My crystal ball into 2019

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE – Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) – December 30, 2018 – 12:00am
It has become a duty. I have been doing this for years now. I must not take the easy way out and stop. No. That would be a big betrayal, or dereliction of duty.

Yes, I have been given the gift of seeing the future. I must share what I see no matter how disturbing it is. I owe it to mankind so people can prepare.

How did I discover this gift, you may ask? I once looked at the day and date on a calendar. I noticed I could predict with 100 percent accuracy what the next day and date would be in the next 24 hours.

I have been given this mission. I have also been given sedatives by a doctor. He diagnosed me once and said I was a psychic. Or was it psycho? I can’t remember now. Who cares. I also believe in mood rings. And between a choice of two things, I decide by doing the “Eenie-meenie-minie-mo” test. I am an avid believer that man has not landed on the moon yet. I also belong to the Flat Earth Society.

There. I have given full disclosure. Believe at your own risk. I will be specific and tell you what lies ahead. If I turn out to be accurate, please send me money. If not, please send some anyway so I can improve my skills. Here are my predictions for 2019.

1) First of all, you can be sure there will be a 2019.

2) Persida Acosta and Noli De Castro will build medical centers specializing in dengue cases. They will make their own anti dengue vaccine which will be immediately exposed as being exactly the same as the Dengvaxia vaccine which they condemned.

3) Panelo will write a very serious 24-page foreword to a book which Duterte will publish in 2019. It will be a joke book.

4) On June 12, 2019, we will see Filipino troops marching differently during the Independence Day parade. Upon passing the Luneta Grandstand, they will seamlessly switch to a precision lava walk ending in a slo-mo “Catriona” turn.

5) Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will become the finance chief. All other departments will also report directly to her. The military will also be under her command. We will see her every day in the news. Duterte, though, will still remain President of Philippines, while GMA will carry the title of Supreme Leader next only to Xi Jin Pooh.

6) Some good news. Fewer Philippine provinces will be hit by typhoons and weather disturbances. The bad news: it is because many of them will already be owned by China.

7) The Mars Exploration Rover (MER) will encounter a structure on Mars that will shake the scientific world and cause a stir everywhere. It will be in the news for the next few months. It will be very controversial.

The MER will send a photo to Earth of its mind-blowing discovery, which will turn out to be a very large Bong Go billboard.

8) The DDS will be up in arms about the Chinese Calendar. They will insist that 2019 is not the year of the Pig. To them it will be the year of the Dragon, or Monkey, or Rabbit. They will settle for any animal except the Pig. Why? It is not so much because the Year of the Pig will be bringing fortune and good luck, but because the luckiest color of the year will be YELLOW.

The DDS will bring this all the way to the Supreme Court. Not surprisingly, they will win! The Supreme Court will decide that 2019 shall be deemed the year of the Hippopotamus!

9) All Jollibee mascots will be banned from public view for fear that the food company will be charged with subversion. But newly ordered life-sized “Tickle Me Pulong” dolls and Bong Go “Man in a Barrel” wood statues from Baguio will flood the market.

10) A group of religious fanatics will again proclaim a date in 2019 as the end of the world. As in previous years, they will also disappear from the face of the Earth not later than the first day of 2020.

11) After decades of silence, Beelzebub will vehemently deny he ever said that he “has a devil set aside for me” or for anyone else.

12) The plot against the Philippines government dubbed by PNP and the military as “Red October” which was moved to December 2018, will be rescheduled again for sometime in 2019. But it will again be postponed indefinitely.

13) Samsung and Apple will come out with new phones that can pass on the smell of the user via WiFi and 5G. As a result, the sale of deodorants, perfumes, mouthwash will pick up dramatically. Use of phones inside toilets will stop.

14) To stop bullying in schools, the DOH will be taking decisive action. It will require all parents to give their children Cherifer (a medical supplement that promotes height) so that most if not all children will grow tall and confident.

15) The earth will continue to turn. All living people will consume water, yawn a few times, produce waste and breathe, swallow, blink. And everyone will definitely age.

There. The kittens are out of the bag.

I am sure you are wondering why I did not include the 2019 elections, the health of the President, federalism, the state of what the nation will be in 2019. I am sorry. I do not waste my clairvoyance on matters that are trivial and inconsequential. That is for amateurs.

Before another vision of the future comes to me, I wish to greet you all a Happy New Year everyone!

