ANTIPOLO CITY — “Laitan,” as Chokoleit and his close friends had been doing when he was alive, was in no short supply in their shared eulogy for the late comedian on Thursday, the final night of the wake.
“Ganito kami mag-cope,” K Brosas said, as she, Vice Ganda, Pokwang, and Pooh engaged in half-hour banter recalling fond memories with Chokoleit, or Jonathan Garcia in real life.
Chokoleit, who died last Saturday after a heart attack, had been among the most visible stand-up comedians who successfully transitioned to television.
That’s one thing he had in common with the friends who took turns sharing stories about him. After years of entertaining in comedy bars, they each achieved a career breakthrough that brought their brand of humor to mainstream.
Chokoleit’s was his starring role in the 2004 fantaserye “Marina,” and while he became more known as Pearly, his character, to most Filipinos, in the community of standup comedians, he remained MNR, or “Mahal na Reyna.”
That moniker came up several times in the eulogy. Chokoleit was royalty to comedy bar colleagues and up-and-comers, his friends explained, and to his final days carried that stature — bolstered, interestingly by his goofy and self-deprecating humor.
“Laitan,” for Chokoleit and his chosen family of fellow funnymen, was no disrespect; it was an expression of love, and despite the seeming harshness of words, had always been well-meaning.
That they could tell Chokoleit, without sugarcoating, when his odor would be noticeable on certain days, was an indication of a friendship that trusted one another with their vulnerabilities. Chokoleit would be equally un-filtered — rather, “mas malala siya!” — Pooh recalled.
When discussing dire topics like death, the same humor helped the friends understand each other. Chokoleit had requested to be cremated, Vice Ganda recounted, and while anyone’s mortality is a dark subject, MNR’s signature self-deprecation made it lighter.
He narrated: “Noong nagbibilin siya, noon pa, in passing ni chikahan lang, sabi niya, gusto niya magpa-cremate. ‘Ayaw ko ng libing, gusto ko cremate. Tapos ‘yung abo ko, gusto ko, ikalat niyo sa palabok!’ Tapos ipakain daw sa mga nakikiramay! Pero ‘wag kayo mag-alala… Dahil masunurin kami, ginawa namin!”
As Chokoleit had wished, underneath that layer of familiar humor, his remains will be cremated on Sunday in his hometown of Davao.
While the 30-minute eulogy from his closest friends was filled with laughter, befitting his legacy, it was not without its serious moments. Behind his facade as MNR, Chokoleit endured many trials, but would rarely complain, it at all, and would instead focus on making others happy.
“We all lost a friend, someone who is so dear to us,” Vice Ganda said, “pero okay na rin, para sa taong mahal natin, na magpahinga na. Naka quota naman na siya, eh. Marami na siyang napagsilbihan, marami na siyang napasaya.”