Inadvertently ‘upstaged’ by DolphyBy Nestor U. Torre
Philippine Daily Inquirer
JUST a couple of weeks ago, the title of an article we wrote said it all: In show business, for some mysterious reason, “Tragedy Comes in Threes.” At the time, we were referring to the consecutive demise of Whitney Houston, Donna Summer and Robin Gibb. These days, however, it’s the local arts and entertainment scene that’s being beset by tragedy.
First, early this month, Comedy King Dolphy was rushed to the hospital and feared to be at death’s door at 84 due to a number of serious ailments. The master comedian was so universally loved that the nation prayed as one for his recovery—and it looks like all those prayers aimed at Heaven’s gate are finding their mark because, as of this writing, he’s doing better at Makati Med.
A few days after Dolphy fell grievously ill, another icon, Gantimpala Theater’s director-producer Tony Espejo, was reported to be in critical condition after a heart attack.
Requests were made for prayers from the country’s theater practitioners and lovers, as well as financial donations to defray the cost of the quadruple bypass Tony was reported to be in great need of. —Alas, before that lifesaving measure could be undertaken, the acclaimed director passed away.
What was ironic was that most people didn’t even know that Tony had died, because the nation was focused on Dolphy’s own life-and-death struggle. Thus, most inadvertently of course, Dolphy had “upstaged” the director’s demise—and the good news is that Dolphy could eventually get a new lease on life if his medical condition continues to improve.
To add to the irony and the “upstaging,” another icon of Filipino arts, actor-director-writer Mario O’Hara, was himself rushed to a hospital last June 20 in critical condition, and underwent chemotherapy for leukemia. The news shocked Mario’s colleagues because, unlike Dolphy and Tony, who were known to be contending with serious illnesses for years, Mario was thought to be relatively in good health.
As with Tony, the nation was so concentrated on Dolphy’s fight for survival that news about Mario’s critical condition hit the media only a few days ago.
So, now it’s come to this—a second round of celebrity crises, this time zeroing in on the local arts and entertainment community—and, worse, felling three veritable icons who’ve made significant contributions to our nation’s artistic life.
We mourn the death of Tony Espejo and pray that the deadly toll stops right there. We need Dolphy and Mario to be with us for many more years, to do what all living icons do—not just to create other memorable works, but also to inspire other artists to come up with their own exceptional productions and performances, because the bar has been set high by the continually productive and creative masters and mentors in our midst.
Overtaken by events
—Alas, despite our best hopes and fiercest prayers, Mario O’Hara passed away a few days after we wrote the paragraph above—tragic proof that “time-lined” writing is not just a moveable feast, it can be a suddenly changeable one, as well.
This, then, is the most unexpected twist of all—that the oldest icon of the three, Dolphy, has outlived the other two—and we trust that his slow arc to recovery and wellness will continue to prosper.
Even as we mourn and honor Tony and Mario, we cheer our unsinkable King Comic for his indomitable will to survive—against all odds!
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