Wait. More visions are coming in but my editor says they can’t hold the presses…


Don’t look for Christmas. It is right here

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE – Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) – December 23, 2018 – 12:00am
It is almost Christmas Eve as you read this. There is a rush everywhere. Shoppers are desperate to finish buying the things on their lists. Lines are long, especially in shopping malls, ATMs, trains, buses and jeeps. Traffic exceeds all expectations. People are caught rushing home to be with their families in the city or in the provinces. Or maybe even abroad.

People are attending the last Simbanggabi tonight before Christmas Eve Mass tomorrow. Noche Buena everywhere is being planned meticulously. Some of the food is already being prepared. Some gifts are still being wrapped while some are ready to be opened. Everyone is excited to make sure Christmas Eve will go perfectly for them and their loved ones. We all want it to be the most wonderful night of the year.

Everywhere there is this universal wish for good tidings, merriment, peace, hope and love.

Sadly, these wonderful Christmas wishes are made against the backdrop of a bleak, tragic world that is in ruins, as we speak. Amidst the racism, misogyny, hate, angry political divisions, fake news, threats of war, terrorism and famine plaguing many places in the world, people can only sigh and sincerely hope for peace on earth. I know this. I am one of those people.

Is it madness that makes us wish against all odds that the world will somehow be better? The cynical will cheer loudly in agreement. How can the world be better when there are more bad people than good in this world, they like to say. When will the Pollyannas of the world wake up to the truth? The world is an evil, dangerous place. Wasn’t realizing that there was no real Santa one of the painful lessons we learned early in life? Life is about getting butt-kicked out of Eden and realizing how horrible it can be.

It is so easy to be persuaded by the mob and lose all hope in everything. And there seem to be endless arguments that the naysayers can present to prove they are right.

Yet, despite all the setbacks, a big portion of humanity stubbornly rejects them and continues to believe that things can get better. Why? It has always been like this as far back as I can remember. Yes, there is something crazy about it. Strangely enough, the world likes to pin its hopes on something as fragile and unsure as a baby boy of humble origins to make things better for everyone every Christmas season.

Is it madness? If I were asked this question in my youth, I would easily come to that conclusion.

But as an older man, a lot of my opinions have changed through the years. I have seen many things that have happened that no one could have predicted. Many things I used to think were crazy have begun to make sense.

I remember how my mother loved praying the rosary. During the 1950s until the ’80s, it was common for people of her generation to pray for the fall of communism and the conversion of the USSR, among other intentions. For many decades, I dismissed her prayers as naive and unrealistic until, to my great shock, the USSR did collapse in the ’80s! I asked myself how that could have happened. Was it mere coincidence? How could the prayers of old women cause a world upheaval? I am not sure. But after the fall of communism, I was much more open to the force and power of prayers. There must be silent but powerful forces in the world that keep it from falling completely apart.

In this world where almost everyone seems weary and weak in spirit, people are frantically searching for any “thrill of hope,” waiting to rejoice a “new and glorious morn.” Maybe this is a time when everyone should be looking for the ray of hope not in the usual settings. Perhaps we should try looking at places we mostly always ignore. We can search for that hope right here within our midst. We need not look far or wide. Truth is, it has always been around us but we never noticed it. That’s because we were always searching for something dramatic or different.

I often think that God amuses himself by challenging us to find Him in the ordinary, in the boring and sometimes even in the annoying. He likes us to see Him in everyone we meet. After all, if there is God, “the Father, Son and Holy Ghost,” there must be God the security guard, the tricycle driver, the beggar in the street, the neighbor, etc.

God can be found not in churches and temples alone. God also lives outside the designated holy places we visit. He can be found everywhere. And because he can be found anywhere, God is telling us that every place is sacred and holy like a church, and that every person reflects the face of God.

The message here is that life is always rich and blessed. And hoping for a better world unleashes the good in all of us.

When we awaken to this, the “crazy” becomes the norm. We defy the cynics. Every moment becomes Christmas. And Jesus is every person. Then we can happily shout, “Peace on earth and goodwill to all men!”


Living with a creative

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE – Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) – December 16, 2018 – 12:00am
Most of the time you, dear readers, read about Lydia Paredes only in relation to me. Yes, she is my wife, and mother of my kids. She is also a grandmother to my grandchildren. She is my partner for life.

She doesn’t enjoy the limelight. She is a very private person. But I would like to write about her for my column today. I know there are so many aspects to a person and a single article will not be enough to even introduce her to you. For this article, I would like to focus on her creative side, and how she continuously transforms our home into something more elegant every now and then.

The house we live in now was completely her concept. She imagined, pictured and designed every inch of it with the help of husband-and-wife team architects Edwin and Divina Mallari. The house is mostly made of 100-year-old wood which we bought in the province. They were tearing down an old mansion to build a new modern concrete structure. We bought every piece of timber of the old mansion. With what we had, she created the design of the house and meticulously supervised the construction.

