Posted by: nastypen | June 27, 2008

Farewell

It is weird to talk about someone in the past tense. Even difficult that that someone is now relegated to the past tense never to be mentioned in the present and future tenses. He was funny. He was smart. He had character. He was so young. You wanted to hang out with him because he made sense and did not pander to posturing bullshit. Thaddeus Reantaso was all that. He was 32.

The last time I saw Thaddeus or Tads I was walking in the crowded Palma Hall lobby at the heart of UP Diliman. This was a year or so ago. He stopped at his tracks and pointed and smiled that unguarded smile of his and waved. I asked “What are you doing here?” He said “I’m taking up Anthropology.” We spoke for a few minutes. He apparently stopped “working for the devil” and decided to pursue what he wanted. I waved good-bye because I had to finish some documents. there he was in white shirt, old knapsack and shorts looking every bit of a student and waved good-bye. He just lacked a thesis for him to complete his MA at Anthropology.

As i type this, Tads ashes are at the Don Bosco Chapel in Mandaluyong. Tads was one of the three mountaineers who perished over the weekend typhoon. They went mountain climbing just when the storm unexpectedly changed its course thus hitting the area where they were. Details are still unclear. They were swept away. The two bodies were found. Tads was still missing. We were hoping for good news that never came.

Tads’s body was found on his 32nd birthday.

I was in shock when Marc texted me the news. I had to sit down and fumble with my phone texting former classmates at the College of Fine Arts.

I cannot say that Tads and I were close. But he was there with our group at Fine Arts, sometimes he was with his friends at Artist’s Circle. Since Tads was a bit older than us, I looked to him as one of the few sensible ones in the college. He was not brash. Everytime we were together, it’s just talk of anything ranging from plates to penis size of weight lifters (don’t ask) to movies. I remember the laughter.

I remember him making me a fraternity initiation. Goodness, Tads enjoyed ordering the neophytes around to fawn over me at the fishball stand. He just saw me attacking the helpless squid balls and told the neophytes to carry me. I refused because I don’t want to be the reason for them turning paraplegic. I just asked them to fan me as I ate. I still chuckle from that memory.

there were some jokes and exchanges I reserve for my own private reminiscing. Tads was a great guy.

When we graduated from college, I knew that Tads would be going to the high stakes world of the corporation. He did. But one day as I was flipping through the channels, I saw him being interviewed at the local cable News Network.

He was part of this group that helped out children of indigenous groups up in the mountains. They would deliver to the children school bags, textbooks, pencils. I was so proud to know another person who went beyond himself to do such a thing. It felt better to brag about being classmates with someone into altruism like Tads than being classmates with someone who owned so much.

I knew from friends that Tads left his high-paying job to pursue what he wanted and needed to do.  He went back to photography.  He gave up drinking and smoking.  He climbed mountains and crossed rivers.

I went to his wake last night. It was virtually a reunion.  Old professors, classmates and friends converged to Don Bosco chapel.  It was hardly a sombre occasion.  We were laughing relishing the good old days.  I would occasionally glance at Tad’s urn and his photo.  It’s that smile of his, that fiendish grin like an imp that is somehow comforting in this tragedy.

I spoke to his parents.  I can’t imagine how it is to bury a son.  The father was thankful that the body was still found.  There is closure with that.  I told them how Tads was with our group.  The mom smiled.  I pointed out that I am quite proud of Tads for his endeavor with the underprivileged children in the mountains.  For a moment, the mother’s eyes sparkled with pride and said, “You know, I just found out about that recently.  He did not tell me this.”  I did not hide my shock and my pride for him welled up because Tads is not the type of guy that will advertise what he has done.

In that chapel we were among friends.  Some took a look at photos of Tads and photos taken by him.  There was even hilarity.  Much laughter and smiles; as if we are trying to deflect the harsh reality.  We discussed everything from college memories to Eat Bulaga’s EB Babes.  It was not a wake.  It was a celebration of memories and promises.

