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Remembering Dolphy: On the Comedy King's 84th birthday today

Danee Samonte (The Philippine Star) - July 25, 2012 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - I was having lunch at my favorite restaurant Noodle & Congee at Grand Lisboa hotel in Macau when a friend texted that Dolphy passed away. A sudden feeling of gloom enveloped me. Deep down inside, I kept hoping he’d snap out of the malady and get better but alas, he decided to go to comedy heaven and join his friends Panchito, Teroy de Guzman, Bayani Casimiro, Babalu, Dely Atay Atayan and Ading Fernando.

As far back as I can remember, Dolphy has always been my idol. He was already a big star in the late ’50s when radio ruled and TV was in its infancy. In my grade school days, I would always look forward to 8 p.m. Tuesdays when Kiko and Tibo (Dolphy and Panchito) would go on air in Oras ng Shell and Panchito would read the English lyrics of a popular song and Dolphy would translate it to Tagalog street lingo.

Dolphy’s translations would always get me and my playmates rolling in stitches. When TV became the dominant player in home entertainment, Dolphy was the highest-paid actor on TV and his shows Buhay Artista and John En Marsha always dominated the ratings.

For decades, Dolphy’s entries in the yearly Metro Manila Filmfest was always the top grosser. I attribute Dolphy’s longevity in showbiz to his innate knack to adapt his comedy to current trends. When James Bond was the rage in the ’60s, he did several lampoon movies that included Dolpinger, a take-off from Goldfinger, plus a sequel Dolpinger Meets Pantarorong; Dr. Yes, a take-off from Dr. No; Operation Butterball, a take-off from Thunderball, to name a few. When kung fu and Bruce Lee was the craze in the early ’70s, he made Fung Ku. He was inspired by the hit ’80s TV series Charlie’s Angels and made Dolphy’s Angels. When Ghostbusters was one of the biggest movies in the ’80s, he made Goatbusters. A year after Titanic became the biggest film made ever, he made Tataynic. The plots of the lampooned movies didn’t necessarily have any semblance to the original. Throughout his movie career, he made over 240 movies, not including cameo roles and TV movies.

From left: Joey de Leon, Tony Reyes, Dolphy, this writer and Vic Sotto with ER Canton Salazar (standing). Below: The P1-check issued to me after I beat Dolphy in a poker game

I always wondered how funny Dolphy would be in person and dreamt of meeting him. My compadre Joey de Leon made it happen when he d Dolphy to play poker with us. Back then, Dolphy lived in the same gated community as Joey in Quezon City. On the day Dolphy was joining us, I came ahead of everybody for our poker game that normally started at 1 p.m. and lasted till the wee hours of the next morning. Our normal poker and sometimes mahjong clique included Joey, whose house was where we held most of our sessions, plus Panchito, Bert Marcelo, Tito Al Quinn, Tony Reyes and occasionally, Vic Sotto. I was so looking forward to hear Dolphy’s jokes or punchlines like on TV but was disappointed. He didn’t crack any jokes or engage us in a conversation. Panchito and Bert were the ones who provided comic relief the whole time. Dolphy was just silent the whole time. I later discovered after playing several sessions with him that he kept quiet because he was observing our playing manners. No wonder he always emerged the winner. Unlike me, Dolphy was not your average poker player. In Las Vegas terms, he was an elite poker player who would easily win tournaments. I played with him regularly for a couple of years. Sometimes, he would bring “movie goon” ER Canton Salazar as “alalay” (aide) who would make his coffee or give him a massage. Other times, he would bring Zsa-Zsa who would curl up in one corner reading a pocketbook while patiently waiting for him to finish playing. I could only remember one instance when I beat him and he had to pay me…(drum roll please)… a staggering amount of P1 which I instructed him to pay in check. I never deposited it and kept it as a memento.

When he transferred to his current home in Parañaque, he dropped out of our poker group. I saw less of him but always managed to bump into him at his favorite haunts like Hizon’s bakeshop in Ermita, Duo restaurant at the Fort, or out of town in places like Ocean Centre in Hong Kong or in Los Angeles. On one of my trips to the US a long time ago, I sat next to him on the plane and he intimated how his recent heart bypass had made him youthful and stronger. The last time I saw him was a year ago at Antonio’s in Tagaytay. He looked frail but was in high spirits, enjoying the lunch with Zsa-Zsa and his kids.

There will never be another King of Comedy as remarkable as Rodolfo Vera Quizon also known as Dolphy.

Farewell King of Comedy, it was a pleasure to have known you. Wait! I take that statement back. It should be farewell King of Comedy, it was an honor and privilege to have known you.

ALWAYS BAYANI CASIMIRO CANTON SALAZAR DOLPHY KING OF COMEDY MADE PANCHITO TONY REYES VIC SOTTO
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