Lydia has a style about her. Whereas I look at a corner in the house and am happy with the way it is, she likes to reimagine or make it more interesting and beautiful, adding an aesthetic narrative.


Enter here: Expectedly, the house is transformed and alive with Christmas cheer like it is every year. She always makes sure the two themes of Christmas — the Christian and the Yuletide — are present.

Often she buys stuff that can remain in storage for a few months waiting for inspiration to make it come to life. When the right moment comes, she unboxes the items for use. Then new artworks, picture frames, little statues, new lamps, and abubuts suddenly appear around our home.

Chairs and sofas are perennially rearranged, reupholstered, reset and transferred to different locations. New tablecloths, placemats, chair covers, potted plants appear. There is always something new. She believe that the things inside a house should be moved around often to remove the build-up of stale energy.

Lydia is a hobbyist. In Sydney, she likes taking classes to learn different skills. She paints, does mosaic, soft sculpture. She used to teach pottery. Once she took up stained glass making. She also likes to pick up simple carpentry tools to fix things around the house. She actually repainted our house in Sydney. She has a knack for creating little “worlds” around the home where things are thematically matched and put together nicely.

She also has a green thumb and likes to plant, prune and rearrange the garden quite often. We have dozens of little pots with veggie seeds, or exotic fruits in informal nurseries and flowers waiting to be planted in the ground.


Our house is awash with both Nativity scenes and the glitter and boughs of holly.
She likes to bake delicious cookies, desserts and special meals for our family and friends. She makes the best sandwiches. She also loves coffee and relishes it in the morning. When I invite people to meetings at home, she makes sure everything is prepared and the house is “presentable.” As much as I already assure her that everything is fine as it is, she always goes the extra mile to make sure it is — by her standards.

Expectedly, the house is transformed and alive with Christmas cheer like it is every year. She always makes sure the two themes of Christmas — the Christian and the Yuletide — are present. As a result our house is awash with both Nativity scenes and the glitter and boughs of holly. Both the worldly and the spiritual are represented. Because of her, the house looks extra joyful.

Every few years, she likes to do major renovations. I like to tease her and say that she suffers from an “edifice” complex. She has the need to build, revise or fix things. When she presents a plan, I say yes even if I can barely visualize what she wants to do. Almost blindly, and with great trust, I concur. Between the two of us, she is the one who talks to carpenters, electricians, landscapers, contractors, etc. I always joke that I am only the one who pays the bills. And it is not really a joke. While I may complain each time I have to shell out, I am always amazed and impressed at how things turn out. She knows what she likes and she goes for it. And it is always a wonderful creation.


She instinctively knows and understands Feng Shui, which she says is mere common sense. Basically, she believes the flow of energy in any structure must not be trapped. A house must attract energy and must also have an exit so that everything inside is fresh and rejuvenated.

To live with a creative person is to live with the unexpected. Be ready to be surprised and delighted often.

She isn’t finished decorating for Christmas yet. Very soon our Sydney-based daughter Ala Buencamino, her husband John and their little girl Zadie will be here. As a lola, she is crazy about our apo. Actually, we both are. She is making sure that Zadie’s experience of her home in Manila will be a memorably happy, wondrous one.

And I know Lydia will pull it off with great style and lots of heart!


A championship like no other

Ateneo’s Thirdy Ravena cheers with the crowd

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE – Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) – December 9, 2018 – 12:00am

It was quite an amazing scene. This will be talked about for years to come. It’s the stuff that legends are made of. I am talking about the UAAP Basketball Finals between the University of the Philippines and the Ateneo De Manila University.

No, I will not talk much about the game itself. Everyone knows how well the players played and who won the game. The aftermath was far more interesting.

After the last game between the UP Maroons and the ADMU Blue Eagles, it was quite a delight to see players from both sides of the basketball court congratulating each other. They hugged and gave each other high fives. They applauded and cheered for each other. There was a celebratory feeling everywhere. It was a feel-good moment for participants and audience.

The stakes were high. It was not just your typical  championship game. UP’s basketball team, which had not won any championship in 32 years, surprised everyone. For the past three decades, they never even came close to the finals. But this season, they climbed up and beat their opponents and lorded it over Adamson University’s formidable team to qualify for the finals. They had earned the right to challenge the mightiest team in the UAAP.

ADMU was the defending champion. It had been so for many years now, save two years. It was clearly the more superior team. It had a long bench of basketball talent that could overwhelm any opponent.

