Remembering Tito Chito

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) Updated May 01, 2011 12:00 AM

Everyone has a favorite uncle. Mine happens to be my Tito Chito Ayala. My uncle is known nationally in the corporate, business, and political circles, especially in Mindanao from where he helped the Cory, Ramos, and more recently, the Noynoy administration. He has done many great things for the country and these have been written about. Since his death last April 20, much more has been said about him by the many whose lives he touched.

Today, I would like to talk more personally about Tito Chito. He was easily the most likeable uncle to me, my siblings and many of my cousins for the following reasons: he was fun, he had very interesting takes on a lot of things that mattered in life, and he was generous.

I remember when I was a kid and Tito Chito would host New Year’s Eve parties at the home he shared with my aunt Mafe, and their son Mike. I was 10 years old and I was wide-eyed at the fireworks, food and drinks at this grand annual celebration. And Tito Chito made it even more special by setting up tables with decks of cards, dice and chips for us kids to play Black Jack. It was a lot of fun for us kids playing with gaming money that he himself provided! And when we lost, he would generously give us a “second chance.”

He was the consentidor, the adult who was often on the side of the kids, who bent the rules a bit, once a year, on New Year’s Eve. He knew how to have fun and that was one reason why we so looked forward to those parties on 20th Avenue.

On other days, when my brother Raffy and I would be playing at their house with Mike, Tito Chito would come home from work and give us imported candies. He was capable of springing surprise and delight, which few adults could do. He clearly relished being a wonderful benefactor.

Years later, like the other two members of the APO, I asked him to be a ninong at my wedding. After that, he formed Jem Recording and asked us to work with him. Jem was a cutting-edge outfit that focused mainly on new OPM sounds. Three months into the job, he asked me to join him in Tokyo for a business meeting. When we got there, he told me to get ready since we would be having dinner in an hour with a Japanese associate of his. And since this was my first trip to Japan, he said he got me a geisha for the evening!

I didn’t know where to place myself. Tito Chito was witness to my matrimonial vows just a few months back, and frankly, I was shocked that he was actually giving me female company! I conjured images in my mind of a Japanese femme fatale who would seduce me to the ways of oriental sensual pleasures.

But I was too shy to complain and since I did not want to displease my uncle, I meekly accepted the situation and showed no resistance. As he, his Japanese associate and I sat for dinner, there was a knock on the door. I was anxious and a bit tense while Tito Chito, calm and collected, signaled the waiter to open the door. In came my geisha companion wearing traditional robes and displaying impeccable manners, holding a traditional Japanese guitar. While she was attractive in her all-white makeup with sharp lines to accentuate her beauty, she was not a day younger than 75 years old!

From the corner of my eye, I could see Tito Chito laughing quietly! He had pulled a fast one on me. He explained that authentic geishas with years of training in the art of pleasing their clients were mostly old since hardly anyone from the new generation of Japanese women wanted to be geishas anymore. I was thankful to have witnessed this rare traditional entertainment as I watched my geisha sing, pour my sake and generally made me feel comfortable during dinner.

During my frequent trips to Davao in recent years, I have spent much time alone in Tito Chito’s company. In the last 10 years, we had long talks as he drove his golf cart around Eden with me as his only passenger. During one of those treasured occasions, he took me around Eden Park explaining how it made him happy to shape this property of many hectares into an ecological park for the public to enjoy. At the end of the tour, we came across a group of kids who were enthusiastically waving at him, shouting, “Tatay.”

These were kids, children of workers of Eden who studied at a school he had built in the area and who clearly appreciated what he had done for them. He also built a church for the community. I could tell that the smiles of those kids were to him a source of private joy and great fulfillment.

Tito Chito was not just a people person, he was also a “world builder.” He liked to embark on projects like Eden that impacted positively on the world of the many ordinary people who worked for him. He delighted in touching lives and altering his people’s life courses and trajectories in an empowering way. He made everyone feel affirmed when he talked to them. He knew how to reach a person with some personal remark. He made everyone feel that they mattered. Tito Chito’s people were loyal to him because of genuine fondness and respect. They were with him for keeps.

With me, he talked a lot about his children. And he often gave me advice about life, which I have heeded to this day. He would often tell me that one could always turn a bad situation into a good one. He also often worried about what would happen to his life’s work when he was gone.

