December 29, 1974 – August 31, 2021
Noeme Tesorero, better known as Mahal, was a television actress, comedian, social media influencer, and vlogger. She was well-loved for her big personality and infectious laughter, witnessed by millions of Filipinos who grew up watching her TV shows and films for almost three decades since the ‘90s.
Born on December 29, 1974, and raised in Catanduanes, Mahal was the eldest of four children. She was born with dwarfism and in adulthood stood three feet tall, something that she turned into an asset. Her grandmother gave her the nickname ‘Mahal,’ which later became her stage name.
Mahal first appeared on the noon-time show “Lunch Date” (1988). She became a regular cast member on the show and was so busy that she never had the time to finish her studies. With the help of singer and comedian Randy Santiago, Mahal transferred networks and became a regular cast member of the noontime show “Magandang Tanghali, Bayan.” She accepted roles in the films Anak ni Janice (1991) and Kokey (1997), where she played what was perhaps her most famous role, as a friendly alien.
More movies and TV shows soon followed. According to many, there was something special about her that made Filipinos root for her. She became a fixture of many TV shows and films in the 1990s and early 2000s.
She was the family breadwinner, so whenever she wasn’t in front of the cameras, she kept on hustling, working at various comedy bars as a stand-up comedian. Thanks to Mahal, one of her sisters had the opportunity to study nursing while her younger brother obtained a criminology degree.
In July 2020, Mahal started her YouTube channel, which reached 517,000 subscribers. Her contents allowed her fans and supporters to enter into Mahal’s life. She did room tours, pranks, challenges, and cooking shows along with Mygz Molino, a model and indie actor who was a constant presence in her videos.
Many were touched by the August 22, 2021 episode of Kapuso Mo, Jessica Soho, which showed Mahal traveling to a remote part of Albay with Mygz to reunite with her former onscreen partner Allan Padua (also known as ‘Mura’), who also has dwarfism, to give him money for groceries and to fund a small business.
“Hanggang tumanda ako, uugod-ugod, siyempre pupunta pa din ako,” Mahal told Mura. “‘Pag may racket, iaalok kita, okey? Kapag halimbawa nawala ako sa mundo, mayroon akong kaunting naitulong sa iyo.”
At the age of 46, Mahal died in a hospital in Batangas due to complications of COVID-19.
“Sa liit ng panahon na nakasama kita, ganon naman kalaki ang naibigay mong saya sa puso ko. Ayoko isipin… ayoko tanggapin… ayokong maniwala, Ate Noeme, mahal na mahal kita,” fellow comedienne and actress Kiray Celis posted on social media. She and Inday Garutay, Jerald Napoles, Rossana Roces, and Ai-Ai Delas Alas were among the first of Mahal’s celebrity friends to mourn the sudden demise of one of Philippine television’s most well-loved performers.
Actor Benjamin Alves wrote: “I will miss your laugh and your aura sa set: wala kang moment, kahit late na or pagod na tayo, na di ka naka-smile. It was an honor to share a scene with you. We love you forever, Ate Mahal!”