Any UAAP championship game is always intense. This one was particularly so. The fans came out of the woodwork and showed their enthusiastic support for their alma mater. After all, there is much to gain whoever wins the championship. Winning the games gives the school and its students a lot of pride and prestige.

You would think that students from both schools fighting for the UAAP 2018 championship would have feelings of animosity towards each other. But they did not. While there was a lot of fight and team spirit on both sides — more so with UP because they were closer than ever to breaking their jinx — there was neither consuming anger nor nastiness aimed at each other. No cursing at all. No insults. No jeering. Just a lot of ribbing and funny memes online.

That’s because, in real life, a lot of Ateneans end up studying in UP colleges after high school. There has always been this close affinity between the two universities — so close that the student councils of both schools called for everyone to wear black. This was in protest against tyranny, loss of freedoms and misogyny happening under the present ruling dispensation. Both schools have produced many activists through the decades and have marched together in protest over various national issues.

I must admit that even if I am a dyed-in-the-wool Atenean, I entertained the prospect of a UP win. I could accept the possibility without feeling bad. After all, there was such a romantic narrative to it: the underdog beating the champion through sheer spirit and determination. A David and Goliath story. It is quite a fairy tale that we Pinoys can readily identify with. Suntok sa Buwan, as we like to say.

At the same time, I was in awe at how the Ateneo team had become so good because of years of practice, practice, and even more practice. They had spent a lot of time becoming not just good individual athletes, but had gelled into a really great team. Though not as romantically appealing, I liked them because they did the slow, tedious hard work needed to become a real fighting team to beat. Because of that, it was all paying off, and yes, they deserved to win.

Many of those who attend the UAAP games do not know or remember how dangerous and violent basketball used to be under the NCAA. Sometimes, people were afraid to leave the venue for fear of school gangs waiting outside to exact revenge against the winning team.

During those years, NCAA basketball tournaments between Catholic schools Ateneo de Manila, De LaSalle, Letran and San Beda colleges often ended up in rioting and violence. I remember one particular game at the old Blue Eagle gym along Katipunan avenue. I was a sophomore in college, playing saxophone for the Ateneo College school band. After a very tense game between Ateneo and Letran, many cars with Ateneo stickers were damaged by Letran students because their team had lost the game. With baseball bats, they broke windshields and dented hoods.

The competition between certain schools was quite deadly and mostly ended up being very physical after the games. Gangs fought each other in often-bloody encounters. Everyone was just too partisan and raring to rumble and eager to “correct” what they felt went wrong during the game.

This escalating violence among the teams made ADMU and LaSalle decide to leave the NCAA and transfer to the UAAP. It was NCAA’s big loss, and it never recovered. Its glory days were over.

Basketball in the Philippines has matured a lot. It is definitely more professional and the players and coaches are better than ever. The fans have learned to enjoy and appreciate the sport’s finer points and, to my knowledge, have not engaged in post-game violence in a very long time. Rumbles have become very uncool.

In fact, UP regent Spocky Farolan was castigated on social media for suggesting that UP players hurt some Ateneo players to win the game. People on both sides are quite happy to hear that he will not stay a regent for long.

School sports can get very tribal. All the elements of tribalism are present. There are the warriors, the “leaders,” the elders, emblems, school colors, the cheers, hymns, mascots and the fierce loyalty to one’s own school. But instead of a tribal war where people are killed, it is, thankfully, a sports competition. Like all battles, one loses as one gains. Yet whoever wins, the fact is that hundreds of thousands of people who do not belong to any of the tribes in competition are actually watching the games. It is fantastic to know that school completion can also be a great unifier.

Next year, the different school tribes will be meeting again in the village court. They will be fighting each other until they are down to the best two teams. As it was and will be, a new champion will reign. A bonfire celebration follows.

As part of the audience, all I ask of the teams is to make the games as competitive as possible but without violence. Do your best. Wins and losses in sports make us feel better because it takes us away briefly from the injustice of life where the better forces do not always win. At least in sports, the “good” win and the “bad” lose, clearly and definitely.


Surviving compliments

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE – Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) – December 2, 2018 – 12:00am

I am often surprised when people tell me that they read my Humming in my Universe column in the Philippine STAR every week. I am for two reasons: I don’t know many people who still read the newspapers and I am amazed that a lot of them apparently still do; the second reason is every week after submitting my article, I often question whether I wrote something that a lot of people would be interested to read. Apparently, more than a few are.

I have met random people who come up to me at airports, airplanes, churches, meetings, shopping centers, etc, who tell me they read my column.

