We thought it funny that an anti-poverty awareness campaign was to be given an award in such a burgis venue but we appreciated it, nonetheless. I told my good friend Tado Jimenez my anxiety about the event and he asked me “Ba’t ka ba nag aalala? Party lang yon na may take-home trophy!” I said it was nothing, really, so I just said, “Well, wala akong masusuot.” So I asked him if he could be my escort and then we’ll bring the rest of Rock Ed onstage as well, actor Ronnie Lazaro, entrepreneur Jaime Garchitorena, teachers, and young professionals who were very active from the beginning. Rock Ed was barely one year old then. He laughed out loud and said, “Ako bahala sa ‘yo. Maski anong suotin mo, mas ka-Emba-Embassy ka pa rin kesa sa akin. Tara, ako date mo!” On the night itself, Tado meets up w/ me by the gate of the club with no shoes, no shirt, jazzed up red pants, and angels’ wings attached to his thin frame. He even had a tin foil halo on his head and said, “Sa anak ko ‘to.” We went in, got our award onstage, drank for free, partied drunk, & danced on the floor. Everything went well, and I remember he was the first one who suggested we leave since his nipples were frozen na daw. That night, I showed up in khakis and a black shirt and slippers, to which he said, “Wow, mag shopping ka na nga ng mas makulay at makinang na damit, baka manalo tayo ulit next year!”
One time in Baybay, Leyte, (we took a lot of trips together, you see) he wanted our rented van to go around one bend by the coast just so he can point out to me where he used to jump into the water as a kid, diving for coins that tourists threw down. He was so scrawny and tiny that people were always shocked to see him run, dive, and swim like he did. “Akala nila yata toddler ako kasi ang liit ko eh, pero Grade 1 na yata ako nun.” Then he’d laugh out loud. And I laughed along with him. I asked him how he got to Manila, how he became an activist, and how he ended up in showbiz from the time he was a kid diving into the bay, he told me the story and to this day, I can’t embrace how far he has come. He opened a T-shirt shop in Marikina that moonlights into a tattoo parlor, he silk screened most of the shirts himself assisted by his wife Lei, he bottled anti-bacterial gels whose scents were named after his daughters, Taja, Dyosa, Indi, & my god daughter Tila, he fixed up bikes, rallied for and with the labor sector, partied with friends, managed a band, fronted for a band called Live Tilapia, hosted everything we held in the provinces, hosted Luneta gatherings pushing for issues, was part of the backbone of Dakila, an organization pushing for heroism in this day and age, over and above that – he made people laugh. Of course there was that famous politically incorrect line he threw on national TV that got the ire of a gay celebrity, using the derogatory term ‘mamakla’ – to which I say, (like I said to a friend who is still irate even at the now-dead Tado for that line) “My god, if our lives were judged solely on one quote…” And I stick by that. I respectfully ask everyone else to shut up about it for now, while his wife and daughters grieve.
In as much as he made people laugh, he also made people think and move. He had so many projects, his to-do list probably never fully crossed out by nightfall. He’d sometimes call me in the middle of the night and ask for the Office of the Ombudsman’s number because he had a local Marikina official to complain about. Tado loved Marikina. He was always so proud of Marikina. He called me about people we both know and ask, “Matino ba ‘to? Kilala mo daw siya nung college, alam mo naman, kung ano ugali ng tao nung college, yun na rin ang ugali pag tanda!” Then he’d call back five minutes later just saying, “Ay hindi pala, nagbabago rin ang tao–” then put the phone down right after the sentence leaving me baffled thinking what the hell he meant. Sometimes he’d call me with those one-liners referring to things we talked about months, even years back. Like he’d remember a conversation, think up a conclusion, then call me with just the conclusion. Like an overdue, hanging closure thing he needed to toss my way. I got used to it after a while. One time I asked him, “Ba’t ba ang hilig mo mag one-liner tapos babagsakan mo ako ka’gad ng telepono? Masyado ka namang pa-poetic!” To which he’d say,”Ha? Hindi no! Nagtitipid lang ako sa load.” Then he’d laugh out loud, then I’d laugh along with him.
In this world and life, there will always be lines. Lines to stay within or lines to cross. Divides between ‘the appropriate’ and otherwise. Then you come across people who erase these lines for you. He was one such. He raised and lowered bars for us to cross, making us braver because what would’ve been perilous leaps – all of a sudden appeared to be effortless strolls because he erased the stripes on the life floor.
Tado was absurd, improper, minsan super labo, enlightening, enchanting when he wants to be, he was earthy, real, funny, irreverent, rude, silly, stupid, thoughtful, present, loud, silent, and highly intelligent. He was absurd because the truths he faced, the truths WE still face about the Philippines, are absurd. He lamented about the state of affairs and said (once in a drunken moment in Cubao) that he was just mirroring realities because the Philippines needs to see how we put up with things that are completely ridiculous. I believe him. We all needed him around us. God knows, we still do.
I was part of the team that picked up his remains from Bontoc General Hospital. We picked him up and brought him down gently and quietly. Friends brought him home to his beloved Lei, waiting in Marikina with Taja, Dyosa, Indi, and Tila – hinatid namin siya with dignity. It was our honor to do so. It was the last physical favor we could do for a friend whom we all owed so much. Unquantifiable debts we owed our old buddy who made us laugh. While standing inside the makeshift morgue, my nose bled through my face mask maybe because of the chemicals or the change in temperature, I wasn’t sure. While the dark mark spread like a Rorschach test on my mask, I laughed out loud because when we used to talk politics and I’d use an English political term, Tado would say, “Ang dami mong English, Gang! Hindi siguro dumudugo ilong mo kailanman.” And right there, whether by coincidence or by some supernatural ewan force by my newly deceased friend, it happened. It was a silly, sad moment before I had to finally do the task of seeing him. I think the universe just made me laugh with him one last time.
I had a difficult time recognizing Tado because he wasn’t moving, Tado was always moving, because he didn’t have a smirk-smile on his face, Tado was always in mid-smirk, he also didn’t have his glasses on. I imagined it was still lying under the debris in that mountain kilometers away from the room we were in. Most of all, I couldn’t recognize him because he wasn’t laughing, and I wasn’t laughing while with him; this was rarely the case.
Last Thursday, the world was a bit funnier. When Friday morning happened, when an unregistered, illegally plying GV Florida Bus dropped against the foot of a mountain in Bontoc, the world was hushed a bit. It is now a little less funny. Sadder, for a time. I will laugh a bit less now. I am so sad.
My silliest friend is gone, how could this be?
Sign petition here ——– > GV FLORIDA BUS LINES MUST PAY.
Note: Article was previously published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer and the Esquire Philippines blog. This is the my personal blog.