Finding truths in love stories

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated March 26, 2017 – 12:00am

I watched Disney’s Beauty and the Beast with my sister five days ago. Right after I watched it, I posted this reaction on social media: “Just saw Beauty and the Beast. EVERYTHING about it is superlatively wonderful. Magical in all aspects. Music is beyond beautiful.”

I watched it again two days later, again with my sister, but this time I brought my granddaughter who enjoyed it immensely. I am excited to watch it a third time.

As a child, I was introduced to the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen who wrote these stories centuries ago. I read their fairy tales with great fascination. But, as expected, I pretty much outgrew them when I got older. They were for children and I had grown up and I started reading more adult literary stuff. But when I had my own kids, I bought children’s books and got them interested in these same stories.

It was later in my life when I discovered the writer Joseph Campbell that my interest in myths and tales came back in full force. Campbell, one of my favorite writers, says that these types of stories are found in many cultures, and he predicts that their popularity will remain with humankind for a long time because they speak of universal experience and truth.

“Myths are popular because they are true,” he writes, though not in the literal sense. They speak in symbols and must be appreciated as such. They are connotative rather than denotative, meaning they are not to be taken literally. Unlike its opposite, there is nothing magical about literal stories. Their meaning is static. They are dead ends. Campbell likes to say that “literalism kills.” On the other hand, the symbolic opens you up to greater mystery. And therein lies its power.

Take “Cinderella.” Campbell says that similar stories exist in China and many other countries. When you reduce the story to its essentials, it is about a young woman who is finding her place in the world. And where does she find it? In the arms of a man.

Hollywood made movies like Pretty Woman and My Fair Lady. Basically, these are stories about women who ultimately find meaning and validation in life when it is bestowed upon them by the opposite sex. Through the approval of men, they find their rightful place in society.

In this age of emerging equality among the sexes, it can be shocking to read something like this. The point is, male dominance has been the norm for centuries and such mythical narratives have been passed on through generations. But not anymore.

Lately, Hollywood has told stories to reflect the new emerging values. The movie Maleficent, a new interpretation of “Sleeping Beauty,” is one such story. Instead of waking up from a kiss by a prince, Sleeping Beauty awakens to true love’s kiss from a female mother figure!

A fairy tale I find fascinating is “The Frog Prince.” It starts off with a princess who loses a golden ball in a pond. She tries to retrieve it but she is unable to. Soon, a frog shows up and offers to give the ball back to her. But in exchange, she must take him home and she must eat with him at the same table, and sleep beside him. Without thinking, the princess says yes, gets her ball back and goes home to the castle.

At dinner with her father, the king, they hear a knocking on the door. The king asks his daughter, the princess, if she invited someone over. The princess hesitates to answer but finally admits that she did. The king insists that she must keep her word.

And that is where her misery begins. She cannot stand being with the hideous frog day and night. But her misery only ends when she kisses the frog and it turns into a prince.

Campbell says that the gem behind this story is the truth that life is indeed horrendous, like living day and night with a detestable frog. It only gets better when you accept how terrible life is. Only then can you begin to be happy and see life’s blessings. And that is what exactly happens to the princess when she kisses the frog.

The new Beauty and the Beast portrays Belle as a beautiful woman with brains — a reader, and a strong, brave character by no means anything like the typical helpless damsel Belle used to be. She has been refashioned as a new, more modern archetype. The modern attributes added to the character of Belle make the film resonate with contemporary viewers.

The lessons in the story about seeing, appreciating and loving a person beyond physical appearances and putting a higher value on internal virtues, have not changed. The challenge of finding “true love” will always be with us. This is why this tale is, as the song goes, indeed, “as old as time.”

Take time to watch Disney’s new version of this classic, and you’ll not only be dazzled by the music and visual effects, you’ll be moved by the truth of this love story.

Hello, Marceline

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated March 19, 2017 – 12:00am

Screen Shot 2017-03-19 at 6.44.32 AM
Illustration by Ala Paredes-Buencamino

Lydia and I became grandparents for the second time three weeks ago. My daughter Ala and her husband John gave birth to Marceline, a beautiful, tiny miracle. Thank God, Ala had a very safe delivery. Mother, father and baby are well. John and Ala are still giddy about the whole experience.

This is the second grandchild Lydia and I have been gifted with. The first one is Ananda who was born 12 years ago. Marceline was a little under six pounds at birth. As the days go by, her facial features seem to change. Almost every day, I see in her the faces of different people on my side of the family.

It is wonderful that what started with just Lydia and me has become a family with three children who are now adults. A son-in-law has joined us, and now two granddaughters have made the family bigger. Special moments like weddings and births give us a deep sense of what family is all about and how lucky it is that we were all thrown together to share this life with all its gifts.

