Movie industry comes together to remember, pay tribute to Dolphy
MANILA, Philippines — At the end, as his colleagues would say, Dolphy left his audience with a smile on their faces.
In death, as was in life, the Comedy King moved his countrymen to tears tinged with joy and sadness, gratitude and hope.
During Dolphy’s one-month confinement at the Makati Medical Center, the media had been swamped with various messages of love and support from his colleagues who bravely crossed network lines for the screen legend.
Upon his passing on Tuesday night, more messages of condolences and appreciation for the iconic comedian poured in from all sectors of the entertainment industry.
Industry leaders hailed the Comedy King’s immense contribution to the entertainment industry.
Briccio Santos, chair of the Film Development Council of the Philippines, said: “A great loss. Many of us grew up with Dolphy in our midst, so he will always be a part of us and will always be remembered for all the laughter he gave us.”
Mary Grace Poe-Llamanzares, chair of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board, said: “He is mourned not just by members of the entertainment industry but by millions of Filipinos who grew up watching his movies and TV shows. Dolphy was a genuine and sincere person. An intelligent and creative actor. A storyteller who retold the story of the Filipino with humor and hope. He was a loyal friend, a generous person and a true patriot.”
Regal Films producer Lily Monteverde recalled that she produced at least four movies for Dolphy: “Darna Kuno” (1979), “Da Best in Da West” (1981), “Daddy’s Little Darlings” (1984) and “Once Upon a Time” (1987). Monteverde looked back: “It was not all business with him. He treated me not just as a producer but as a family friend. He, together with his family and my family, even traveled together to Hong Kong. He loved traveling. He always sent over food during my birthday. He was a good man.”
Manny V. Pangilinan, chair of TV5 (the network Dolphy was under contract with at the time of his passing), told the Philippine Daily Inquirer in a previous interview: “People’s laughter and applause were his medicine. [His partner] Zsa Zsa [Padilla] told us about a time when he got sick during a concert abroad. He had diarrhea, was dehydrated and was very weak. But the minute he stepped onstage, he was revitalized and performed like a pro.”
Felipe L. Gozon, chair of GMA 7, told the Inquirer: “His passing was a great loss to the entertainment industry. He will be sorely missed. I only have fond memories of him—of ‘John & Marsha’ and later ‘Home Along the Riles’ and his countless movies that gave laughter and joy to millions. He was the undisputed King of Comedy in the Philippines.”
Charo Santos-Concio, ABS-CBN president and chief operating officer, gave credit to Dolphy for paving the way for her in the industry: “I had my start as a production assistant on ‘John & Marsha’ in the 1970s. When a guest didn’t show up, I got my first acting job on ‘John & Marsha’ as well. Later, he was the star of my last movie before getting married, ‘My Juan en Only,’ in 1982.”
Bobby Barreiro, TV5 executive vice president and chief operating officer, recalled a favorite story Mang Dolphy loved sharing on the set. “He would often visit the homes of friends during town fiestas in the provinces. He would eat and dance at the party—only to discover much later that he was in the wrong house. The same thing happened at wakes. He would be welcomed by the bereaved, but he would later find out that he was in the wrong house. He said he’d be too embarrassed to take back the flowers he had already given earlier.”
These anecdotes, Barreiro said, prove that Dolphy was welcome in every Filipino home.
Ray Espinosa, TV5 president and chief executive officer, said he grew up watching the TV show “Buhay Artista” in the 1960s because his father was a Dolphy fan, too.
Perci Intalan, TV5’s head of Entertainment, recalled bumping into Dolphy at the Redemptorist Church in Baclaran. “He would usually go there on Tuesday night. One time, he was about to leave when a bunch of street children mobbed him, to ask for alms. Perhaps he got shy because I was there, so when he gave money to the kids, he made it a point to do it discreetly. He didn’t want to show off.”
Batangas Gov. Vilma Santos, who’s now identified with ABS-CBN, told the Inquirer: “The whole country is saddened by the news. He was simple but someone with a big heart for Filipinos. He entertained us for over 60 years.”
The actress-politician recalled that she first shared the screen with Dolphy when she was a child star. “I worked with him and the late comedians Panchito and Chichay when I was 11 years old in the Sampaguita movie ‘King and Queen for a Day.’ That was 1963.”