Tito Chito seemed to relish being a wise old man to this younger, confused person. He knew he was at life’s last moments while I still have time to climb a few more peaks. One of the things I learned from him was that when you treat people in a good way, they will reciprocate. In a large way, that was what his life was about.

I always looked forward to mealtimes at Homebase, the Ayala home in Matina, Davao since Tito Chito liked to talk around the dinner table. I will not forget the time he talked about World War II and how he learned to hustle and be tough to help his family keep body and soul together in those years of deprivation and danger. He risked life and limb to get food for his parents and siblings. It was a Tito Chito I did not know about since I always knew him to be gentle, even unintrusive. As he told his stories, I sensed an emotional content that clearly was still there, despite the years. The war years were clearly a defining moment for him.

I realized that it was partly from such an experience that Tito Chito became the successful businessman that he was. The pains of the past were part of the ingredients that made him who he had become. He learned to be firm and decisive without losing compassion, to be successful and generously share his wealth with others. He dealt with big things in the political and economic spheres, but he didn’t forget the people who worked for and with him. And he made sure he had a lot of time to play with his grandchildren, and enjoy the company of his old school friends and his relatives.

Tito Chito lived abundance not just in material terms but in the way he thought. Most people think that when one gains, another must lose. Tito Chito was different. He opened opportunities to others and delighted in spending on people. He liked seeing people enjoy the luxuries he could afford. He was a big man but he was always attentive to the small details. He would remember the last conversation we had, tiny details about my kids and Lydia or whatever else I was involved in that he could somehow connect to other things to create synergy.

There is a tombstone in Ireland with an inscription that reads, “Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal.” We mourn the loss of our beloved Tito Chito, but he has given us enough love to carry him in our hearts until we see him again.

Tito Chito, your life’s themes of generosity, kindness, bigness of spirit were played out clearly and unmistakably. You really did become not just a tito and a ninong but also a father figure to me, a tatay like those kids you sent to school regard you. And I would like to say as plainly as I can that I love you and thank you for often treating me like your own son.

And on behalf of all of us who have enjoyed the privilege of your affection, your company, your wisdom and your amazing generosity, I thank you for making us part of your well-lived life.

Mabuhay ka, Tito Chito.

* * *

1) Now, finally in Alabang! _Creative for Life Workshop in Alabang on May 8._Basic Photography in Alabang on May 18_Songwriting in Alabang on May 27_Call 850-3568 to 70/ 0917-8080627. Venue is at Pixie Forest Amusement Center, Level 3 Festival Supermall, Filinvest Corporate City, Alabang. Call for reservation. _

2) Creative for Life Workshop in QC on May 14. _ Basic Photography in QC on June 4.Call Olie at 0916-8554303 or 426-5375 for all workshop inquiries. Or write me at Check for details on all workshops.

Our newly risen selves

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) Updated April 24, 2011

The yin and yang of life plays out. We inhale and exhale. We move and we rest. We strive and we relax. We gain and we lose. We cling and we let go. We add and we subtract. We dream and we wake up.

Like Easter, these movements represent a resurrection from a death, a coming back to life. Easter promises everlasting life. It defies finality and stands it on its head. For people of the Christian faith, Easter is revolutionary because it is about going against what we have always known the world to be.

Easter challenges reality frontally. It is about fashioning our lives and the world to liberate us from temporal lures, weaknesses and inevitabilities.

Today, I write about shedding. Old skin is shed to make way for new skin. One sheds to allow the old to wither and the new to come to life. I am talking about letting go — of things, habits, people, dreams and dysfunctions that keep us mired in bad habits and trapped in our lonely lives.

I have listed a few suggestions that may make this Easter a kind of turning point that can make us more alive.

1. Do some inner and outer spring cleaning. Look into your clothes closet, your garage, your desk and sort out your belongings. You will find that there is lot you can throw away. If you haven’t had any use for something during the past two years, or even less, you can probably live without it. How many shirts, pants, shoes have you not actually worn but have been keeping all these years?

I did some cleaning recently and I felt good about it. I even cleaned out my computer. My son Mio gave me good advice when I started to clean my laptop of programs, downloads, pictures and other stuff. He advised me to be ruthless, and it worked. Once I trashed the things I had kept for no great reason, my computer worked faster and was more responsive.