When I heard about Marceline’s birth, I burst into Stevie Wonder’s Isn’t She Lovely? I was euphoric; I could not stop singing the song for three days. Sometimes, family life drags on with very little happening. Although I knew that she would be born soon, the reality of her finally coming into the world is just way beyond wonderful. It gives me the feeling that life does indeed go on, and yes, life is beautiful.

Lydia is in Sydney helping the new parents care for the baby. She sends pictures of herself holding Marceline, feeding and caring for her and I can’t help but be aware of the sweep of time that has transpired and made this all possible.

I often ponder what would have happened if people had not made certain decisions (big or small) in their lives. How would their lives have turned out? What if I had turned down my cousin’s invitation to go with him to a party 41 years ago where I met my wife? What if Ala and John had not met at the time they did? It is funny that before they met, both of them had resolved not to date Filipinos. What sleight of hand of destiny made the attraction they had for each other possible?

Every life, no matter how well planned, is touched by the magic of synchronicity. In the ’70s, this was called serendipity — the coming together of events and people that turns into wonderful outcomes. It is the lucky break — swerte, as we call it — a magical gift. I like to think that it is also, in a deep spiritual sense, God’s plan and abundance playing out.

In the book The Soul’s Code written by Jungian psychologist James Hillman, he writes about how uncanny it is that sometimes, two people meet and have a night of passion, produce an offspring and never see each other again. He speculates, could it be that some divine plan caused two particular people to be in the same place and time to make a human being who is uniquely genetically equipped to perform a particular mission on earth?

It’s quite a thought to ponder.

Every human being born into this world, under whatever circumstance, is a wild card that can define or shape the future. Each person has unique characteristics that will dictate to a great extent his calling in his own life.

When I look at Marceline’s photos, I try to imagine how she will turn out. What will she be like? What will be her personality, her talents? What will her future be? It will take a sweep of time before we find out.

Meanwhile, a big part of my life’s weariness has dissipated. Marceline’s coming into the world has opened up new levels of understanding and appreciation and has challenged me to open myself more to embrace life’s never-ending mysteries.

Sometimes, before I sleep, I whisper a thank you to God for everything. I still have a lot of things to experience at my age. There are still surprise gifts to unwrap.

Yes, I have yet to meet Marceline.


A remake of the beautiful, positive and uplifting Desiderata.

This is the TROLL version!

Go loudly. Always be the noise and haste,
Create disturbing dissonance every time there is silence.
As far as possible without surrender
Be on bad terms with all persons.
ALL OF THEM are yellowtards

Troll incessantly and be as annoying as possible;
Remember, you are among the dull and the ignorant.
That’s why you make fake news and slick lies,
And believe in them!

Avoid bright and intelligent persons.
They are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself to them,you may become hopeless and bitter.
So just insult and threaten them with death and rape.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble.
Although trolling is not a real job, it is still money.

Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
Many persons strive for high ideals;
And everywhere life is full of heroism.

Sorry, skip that.
That last verse was not written for people like you.

Deny all goodness in you.Do not reveal what you look like.
A simple egg on twitter is who you are–dull and ignorant
Be gung ho about spreading negativity and venom.
For in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
Life to you is like a long Duterte speech laced with much cursing.
You live for it!

Do not take kindly the counsel of the years.
Be contemptuous of anyone who makes sense.
Call them names. They are old and stupid anyway.

Nurture deception to shield you in sudden misfortune.
Strengthen yourself with the force of evil and lies.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Take Fentanyl.
Remember, the President will protect you.

You are the scum of the universe.
Unlike all living things, you have no right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
No doubt the universe is exorcising,
Vomiting out trolls like you

Therefore be at peace with God ?whatever you conceive him to be,
A mayor from Davao on Fentanyl, a monster with anger issues.
?Remember that whatever your labors and aspirations,
Be reminded that n the noisy confusion and uncertainty of life,
YOU have a salary.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
But you don’t have to accept that.
Insult and threaten everyone
Destroy beauty
Be extra malicious and vile.
Evil is your identity.
Fuck them all.

OBOSEN sila.

Ms. Vivian Velez, meet my Mother

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated March 5, 2017 – 12:00am

My mother, Ester Misa Paredes Jimenez, who died 20 years ago, has become a celebrity of sorts in social media lately, thanks to Ms. Vivian Velez who sought to malign me by saying that my mother, an anti-martial law activist, “has blood on her hands.”

Since she can no longer speak for herself, I would like to share two articles — testimonials, actually — on my mother and what she did for our freedom. The first is the write-up on her as a proclaimed hero of martial law by the Bantayog ng mga Bayani:

“JIMENEZ, Ester Dolores M. (Posted on October 21, 2015):

“Ester Dolores Misa Paredes Jimenez became involved in the anti-dictatorship struggle through her children, whom she had raised to be independent and to have minds of their own.

