Wednesday, June 20, 2012

THE MAN WHO MADE US LAUGH

9:08 PM / 20 June 2012


Since this afternoon we have all remained restless.  And sad.  Although we have heard about his physical condition for some time, we are still struck with such loneliness when we hear the updates regarding his health.  


This time it looks bad.  As I write this, everyone is quiet and speculating.  We all love the man.  The nation has always loved this man.  We love him because for decades ... nay, generations ... he never ceased to give us the joys of laughter.


His was a most imperfect life but he never made any claims of sainthood nor did he use himself as an example of perfection.  


He shunned invitations to join politics ... and instead preserved that oh-so-awesome disposition that had remained unchanging through so many years that we have known him.  What was it about him that made him so different --- and so loved?  It certainly was not his reputation as a Lothario.  It was not the sheer power of his comedic talent.  It was his humanity.  It was his humility.


It was because they don't make people like him any more.


There shall never be another Dolphy.  


We are in tears because we do not know a life in this country --- with our obsession for stars and show business --- without that single icon whose very image embodies all of what we know as Philippine comedy.  


If Fernando Poe Jr was Da King ... then Dolphy owned the other half of the kingdom.  If FPJ shared the throne with the equally iconic Joseph Estrada, Dolphy reigned unquestioned and unchallenged as the Emperor of Comedy.  For he, together with only a handful left, represent the entire evolution of popular entertainment in the country as we understand it today.  Dolphy is living history.


For the career of Rodolfo Quizon was not as privileged as the "stars" of today who become overnight sensations because of the availability, accessibility and the power of media.  Dolphy rose from the ranks.  He honed his talents through years of hard work together with some of the legends whose names shall forever remain etched in the annals of entertainment doctrines in our country.




To trace the history of Dolphy's career is to create a map of what was Philippine entertainment through decades of the twentieth and the early twenty-first century.  


From the bit player of stage shows called bodabil where the likes of Mary Walter, Bayani Casimiro, Katy de la Cruz, German Moreno, Pugo, Tugo, Lupito and Patsy --- and, yes, the young Gloria Romero -- found their footing into the world of music, applause and laughter, Dolphy evolved into more than just an icon --- but a personification of the Filipino immortalized by stage, television and films.


Anyone Filipino familiar with local mass media, its images and elements can never talk about television without mentioning the name of John Puruntong.  


For who of that tv generation escaped the years of amusement that Ading Fernando's seminal Filipino family in the persons of John, his wife Marsha (played by the late Nida Blanca) and their children Rolly (performed by his real life son Rolly Quizon)and Shirley ( embodied by a child star named Maricel Soriano at the start of the series).  John En Marsha holds the record of being one of the longest running sitcoms in Philippine television.  The family evolved right front of the eyes of the viewer --- and, to this day, the Filipino Everyman has been and will always be John Puruntong.


For the younger generation, Dolphy is Kevin Cosme of Home Along Da Riles.  A carry-over of the John Puruntong character, Kevin Cosme provided the same image of the Pinoy tatay who dealt with fate with an open heart and who never lost his humanity amid the foibles and complexities offered by life.  


One thing notable about Dolphy's seminal portrayals and characters: they are funny in a Chaplin-esque way: it is the vulnerability of the portrayal that makes him lovable. He is never harsh, he is never impolite --- and he does not resort of vulgarity to win his laughs. He is a gentleman as much as he is a comedian.  He dignified the power to generate laughter ... never resorting to the lowest techniques and strategies just to elicit a chuckle.


Unlike comedy as it is understood today (founded more on profanity, insulting and macabre forms of aggression), Dolphy was the master of timing, wit and even underacting.  Whereas others resort to in-your-face slapstick even to the point of vulgarity or brutality just for laughs, Dolphy was the original Mister Suave who earned his laughs by being real and human and never insulting the dignity of his co-actors just to pander to an audience.


It is this humanity that has made his other most memorable characters go far beyond the superficiality of slapstick.


Remember Facifica Falayfay or Fefita Fofonggay? Whereas there are still those who feel that the actor made a mockery of the flamboyant gay image, a closer look would reveal that never did he assume a condescending nor an insulting attitude toward the characters he played.  On the contrary,  despite the fact that he was going for the laughs, Dolphy showed affection and love for the characters because he made them human and not mere shrill caricatures as others of less talent and nobility of intention would tend to do.  He never made his gay characters abrasive --- loud perhaps and excessive --- but never consciously malicious nor indecent.


That is what made them funny ... yet endearing.