In my creativity workshops, I tell my students to make a map of sanity where they draw up a list of people and habits that nurture them and another list of people and habits that stunt their growth. This is something I learned from the book, The Artist’s Way. It is a very helpful tool because it not only reminds us who and what keep us grounded, sane and happy, it also prevents us from unconsciously walking into people and situations that habitually drive us crazy.

Examine your core beliefs and ask yourself why you believe what you believe. Do all your beliefs still serve you? Were they culled from real experience or are they beliefs you merely inherited without questioning them? If they serve you, keep them. If not, it may be time to drop them.

2. Live a less virtual and a more real life. This is a big one for me. I sometimes catch myself stuck at my desk for the most part of the day doing Twitter or Facebook. While it is great to catch up with friends and meet new people, too much of it can get to you in not-so-good ways. It deprives the body of movement and eats up a lot of time in useless and occasionally, even toxic conversations. Instead of doing serious thinking and writing, one can get lost in issues that are not really worth getting into or spending that much time on.

Life is meant to be lived in a real world where people meet, talk, touch, and express themselves in person.

3. Have a spiritual, intellectual and physical practice. It is important to commit to regular rituals. This could be activities like going to Mass, meditation, yoga, or whatever moves us, a regular ritual that keeps us in touch with our thoughts, feelings, self, or with the “ground of being.” This does two things: it defines us in both personal and impersonal ways. It opens us up to a bigger, borderless reality where a larger truth resides, and it prevents us from losing our sense of self in the occasional madness we encounter as we go through life. Knowing that there is a sanctuary of sacredness within us where we can find and access our deepest beliefs is vital to sanity and happiness.

Also, reading good books, or opening one’s self to new ideas and a willingness to drop old, expired beliefs for new thinking, can only expand us.

Regular exercise, no matter how little, is far more beneficial than none at all. Everyday, I try to do 70 push-ups and some stretching. I also try to take 40-minute walks three times a week. I don’t always feel like doing these but I know that they can only be good for me, so I strive to do them regularly.

These three habits have helped me renew my spirit, and keep me feeling alive day after day. It even enhances my sense of personal integrity by merely doing them regularly. I look at it as a kind of holistic cross-training. It reminds me of life’s deeper purpose especially when I am subjected to “the test,” those moments when I am asked to choose between showing a false self and taking the easy, tempting ways of the world, or being true to myself, and in the process, doing a private Easter act of defying the world.

Easter is a time not just of a renewal of faith in a risen Jesus but also a chance for us to have a go and experience our newly risen selves.

A blessed and revolutionary Easter to all!

* * *

1. Creative for Life Workshop in Cebu on April 30. Venue: Alpa City Suites (8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.). Registration and workshop fee: P4,000 (inclusive of handouts, am/pm snacks, lunch and certificate. Contact details: (032) 415-8056, 0917-6207424 Shirley Ong. Please call Shirley at 0917-6207424.

2. Now, finally in Alabang! Creative for Life Workshop in Alabang on May 8. Call 850-3568 to 70 / 0917-8080627. Venue is at Pixie Forest Amusement Center, Level 3 Festival Supermall, Filinvest Corporate City, Alabang. Call for reservation.

3) Creative for Life Workshop in QC on May 14. Call Olie at 0916-8554303 or 426-5375 for all workshop inquiries. Or write me at Check for details on all workshops.

To judge or not to judge

To judge or not to judge
HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star)

There’s a lot of talk and opinions being expressed these days about burning issues in our society. We see perceived villains parading on our TV screens and defending themselves, basically asking for understanding as they plead their cases. And many of us have judged them one way or another.

Times like these, what often comes to mind or sometimes knocks on our conscience is this question of whether we are being too “judgmental.” To the outraged, judgment is a tool, something that marks or delineates their position as different, or opposed to or against their targets. To those targeted, being subject to judgment is not something they like very much.

Many people who feel strongly for or against Merci and Willy have a lot to say about being judgmental. Some say it is necessary to judge, while others say it is “unchristian” to do so. And both camps can quote biblical passages to strengthen their positions. Then there is the pejorative meaning of “judgmental” where everything is looked at strictly from within a moral perspective and anything that doesn’t fit is subjected to critical, righteous condemnation.

To be sure, we all judge, and not judge and are judgmental at different times under different circumstances. That’s just how people are.

