'John En Marsha' (1973-1990): We are all Puruntongs

- Lilit Reyes - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - John H. Puruntong was Dolphy’s character on John en Marsha, a show that ran from 1973 to 1990. It was a time when families gathered around the TV to share an experience, and watching John En Marsha was my family’s habit.

John made us laugh at ourselves and warmed our hearts, as well. But John En Marsha wasn’t a cheap gag show. It was a light take on the struggles of the Filipino everyman. An everyman who didn’t ask for special favors, and insisted on his independence to keep his family’s dignity.

There was a naturally gifted actor who brought this all to life: Dolphy as John Puruntong. He played an emphatic husband struggling with the nagging pressures of a mother-in-law, with the gentle persuasion of a wife. The Puruntong family wasn’t well-to-do, but they were us — they were like us all. Dolphy’s humor showed audiences that we could make the most of life, even during the bleakest times of martial law.

Filipinos could easily relate to Dolphy’s take on John Puruntong. Because of his roots, he knew what the life of Juan de la Cruz was like. Because of his perceptions as an actor, he could reflect a poor man’s journey.

Second Father

Growing up, I spent every single Friday night with John Puruntong. He was like a second father to me. But as my family crowded around the TV, I could tell John meant something to everyone else as well.

My tatay laughed as Doña Delilah G. Jones, John’s mother-in-law, kept nagging him to do better for his family’s sake. “Kaya ikaw, John, magsumikap ka!” she’d end every episode saying. I’m sure my tatay saw himself in John, in a self-deprecating, humorous way.

 Us kids didn’t laugh the way Tatay did, but Dolphy’s comedy was as entertaining as a mascot one loved to hug. I saw Dolphy as a loving father. He endeared his way into our innocent, childlike souls. Only an actor with a true heart can have that effect.

My Nanay was hooked on Marsha, John’s wife. My mom was a working middle-class woman, and I guess she liked coming home each night and winding down with the funny lambings of John to Marsha. John and Marsha were a couple everyone wished to be. For my family, they made the struggle to feed five kids easier to accept and work for.

Dolphy found a natural chemistry in Ms. Nida Blanca, who played Marsha. Both of them are now gone, and they were two truly fine and intelligently natural actors. They weren’t a couple in real life — they both had real-life partners — but they had magic.


Perhaps it was because the Puruntongs were underdogs. John especially was the little man we all rooted for to succeed. He was a mirror of the Pinoy in us — a third world man with good intentions and solid principles, but who can’t get a break in a land of less possibilities and social inequalities.

Like us, John was a man who deserved to have a better life. He deserved the big break he was waiting for. But unlike many of us, John appreciated and savored every little break he got. So, in the end, he showed us that the true wealth any man could have is his family.

That was Dolphy’s John, the everyday Juan, then, and now. The Comedy King made us look at ourselves lightheartedly. He could be the Pinoy kid’s Tatay, or any Pinay Marsha’s husband. He was part of our families and kept us going, as we laughed our seemingly hopeless plights away in order to survive.

No wonder, this week, we all feel like we lost someone so close; someone we truly loved.

Thank you, Tatay Dolphy, for being a part of our lives. Thanks for the two decades you kept our family glued to John en Marsha. We are all Puruntongs, proudly a part of one Filipino family.

We will miss you so badly, Dolphy, but we’re happy at the thought that you are on a kinder, happier and, most probably, a funnier plane of existence now. Our fondest farewell, “Dad.”

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The author is a Palanca Award-winning scriptwriter and advertising creative director. Visit his blog at http://egreyes.blogspot.com/.











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