If you google Jim Paredes Wikipedia says Jaime Ramon “Jim” Paredes (born 31 August 1951) is a Filipino musician, producer, educator, writer, television personality, workshop facilitator, and activist best known for being one-third of the APO Hiking Society. What it doesn’t say about Jim is his being a father, a role that he describes this way, “Once you become a father, there is no day that you will not think about your kids, where they are, what they’re doing, no matter how old they are. I guess you never stop worrying about them.”
Jim grew up without a father. At the age of five, he lost his father Jesus Paredes, Jr. to a tragic plane crash that also claimed the life of Pres. Ramon “Mambo” Magsaysay, touted as the most popular Philippine president. He was the president’s speech writer and adviser, an illustrious man who graduated summa cum laude from the Ateneo de Manila University, together with Horacio V. Dela Costa, another summa cum laude who later on became an eminent Jesuit, after whom a street in Makati was named. The older Paredes took up law and passed the bar with flying colors. Jim recounts, “My dad received a call from the Supreme Court informing him that he topped the bar. But when the official results came out, he was number two, next to Claudio Teehankee, whose score was recorded higher by 0.02.” (Note: That’s the senior who became the 16th Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, not the Junior involved in the Hultman-Chapman murder. We really have to careful about naming our sons after their father.)
Jim’s recollection of his father came mostly from other people’s stories. It was his sterling reputation that helped send him and his nine siblings to the country’s best schools. Jim ended up building a composite father figure, consists of traits from his older brothers, Jesuits in Ateneo where he studied, uncles and even fathers on TV shows! His mother had to fend for all ten children and he recalls growing up with very little, “During meals, we just had enough. And you know, until now I never ever leave a morsel of food on my plate!”
“At first I didn’t like children!”
When Jim was 25 years old he married Lydia Mabanta who was 20. At first he didn’t want to have kids, “I felt they were too noisy and messy and grew up too slow.” So it was playhouse for the young couple who loved to watch movies together. Jim narrates, “At that time I was a struggling artist with just one gig every three months, but I also had a regular job in a recording company as a repertoire manager. I was earning P2,000 per month and our rent was P1,000. Before the end of the month we would be eating dinner at my in-laws already. We had very little but those were fun times.” On their ninth month they found it pointless living the way they did that they decided to have their first child. Within the week of that decision they conceived their first child.
When Lydia was pregnant she had an accident when the oven exploded and she suffered burns. She had to take anti-tetanus shots, which got them worried for their baby. Fortunately, the baby came out fine, except for the many allergies that she developed. She was allergic to powdered milk that they had to source goat’s milk during the time when there was milk shortage. But I’m getting ahead of my story. Let’s hear what first-time fatherhood was for Jim.
“When we were in the hospital I watched from a distance as they cleaned up baby Erica. I was with my brother-in-law who said the baby looked like Julius Caesar because she was puffed up. I had mixed feelings – I felt that I was part of creation and it was overwhelming. I was hands-off with the baby because she looked so fragile, I was afraid I might crush her. On our way back home I drove as slowly as I could. When we got home, Lydia, without warning, just put the baby in my arms. I froze. I was not moving at all because I was afraid that one wrong move would break her neck. Then all these feelings started to pour in. Sobra talaga! I thought, right now you’re so fragile and totally dependent on us, but there will come a time when you will want your own authority over your life, and there will be that inevitable friction. Then I put down baby Erica, I sat by the piano and wrote the song Batang Bata.”
Batang Bata became a huge hit and this has been interpreted by other artists, used in movies and is in Filipino Literature books.
The young couple spaced their children well. Ala came after four years and Mio after another five years.
Jim the Tutor
Despite being a celebrity dad who would be on tour performing with the Apo Hiking Society around the Philippines and the world, Jim takes pride in having been the tutor of his children, “Si Lydia walang tiyaga magturo, so ako yong umuupo with them to do their homework. I was a walking source of information for the kids. I’ve gone to Grade School five times already – my own, my three children’s and now my granddaughter’s. I would make it into a game. I wanted them to be literate and enjoy being literate. The world of cultivating the mind is very important. They’re all readers and they would even quote poetry.”