I love a good debate. I used to watch Crossfire on CNN where Left and Right political views slugged it out to win the viewers’ hearts and minds to their side. I also like the BBC-sponsored debates on various current topics like the position of the Church on various matters, and democracy in the Arab world. I like the idea that a topic is discussed and dissected to enlighten and inform. And I do not see discussion as a waste of time if it crystallizes our thinking and our values.

Take the Willie case. While a great number of people are outraged by his behavior, there are a number who also think he did nothing wrong. Clearly, there is a split in values here. I’ve often wondered where else, aside from the rich/poor dichotomy, the tectonic divide can be found in our society. Apparently, Willie’s type of entertainment is one. One might say this is a big cultural divide at best, and a battleground for a culture war at worst.

There is also the issue of Marcos’ burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, which is a riveting topic for many. Then there is the RH bill.

We also argue and make judgments about raising kids, religion, our system of government, money, the behavior of public persons, global warming, fossil fuels, among other hot topics.

I have always been tempted to ask a judge — as a joke—if it ever occurred to him that he was judgmental, knowing the implications the word. But seriously, every time we form an opinion, we judge. It’s a simple as that. We hold a set of values or standards, which we use to judge situations and people.

There is a school of thought that says judging people or their actions is, well, wrong or harsh. Doesn’t the Bible say, “Judge not so that you are not judged?” There is the incident in the New Testament where Jesus admonished a crowd that was stoning a woman caught in adultery. He said, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”

When asked about paying taxes, Jesus also said, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God those that are God’s.” Very wise words. Compassionate even.

But wasn’t it the same Jesus who harshly judged the vendors around the temple and violently dispersed them, throwing all compassion to the wind? Wasn’t He being judgmental?

Clearly there is virtue in both making and not making judgments. And it is clear that there is no cut and dried distinction here. A question comes to mind: when should we withhold judgment on a person and situation, and when should we passionately exercise judgment?

The answer lies in the situation, and person involved. If the situation involves a psycho in a hostage arena, there is no reason to abstain from or withhold or even delay judgment. Immediate rescue and resolution of the emergency trump any room for compassion for the perpetrator. Some things must be decided resolutely and fast. It’s a judgment call, which will be affected or nuanced by elements of the total picture.

So when should one be like Jesus in the case of the adulterous woman, or like Jesus when he cleared the temple of vendors?

Where it involves convictions that are really important and where circumstances demand that one exercise courage, then passionate judgment is needed.

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear,” wrote the late new-ager, Ambrose Redmoon.

It is quite possible that some people who caution against judging are those who do not hold any conviction at all and thus find it easy not to have to choose any position. They withhold judgment because either they have not thought things through or they are too weak or scared to make one.

But judge we must, as we, in turn, will also be judged. And sometimes, the hardest thing is to come to an honest judgment that goes against the grain of public opinion and stick to it — something Pontius Pilate could not do.

I have met people who have lost the appetite for judging moral behavior or taste in others. Many of them are long time yoga and meditation practitioners who have learned to rise above the fray. It’s as if they have taken Arunja’s advice in the Bhagavad Gita to heart: “Be in the battlefield but not as the warrior.” They can appear calm and detached despite the heat and passion of the moment.

Whether one judges or refuses to cast judgment, it is important to subject our motives to personal scrutiny. And that is even more difficult than judging or not judging.

It can be jolting to be confronted with a dishonesty or an ulterior motive that masqueraded as principle, or a laziness or cowardice masquerading as enlightened non-attachment. “ We judge others by their behavior. We judge ourselves by our intentions, “ said Ian Olympic gold medalist Percy. We need to be conscious on as many levels as we can be, and then judge, or not judge.

And that too is a judgment call.

* * *

1) Creative For Life Workshop in Cebu on April 30. Venue: Alpa City Suites (830 a.m.-6:30 p.m.). Registration and workshop fee: P4,000 (inclusive of handouts, am/pm snacks, lunch and certificate. Contact details: (032) 4158056, 0917 6207424 Shirley Ong Please call Shirley at 0917-6207424

2) Now, finally in Alabang! Creative For Life Workshop in ALABANG on May 8.Call 8503568 to 70 / 0917-8080627. Venue is at Pixie Forest Amusement Center, Level 3 Festival Supermall, Filinvest Corporate City, Alabang. Call for reservation.

