By Gel Santos Relos
The man who brought joy and laughter to generations of Filipinos is gone.
After two years of his most intense battle with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, Dolphy joined our Creator last Tuesday, July 10, at 8:34 in the evening at the Makati Medical Center, due to multiple organ failure, secondary to complications brought about by severe pneumonia, COPD, and renal failure.
The whole nation mourns-- it is as if one member of the family died. Yes, that is what Dolphy is to us.
For six decades, Dolphy has been part of almost every Filipino family’s history, making us laugh and cry, on stage, radio, television, and film.
He was on radio starting in the 1940s when it was the major source of entertainment for Filipinos. He starred on Conde Ubalde’s radio shows, most notable was the program “Wag Naman” which topbilled Pancho Magalona, Tessie Quintana, and Baby Jane. It was also during these golden years of radio when his comedy duo with Panchito started.
Dolphy was on television since it started in the 1950s, appearing for the first time on ABS-CBN’s Buhay Artista. For decades, Dolphy made us laugh through his other programs as well, including “John and Marsha” and “Home Along da Riles”.
Dolphy’s first movie was when he was 19 years old with Fernando Poe Sr. He started doing movies for Sampaguita Pictures in 1952, and did movies with other movie outfits while being on television. He started producing his own films via RVQ Productions in 1965.
His most memorable early films as a comedian were in the 50s like “Sulyap Mo Tita”, “Jack and Jill”, “Silveria” and “Tanzan”-- the re-runs of which I am sure you truly enjoyed watching on television in the afternoon siesta time, like I did as a child growing up in the 60s and 70s.
The King of Comedy also reaped many awards as an actor in the films “Omeng Satanasia” and Lino Brocka’s “Ang Tatay Kong Nanay”. He was also given the “Best Performer” award in Brussels International Filmfest for his portrayal of the role of Markova, a Filipino homosexual man forced into prostitution during the war.
On July 25, 2008, Dolphy celebrated his 80th birthday, with the launching of a biographical book-- Dolphy,” Hindi Ko Ito Narating Mag-isa” (Dolphy, I Didn't Get Here All By Myself)-- I was honored to be given a copy of this book signed by Dolphy himself, when I interviewed him on Balitang America.
In this book, Dolphy shared about his humble beginnings. He was Rodolfo Vera Cruz in real life, born in Tondo, Manila in 1928. He was second of ten children, and his father was a ship mechanic.
As we reported on Balitang America, Dolphy’s biography revealed that his exposure to movies started while, as a young man working inside the theater selling peanuts, he watched so many many movies for free. He was only thirteen when World War II started. He helped his family by doing odd jobs including shining shoes and working as a stevedore at the pier. And then the stage later beckoned, and the rest was history.
It was these early struggles in life that has made him the compassionate, giving, and down to earth person he had always been known and admired for.
In 2010, President Noynoy Aquino conferred the Grand Collar of the Order of the Golden Heart to Dolphy - the highest award given to a private citizen by the President of the Philippines - for his contributions to the entertainment industry and for his many years of charitable and philanthropic works.
But many kababayans believed he deserved to be given the Philippine National Artist Award. Even years before his passing, his supporters have been clamoring for this, as they believe Dolphy more than met all the qualifications and requirements for this distinguished honor.
It is the highest national recognition given to Filipino individuals who have made significant contributions to the development of Philippine arts. This award is conferred no more frequently than every three years, honoring:
Filipino artists who have made significant contributions to the cultural heritage of the country;
Filipino artistic accomplishment at its highest level and to promote creative expression as significant to the development of a national cultural identity;
Filipino artists who have dedicated their lives to their works to forge new paths and directions for future generations of Filipino artists.
This recognition has been raised to the level of a Cultural Order, ranking fourth in precedence among the orders and decorations that comprise the Honors of the Philippines, and considered equal in rank to the “Order of National Scientists” and the “Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan”.
As we reported on Balitang America-- despite his death, the Philippine House of Representatives will still tackle a resolution seeking to declare Dolphy a National Artist.
In a radio interview, Rep. Salvador Escudero III said that lawmakers may also recommend a posthumous award for Dolphy.
Dolphy gave much needed respite in times of trials and desperations of our kababayans for many generations. Through his comedy, Dolphy also taught us how to laugh at ourselves, imperfections and all. With his gift of laughter, Dolphy lifted up our spirits and reminded us that no matter how hard our circumstances might had been, not all was lost.
Paalam, Dolphy...Maraming salamat sa mga halakhak....