Hilarity on the Fringe: The Brew Universe of Ramon, Erning, and Tado
March 08, 2023
The spirit of “Strangebrew” lives on, but there’s no debate that Tado Jimenez’s death put an end to anything strange or brew to ever be created again. It’s not a business decision, nor was it the end of the artistry of those involved in the show. It simply did not work without Tado in the center of it all. He was the odd one in, the sexy long-haired inquisitor whose left-fielded-ness was not a trait learned, but a quality he was born with. His death was a loss of a friend, whether you knew him or not, but we all move on.
With some distance between now and Tado’s sudden passing, it’s time to appreciate what we had with “Strangebrew” and “BrewRats.” At least, it’s how this certain writer sees it. And, boy, they had a good run, did they?
A Curious Life in 4:3
“Strangebrew” is an unrepeatable feat in Philippine television history. Alternative falls short of describing a show that wasn’t really an alternative to anything. It didn’t leave a footprint big enough to be noticeable in pop culture, but to the few groups within the populace who spotted the show at the end of the free local television stations in the country, it was like finding a fetish. It tickled the voyeuristic, grabbed the realistic, and gave hope to the nihilistic. Tado and Erning, the main characters of the show, were the breath of fresh air its viewers thought it didn’t need.
This is not to say that “Strangebrew” was a Pollockian piece of media that is indecipherable, but to those who found meaning in it from the beginning. This show—which launched in 2001 on UNTV—was indie by way that it was lo-fi, low budget, and shot through the eyes of art and not ambition. Its documentary-style of sitcom is something most of us are intimately familiar with, considering that some of the most successful TV shows these days use that format. But, rather than alienate, it lures you into the lives of people and makes you care, even for just a minute.
Ultimately, the show worked because it was hilarious. Not awkward hilarious or slapstick hilarious, it was funny because they didn’t have it all figured out. Looking back, it’s honestly like the actors found each other funny, and that’s why it was funny. They all failed to stay within the fourth wall, especially in scenes where Jun Sabayton or Ramon Bautista comes bursting in playing the most ridiculous side characters.
They also did the rarest thing when it comes to interviewing people living on the fringe of society. Tado does all the interviewing, and he didn’t pander, pity, or tried to help them. He simply asked them questions about their life, and treated them like they have things to do or money to earn. They were people who had jobs, much like everyone else, and had to get on with their lives. In all of them, he asked a head-tilting weird question to ask a stranger: if they have ever fallen in love. It brought a moment (minuscule, really) of seriousness, before the person being interviewed would give a politician's answer to a seriously personal question.
Brew on the Waves
Four years after the short run of Strangebrew, which feels like it passed in and out of memory, only to be preserved in decade-old YouTube videos, The BrewRATS was born. It was the trio of Tado Jimenez (the actual man, not the Strangebrew character), Angel Rivero (who played the inimitable Erning), and Ramon Bautista (Internet Action Star, Kiefer, etc.). Most of its run aired on the old iteration of the 99.5 FM station, the one with the tagline, “Rhythm of the City.”
The premise of the show couldn’t be simpler: it was three friends talking and having guest hosts and musicians. It was a good time on the radio, and more you listen to it, the more you feel you’re in the company of friends.
Once again, it’s a hilarious show without trying to be hilarious. They just kept on being themselves, which was the secret formula of the whole thing. This time, though, the trio’s fame started getting some steam. Ramon was the one who ended up being an actual celebrity out of the three, but Tado and Angel were doing well enough for themselves. Tado, having kept the long hair and the big eyeglasses, was probably the most recognizable.
The show remained steady until it went off the air in 2012. Tado tried his hand in politics, Angel lived her life outside of fame, and Ramon kept doing what he was doing, as a UP professor while making public appearances until he achieved B-list status as a celebrity.
It was in 2014 that the possibility of any reunion, on TV or on the air, ended. Tado Jimenez was one of those who died in a bus accident in the Mountain Province. His value to pop culture was measured in the short time that his passing was in the news, but much like an epitaph, him making the news served nothing else but the end itself. He already made his impact on whoever watched him or looked up to him, and to those who knew him, that was enough. He wasn’t one to fuss over himself, anyway.
“Strangebrew” will never happen again. The minds who created it are still here, save Tado Jimenez, but without a character like him, no show in the same vein or universe can survive. But, to those who the TV series and radio show mattered, this is a case where one feels glad it happened, rather than sad that it ended.
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