3) Creative For Life Workshop in QC on May 14. Please call Olie at 0916-8554303 or 4265375 for all workshop inquiries. Or write me at Check for details.

How bad is the recession? Enough to laugh

Received on email with source unidentified. Brilliantly funny not to pass on.

The recession has hit everybody really hard…

My neighbor got a pre -declined credit card in the mail.

Wives are having sex with their husbands because they can’t afford batteries.

CEO’s are now playing miniature golf.

Exxon-Mobil laid off 25 Congressmen.

A stripper was killed when her audience showered her with rolls of pennies while she danced

If the bank returns your check marked “Insufficient Funds,” you call them and ask if they meant you or them.

McDonald’s is selling the 1/4 ouncer .

Angelina Jolie adopted a child from America .

Parents in Beverly Hills fired their nannies and learned their children’s names.

My cousin had an exorcism but couldn’t afford to pay for it, and they re-possessed her!

A truckload of Americans was caught sneaking into Mexico . A picture is now only worth 200 words.

When Bill and Hillary travel together, they now have to share a room.

The Treasure Island casino in Las Vegas is now managed by Somali pirates.

Congress says they are looking into this Bernard Madoff scandal. Oh Great! The guy who made $50 Billion disappear is being investigated by the people who made $1.5 Trillion disappear!

And, finally… I was so depressed last night thinking about the economy, wars, jobs, my savings, Social Security, retirement funds, etc., I called the Suicide Hotline . I got a call center in Pakistan , and when I told them I was suicidal, they got all excited, and asked if I could drive a truck.

A mirroring exercise

by Jim Paredes on Sunday, April 10, 2011 at 10:57am

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star)

This is an attempt to write a Lenten piece. No, this isn’t about Jesus, his trial and crucifixion; it is about people whom everyone likes to hate and crucify these days. I won’t suddenly turn into a politically correct Christian and extol the virtues of instant forgiveness and loving one’s neighbor. But I promise that there is some redeeming value in this exercise.

Today, allow me to disturb your retreat or enter your holy silent place by dragging into the arena of your reflection the following controversial figures: Ombudsman Merci Gutierrez, dictator Muammar Qaddafi, TV host Willie Revillame, the Ligots, and the meltdown king, Charlie Sheen.

Surely this motley cast of characters have been the objects of our ire, disdain and disgust these past few weeks. Because of what they have done, we have launched thousands of commentary through e-mail, Facebook, Twitter and newspaper columns. We must also include those who do not use the written word but like to voice their comments, and those who have uttered expletives while watching them do their thing on TV. If the belief that you bite your tongue every time someone talks about you is true, I don’t think these people would be able to speak ever again to defend themselves.

Let’s take a look at each of them and ask ourselves, what is there not to dislike about them? But while we look at them, let us also see what it is they do or have done, or what they represent that resonates so negatively with us. What is it about them that that pushes our buttons so that we feel the need to vent our negative feelings towards them? Let us start with Merceditas Gutierrez. In the eyes of many of our countrymen, she holds the distinction of being the most do-nothing government watchdog ever. During her reign as Ombudsman, big-time scandal and corruption committed by the highest government officials, military and police generals and civil servants have transpired, yet not one big fish has ever been charged, even in the face of compelling evidence. And for that, people are angry at her. They suspect that she was put there by the former president, GMA, precisely to protect her and her administration from prosecution.

Then there is Muammar Qaddafi, who is as bad as they come — an autocrat, a dictator given to awful temper tantrums, big-time thief, megalomaniac, one-time terrorist and now a mass murderer of his own people. What is there to like about him? He so looks the part with his innate bad guy countenance, his flamboyant sartorial taste, and his dazed, seemingly drug-crazed eyes. His bizarre speeches practically seal the deal as far as winning the top prize in a world-class villain contest.

Then there is Willy Revillame. Everyone has something to say about this controversial TV host. You either like or hate him. And these days, it’s more of the latter because of the Jan-Jan child abuse episode in his show. Here is a man who justifies the indignities and obscenities he inflicts on mostly poor people in his show by showering them with money. He says he only wants to bring joy to the masses, but his critics only see a monster that preys on the helpless and deludes them. A columnist has compared him to the owner of a strip joint who says he gives women jobs even as he demeans them.

