“Tol, umaakyat ka ba ng bundok?”
That was one of Tado’s questions for me when I went to visit him four weeks ago. That night, I brought with me my motley crew of a family: girlfriend, cat, and dog. We looked weird, given how we were of different species (yes, even my girlfriend is of a different species–after all, she took to the likes of me).
But, Tado being Tado, he was more pleased than surprised.
He took a photo of us and shared it on Instagram. He asked my girlfriend for help with the Instagram bit–“Hindi pa ako sanay sa ganyan” was his disclaimer.
And then we talked about meeting up in Chinatown to celebrate the Chinese New Year. His wife, Lei, was excited. He also unchained his bike and told my girlfriend to go ahead and give it a run around the neighborhood.
Yeah, Tado was cool like that. But you already knew that.
Of course, there are things you still don’t know about Tado, things that were a delight for me to discover during the seven years we knew each other. And of this almost-a-decade worth of hi’s and hello’s, it was in the last three years that our conversations led to a friendship, one that went beyond cursory professional politeness.
At the night of the Chinese New Year, he sent me a text message consisting of fake Chinese words. I laughed; it was his way of greeting me and reminding me of my ethnicity. At the time, I had forgotten all about our plan to meet up in Chinatown. It looked like he didn’t mind, anyway.
Seven days later, I heard about Tado’s tragic death.
It sounded just as absurd as an alien spaceship landing in Manila. It sounded surreal. To this day, it still damned does.
“Gusto mo bang umakyat sa bundok kasama ko?”
I said, "No." “Pare, ayoko. I prefer the comfort of air-conditioning and eternal cable TV,” I explained with a sheepish grin on my face. He smiled, nodding his understanding.
It wasn’t the first time he talked about mountains. Months back, he had already shared his plan to make a book on the 40 mountains he planned on visiting. “Malapit na kasi ako maging 40 years old,” he explained, reminding me about his birthday on March 24.
But how could I forget? In 2012, he came to host my book launch together with Ramon Bautista. It had slipped my mind that my book launch and Tado’s birthday were on the same date.
Tado traveled that day from Marikina to Shangri-La Plaza despite the uncooperative weather (it was raining cats, dogs, frogs, elephants–you name it). “Nag-promise ako eh, di ba?” said Tado like it was no big deal.
We had been of that habit: I attended his book launches while he attended mine. After all, it was me who dragged him into the whole “be a book author and be immortal” mess.
But we found a common ground in more than just books. After all, we both had our own t-shirts to sell. He would tell me his trade secrets, sharing contacts with me and telling me how to get things done better, smarter.
We then sold our shirts together during bazaars, sharing a booth that was always crowded with fans who wanted to take pictures. Tado once declared, “Hindi kami photobooth. Tindahan kami ng t-shirts. Pag may gusto magpa-picture, may bayad.”
Everyone had laughed. He didn’t come off as serious, a fact that made him even funnier. But it didn’t matter; he still posed gamely with his fans anyway. “Yes, let’s picture together!” he would blurt out with a poker face.
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