Popculture Icons and the Promise of National Transformation

This is a response post to Jim Paredes article on Philstar I read via his blog. Jim, of APO Hiking Society, is without question a cultural icon, having pioneered Original Pilipino Music (OPM) and continues to unite global Filipinos through their musical genius.

At 57, Jim is discerning his next calling he feels is along education, and is contemplating on using popular media for social transformation. Having been involved in social transformation work since the 60s, Jim has a deep understanding of Philippine realities, and this qualifies him not only as an armchair sage but a down-home visionary always ready to get his hands clayed on. I was moved in particular by his vision of “taking control of the media and change its contents radically.” This is the visionary in him speaking, cognizant nonetheless of how their music have moved Filipinos hungry for change to rally sites and centers of protests like EDSA.

But I sense Jim is moving somewhere and I suspect by some wisdom whispered by his Zen-addict god, not to some antagonistic, adversarial grind against the incumbent government and its torturous tentacles (and testicles). I sense he is moving towards proactive highways of equipping and inspiring the younger generation with the tools and the right motivation for consistently cultivating the best in themselves as Filipinos for the country through the use of popular media. I guess what’s deserving of listening this time is not only their music but more importantly, his vision and wisdom. Popculture icons like him are powerhouses for social change. As an ordinary Filipino, I am excited of the possibilities.

Currently, I am reading this seemingly boring book – The Fifties Spiritual Marketplace: American Religion in a Decade of Conflict. I try to go through the boring details of McCarthyism but I am learning more about American religion in the 50s. Relevant to Jim’s vision, I am learning about popular media and how it transformed American living. Mention must be made here of 3 influential personalities. First is Bishop Fulton Sheen, the Catholic TV personality who put the minority Roman Catholics in America, and not without Protestant stirrings such as the protest against an American envoy in Vatican, at par with the Protestant majority in terms of household accommodation and growth in understanding about Catholicism. Second is the Protestant minister Norman Vincent Peale who awakened the American reading sense with his popular psychology books. Peale, a stickler to the power of positive thinking, significantly furthered American affluence and comfort during this post-war period, and had conditioned American consciousness that though a Third World war against communism was in the offing, a positive mind could avoid it and one can live in peace. Third, and the one often disliked by the intellectuals of the 50s, neo-orthodox theologians such as Reinhold Niebuhr included, is Billy Graham. It was partly Graham’s use of the popular media including his trademark catchy outfit, that catapulted him into the dormant charismatic consciousness of America as against their closeted fear. Graham, through television, had transformed the evangelical landscape of America, and eventually the world, in epic proportion.

So there media’s power. So there Jim’s vision, not necessarily in the shade of Sheen or Peale or Graham but along the theme of changing the prevailing, unproductive consciousness of the majority.

Good luck, Jim!


Photo credit: hackundertaker


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