The Ligot couple is high on the unpopularity list. Their militant denial of details connected to their corruption case and their total lack of cooperation with the Senate inquiry have earned them a place among the lowest of the low. This couple’s alleged conjugal thievery personifies everything that is wrong in our society today.

Lastly, there is Charlie Sheen, the popular Hollywood actor who has gone rogue and is seen as a psychological demolition work in progress. His out-of-control behavior and his rants about anything and everything have riveted a large audience all over the world.

Years ago, I wrote a piece on what I called “modern-day beatitudes” that touched on social outcasts. I wrote then:

“Blessed are the strange, the weird, the people we laugh at, those who do not fit our mold, especially the socially wretched and despised. By their presence in our lives, they expand our reality — on our part, reluctantly and on theirs, so painfully — by forcing us to look at them in the hope that we see the God in them.

“Blessed are those who arouse us to anger, who bring out the worst in us, for they force us out of the denial that we harbor within—that we are hooked on them, that they resonate with something hidden inside us, and to break free, we must let go of our misguided moral superiority.”

I like to challenge myself, to stretch my thinking and my tendency to be judgmental, and put myself in the shoes of people I condemn, and ask what, if any, does their presence contribute positively to my life. Yes, they arouse my sense of what is right and wrong, but surely, there are more nuanced messages here. Why does something in us resonate so negatively with what they have done? Are they my /our shadows acting out what we dare not do? Could it be that we are, in a way, like them? Is it a mere case of severity, degree and dimension that draws the line between them and us?

It is a provocative premise, you will agree.

Merceditas Gutierrez mirrors back to me my tendency to make excuses for things I have not done, or have failed to do. The failure of moral duty, the moments when I should have stood for or said something to right a wrong come to mind. We have all failed at one time or another to call out wrongs when we should have.

Qaddafy mirrors back to me my own ambition, my sense of right and wrong, which leads me to ask myself how I would fare if given the chance to serve and rule, compared to the politicians I like to condemn. We have all entertained delusions of grandeur and, at times, many of us have allowed our egos to rule insanely over others. Many of us have also exhibited fascistic tendencies, like when we see weakness in government and assert that if we were in power, we would wipe out people we do not agree with. Luckily, many of us are not in power to be able to carry out such homicidal thoughts.

Willie Revillame mirrors back to me the moral dishonesty that I fear I and many others harbor within. We all like to appear good and respectable even as we participate in deception, or the exploitation of others. Think of how we treat the people who work for us, and ask ourselves if we pay them enough or do we actually exploit them and ease our consciences by giving them crumbs? Do we treat them the same way we would want to be treated if the tables were turned?

The Ligots mirror back to me my tendency to deny, and sometimes avoid admitting responsibility for the bad things I do. We like to blame other people for making us do bad things. I laugh at Christians who say things like, ‘The devil made me do it.’ But passing the buck or not admitting responsibility are tantamount to the same thing.

Charlie Sheen mirrors back to me how easily success, money and a runaway ego can make my life a train wreck. It is a constant struggle for many public persons to humbly accept the reminder that we are as ordinary as the rest of mankind; we were just placed in extraordinary circumstances.

Am I suggesting that since we are all human, we must let these people who have erred go scot-free? Not at all. We do need to have a sense of justice, fairness and moral outrage. Anger communicates the message that we cannot allow wrongdoing to continue with impunity. It reminds us that our understanding should have limits. Even Jesus got angry at the vendors who desecrated the temple.

But to maximize the lesson, we must go deeper into ourselves and figure out why we resonate with the very actions that we condemn. “Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves,” psychoanalyst Carl Jung once said. These “villains” are more than just people we were warned against. They mirror to us what some of us may be capable of doing as well. Maybe, just maybe, we will find the compassion to give the other person a chance at redemption. After all, ideally, justice is supposedly the minimum of love.

* * *

1) Photo Workshop in Manila on April 16. Please call Olie at 0916-8554303 for all workshop inquiries. Check
for details.

2) Creative For Life Workshop in Cebu on April 30. Venue: Alpa City Suites (830am-630 p.m.). Registration & workshop fee: P4,000 (inclusive of handouts, am/pm snacks, lunch and certificate. Contact details: (032) 4158056, 0917 6207424 Shirley Ong Please call Shirley at 0917-6207424

3) Creative For Life Workshop in Manila on May 14. Please call Olie at 0916-8554303 or 4265375 for all workshop inquiries. Or write me at Check

for details.