I like it. And I am honored that they do. But most of the time, my verbal reactions to what they say are awkward.

I have always had a problem with compliments, praise or and accolades. You would think that after decades of being a public figure, I would be completely at ease with them. The truth is, I am not.

About 35 years ago, I remember feeling quite embarrassed when a fan came out to me gushing about a song I made. She expressed profusely how much she loved it and what it meant to her personally. Deep down I felt embarrassed because I thought I was unworthy of the praise.

I have always admired people who were better than I am. I never looked at my own musical works then as really outstanding. When we as APO started having hits with songs I made, my initial reactions as to why the songs became popular were dismissive. I would find reasons except the possibility that they were good songs. I figured that they were hits because of some fluke explanation. Perhaps it was pure chamba. Or I could have been just lucky. Or it had more to do with timing than the virtues of the song.

And because I knew my songs intimately, and remember the recording process, I knew their so-called imperfections and flaws. It wasn’t enough that people liked them for me to completely accept them as good songs because I knew what was “wrong” with them. I could not easily take pride in them. I was my biggest punishing critic.

Don’t get me wrong. I put a lot of work in doing those songs, I did take them very seriously. But I guess I just used to criticize myself way too much.

It is funny now when I think of what used to go on in my mind when strangers complimented me on my work. Half of the time, I would be questioning (and mostly negating) the good things I was hearing. Listening to praise made me uncomfortable. I was always waiting for the criticism part. I even often wondered if the person talking to me was just trying to win my good side and would suddenly change the topic and sell me something after. Tupperware? Insurance? A condo? I know it sounds silly now but I underrated myself too much.

Things began to change when I started taking up Zen meditation. It was also the time I was going through my mid-life crises. Meditation can save you. I know it saved me. Something actually happens when you spend time merely watching the world and yourself without judging. You begin to accept things as they are. In my case, I actually began to understand what it meant to be a creative person. I understood and began to accept the gift of creativity that God gave me. It was a spiritually profound awakening.

I felt that being a creative meant that I was God-like because God was the ultimate creator. From God came everything. And like the Creator, I could create something out of nothing. My talent came from God Herself and I honor Her by using them.

I remember how deeply all this made an impact on me. I began to see myself without all my negative spin. Yes, I was not perfect but I was also certainly not as imperfect and lacking in talent as I used to believe. I was the offspring of the Original Creator and like Him, my work comes to bear good fruits.

Even when I would go to Mass then, I would consciously reword the prayer, “Lord I am not worthy…”before communion. I would instead say, “Lord I am worthy to receive you. Please remind me always that I am your son who carries your creative power and goodness in my DNA.” I was not being arrogant. I was humbly realizing my true identity.

Those were the days of my big awakening, as I like to call it. In a span of six years, I was able to write four books. I felt prolific. I had lots of things to tell and share. I was always inspired.

During those times, I somehow got better at accepting compliments because I had a great degree of acceptance of who I was, warts and all. I forgave myself more easily when I did wrong. I could move on easier. I was happy with myself, as myself.

I still have a lot of self-deprecation when I respond to compliments partly out of habit, and partly because I still cannot take credit for them fully. When someone tells me that they have all of APO’s albums, and that they’ve been listening to them for a long time, I may say something like, “I hope you are not permanently damaged because of this.” They laugh. And so do I. But I now follow it up with sincere thanks.

When people say they like my writing, aside from thank you, I say mostly nothing. I like listening to every comment they make about what they have read. It gives me insight. After they have said their piece, I mostly change the topic. I have listened to more praise than I can handle without feeling embarrassed.

Mason Cooley, an American aphorist perhaps felt the same way when he said, “We are prepared for insults but compliments leave us baffled.” I can mostly agree.

But at the same time, why is it that a single bad review out of dozens of good ones can make us upset? Maybe it is because we all harbor that secret doubt that The Artist’s Way author Julia Cameron talks about. It is the feeling that one is never good enough. I know a true artist tries to be as authentic as possible. Did that single bad review just expose him as a fraud? One can get pretty paranoid.

It is both a bad and a good thing that this feeling exists. It is bad because it can be very discouraging to do anything when you can’t believe in yourself. It is also good because the only way to overcome self doubt is to do what you are suppose to do as an artist. You strive for more authenticity by overcoming scrupulosity, or the indulgence in too much self-doubt and obsessive self-examination. Be kinder to yourself.

So if we ever meet and you compliment me for whatever reason, please know where I am coming from. I may act weird and uncomfortable.

But my gratitude is real.