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Entertainment

Long live the comedy king!

THEN & NOW - Norma Japitana -

Then: Dec. 3, 1987 — 23 years ago

PS2 at Broadcast City on a rainy afternoon was not exactly the right place to be for fun and games. The set was composed of a sari-sari store, two living rooms, an office and a rich person’s sala. It was the set of the popular TV series John en Marsha, which was top-rated for the last 15 years. The show had tickled funny bones for more than a decade.

John is not John Gardiner or John Holmes or any known GI John, but our own John Purontong — the hapless husband of Marsha — played by the Comedy King Dolphy. He had a name like John with a family name like Puruntong, a decidedly satirical take on the Filipino penchant for names like Washington, Lincoln and Kennedy.

But Dolphy Puruntong had become a byword, even purveyor of such fads as the “Puruntong shorts.” The most ridiculous men’s wear ever contrived, it still made it because Dolphy wore it on the set of John en Marsha.

The call time was 2 p.m. but as most tapings went, it started late. At 6:30 p.m., only Nida Blanca and Dely Atay Atayan were on the set and discussing Dolphy with fondness. “There’s no one like him. I don’t see anyone who will take his place. There is an aura about him that is different. It is because he is real in spite of the myth.”

Dolphy has 17 children as of the last count and it is a marvel how he can equally give love and attention to all of them. One of the most astounding tales about Dolphy is his kindness to friends and how he would go all out for his children, perhaps to make up for the little time that he could give each one of them. Meantime, there were the films to finish, the daily tapings and the regular shows abroad with Alma Moreno and other top artists. It seemed that even out there, Dolphy packed the halls.

Apollo Arellano was the writer-director and executive producer of the TV series. Honed from working with the late Ading Fernando for years, he told us about working on the show after Ading’s death, just sort of carrying over until a new writer and director could be found. Dolphy decided on him taking over the helm. “I was not used to being called direk and would look behind my back everytime someone calls me that. Pero ngayon sanay na. At least I know how it was during Ading’s time and I just follow through. The most difficult part is the writing and changing it at the last minute if the cast is not complete.”

Like the taping session where Maricel Soriano and Rolly Quizon did not show up and Apollo, at the last minute, had to change the situation to revolve around the guest. Rico J. Puno who played the role of a playboy detailman pursued by three women. The scenes of Rico was supposed to be played with Rolly. In Rolly’s absence, Rico played his scenes with John Puruntong himself.

The lackadaisical evening became electric as soon as Dolphy drove up in his Mercedes station wagon all the way from Tanay where he was shooting his movie. Apollo started telling the cast the situation, reading to them first what they would say and from there it was mostly improvised. Dolphy changed into his shorts and slippers, listening to lines being fed to him as his man massaged his back and his arms.

It seemed like a regular thing on the set, but nobody paid attention to the ritual — everyone listened to the lines. The man left Dolphy only when there was a take. They were all fast takes with Dolphy, Rico and whoever was on the frame going from one set to the other, in what Apollo called tuhog. It was past midnight and we were still laughing. The scenes were simple ones culled from the Filipino snatches of life. Soon it was the final take. Dely Atay Atayan came in with her haranguing mother-in-law role.” The director let her go on and on without calling a “cut.” Another “good time” on the set of the well-known series that elicited real laughter.

Now: July 10, 2011 — 23 years after

Dolphy, who turns 83 this month, is still king. His closest next-in-line is Vic Sotto who thought of the team-up for both of them in the last blockbuster Metro Manila Film Festival entry. A few years back, Dolphy moved from ABS-CBN to TV5. It must be a tough move for him as one of the myths about him was his close friendship with El Capitan, the late Geny Lopez. Still the Dolphy Theater reminds us of how it was way back when. Most of his friends are dead: Ading Fernando, who conceptualized John en Marsha; Panchito, his partner in Dolphy and Panchito; Nida, his Marsha. Among his colleagues, only Eddie Garcia keeps up with him in the industry. Eddie himself is a great comedian although he is known for action and character roles. Dolphy and Eddie should do another movie together something like the Walter Mathau-Jack Lemon films.

His long-time love, Zsa Zsa Padilla, is still with ABS-CBN. She is now free to marry, as she just got her annulment from Dr. Modesto Tatlonghari. Will they marry? Watch out for the next colorful chapter in Dolphy’s life. But married or not, Dolphy is loved by many. In his birthday month, we wish him, “Long live the king!”

ADING FERNANDO

ALMA MORENO

APOLLO ARELLANO

BROADCAST CITY

BUT DOLPHY PURUNTONG

COMEDY KING DOLPHY

DOLPHY

JOHN

MARSHA

RICO

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