National

Jessica Zafra: 10 things about the brilliant Mario Taguiwalo

InterAksyon.com
The online news portal of TV5

Mario Taguiwalo has forbidden us to mourn him, which is just as well because sorrow is the last emotion we associate with the guy. Hanging out with Mario was like going to the gym: we developed temporary abs from laughing so hard.

Mario asked that instead of grieving we speak of him with fondness. That's easy.

1.  The second thing we learned at the Philippine Science High School (the first was to run indoors at the first sign of rain because the football field was prone to lightning strikes) was that the school hymn was written by Professor Rey Paguio with Lyncir Lagunzad and Mario Taguiwalo of the first graduating class.

Therefore at age 12 I swore that if I ever met the person who wrote the immortal lyrics "And go as we wander o'er/The crests and troughs/of the sea of life that flows" and forced "troughs" to rhyme with "flows" ("The crests and troughs of the sea of life that fluffs??"), I would punch him in the face.

When I met Mario Taguiwalo many years later I not only forgot to punch him in the face but I immediately joined his fan club.

2. He had two birthdays. According to Mario he was born in October but his mother, a schoolteacher, had backdated his birthdate to August in order to avail of maternity benefits. Apparently this was common practice. It made perfect sense for Mario to have two birthdays; he had enough brains to fill several heads.

3. What a dancer he was, in a free-form Thom Yorke meets Martha Graham way. Such style and grace, as if his fat had muscles. It wasn't just  dancing, it was a rhythmic interpretation of quantum gravity. Does anyone have video?

4. He was a great fan of Roger Federer. When Federer won his first Wimbledon title Mario declared that he was even betterer than we thought.

5.  Mario played the mayor in Abbo de la Cruz's film, Misteryo Sa Tuwa. That's him in the white suit, offering the citizens a reward for every rat they killed.

He had killer comic timing. Look him up in Peque Gallaga's Unfaithful Wife. While the townspeople are discussing the murder he cracks up the audience by asking, "Nakahubad ba siya?" And what was the title of that movie where he sees a naked woman and howls, “Awoooooooo…”

Movie folk swear he was the best acting workshop facilitator ever.

6. He wrote the best drunken letters you've ever read. We became friends because in 2000 he sent me a long email message that started like this.

"I am writing you not because you are there like Mt. Everest, but because I am drunk, toothless, and lonely at home on Friday night. Drunk because of vodka, toothless because of gum disease and the active but anesthetized intervention of my dentist…

"So this letter has less to do with you than with my situation. And my situation is this: Erap is my President until 2004. God, what a terrifying prospect… Someone who I did not even pay to see in movies is going to decide whether I will have a job, how much I will earn and how much taxes I will pay. Really this must be a nightmare.

"But I was thinking today that Erap represents an authentic and dramatic break from all our presidents thus far. He is our electorate's idea of a long shot given that all the safe and obvious bets have not really yielded anything we can be proud of except Cory. Let me share with you my drunken and lonely take on this situation."

And he did, in several pages that constituted my introduction to the genius of Mario Taguiwalo. I published his letter in my column in Today, and for weeks afterwards I received congratulations from random strangers on my incisive analysis of the Pinoy psyche. That was Mario writing.

7.  When InterAksyon.com editors Roby Alampay, Francine Medina Marquez and I decided to start a magazine called Flip, Mario was the only adult we asked to join our group. In his first article he drew an analogy between education and circumcision. We soon became accustomed to Mario's amazing powers of synthesis.

8. He wrote his ideas on little pieces of paper that he stashed in his shirt pockets. We gave him journals so he could organize his notes but we never saw him use them.

9. Mario could laugh and be dead-serious at the same time. In fact the more heated the argument, the more hilarious he got. Inevitably his opponent would get ticked off and lose.

10.  He could take the most complex issue, break it down, and explain it to you so lucidly that you began to feel like an expert. It was as if you'd been sitting in a dark room and someone suddenly turned on the lights.

That is what "brilliant" means.

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There will be two memorials for Mario Taguiwalo: April 28, 7 p.m., at the Asian Institute of Management in Makati City. And another on May 5, 7 p.m., at Club Filipino, Greenhills, San Juan.

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