The decisions we make

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star)

(Commencement Speech: Philippine High School for the Arts 201)

Fr. Carmelo Caluag (executive director), Dr. Raul Sunico (chairman of the Advisory Council), members of the Advisory Council, Deputy Director Edith Mojica, distinguished master teachers, faculty and staff, freshmen, sophomore and junior students, parents, Aling Maria, Ibarangs and the graduating class:

First of all, I would like to express my deep gratitude for your invitation to speak before this graduating class of budding artists on this momentous occasion.

The end of high school is an important bridge you have crossed. Anyone who graduates from high school must make an important choice about what to do next. In fact, most of the choices you will make now will have repercussions on the rest of your life. They will affect not only you and your loved ones, but also the rest of the world. Yes, that’s how serious it is to make a choice.

As an artist, I have much to tell you about what kind of life to expect. But what I will tell you today will address not only the artist in you, but more importantly, your innate humanity and idealism, whether or not you decide to pursue the arts.

I look at you and I remember how I felt when I graduated from high school. I was so idealistic, and so very confused. It was clear to me where my idealism was coming from. I was born with it. It was God’s birthday present to me when I became human. Idealism is natural to all of us.

My idealism was nurtured by a few great adults who inspired me to believe that it was an important value. I count among them my parents, a few of my teachers and some public persons who have led exemplary lives and showed the world what one can be capable of, especially against the odds.

As a young man, I had great dreams. I wanted to make my mark on this world. I wanted to change the world. I wanted to create beauty and art, right wrongs, solve the problems of mankind, help people, write original music and share my songs with everyone. I’m sure many of you resonate with this.

But like I said, what stood in the way was my confused, hilo state. My confusion as a young man came from my deep self-doubt. I doubted my talents and capabilities. I was insecure, lacking in self-esteem, afraid of many things and had not yet become articulate enough to express myself. As I looked at myself then, I often asked how this incomplete person I saw would be able to do what he wanted to do. I could not see how the world would listen, much less have any use, for someone as mixed up as I was.

Are you still resonating with this?

The biggest source of my confusion came from the world itself. I saw that the way it operated was totally different from how things ought to be. I saw evil and wrongdoing. I saw mediocrity and dishonesty among those who claimed to lead us. I met with disappointments and trials that seemed so big and insurmountable then. I saw people my age slowly lose themselves to drugs and become emotional cripples due to addiction. And I saw many people leave their dreams behind, opting to be “realistic and practical.”

I was thankful that I had an inquisitive mind and was constantly fascinated by many things. Soon enough, I began to figure out how things worked, and I started to understand life to a workable degree. Having girlfriends earned me some confidence in my understanding of the opposite sex, people in general, the world and myself.

But learning to play the guitar and going into music gave me a parallel language to express my innermost feelings in not-so-awkward terms. Music was a world that made a lot of sense and it kept me sane and out of trouble. It gave me solace in my confusion.

Looking back now, all that teenage angst was an integral part of growing up. The confusion was like dust in a house that was being constructed. It blocked a great part of the view, but to be sure, the foundations were being built.

Today, I imagine that many of you are probably in the same place I was more than 40 years ago. When I graduated from high school at 17, as I stood between the earth and sky, between my ideals and the so-called “real world,” I asked myself how I would survive if and when these two came to a head.

From the vantage point of one who has lived as long as I have, let me tell you this: you will face similar tests. Your ideals and the so-called real world will come to a head — many, many times. It is a constant battle between what you believe in and the call to be “realistic,” to not rock the boat, or at least to not go against how the world works. For the sake of outer harmony, you will be asked to give up your inner harmony.

And indeed, some of your ideals will give way to practicality, and surrender to the ways of the world. “That’s just how it is,” you will hear yourself say, as you try to make yourself feel better. And you will feel better because some of your ideals are actually sheer naiveté and rigidness masking as ideals. And they are there to be given up as payment — for you to gain wisdom as you navigate through life.

But there will be dreams that you must fight to keep to the end, even if, truth to tell, they may seem like airy, pie-in-the-sky concoctions of someone so inexperienced. But they are your dreams and you must care for them, refine and redefine them and make them flesh.

Holding on to them and taking the steps to bring these dreams to life is important because they will ultimately be your life’s passion and purpose. And, take note, you are the only one — no one else — who can bring them to life. While wise counsel from the experienced is important to heed, know that no one else can live your life better than you.