This is not to say that they never encountered academic problems in school. For one, Erica whose personality did not seem to match with the teaching style of the nuns in her school always complained, “Why do they ask for my opinion then tell me my opinion is wrong? They shouldn’t have asked me in the first place.”
His children blossomed when they underwent this pre-college course in Oxford University in London, a gift from an uncle. Jim recalls that they were classmates with children of famous Hollywood stars and political figures like Susan Sarandon, Robin Williams, Danny de Vito, Pres. George Bush, “When they came back they had such confidence and maturity.”
Jim did not only tutor them academically but also taught them lessons about the birds the and bees, “I would watch movies and tv shows with them and engage them in discussions about those sexy MTVs. I would ask, ‘Was that right or too much?’ I told them that sex is one of those things that you would have to deal with for the rest of your life. Consider it like a horse. If you don’t train it, it will take you where it wants to go. But if you train it, you will go where you want to go!’ I never told them Don’t do this, don’t do that, but I always reminded them that sex without love is something they’re not going to like, especially my daughters. I told my daughters not to allow themselves to be in a place with a person wherein they are not in control. I always remind them that if you’re not in control, you’re potentially a victim.”
Then he lightens up when he talked about his birds and the bees lessons with son Mio when he gave him “protection” as baon on his way to London. He was amused at his son’s reaction, “Pa, I don’t need that! I can take care of myself. And just so you know, I actually respect women.” Jim recounts this story with wonder why his son is not as sexually active as he assumed he would be. I had to remind him that it’s probably because he was comparing him to his generation, the flower power generation, to which he agreed, “Yes, back then it was as if we discovered sex!”
Happy times, challenging times
When I asked about the challenges of being a celebrity father he narrated a cute story when they used to live in Fairview, one of their happy places. Erica, who was eight then, was very insistent on bringing him outside their house. He said, “Wait, I’m doing something.” But she said, “Pa, please, please, please come outside now.” When he finally went outside there were around six kids waiting then Erica said, “O naniwala na kayo na tatay ko si Jim Paredes?”
According to Jim the challenge in being a celebrity dad is really in missing some of the important events in their life like graduation because he was on tour. There was also the irregular cashflow of the business, especially during the earlier days. Fortunately, Jim had a frugal Ilocano upbringing and being a good provider was a role he took very seriously since he became a father. He shares, “Pinagtatawanan nga ako ng mga anak ko because I don’t buy signature items. I don’t feel the need. Why do I have to pay extra just to endorse somebody’s name?”
I asked about his biggest luxury and he said he thought of buying a yacht but when he talked to yacht owners they all said that the two happiest days were the day they bought the yacht and the day they sold the yacht.
But Jim likes houses. He wants to have a comfortable place to live in and because he finds real estate as more solid investments. He has a couple of houses in Metro Manila, Baguio and Sydney.
A big parenting challenge they encountered was when Erica, from a sweet girl, experienced depression and they found out that there was such a thing as symptomatic child, a condition wherein the child acts up as symptoms of parents’ unsolved issues. This usually happens to the child who is very much connected to the parents. The psychologist they consulted asked Jim the question, “What do you think is your role in the family?” He answered, “I’m the protector, the provider, the captain of the ship who will fight to death to preserve my family.” The probing went on, “When you see God, what do you think will He ask you?” to which he answered, “How much have you sacrificed?” Then the psychologist said, “Don’t you think it might be as simple as ‘Did you love?’” It was a profound awakening for Jim who said, “Tinamaan ako don. I realized that I was mid-lifing. And I also became aware that when I’m happy my kids are happy. That’s when I consciously tried to be happy and not overdo putting myself last and being too concerned about the future. I got into scuba diving, zen and other things. I became happier and the symptoms disappeared.”
