My bold predictions, v. 2015

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 28, 2014 – 12:00am

The tradition continues. At this time of year I automatically go into a trance and transform into a swami. And while in a catatonic state, I blurt out my visions for the coming year, 2015. When I do, it is said that I speak rapidly and almost unintelligibly. I don’t know this because I am lost in some spell. A spirit overtakes me. Luckily, I have an assistant who records everything I say lest my readers miss out on the “lay of the land” next year.

Dear readers, here are my bold predictions for 2015 — revealed!

1) The ISIS ideology will come to the Philippines but in an unexpected twist, it will be embraced and vigorously carried out by women! Yes. This is, after all, a matriarchal society that we live in.

Men will be harassed, detained, punished, persecuted, and will be in constant fear for their lives. This rampaging army of women will carry the name “MISIS”!

2) There will be a worldwide social media movement urging everyone to upload their nude photos and sex videos online for everyone to see. Contrary to what everyone thinks, this will not pollute social media, even if it will seem like it for a while. Instead what will eventually happen is that netizens will get over their prurient fascination with everyone’s sex lives and the conversations on social media will be elevated to a higher level.

3) Pope Francis’ scheduled visit to Manila will be successful. As he has said, he will stay in modest quarters, eat simple food, will not ride a limo but a simple sedan. He has also said he will not meet politicians, rich and famous people, and will be happy to be with the poor and disenfranchised. This will all come to pass.

Imelda Marcos will attempt to have an audience with the Pope claiming she is now poor since the PCGG has confiscated some of her houses, paintings, jewelry and cash. She will argue that she is now disenfranchised and suffering because the court has forced her family to pay reparations to human rights victims. Based on her new “poor and suffering” status, she will make a request to see the Pope. Her request will not be entertained!

4) VP Binay will formally file his candidacy for the presidential race. Since he has been called many names lately, he will ask Comelec to recognize ballots bearing the following names in his favor: “Jejomar Binay,” “Jejomar,” “Binay,” “Mayor,” “VP,” “NogNog,” “Hacendero,”, “Sinungaling,” “Duwag,” etc. The last four names will not be recognized but the Comelec will suggest “Susmariosep,” which Binay will approve.

5) Pfizer, the drug company, will utilize exotic Philippine plants and herbs to create new products. But they will make a monumental mistake when they add the extract of the sensitive-to-the-touch makahiya plant to Viagra. The result will be something magnificent to look at but, alas, cannot be held.

6) It will finally be revealed that aliens from other galaxies have been living on earth and interacting with humans for centuries. The aliens will finally come forward and admit that they were behind the construction of the Pyramids, the Great Wall of China, Machu Pichu, the Rice Terraces and many others. But they will vigorously deny they had anything to do with the collapsed egg-like structure near NAIA Terminal 3.

7) The Bureau of Prisons in Muntinlupa will announce that part of its property will be formally converted into a luxurious country club with all the amenities and facilities including Jacuzis, saunas, tennis courts, private rooms complete with air conditioning, big TVs and life-sized sex dolls. But unlike other high-end clubs, shabu will not only be tolerated but encouraged. Snort all you can!

8) Lunar panels will be invented to capture the power of the moon’s glow.

9) Believe it or not, racism and religious intolerance will begin to disappear worldwide starting 2015. People of all races and creeds will rejoice but new types of bigotry and enmity will replace them, one of which will be based on blood type. Type As will claim superiority over all other blood types. Another will be the fight between left-handed and right-handed people. But the most worrisome will be the enmity between the circumcised and the non-circumcised. It will get so bad there will be skirmishes and rioting with both sides demanding their pound of flesh from each other.

10) Many industrialized nations with dwindling populations will resort to enticing certain people to migrate to their countries. From the Philippines, any male person who can claim to be related to Erap, Ramon Revilla Sr. or Dolphy will be granted instant citizenship.

11) The next trend in fine dining is to offer valued customers preferred tables not just with a good view or privacy, but one that is near a power outlet.

12) As the price of oil continues to plummet, oil companies will develop new fuels and invest in cars that will use powder and lotion.

13) Scientists will discover that the most exercised parts of the body are the thumb and point finger due to scrolling and enlarging photos on smart phones.

14) Scientists will discover a new medical condition resulting from too much solitary male sex. It will be aptly called “penis elbow.”

15) Lastly, my most accurate prediction for next year is that none of these forecasts will happen. Thank God!