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“When her youngest son informed her in 1975 that he was intending to drop out of college in order to go fulltime in the underground, ‘She held my hand and said, “I am very proud of you.” Then she shed some tears. It was the very first time and, I believe, the last time, I saw her cry. It was also the proudest moment of my life. That moment would repeatedly come back to inspire me to move on in spite of the difficulties.

“She opened her home to underground activities, including the production of revolutionary publications, and weekly meetings of activists. Her home became a refuge for wounded revolutionaries or those in hiding. On two occasions, she personally drove a wounded guerrilla to the hospital for treatment.

“Jimenez was a widow who, at age 41, was left to raise and support 10 children by herself. Her first husband was Jess Paredes Jr., a lawyer and broadcaster who died in an airplane crash with President Ramon Magsaysay in 1957.

“When martial law was imposed, her children were grown and she was already in her mid-60s. Still, she became involved in urban guerrilla activities against the regime through the Light-A-Fire Movement, with her second husband Othoniel Jimenez. The members of this group were arrested in December 1979, among them Ester and her husband. After her release in 1981 she continued to visit him and the other detainees in the Bicutan jail to minister to their needs.

“Members of the Light-a-Fire group, including Ester and Othoniel Jimenez, were sentenced to death by a military court in December 1984 but the sentence was never carried out. After the EDSA people power in 1986 and the abolition of the Marcos dictatorship, the Supreme Court nullified their death sentences.

“Ester Jimenez was neither ideologue nor political leader, but she was a steadfast person who simply did what she believed was right. She gave generously of herself without expectation of reward or praise. Many came to call her ‘Mommy’ in recognition of her good heart and selflessness.

“She died in 1997 at the age of 81, after a long illness.”

The second article is by one her lawyers, the renowned Senator Rene Saguisag, who writes about my mother and the context she lived and worked in, in his own inimitable style:

“Light-A-Fire hurt no one, much less killed anyone. In a timid busabos society, I saw in it that not everyone would be like the Good Germans of Hitler’s time. Among its supporters is a prominent respected individual very much around today. Ready to give their all.

“I was privileged to be among the FLAG-MABINI lawyers, led by Tanny (Lorenzo Tanada), Pepe (Jose Diokno) and Joker (Arroyo), who helped the group of patriots. We left when the Kangaroo Court became blatant in its servility to Macoy. Uncompromising Tanny would even give us the silent treatment if we so much as spoke with Ani Desierto, whose classmate, Bing Padilla, was with us, including Jake Misa.

“I continued to monitor the proceedings, unofficially, and was present in Camp Aguinaldo when all the accused were sentenced to death, by musketry. They were ready to go, for the Motherland — ‘worth dying for,’ in their conviction. (Indeed lead accused Ed Olaguer said, when asked to plead, on arraignment, boldly said: ‘Gentlemen of this tribunal, I have taken up arms against this corrupt and illegitimate dictatorship!’)

“EDSA ‘86 led to their liberation. The Supreme Court ruled later that military commissions had no business trying civilians. Heroes all, including Ester Misa Paredes, the late tough mother of Jim and Paulynn, who I met last February 25 in the People Power Monument, where Prez Digong sent a wreath. Conciliatory, correct and proper, which I appreciate. Had he gone there, baka nagka-commotion.

“Prudence he displayed, not shown by the irresponsible provocateurs.

“Had I gone to Luneta, I might have been tolerated or I may not have been able to leave in one piece.

“What unites us should be stronger than what temporarily divides us, as family.

“Bully for Jim! And the Paredeses. His father perished in that plane crash involving President Magsaysay, whom he advised and wrote speeches for. Jess finished AB summa and law at the Ateneo and was No. 2 in the bar exams topped by Dingdong Teehankee.

“Knowing Jim, Paulynn and Ducky (President Cory’s spokesman, and sis Babsy, who I’d see in Camp Aguinaldo during the trial, with Sister Christine Tan) and Ester, I can only say, fruit indeed never really falls far from the tree.

“The trouble-seeking provocateurs had it coming from gutsy Jim. Good.

“‘Di lahat tameme.”

These are times that try men’s souls, and challenge our patience and ability to discern the fake from the real. Ms. Vivian Velez went out of her way to malign my mother. While my mother was living dangerously, making a stand against the Marcos dictatorship, Ms. Velez, known as “Ms. Body Beautiful,” was capitalizing on her ample assets here and abroad.

Her unexpurgated biography is something I’d like to read someday.

Or maybe not!