These challenges are also the things that make us feel so alive, “When Lydia was diagnosed with cancer, it was also the time when Erica got pregnant. Fortunately, we were able to convince her to continue with her studies. So on her graduation day she marched very pregnant, Lydia had cancer but I could not ask for anything better. As imperfect as it was, it was perfect! We’re a special family!”
The Paredes family is indeed a special family. With three grown up kids and a granddaughter, who is everyone’s favorite, they remain very close to each other. This is a product of open communication which they developed while the kids were growing up. Early on Jim and Lydia made mealtime family time, “There was a time when we would ask the kids what did you do today and they’d always answer nothing. One day nabwisit ako, I pounded on the table and said, ‘Starting tomorrow I want each one of you to tell me three things that happened in your life, otherwise, we will not stand up from the dinner table.’ At first it was mechanical then later on we’d stay at the dinner table for hours because everyone wanted to tell a story. We made the dining table censor-free!”
I asked the question, “Looking back, is there anything you wish you would have done differently?” and here’s his answer, “I sometimes think I should have been more traditional. I could have laid down the foundation more strictly. When they were younger, I could have said No, just do as I say, I’ll let you decide when you’re 18. Sometimes I feel we were too liberal.”
However, there’s a positive flipside to this nontraditional upbringing as I gleaned from his answer when I asked about the best thing about being a father. He proudly replied, “Being a father is rewarding. I feel that I, together with Lydia, brought into the world three unique individuals whose values may not necessarily be the same as ours but that’s okay because that’s their truth. I am proud to say that they are compassionate people who will not hurt others nor steal but would most likely side with the oppressed. I’m proud of the fact that they will not just stay quiet on the side, they are competitive and want to succeed in their field and leave a mark in this world.”
All of his children are artists and it’s no surprise because both parents are. His advice to them is: An artist’s life is all about rejection. You just have to keep showing up. Don’t waste your time not being good.
This Father’s Day article will not be complete without hearing from the children. I asked them three questions:
- What’s the best thing about having Jim Paredes as your father?
- What’s the big challenge about having him as your father?
- What’s your message for him?
Here are their answers:
Let’s start with Erica, the oldest, who’s into magazine publishing. She also writes for a newspaper, and a mom to eight year old Ananda. They live here in Manila.
1. The best thing about my dad is that he’s always available to listen to me whenever I need someone to talk to. He’s one of the most encouraging people in my life. Sometimes I think he over reacts to some of the things I say or do, but at the end of the day, he’s being a dad, and even as an adult, I’m still his daughter. My dad always told me I can be whatever I want as long as I’m happy, and that’s something I really appreciate, especially knowing that some of the people I know are where they are because it’s what their parents wanted. He lets me be me, tattoos, piercings and all. I don’t want to say these are the best things about having “Jim Paredes” as a dad, because to me, he is not “Jim Paredes,” he’s just “Papa” so I guess these are my favorite things about my dad.
2. The biggest challenge I guess was constantly living under his shadow, but after a while I got over that and realized that shadow was just there because I allowed it to be there. I used to hate being introduced as “anak ni Jim Paredes” (a joke now between me and my closest friends because they introduce me as such) but now, it’s fine. I’m proud to be my dad’s daughter, and I think I’ve created my own name and career apart from him already so that “living under his shadow” insecurity no longer exists.
3. Message: Happy Father’s Day Papa! I was a bit disappointed I was leaving for Europe on Father’s Day but then I realized I’d see you in London a few days after! Pint of Guiness on me! Mio will walk you home, haha! Love you!
Second child Ala is now an illustrator in Sydney. Jim shared that even if Ala made her first million here as a VJ, there was a time she hated being under her father’s shadow. She’s happy where she is now having made it on her own, without the help of her celebrity father. Here’s what she has to say:
1. The best thing is that he has worked hard to give us the best he can possibly give, while endowing all three of his kids with a great sense of humor.