Christmas will happen — surrender to it

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 21, 2014 – 12:00am

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The build up to Christmas is full-on. The pace is not the same for everyone. For some, it began sometime in September when yuletide carols started playing on the radio.

That’s way too early for me and a lot of people I know. I find it premature to start feeling all good and Christmassy when it won’t be around for another four months. But for some, September is the wonderful kick-off that starts their anticipation of the holiday.

I must confess that in recent years, I haven’t been a big fan of Christmas. It has been draining — physically and monetarily, and stressful. The huge expenses, the endless parties, the rush to finish pending jobs and the gargantuan traffic jams everywhere in the city have just been too much for me. I have felt all sorts of emotions but good cheer; jolliness and glad tidings have barely been on my list.

I know this sounds awful and it makes me sound like Scrooge but I’ve been saying for years now that I wish we would all agree to celebrate Christmas only every two years. People should not be subjected to the torture of holiday frenzy and madness only to start the new year burdened with the season’s shopping debt, physical exhaustion, and extra unwanted pounds.

But Christmas will happen no matter how I feel about it. And like people who are told they have a serious illness, I still go through the stages of shock, anger, denial and bargaining before I surrender to acceptance and get into the holiday mood.

As I write this, I see the house all decked out and it is beautiful. I must admit I feel good about it. I appreciate how much Lydia planned the look and put up the décor in our new home. For the past few nights, I’ve been playing Christmas music, which always brings back that feeling of sweet melancholia that goes with the season.

There are no “visions of sugar plums dancing in my head,” as it used to feel like when I was a small boy. Today, I am going through a replay of a mix of memories of Christmases past, accompanied by sweet sadness and appreciation.

This makes me feel good, melts a lot of my resistance, and relaxes me until I begin to fully embrace the inevitable. My negativity recedes somewhat and I begin to look forward to the good things that will happen soon.

I’ve begun counting the days when my kids will be home from Sydney. As a parent with grownup kids who have their own lives, these opportunities for togetherness are becoming fewer and far between. I am looking forward to long conversations during meals, lots of laughter, and a short vacation for some good family bonding.

Lydia’s sister in the US, her kids with their spouses and children, will also be coming home and staying with us. That should be a lot of fun, too.

There will be a lot of kids in the house. Aside from my grandchild Ananda and Lydia’s relatives, my siblings, their children and grandchildren will be here for Noche Buena. That’s a big, loud fun party right there.

I have decided to bring back some of the lost spirit of Christmas. There is a beautiful passage from Dr. Seuss that touched the Grinch in me, which goes, “‘What if Christmas,’ he (the Grinch) thought, ‘doesn’t come from a store? What if Christmas… perhaps… means a little bit more?’”


I don’t need to be swept away by the forced “glee” that commercialism imposes on everyone. Instead, I will be attending Simbang Gabi as often as I can. I will also try to be more pleasant and kinder to everyone. I will soak in all the family love. I remember fun Christmases in the past that had little to do with the gifts I received, Christmases that were all about giving not only material gifts but more of my time and effort. It was what people did to make the season merry and meaningful.

Lydia and the household help prepare very early for the holidays. I often complain about how stressed she gets, and how all the preparations leave everyone too tired to enjoy Christmas when it finally comes. But the holidays are special precisely because of their efforts. They are like Santa’s mythical elves who make sure Christmas is wonderful.

Our Christmas tree is decorated with paper flowers Lydia made while praying for friends and family who need it. We can honestly say our tree is bedecked with prayers! I must take the time to appreciate all that.

Lydia takes Christmas very seriously in both its outer and inner meaning. As much as she dresses up the house and plans the parties and gift-giving, she makes sure we light up the advent candles and gets everyone to pray around the advent wreath. She also donates her resources to a charity that helps make Christmas special for a few needy people.

I must stop looking at this season as an ordeal that must be overcome. I must adopt a positive state of mind and be open to what Christmas really means — a decision to live the spirit of love and sharing and bring goodwill to all people — something the world desperately needs.

To paraphrase a Zen saying, the Christmas spirit you will find under the tree and mistletoe and in your belen will, in the end, be the same spirit you brought there.

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Things I learned just by being alive

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 14, 2014 – 12:00am

There are many things you learn in school. But there are many more things you learn just by being alive and growing up and maturing. The world and life are great sources of real knowledge and wisdom.

I would like to share a few things that I have learned not through any academic way of learning but through experiences that I treasure in my heart.