And in that movie where Dolphy worked with another legend of Philippine cinema Lino Brocka, in a film entitled Ang Tatay Kong Nanay with then child superstar Nino Muhlach, the master comedian proved that behind the perfection in comedic timing lived an actor whose sensibilities and sensitivities could easily elicit tears from the audience as well.


For more than anything else, Dolphy was an artist.  


During his Buhay Artista days in the old ABS-CBN, Dolphy displayed his smooth moves on the dance floor as well as his perfect chemistry with then sidekick Panchito Alba.  To this day, we of that generation recall all those somewhat tired but still funny weekly routines when Dolphy and Panchito translated English songs into Pilipino.  The humor was actually a one-note number but still we succumbed to fits of hysterical laughter as the duo massacred their musical translations.


But perhaps for the people in the industry, Dolphy means so much more than the other half of the symbol of the business: the mask that flaunted laughter, he who is the quiet and gentle clown.


Dolphy is loved by his colleagues because of legendary generosity --- but more so, his endearing ability to listen to others.  Despite his stature, Dolphy never lost his sense of reality --- and humility.  He would always be the first to give a helping hand even before anybody asked for it.  He would lavish people with what was within his reach ... inasmuch as he would make sure that he took care of everything and everyone around him.  That was his sense of high.  That was what kept his humanity.


Whereas nowadays we are surrounded by instant celebrities who think they are stars and behave as if the entire universe revolved around them, a man of such magnitude and stature like our Mang Dolphy remained the same simple, feet-on-the-ground gentleman with a soft voice and immaculately garbed.  Unlike today when "stars" enter a room with their intimidating entourage as if demanding everyone within peripheral view to turn around and look while declaring, "Look, you mortals ... I am here!", Dolphy would slip in quietly, take his seat and make himself as inconspicuous as possible --- as if he of the stuff that make legends is wary that he would disturb the peace.


I never had a chance to work with Dolphy as a director --- but what I hold dearest was the opportunity to work for him as a writer.


And considering all the volumes of work I have written for television and screen, that single television script I created for a made-for-tv movie starring the King of Comedy should prove to be one of the closest to my heart.


Entitled "Love, Daddy", it was directed by Peque Gallaga.


Aside from Dolphy, this obscure piece of work also featured the late Charito Solis and his son Eric Quizon as well as Dawn Zulueta.


When I was approached to write for this project, I immediately thought of a story I was yearning to see onscreen and I knew Mang Pidol would be the perfect actor to portray the role.  It was about my father's year right after his retirement: even before Jack Nicholson did About Schmidt, I wrote a teleplay about the pain, agony and frustrations of a freshly retired man who has worked all his life and is now compelled to stay home and feel absolutely useless.


I guess the story was just too close to my real life because when my parents --- as well as my other relatives --- saw the telecast, the reactions were varied.  Some of my cousins were on the floor laughing as Dolphy faithfully captured the pagkabugnutin of my father as he found himself at home doing nothing except nitpicking on all the details of running a household and looking over my Mommy's shoulders while she underwent her own therapy to cope with my Dad's omnipresence: making endless kalderos of mango jam.  


My mother was not too happy because she said I did not characterize her correctly (and I still laugh each time I remember how my mother berated me for making her look somewhat like a contravida -- and worse, when she went completely ballistic and said, "Hindi ko iniwan ang tatay mo, ano? Bakit mo pinalabas na hiniwalayan ko ang Daddy mo?!") 


But it was my Dad who was the best sport. That is why to this day I miss him.


Amid all the flurry of reactions, my Dad said: "How much more honor can I get? Somebody portrayed me ... and it was no less than Dolphy."


I never had the chance to tell Mang Dolphy the happiness he gave my father for unwittingly portraying his role.


But now that I think of it, I feel bad ... I feel sad when I hear all the news about Mang Dolphy's state of health. I guess the affinity is there.


Like so many of us in the entertainment business, we are so afraid --- so terrified --- to be left behind by a man who we all consider as our father.


I have said it once and I will say it again: Rodolfo Quizon may not have been given the honor of being a National Artist (for some reason or another to which I will refuse to even think about or discuss because the deed has been done) --- but to a number of us, nay, a great number of us not only in show business --- Dolphy is more than a National Artist appointed by a committee and anointed by a Palace.


The man who made us laugh is a national treasure. And no simple decision of men or laws can make some as priceless.


We love you, Mang Dolphy. We cannot imagine Philippine entertainment without you.







7 comments:

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  3. Such a wonderful piece, Direk.

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  4. Things may end but I guess some things never vanished.

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  5. Please write about Tony Espejo, he died hours ago. Rest in PEACE.

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