I knew at that moment when I graduated from high school that I wanted to sing and write music. I wanted to express my artistry to the world. Sometimes, the thought of it preoccupied me 24/7. Even now, after 41 years of doing concerts and writing and recording many albums, singing and writing music are still of utmost importance to me.

One of my favorite writers, Joseph Campbell, says that every life is a hero’s journey. And the right path is to follow your bliss. He says that when we do so, the universe will open doors where there were only walls.

But following your bliss, while seemingly easy, is fraught with difficulty. It involves choices that seem crazy from the practical point of view, like choosing a college path that will theoretically make you more money, even if your heart is not in it, over the one that is iffy, money-wise, but makes you alive and arouses your passion. It could be a choice between an exciting but unsure future over an imposed, overly planned but boring “career.”

No one can guarantee that you will succeed with either choice. But trust your heart to know which one will give you a better chance at happiness and fulfillment.

And as you make these choices, know that there is no “sure” thing in life. Your life is a book with blank pages, an empty canvas, a blank sheet of music, a bare theater stage, a digital camera waiting for content.

The hero’s journey always begins with the hero being kicked out of his comfort zone, like Luke Skywalker in Star Wars and Frodo in Lord of the Rings. From there, you are asked to shape your adventure out of the clay that is life. There will be false starts, and there will be failure. But with the right attitude, as Campbell puts it, “Where you stumble, there lies your treasure.”

Whatever the choices you make, I wish you the best. I know it is scary to make choices, but we must make them. One way I have learned to deal with the unknown is to remind myself that every single day I have lived has never been lived before and was, in fact, unknown to me until I lived it. At the end of each day, I am amazed at how easily I handled it. In fact, everything I know today, I did not know before.

Today, I know that the unknown is just another “me” I have not met. And I try and embrace it, whatever it is.

Here is another important thought I would like to impart to you on this day. Just as a dreamer must look at the stars, he must also stand on solid ground.

Bilang mga ‘iskolar ng bayan’ na pinagpala ng tadhana at napadala dito sa mahusay na paaralang ito, ang mga desisyon na inyong gagawin pagkatapos ng kolehiyo, ano pa man ang kurso matapos niyo, ay sana may kahulugan di lamang para sa inyong buhay. Lagi niyo sanang alalahanin na ang Bayang Pilipinas ang sumagot ng gastos sa inyong pag-aaral dito. Umaasa ako na habang kayo ay naghahabol ng inyong mga ambisyong pansarili, kayo ay magiging magaling, malikhaing, marangal at mabubuting Pilipino na mag-aalay ng tagumpay at karangalan para sa ating bayan. Yan ang inyong magiging sapat na kabayaran sa pagkakataong ibinigay sa inyo ng Inang Pilipinas.

I would like to leave you with something I picked up from the American nature writer, John Burroughs, that has become my mantra. He wrote: “Jump, and the net will appear.” I can almost hear you asking anxiously, “But what if it doesn’t?” If it doesn’t, there are three possibilities: You could get hurt and die, or you could come out of it uninjured because the fall wasn’t so steep. But the chances are you will discover that you had wings all along.

Go then, fly, soar and pursue your dreams.

Congratulations and thank you for this great honor of addressing our artists and leaders of the future.

* * *

1) Photo Workshop in Dumaguete on April 9. Call Chinky at 0916-4305626.

2.) Photo Workshop in Manila on April 16. Please call Olie at 0916-8554303 for all workshop inquiries.

Check for details.

3.) Creative For Life Workshop in Cebu on April 30. Details to follow. Please call Shirley at 0917-6207424.

4.) Performance Enhancement Workshop in Cebu on May 2. Please call Shirley at 0917-6207424.

5.) Creative For Life Workshop in Manila on May 14.

Please call Olie at 0916-8554303 or 4265375 for all workshop inquiries. Or write me at Check for details.

‘Literalism is a dead end. Avoid a literal life.

Life isn’t just existing, trying to earn and survive. Live it with metaphor and poetry. Life is a challenge, an adventure, a story unfolding, an UNRAVELING of a new ‘you’ each moment. Enchant every aspect of your life with metaphor. Everything will come alive.

In short, live a poetic, artistic life.’

— from an ‘aha’ moment—