1) There are two kinds of truths: Big Truths and little truths. Little truths are things we believe in that eventually turn out to be false. It’s as though they slowly or maybe suddenly reach their expiry dates. We wake up one day and see that they are no longer true. These can be anything we believe in, from Santa Claus to the Tooth Fairy, to more serious “truths” like the earth not being round but flat. We eventually stop believing in these things as we grow older and/or when empirical evidence debunks them.

The Big Truths are things we continue to believe in that serve us and so far have not shown any expiry date. Many of these are religious, scientific or philosophic and paradoxical in nature. But just because they have been true up to now doesn’t mean they will always be true. Will some or most of them eventually become little truths? Only time will tell.

2) Everyone is born naïve and innocent but we will all lose this over time. Like Adam and Eve, everyone is born in Eden but eventually we all get kicked out into the real world. That’s life.

This is quite profound. For some, it may be something as trivial as waking up one day and finding out that there really is no Santa and it was your parents who actually gave you all those gifts. (Sorry, dear innocent readers. For those who didn’t know, I hope this wasn’t too shocking for you.) Or it can be a profound experience like discovering that someone you idealize and look up to falls far short of your expectations. Or it could even be terrible things that happen like the death of someone close, war, physical assault,

3) There is no point in searching for God. It is futile. Instead I go back to a catechism truth taught to me that says “God is everywhere.” How indeed can you search for something that is already here, there and everywhere?

Instead of searching, what we must do is to just awaken to this great truth that God is all over the place and thus cannot possibly be missed. There need not be a search. All you need is to open your eyes and be aware. So let’s drop the delusion of a conceptual God in our minds because it prevents us from experiencing God in the very “here and now” we are in.

There is nothing that isn’t God, which means He/She could be your helper at home, your neighbor, your dog, etc.

4) No matter how evil we think a person is, when we wake up and see his humanity, we see a face of the Divine looking back at us. Does that mean the person is free from any liability or punishment because he carries within him a face of the divine? Not at all. It only means that in the phenomenal world we live in and under its justice system, he may still be served justice but we must still treat him with dignity and compassion.

5) We can easily break down and calculate a person’s value according to his age, assets, his IQ, EQ, looks, educational attainment and his physical capacity to work or produce worldly things. But we have hardly touched the core of who he really is. He is infinitely greater than the sum of all the parts that supposedly comprise him. His potential to be anything he wishes to be can create greater value than we can imagine. In this way, we are all completely open-ended.

6) There is this irony I notice about God and man, and it is this: man relentlessly strives hard to be powerful in all ways to be God-like. And yet God apparently wanted so much to be human that, according to Christian faith, He actually came down from heaven to become like us. Mystics believe that Spirit yearns to express itself as a life form. Indeed, the Word wants to be made flesh.

I know this may sound crazy but I feel that maybe man wishes to own everything to feel like God, while God made everything and everyone so He/She can experience what it’s like to be everyone and everything.

7) In nature and in everything that evolves, the direction is always towards differentiation. Nature abhors monolithic thinking. It likes diversity. Nature expresses itself as different races, sexes, species, life forms, styles, processes, etc. The job of the poets, artists and the spiritually inclined is to find the unity that makes all this diversity an experience of Oneness.

8) One of our saving graces as humans is that while we are trapped in our specific time and place, we are able to experience timelessness through art and through the expression of our passions. When we are doing what we love to do, we become oblivious to the time we spend doing it. It could be hours, or even days before we realize how much time we’ve spent on an activity. It is like we are mortals capable of eternal experiences.

9) A joyful, cheerful, happy person is better company and a lot more fun to be with than those who are intelligent, witty and cruel. Personally, I would rather be with someone like the late Juan Flavier than, say, someone like Miriam Defensor-Santiago.

10) Here is something I learned from my sister Lory. If a cat does not like you, it repeatedly moves its tail from left to right or vice-versa. If a dog likes you, it wags its tail.

11) There is a basic difference between how men see the world and how women see it. Men like to solve problems. Women like to heal difficult situations. A man may build a house but a woman’s touch transforms it into a home. A man’s wisdom is culled through logic and rationality. A woman also acquires wisdom the same way but will also use her intuition and may even give more weight to that.

My travel itch

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 7, 2014 – 12:00am
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Illustration by REY RIVERA

I am having a severe case of travel itch right now.

I feel cooped up in my own life these days. My responsibilities are just too many. I sit on the board of 2 organizations which meet quite often. I will be starting a teleserye in 2 days and will play a role that demands my presence in many scenes. I just started a new album. I am also fighting a cold while I am scheduled to attend tons of social obligations this Christmas season.

