Arts & Entertainment

Mahal Was a Giant in Philippine Entertainment

She will be missed.
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Noemi Tesorero, whom most people call Mahal, was a giant in Philippine entertainment, despite standing all of three feet in height. Born on Dec 20, 1974, Mahal was the eldest of four kids. All of her other siblings are of normal height.

Mahal was discovered by an entertainment reporter who saw her one day hanging out at a police station, where her uncle was working as a cop. 

In 1988, at 14 years old, she made her first television appearance on the noontime variety show Lunch Date on GMA. She became a regular on the program and became so busy that she never had time to finish school.

In 1990, her co-star on Lunch Date, singer and comedian Randy Santiago, transferred networks and brought Mahal along with him on the noontime show Magandang Tanghali Bayan. That same year, Mahal starred in her first movie, the sports comedy Last 2 Minutes, alongside then PBA players Alvin Patrimonio, Paul Alvarez, and Jerry Codiñera.

More movie projects soon followed. There have been other entertainers with dwarfism before, but there was something different about Mahal. She had charisma and grit that made people root for her.

In 1991, she starred in two movies: the horror-comedy Oh My God, Anak ni Janice with Rene Requiestas and Janice De Belen; and Small and Terrible with Roderick Paulate.

Mahal became a fixture of many TV shows in the 1990s and 2000s. On GMA, she frequently guest starred in sitcoms like Idol Ko si Kap and Bahay Mo Ba To. She also starred in te occasional film, often in comedic roles, like 2007’s Pasukob with Rufa Mae Quinto and Ai Ai Delas Alas. 

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When she wasn’t in front of cameras, Mahal kept on hustling and found work in comedy bars.

In the GMA docu-series Tunay Na Buhay, Mahal admitted that she often still faced ridicule and discrimination because of her physical appearance despite already being in the public eye.

Hindi ko na lang pinapansin,” she told host Rhea Santos. “Minsan nagagalit mga kapatid ko, pinagtatanggol ako ng kapatid ko. Hindi ko na pinapansin, pero nasasaktan din ako. Ayoko ng ganun, pare-pareho naman tayong tao (I just ignore them. Sometimes my siblings would get mad and they would defend me. But me, I just don’t mind them. But of course, I still get hurt. I don’t like that. We’re all human beings).”

More often, though, Mahal said she would encounter people who think she’s adorable.

Yung iba pinanggigilan ako, kinukurot pa ko,” she said. “Hindi ko alam, minsan may pasa na pala ko. Pa-cute lang ako. Konting smile (Some people think I’m so cute they would pinch me. I wouldn’t realize I already had bruises. I just give them a cute smile).”

In 1997, Mahal was all over the news when it was revealed that she was in a relationship with an actor named Jimboy Salazar. The entertainer said they were officially together for only about two months, before their busy scheduled eventually led to their split. In 2004, she also had a two-year relationship with a man named Aries Navarro, an aspiring actor, that ended about two years later.

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But in 2015, Mahal announced that she had gotten married to a man named Jobbie Hebrio, a former supermarket butcher and merchandiser. The marriage ended a little after one year.

Mahal continued working in TV shows and comedy bars. She starred in the romantic comedy series Owe My Love on GMA Network and also appeared on an episode of Dear Uge with Pokwang. Last year, at the height of the pandemic, she also started vlogging. Her YouTube channel had over 514,000 subscribers as of August 2021.

According to a report on Pep.ph, Mahal succumbed to “gastro illness” and COVID-19 on the evening of August 31, 2021. She passed away in a hospital in Batangas, where she had reportedly been living with close friend Mygz Molino. She was 46 years old.

In the Tunay na Buhay episode, Mahal had a simple answer when asked what her biggest lesson in life was: “Wag mo masyado isipin yung problema. Smile ka lang (Don’t think about your problems too much. Just keep smiling).”

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