I first saw Dolphy in person when I was about 10 years old. At that time, Manila still had a downtown. It was the Escolta – Quiapo – Avenida area. Quezon City was a suburb of Manila and was part of the Rizal province. My mother brought me along to shop for some clothes at Soriente Santos. Dolphy was there shopping, too. He and my mother exchanged pleasantries. My mother introduced me to Dolphy and he asked me how old I was. After I answered, he said, “I have a son who is of the same age as you.”
As a child in the late 1960s, I used to love watching the old Tagalog movies on TV. I loved watching Rogelio de la Rosa, Jaime de la Rosa, Armando Goyena, Cesar Ramirez, Delia Razon, Paraluman and Carmen Rosales. They belonged to a totally different world (1950s and early 1960s) where everything is literally and figuratively, black and white. And their speech was so formal. Even in later movies with the “newer” stars Gloria Romero, Nida Blanca, Luis Gonzales, Nestor de Villa, Pancho Magalona and Tita Duran, speech was still formal but stories were funnier.
Dolphy was usually in these films to provide the comic relief. He was usually a sidekick of the leading stars. I loved these comic actors like Pugo and Tugo and Tugak and Pugak.
When younger stars came in, somehow Dolphy was given father roles. Although still young, and looking very young, his hair was sprinkled with white powder to make him look older. Panchito also had father roles.
DOLPHY and PANCHITO
The turning point of Dolphy’s career must be his team-up with Panchito, Etang Dishcer’s son. It was a superb idea. Instead of playing fatherly roles prematurely, Dolphy and Panchito became the Philippines’ answer to Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin. The comic duo made more than 50 films together.
The peak of the pair’s comic career must be the TV show BUHAY ARTISTA which aired from 1965 to 1972. When I was a child, I looked forward to their weekly comedy routines. The routine that really brought the house down every time they performed it was the “Translation routine”. First they would sing a song. Then they would translate it line by line (from English to Tagalog or vice versa). Panchito would say the line and Dolphy would translate it. It was hilarious.
THE COMIC JAMES BOND
Dolphy knew that he could not let his movie career depend on a partnership. So he ventured into “solo” films, without Panchito. With the popularity of the James Bond films, Dolphy re-invented himself as the Pinoy James Bond in several James Bond – spoof films starting with Dolpinger.
From doing sissified comic roles, he became a “macho” guy surrounded with beautiful girls. I guess it was during this time that he turned into a playboy in real life.
Dolphy had a brother who was also an actor. He was Georgie Quizon, who either was really gay or was simply doing gay roles. But the gay role was perfected by Dolphy when he made Pacifica Falayfay in 1969. It was a smash hit. He later followed it up with Fefita Fofonggay. In 2001, 32 years after Pacifica Falyafay, Dolphy made a very nice movie about an aging gay person, Markova: Comfort Gay. Gil Portes, film’s director, created the perfect cast. Dolphy played the old Markova while two of his children played the younger Markova. Another son was also in the film.
In the Brussels Film Festival, the festival gave the Best Actor and Best Actress awards jointly to the Quizon trio – Dolphy and his sons Eric and Jeffrey – for their portrayal of Markova in various ages. I think it is the first and only time that male actors got the Best Actress award.
JOHN AND MARSHA
Always re-inventing himself, he ventured into another TV show. It was John and Marsha, with former movie queen Nida Blanca. According to Wikipedia, the show started in 1971. But I remember watching the show only AFTER Martial Law had been declared in 1972. During Martial Law, it was the number one local TV show. Dolphy’s son Rolly was in the cast. It was long-running and had 8 movie versions!
But at that time, I was already in high school. And my taste for comedy gravitated towards the kind Woody Allen makes. I had discovered a new kind of foreign films – done by independent directors and movie productions. Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino, Dustin Hoffman and their generation made Hollywood films so much different. I immediately lost my taste for Tagalog films.
I also discovered European films – Bergman’s, Rosellini’s, and even the Roger Vadim films. They were worlds apart from Philippine films.
I also discovered the old films of Lamberto Avellana.
On TV, I preferred watching British or American series like The Avengers, The Persuaders, The Night Stalker, Starsky and Hutch, Rich Man Poor Man, Roots, Upstairs Downstairs, War and Peace, etc.
I stopped watching Dolphy films then, until years later when I saw Markova. Although, I must have seen at least one John and Marsha film version because I remember my mother asking why was the Nida Blanca character (Marsha) wearing a Girard Perregaux watch when she was supposed to be poor, living in a shack. My mother loved Girard Perregaux watches as most of her watches were GP.
ALMA and LOTIS
In the 1980s when Dolphy was still with Alma Moreno, I went to a fund-raising show which was highlighted by a performance by Alma Moreno. On the table near us sat Dolphy. Before Alma’s number, the emcee introduced Lotis Key.
As a child, I had a big crush on Lotis. I found her so sweet-looking. I couldn’t understand why she fell for a comedian like Dolphy. In contrast, I was never attracted to Alma Moreno although we were about the same age. When Alma Moreno was introduced into the film industry as a young “bold” star (the term then for a sex symbol), I couldn’t understand what the fuss was all about. She was about 14 or 15 at that time. I didn’t see a femme fatale then. I only saw a kid with a flat chest.
Lotis Key dedicated her song to – who else? – Dolphy. He described Dolphy as the man who turned her into a woman. My, My. I looked at Dolphy to see if he was embarrassed but he just kept on smiling. At that moment, I had great admiration for this comedian who was a true blue ladies’ man.
After the assassination of Ninoy Aquino, the opposition called for a KONGRESO NG MAMAYANG PILIPINO (KOMPIL). It was held at the Ateneo. I attended the conference with my relatives. During that time, may pro-Marcos people kept on repeating that nobody other than Marcos could rule the Philippines. To prove to Marcos that many Filipinos can, the Congress participants voted for 50 Filipinos who could replace Marcos. I voted for my brother (Macapanton Abbas, Jr.) who was then with the MNLF, Joma Sison of the CPP/NDF and Dolphy.
Dolphy rose from the ranks. He continually re-invented himself – from sidekick to leading man to King of Comedy and No. 1 Box Office Hit. Unlike Panchito, who seemed to have just accepted the roles given to him, Dolphy created his roles – from sidekick to a comic James Bond to gay characters to a struggling but easy-going husband and father of two with a millionaire mother-in-law.
He always took the bull by the horns. When the big studios closed down, many stars went down with them. Gloria Romero, the queen of Filipino movies for two decades, was the biggest casualty. Those who survived where the ones who made their own production houses like Fernando Poe, Jr., Joseph Estrada, Amalia Fuentes and Dolphy.
When the “in-thing” was for films to be shot abroad, he went to Spain to make “El Pinoy Matador”, another box-office hit film.
When the “Bomba” (sex films) craze came, practically all the leading actors and actresses found themselves with no offers. But Dolphy rode the wave. He got the beautiful sex symbol Rosanna Ortiz to co-star with him. Rosanna did a couple of films with Dolphy. I won’t be surprised if she turns out to be one of his ex-lovers.
And during Martial Law, when movies were risky business, he went back to TV.
And of course, I am still in awe of how he handled his ladies.
Rodolfo V. Quizon, may you rest in peace.