I look at my schedule and I feel tired already. It seems to me that I cannot possibly miss out on getting good sleep every night till December 22 if I want to fulfill all obligations with enthusiasm and presence. It makes me feel stressful just thinking about it.

I wish I could just ride a plane and take off and skip all these things I have to do.

I have relatives who travel in and out of the Philippines about 40 to 50 times a year. It is the nature of their businesses to do so. I think that is a bit too much for me. I would be happy to have around 10 to 15 travels inside and outside the Philippines every year. That would be nice, easy and pleasant.

My last plane ride was to London last August. I loved it. It was my third trip to London but it was the first time I really enjoyed myself there. I traveled alone. The weather was sunny for almost 5 days. Aside from a few obligatory meetings I had to attend, I planned my own agenda and itinerary. It was great. I went to places I chose to go, at my own pace and leisure. I changed my mind when I felt like without disrupting anyone’s plans. It was total freedom.

Some people get stressed planning a trip. The packing, planning an itinerary and the idea of leaving home can stress them out. Not me. Many times, I pack my stuff the day before or the day I leave.

I don’t stress about forgetting to pack something. Except for my passport and money, I know that I can buy whatever I have left behind like shavers, vitamins, underwear, dental floss, etc. in the place I am going to. I am more focused on the unknown adventures travel will be bringing me to. The experience of a new place, meeting strangers and seeing the great sites, the food I will eat, the hotel I will stay and the experiences I will have can really turn on my creative juices.

In traveling to a new place, you must allow yourself to experience the unknown and allow yourself to be pleasured, challenged, be inspired by what you see, hear, taste and feel. It hits all your senses.

The only time I was in Madrid, I took a bus to anywhere at 2AM and got down where I saw lots of people in the street. I made sure though that I had the hotel calling card to help me get home. I followed my curiosity. I just walked around, checked out a bookstore, listened to street artists busking away, and ate some local food being sold on the street. I went home at around 5 AM tired but happy.

I almost always enjoy a new place whether I am on tour with some people or traveling alone. Aside from the gustatory, visual, aural and physical pleasures one experiences when traveling, there are also the intellectual and spiritual dimensions, and of course the emotional.

It is great to get soaked up in the history of a local setting. I like monuments, statues, visiting museums, and meeting the local residents. I also try to scan the local papers just to catch the present concerns of the citizens who live there. It makes my curious mind appreciate how a certain place and how its people have become what they are even if my appreciation may be a bit on the shallow side.

Emotionally, one can feel a certain connection when you meet and talk to locals, engage in conversation, even if it is just small talk. Sometimes, it may go beyond that when you feel a human to human contact through acts of kindness.

In Tokyo, I found myself lost in the train. I asked a total stranger where I was and how I could get to my real destination. She spoke no English and I hardly knew any Nihonggo. The kind woman actually went out of her way and took me to the right train platform. She then tried her best to explain that I should get off on the third stop from where I was. She waited with me till the train arrived until I was on board. SSoon after she e bowed, waved goodbye as the train left.

There are places that can attract you in a spiritual way. India and Nepal are just two of them. Knowing that the Buddha actually walked certain streets that I was walking on was quite a profound experience. Entering a place of worship of another religion can be quite inspiring and can evoke a feeling that crosses all cultural, religious and spiritual borders. Every culture must have had a God experience at some point which they honor with religious practices and devotions that have become part of their traditions.

I remember watching a cremation in Kathmandu where I saw a whole family attending to their father’s final rights. It was quite moving. I watched with great respect at how the eldest sun lit the funeral pyre. This practice and tradition says a lot about the Indians. These rites must have come from their own understanding of a lot of things—human relationships, death as a passing, the nature of the human body, God and the afterlife to name just a few.

My wife felt the same way when she visited the Holy Land. Someday, I will visit there, too.

As I write this article and stare at the calendar before me and see how busy the next few weeks will be, I heave a sigh. It’s a lot of work ahead.

Luckily I have two Davao concert shows next week, and one in Zamboanga on the 20th. I guess those will do for now till I get a chance to scratch the travel itch, and once again enjoy travel without any work obligations.

Travel in a world of epidemics

By Jim Paredes

A lot of people I know were so intimidated by the swine flu that some of them actually canceled their trips to the US and Hongkong and other places a few years back. And now there is ebola!

I do appreciate and understand that people do worry about epidemics and possible contagion. It is a small world now that is so interconnected that diseases originating in some remote place can now spread rapidly everywhere. And it is always good to take precautions.

