Tado Jimenez, the Off-Beat Hero
Tado is a lot of things to the people he has had an effect on. He was one-third of the inimitable cast of Strange Brew, the pioneering indie TV show that would be fondly remembered for the eccentric humor that was during its time was novel. He has acted in several movies, including Lav Diaz’s Hesus Rebolusyonaro (Hesus the Revolutionary, 2002), Yam Laranas’ Radyo (Radio, 2001), Doy del Mundo’s Pepot Artista (Pepot Superstar, 2005), and most recently, Brillante Mendoza’s Captive (2012). He also became an erstwhile annoyance of Vice Ganda when he proudly showed off his t-shirt which proclaimed a message that did not sit well with the popular host. The t-shirt was of course a product of Tado’s entrepreneurial efforts, since the comedian has a t-shirt shop called LimiTADO in his native Marikina, where he unsuccessfully ran for city councilor.
To most of us, it was Tado’s public figure that will be missed. In any alleyway in urban Manila, anybody with Tado’s physical features and arguably abrasive demeanor would have been dime a dozen. However, in the world of mainstream show business where fair skin, bulging muscles and mestizo features are essential, Tado can only be seen as a misfit. He wore the role of misfit with pride and a certain sense of rebelliousness. The name he chose for himself exemplified the image he wanted to drape himself with. Abrasiveness was part of his act. It was the unlikely cocoon from which butterflies of wisdom and advocacy were birthed from.
To those who were close to him, Tado represented that rare artist who was fuelled not by fame or fortune but by convictions. Tado was no ordinary comedian who was content with making a bad day a little better with laughter. He was an advocate, who made use of the popularity he invested in as a tool for revolution. His entire career was engineered to change mindsets and perspectives. Whether it is by exposing mainstream media for its myopic appreciation of gender advocacy or by throwing off-kilter ideas for businesses that initially seem funny but are actually brilliant, he has made enough of a difference to be remembered with equal amounts of reverence and levity.
“Tado is funny, and he is an activist. He is well-tuned to the country’s issues. If there was a rally, he was probably in it. Imagine, he is a rallyist with a sense of humor. It makes taking in life easier if you think about it,” recalled Zach Lucero, former radio jock for NU107, where Tado hosted Brewrats with Ramon Bautista and Angel Rivero.
“Lungkot ang nararamdaman ko para sa isang mabuting tao at kaibigan. Sana hindi ito madagdagan pa ng galit. Isa si Tado Jimenez sa mga taong nagpapaganda ng mundo na ito. Simula sa Strange Brew hanggang sa social work niya, makikita mo ang gaan niya sa puso. Malaking kawalan ang nangyari dito (Sadness is what I am feeling for the good person and friend. I wish that it will not be coupled with anger. Tado Jimenez is one of the people who makes this world beautiful. From the Strange Brew up to his social work, you will realize the heft of his heart. What just happened is a huge loss),” lamented Ping Medina, entrepreneur and actor, who Tado collaborated with in many of his advocacy efforts.
“It is when a friend like this passes on that we are reminded of how small and insignificant our own lives and our contributions are compared to his,” expressed Gabe Mercado, fellow comedian and entrepreneur. Mercado’s words speak volumes of truth especially with the knowledge that Tado, along with Lourd de Veyra, Noel Cabangon, Buhawi Meneses, and Ronnie Lazaro, founded Dakila, an advocacy group that uses culture, from films to music, to inspire awareness and change.
Dong Abay, poet and rock musician, reveals Tado’s philosophy when it comes to his comedy. Given his untimely demise, his words evoke common wisdom that we tend to forget given the hardships of living in a country that is riddled with problems: “Nais kong pagsaluhan natin ang mga masasayang alaala. Wala man tayong pera ay hindi naman tayo mauubusan ng mga pabaong ngiti. Mas panget kasi kung gutom ka na, nakasimangot ka pa. Pag nakangiti ka na hindi halatang kulang ang iyong pamasahe. (I want us to share with each other the happy memories. We may not have any money but we shall never run out of treasured smiles. It is uglier if you are not only hungry but also forlorn. If you are smiling, nobody will notice that you don't have enough money for your journey.)”
Similarly, Quark Henares, filmmaker, shares the precious words that Tado composed as a reminder as to how he chose to shape his career and live his life: “Kung ako ang pagpipiliin, gusto ko na maalala nila ako bilang hindi isang pulitiko kundi isang rebolusyonaryo na naghahangad ng tunay at ganap na pagbabago. (If I were to choose, I want myself to be remembered not as a politician but as a revolutionary with the desire for real and palpable change)” The words quoted by Henares would have served as the perfect eulogy.
Our eyes have been trained by mainstream media to appreciate beauty that is only skin-deep. Tado, with his lanky frame, long hair, and very Filipino looks, has taught us to look beyond what is easily covered by make-up and bright lights. Whether or not Tado designed his persona precisely to counter the shallowness that is enveloping our culture, his persisting existence within pop culture proves that there is indeed hope for a positive revolution, whether it be in how we want to be entertained or in something more relevant and pertinent.
Very few of us can ever claim to have lived a life for advocacy. Fewer can claim to have died for it. Tado can carry that rare honor to the sweet hereafter.
(An edited version was published in Rappler.)