But still, one of us is gone now.

I am sad perhaps because my own mortality has been violently reminded. But that is too myopic. I am sad because I know Tads is capable of achieving so much and he has done so in his life and that he could have achieved more. I am sad over the loss. It is up to those left behind to determine his legacy.

Marc comforted me by saying that Tads did what he liked doing till the very end. Even David was telling me “oist bawal sad, gagalit si Tads” (It’s forbidden to be sad. Tads will get angry).

Farewell, Tads. Been great knowing you.  And you know what, Tads, I’ve never seen you angry.  Travel well and travel far, my classmate.

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Responses

  1. Death absolutely sucks….

  2. I do agree with david and the others. Tads always say, “tuloy ang ligaya.”

    I do wish I have that kind of attitude.

  3. Just this weekend i was talking to my sister, she said she is going to the wake of one of her colleagues, we were talking how good was this guy on his craft and how could he do more…and now am a bit surprise you were his friend. i offer my condolences to you.

  4. RIVER OF RAGE

    The passing away of our fraternity brother, friend, and my one and only batchmate Thaddeus “Tadz” Reantaso marked an outpour of sympathies and flood of comforting messages. I hope people won’t get me wrong, I am dearly grateful for these expressions of sympathies and its good intentions. But as much I would want to appreciate kind words for Tadz now and appreciate people texting and saying to me “there is a greater purpose or plan” or words like “he died for a good cause,” I cannot achieve to see the glory in his death if there is any. There is no glory here except tragedy. I respect people when they would like to view this unfortunate event as a glass half-full rather than half-empty, to see the brighter side of things. But for those who still feel the loss and would like to mourn, then let them mourn.

    Right now I’m asking myself, “why would Tadz engage in mountaineering?”, “Why would he join an outreach program?” Someone told me during the wake that probably that’s where he found his further enlightenment. Im sure people feel good helping and connecting to other people. Although I remember him telling me when I joined a similar group during college, that such welfare endeavors are not sustainable, that it could be just for guilt-washing purposes. Maybe he changed in that aspect (I’m glad that he did). Im not sure if he found his god there or found answers to his existentialist questions, surely the mountains and the experience of climbing it is truly breathtaking aside from the fact that it is highly conducive for sex, booze, doobies and other forms of bourgeoisie adventurism. I cannot hide my obvious angry inquiries on his intentions. If he is alive now, i would tell him, “You want to find enlightenment? You need not go far! Just look at the side streets of Manila, bro’. There you will find a mountain full of our society’s trash and it’s up to your conscience to climb and conquer it or not. You’ll find it not in an escapist and adventurist exploit in the wilderness but in the center of our daily urban dwellings. There the truth awaits you! And it awaits your decision to do something sustainable about it or turn around and walk away.” But I’m sure he knows that already. He had a better grasp of social reality long before I did. So I guess I’m telling this to him because I am partly guilty of apathy and because I badly wanted him to be safe and alive right now.

    As my grief is settling down, i try to find objectivity in a mesh of rage that i am experiencing. I struggle to see through the eyes of everybody who have known Tadz in varying degrees. I try to understand the different levels of grief and guilt (if there is, to some people) so as to avoid prejudice. But my heart is crying for one thing here – THE TRUTH!

    What really transpired during that moment when his team was crossing that river? What exactly happened? Is there a rope that the team could have used to assist them in crossing the river? If there is, why didnt they use it? What are the protocols and S.O.P.s when there is a typhoon? Should mountaineers proceed with the climb even if the typhoon signal is low or the affected area of typhoon is far? Whose call is it to proceed? Whose call is it not use the rope? Tadz dont know how to swim. Was it not a prerequisite in joining mountaineering clubs since crossing rivers is an integral part of trekking the mountains? Was there anyway to prevent such tragedy from taking place and taking the lives of people???!!!!!!!!!!!!! And finally, was it enough to say that people never wanted such thing to happen?