As someone who travels constantly, I try to stay on top of news about what can make my journey a less than pleasant or safe one. But would I cancel on a place just because there are a few sick people there? Naahh… Not me. Well, except for ebola-stricken places. But it will take more than a few cases of some exotic diseases to put a damper on my travel plans. Maybe a string of bombings, or a sudden increase in prices could keep me at home. But not a few people with sniffles.
Nevertheless, here are a few things that we can do as precautionary measures every time we travel.

1) Always wash your hands. Do this many times a day whether traveling or not. Even the use of a keyboard in some internet café in any city can be cause to take precaution since it has been proven that keyboards used by many people are breeding places for lots of bacteria. Your hands touch your nose and eyes all the time and so it’s good to keep them clean.

2) Take vitamins when you ride a plane. There are no real studies that say that being cooped up in an airplane with people who may be sick can infect you. But it is a fact that people who travel a lot are greatly affected by jetlag, and that can only be stressful on one’s body. A limited study also suggests that on the whole, travelers are more likely to catch cold than non-travelers.

3) If you wear a mask, change it everyday. A mask made moist by your breathing can also be unhealthy for you since it can be a breeding place for bacteria.

4) Avoid foods served in unsanitary conditions. Diarrhea, food poisoning are common experiences among travelers. Through the years, I have learned to be more circumspect about what I eat. It is alright to eat exotic foods particular to a place, but one must be aware of how it is prepared. It is not impolite to ask questions generally about how food is prepared. Street foods are exciting and cheap. Common sense is important to determine if they were prepared safely.

When unsure, bring your own bottled water or source your drinking water from your hotel and carry a thermos.

With a few common sense tips, one can still travel and still feel reasonably safe.

Road trips

(Note that I have a new category for my writings about my travels. You can simply click the ‘Travels’ on top to access them. YOU will also see them on the home page).

By Jim Paredes

Road trips are fun to do. I’ve taken lots of them. I like long drives with the family. I enjoy the changing scenery that a drive along a winding road especially in the countryside can bring on.

I have done many 200 to 300 kilometer drives to find great vacation spots to spend a few nights on. The thrill of discovering a new place makes me high.
But the most extreme road trip I have ever taken was in 1975 when my buddies and I drove a total of 16,000+ miles around the USA and Canada. We went from the West to East of the US, then up to Canada in Montreal and then crisscrossed the great Canadian Flatlands and the Midwest before coming back to the West coast again.

We were actually on tour as a singing group with other artists and we were there to perform for the various Filipino communities big and small all over North America.
It was also our first time outside our native Philippines and the whole experience was amazing. I remember how thoroughly exciting and enjoyable it was to be in a new place every so often, sometimes as often as every other day.
We were in a big van and the open road was an enticing thing to see everyday. Meals were at diners and fast food places along the side of the road. Home was anywhere we rested for the night before driving again. The trip took us to obscure places that a few people have heard of like Mystic, Bakersfield, Kamloops, Medicine Hat, and many more. It would be so exciting when we would get to the big cities like LA, or Chicago, Atlanta, Chicago, Seattle, New York, etc..

The great thing about these long drives like the one we had which stretched for three and a half month was witnessing the changing of seasons, accents, and architecture and fashion as we traveled cross countries. I remember discovering how delicious cherry pie was while I was in California. When I got to Mississippi, I went to a diner and ordered a slice of cherry pie. I knew there was something wrong when the waitress stared at me with a totally confused look. She could not understand me! It was then I realized that the people in the Midwest spoke with a really accented twang. As soon as I said ‘pah’ instead of ‘pie’, she understood, nodded and brought my order!

Autumn in Ottawa was just absolutely pretty especially to someone from the tropics who was being exposed to more than two seasons (rainy and dry) for the first time. The changing colors of the trees and landscape were pure poetry.

But it was the winter that really thrilled us. I remember parking our van by the road where one of the performers traveling with us took of all his clothes and ran in the snow to have a picture! It was crazy and magical. Snow to a first timer is beautiful beyond words. A place called Banff in Calgary, Canada is a good place to see and admire the season of winter.

A road trip this long can get tiring after a while. By the end of the second month, we made sure we had days when we weren’t cooped up in the van and were free to explore the town or city by ourselves. Too much of the same company can lead to friction.
Driving never tires me out. I have not lost my love for road trips even now in my 60s. I still would like to drive across Australia one of these days. Darwin, Cairns, Alice Springs and Adelaide are places this traveler would like to meet someday.