run) is a cutting-edge course to permanently awaken your creativity. It will be held this Sept. 17 (Friday) 8:30 a.m. – 6:30 p.m. at the Grand Convention Center of Cebu. Registration
fee is P1,000 (non-refundable). Workshop fee is P4,000 inclusive of handouts, snacks and lunch.

2) “Basic Photography Workshop (The Second Run)” on Sept. 18 (Saturday) from 1 p.m. – 7 p.m. at Mountain View Nature Park. Registration fee is P1,000 (non-refundable). Workshop fee is P4,000 inclusive of handouts, snacks, shuttle back and forth from JY Square. Call (032) 415-8056 or cell number 0909-1112111. Or write me at for reservations or queries.

3) “Creative For Life workshop” at the Fort (six session run). Sept 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 27 at 7 to 9 p.m. Venue is at Meridian International College, 1030 Campus Ave., 2F CIP Bldg, McKinley Hill, Fort Bonifacio. Call 223-6468/ 426-5375. Also call 0916-8554303 and ask for Ollie or write me at for inquiries.

4) Glamour Photography—25 September 2010 at 1PM, Bulb Studios, Molave Compound 2231 Pasong Tamo ext. near Nissan and Allied Bank. Call 0917-8974865 and 0918-8121967. Models Jean Harn and Che Ram.

Awit ng barkada

‘Awit ng barkada’
HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) Updated September 05, 2010 12:00 AM Comments (0) View comments

We planned the event three weeks earlier and we were glad we did. It was the respite that we all needed after the tragic Quirino Grandstand massacre. We all seriously needed the break, even just to get away for a while from the madness that the crisis had inflicted on the nation.

Eight original APO members from high school (Sonny Santiago, Gus Cosio, Tato Garcia, Butch Dans, Danny Javier, Boboy Garovillo, Lito de Joya and myself) decided to take advantage of the long National Heroes’ Day weekend and get together in Tagaytay. With our wives and a common friend Lanelle Abueva, we all bunked in the homes of two members who have weekend residences there.

It was something we were doing as a group for the first time going out of town with this many of us in attendance, bringing our wives along and even staying overnight. And it was just great!

High school friends are, quite simply, the most enjoyable companions one can have especially at this age. For one, we were part of each others’ wonder years when we experienced our primal moments like first love, first guitar, first kiss, first beer, the transformation of our bodies and the awkwardness and insecurities that accompanied the ugly duckling stages we all went through in puberty.

Looking back some 41 years later is sweet and wonderful because we long ago processed all the teenage angst that made us so self-absorbed and perennially “problematic.”

We are all in our late 50s now with grown-up children. Some of us even have grandchildren
already. All our impetuousness and adolescent concerns are so charmingly remote, and even irrelevant, except as material for teasing and ribbing. And what a great time we had reliving all those precious moments.

Memory is a wondrous thing. What’s amazing is, even when you have been out of high school for 41 years, you realize how easy it is to get back the old feelings especially the good ones. For the most part, the bad feelings, words uttered and actions done which aroused guilt and shame and made us feel bad, have been processed and defanged by time. Whatever residue is left now seems insignificant and benign. What seemed like big issues, fights or ill feelings then have metamorphosed into petty and funny memories. In a way, one might say that much of the conflict we had was unavoidable and even necessary, a part of growing up together and finding our place in our little circle.

On the other hand, the good feelings, sanded and polished by time, memory and maturity, are more golden than ever, and the sweet remembrances bring a twinkle to the eye and a lightness of spirit. And all who remember them are blessed.

At one point, I took out my guitar and started playing some of the songs we loved to sing when we would hang out in the classroom during lunch break. As everyone sang along, the lyrics became mnemonic devices that brought to the fore old anecdotes, stories, even mind-sets that had been part of our shared past. From where we are today, some of the songs have definitely changed meaning. Where, once, the lyrics of some tunes seemed way cool, they now sounded sophomoric and juvenile. But there were also songs that were strikingly beautiful and defining then that continue to define us now. Much of it was Beatles’ music. The passage of time has imbued those songs with even greater intensity.

It must have been quite a revelation to our wives seeing us all seated around a table just exchanging stories and opinions with the greatest of candor, ease and casualness. I imagined them realizing that these guys are the people who know their husbands as much, or maybe even more, than they do.

On the first night, we talked, sang, laughed and reminisced deep into night and early morning. The next day, as the women went shopping, we lounged around the sala and just talked for about four hours. Not too strangely, even when the conversation went through a whole range of topics, it always returned to the one issue that has remained as intensely interesting to us today as it did in high school—-sex! We thought that was funny, but it only proved that we are forever high school boys trapped in our now 50-something bodies and lives.

Someone once remarked that friends are the siblings God forgot to give us. For some people, friends are even more valuable than family. In my case, I have been lucky to have friends who can sit with my family and everyone at the table is good with that.

Dr. Tony Dans, an eminent Atenean and a good friend, once pointed out in a high school commencement speech that high school classmates are our friends for life. You will find that they will be your lawyers, doctors, business partners, etc., when you grow up. When you go abroad, you will most likely stay in their homes, and vice versa. They are the people you will trust and entrust your life and fortunes with.

Some people say that time spent in high school counts as the best days of anyone’s life. I disagree. Last weekend, I learned that some of the best times of life will be spent years after high school when, wizened by experience and mellowed by age, we can truly, genuinely appreciate and accept our barkada and yes, even ourselves warts and all.

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I will be holding three workshops. Two are in Cebu and one is at The Fort.

1) “Creative for Life Workshop” (one-day run) is a cutting-edge course to permanently awaken your creativity. It will be held this Sept. 17 (Friday) 8:30 a.m. – 6:30 p.m. at the Grand Convention Center of Cebu. Registration fee is P1,000 (non-refundable). Workshop fee is P4,000 inclusive of handouts, snacks and lunch.

2) “Basic Photography Workshop (The Second Run)” on Sept. 18 (Saturday) from 1 p.m. – 7 p.m. at Mountain View Nature Park. Registration fee is P1,000 (non-refundable). Workshop fee is P4,000 inclusive of handouts, snacks, shuttle back and forth from JY Square. Call (032) 415-8056 or cell number 0909-1112111. Or write me at for reservations or queries.

3) “Creative For Life workshop” at the Fort (six session run). Sept 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 27 at 7 to 9 p.m. Venue is at Meridian International College, 1030 Campus Ave., 2F CIP Bldg, McKinley Hill, Fort Bonifacio. Call 223-6468/ 426-5375. Also call 0916-8554303 and ask for Ollie or write me at for inquiries.