    I am sure that if such tragedy fell on me or to you, Tadz will be writing here, unapologetic for razor-sharp words that he normally lashes out and throw everything including the kitchen sink God knows who gets hit! I’m sure it’s going to be a lot better than this “child-friendly”, edited down version of what I originally wrote (puro mura kasi yung original).

    As much as i want to bury the dead and let my batchmate-brod and his companions rest, I cannot turn away from the urge of getting to the truth. The truth cannot bring back the dead, i know, but it can help reassure not just mountaineers, but rowing teams, diving and surfing groups, and other outdoor activity club members, people with similar families and friends that may grieve their loss if ever, of their safety and compel organizations to be more proactive in protecting lives. I am sure that we are all one in wishing that such tragedy will not befall other people especially those close to us. Outdoor and recreational groups must take concrete steps including ADMITTING OPERATIONAL LAPSES AND RECTIFYING THEM.

    Now i call on everyone who has even a tiny grain of regards for TADZ, to those who openly express their utmost admiration and respect for this fallen friend, to come out, FREE the TRUTH, and let true healing take place.

    The truth must come out. Justice must be done. Lives must be further protected.

    -James C. Hermogenes
    Fraternity Batchmate/Brod, friend

  5. Dear James,

    Thanks for posting your thoughts…..

    You wrote “You want to find enlightenment? You need not go far! Just look at the side streets of Manila, bro’. There you will find a mountain full of our society’s trash and it’s up to your conscience to climb and conquer it or not. You’ll find it not in an escapist and adventurist exploit in the wilderness but in the center of our daily urban dwellings.”

    For whatever reason Tads took on what you deploringly called “other forms of bourgeoisie adventurism” the fact of the matter is that to each his own. Nobody has an exclusivity on THE proper or even safe quest for this so-called enlightenment.

    We shouldn’t blame the activity. It’s quite moot. It’s like saying those who died in the Princess of the Star shouldn’t have to if they knew how to swim despite the massive currents to shore instead of clinging to all hands on deck thus being trapped as the ship went belly up.

    Yet, like the Princess of the Star, there is a huge human error that factors there.

    But since you are a friend, a fraternity brother of Tads, you would know him more than a lot of people. I ask you, would Tads really invest so much of his time in the blame game?

    Sure, it IS tragic. Sure, it WAS preventable. But you can’t change the past and the faults by screaming at it.

    Like you, many of Tads’s friends are asking how could this have happened? Like you, we are still waiting word for what REALLY happened. Like you, we would not want this to happen again. Like you, we know had there been far more stringent precautions, none of this may have happened.

    However, it has.

    While I understand your sentiments; I could identify with your anger over this, I think we shouldn’t trivialize other people’s passion(s) in life.

    Tads knew what he was doing. By almost all accounts, Tads WANTED this passion of his to be up in the mountains.

    No, I am not saying Tads had it coming, but he DID what he LIKED doing best and that is what matters to people with unbridled passions in their lives.

  6. We all have our way of grieving. But I agree that Tads “DID what he LIKED doing best and that is what matters to people with unbridled passions in their lives.” Tads lived out his life to the fullest, and he wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. I would know. I was there with him when it happened.

  7. We all have different ways of grieving. But I agree that Tads “DID what he LIKED doing best and that is what matters to people with unbridled passions in their lives” and that we shouldn’t trivialize his passion. Tads lived out his life to the fullest. He probably wouldn’t have it any other way. I would know. I was there with him during his last moments.

  8. thank you, np, for this post. i agree with you on how weird it is talking in past tense… i, myself, still use present tense when i write about him now.

    we know tads at different stages in his life, varying degrees, but we all remember the same things about him… his humor, quick wit, intelligence, down-to-earthness, easy going nature that yeah, makes us wanna hang out with him. *sigh*


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