2. The big challenge is unlearning the misconception that not reaching the same level as your famous parent did equates to failure. Also, having to “share” him with the public, so to speak. At the end of the day, the adoring public may fall away but he will still be my father. He is not a celebrity to me.
3. Message: Happy Father’s Day to my dad, whom I am lucky to have!
Mio, the youngest and only son, is now a sound engineer in Sydney and so into his bike. Jim describes him as someone who’s sometimes very urbane and refined and sometimes too Aussie with his colorful curses. Let’s hear from him:
1. The best thing – As I’m typing this, I’m laughing to myself writing “the best thing about having Jim Paredes as my father” because I think the only time I called him Jim Paredes was during a Father-Son night that took place when I was in the 5th grade.
I was asked by the faculty to write a letter of gratitude that was to be read back to him as a sort of father son bonding activity, but what I DIDN’T know was that I had to read it on stage, in front of like a thousand fathers and sons and classmates as the highlight of the night’s program; a message from us kids to our fathers, to pull on everyone’s heartstrings and make everyone feel warm and gooey inside.
So I come out like a deer in headlights onto the auditorium stage, clear my throat as I approach the mic and read out…. “Dear Jim Paredes. Thank you for coming to my father son event. love, Mio.” hahahahaha! He loves telling that story. Guess you had to be there to appreciate it.
But seriously, the thing I love about my dad is the sort of mindset and perspectives he has instituted in us. He was at the right place at the right time and followed and believed with conviction and came out to the other side with a million stories to tell. He always told me to see the magic in our lives, to listen to what the universe is telling you, to look for the signs to destiny or whatever you want to call it because you have to believe in it to make it work. Who wouldn’t want to try for a spectacular life like that right? I like to think these things make sense as you grow older.
And, though I guess it was a bit of a rough uprooting, he gave us a chance to take on the world by moving us to Australia. There’s this saying that comes to mind, that goldfish only grow proportional to the size of their tanks; and I feel that my dad took me out of the fishbowl and threw me in the ocean! It’s tough, but thanks to him, I think I’ve toughened up too.
2. The big challenge in having my dad as my dad, was that I could never seem to get out of his shadow growing up, or at least that’s how it felt. He was extremely supportive of everything I ever got into – except I got into music so I always felt pressured to live up to everyone’s expectations that I was this musical prodigy and whatever, just because he’s my dad. Another issue I always dealt with growing up was trying not to have that bratty ass sense of entitlement that gave me the license to act like I was somebody – truth is, we were never better than anyone just because of my dad’s last name. This became more readily evident when I moved to Australia – we weren’t being taken to the front of queues, getting freebies from the manager of the restaurant, discounts, etc. and it was great! I felt like some regular kid here.
It happened a couple of times here even, someone had emailed my dad who was writing for a local newspaper here that I was “gallivanting with women” and displaying “drunken behaviour” while drinking at some bar by the Opera House – I was drunk and my sisters were helping me walk hahaha. Bwiset!
3. Message: I’m guessing every father has insecurities about how they raised their children – I just want you to know Pa, that you done good. You’re a great father, and a great provider. You’re just too fucking awesome. My friends think you’re funnier than I am. If I could be like, 1/10th of the man you are, then I’d know that I did pretty damn well in my life cuz you gave me the head and the tools to succeed. I love you, old man! P.S. I still owe you a Jag.
With all these wonderful words from his children, I guess Wikipedia should add Daddy Groovy in its description of Jim Paredes. He’s a man of the seventies who cultivated his creativity not just in his various crafts but also in raising his kids. Who knows, pretty soon another entry will be added – National Artist? Let’s keep our fingers crossed.
Greetings: Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers out there. Special mention to my Papang, Rufino “Pinong” Fres, who at age 84 remains as loving and as corny as always; Marvin, my favorite person in the world and greatest partner in rearing our three sons; Noel Fausto, the newest daddy in our clan who became a first time dad a couple of weeks ago, giving the first apo on the Fausto side.