Then she became Dolphy’s leading lady in “Buhay Artista Ngayon” in 1978. “He was quiet on the set. But he had lots of one-liners that left everyone laughing. He never failed to do a videotaped greeting for me whenever I had a special celebration on my old TV show.”
Singer-actress Sharon Cuneta, who’s also a TV5 talent like the comedian, said the news stunned her: “I still cannot grasp it. I’m in shock. All I know is that I want to be as loved as he is. I want to be like him. There are too few left in the world—and especially in show biz now—who can even come close to the kind of person he was. I love him and always will. I miss him so much already. I am sad that my career will never be complete because I was never given the chance to work with him. I hope that he and my dad (the late Pasay Mayor Pablo Cuneta) are laughing together up there.”
GMA 7 actor Dingdong Dantes said: “Can you imagine the happiness that he brought to his audience? As an actor, you cannot share and perform effectively if the instinct doesn’t come genuinely from within. Now, imagine the joy he had inside his heart for him to translate this clearly to us. I am proud to be in this industry because of people like him. May his inspiration live forever.”
Cavite Rep. Lani Mercado, who appears on GMA 7 shows, said: “My husband (Sen. Bong Revilla) had just visited Tito Dolphy the afternoon before he passed away. It’s so sad. He will be missed by our industry. There will only be one Comedy King.”
Mercado said she shared the screen with Dolphy in the fantasy film “Once Upon a Time,” directed by Peque Gallaga and Lore Reyes in 1987. “It was a privilege to work with him. We will forever be thankful for his generosity when Bong was just new in politics. He visited Daddy (Sen. Ramon Revilla Sr.) when he was in the hospital and in Cavite when he was stronger.”
Another GMA 7 star, singer Ogie Alcasid, president of the Organisasyon ng Pilipinong Mangaawit, remarked: “Dolphy is a national treasure. He will be missed but he will be remembered always and for all time. He was a ninong (principal sponsor) in my first wedding (to former Miss Australia Michelle van Eimeren) and he traveled all the way to Taal, Batangas, just to attend the ceremony.”
Alcasid said he had the chance to work with Dolphy just once. “I guested in an RPN 9 TV special in the early 1990s. I was star-struck, but he was very humble, quiet and unassuming, and very appreciative of everyone on the set.”
Singer Gary Valenciano, who’s regularly seen on ABS-CBN shows, said: “It is not just the entertainment industry, but the entire nation that is mourning. It is ironic that, as much as he has made us laugh, smile and look at life with more joy, it was when he did drama roles that he touched and spoke to me the most. Dolphy did more than make people laugh. He touched people when and where it mattered most.”
Valenciano felt that Dolphy exemplified the life of a true artist, “with his consistent and constant desire to live his passion from the heart.”
Valenciano said: “If all his projects were shown on television … we would be able to enjoy Dolphy’s brand of entertainment for months, if not years, on a daily basis. If you only knew him as the King of Comedy, seeing him in action would certainly prove that he was more than this.”
TV show host Ryan Agoncillo said: “I am honored to be one of the last people that Tito Dolphy granted an interview with for his ‘Talentadong Pidol’ special. People talk about his generosity and graciousness, and I experienced it during our taping. He opened up about his experiences and made me feel at home with our instant connection. He joked about our Pinocchio-like noses, which have become our identifying marks. He inspired me and I was awed that given his stature, he was so giving and didn’t have to prove anything. He was just himself—simply, a man of wisdom—the Comedy King, Dolphy.”
Actress Carmi Martin expressed her gratitude to the man who discovered her in 1980, for the comedy film “Dolphy’s Angels”: “I am so blessed that my first movie was with him. I will always be grateful for all the help he extended to me and will cherish all those memories. He was always a gentleman and he taught us about life in show business. He loved to treat us to dinners and was very respectful always.”
Martin had the chance to act opposite Dolphy three decades later in the movie “Dobol Trobol” (2008). “Although he wasn’t feeling well during the shoot, he never demanded special treatment. He would just sit quietly in one corner and rest. He remained humble and unassuming.”
Another former leading lady of Dolphy’s, Tetchie Agbayani, considered herself a certified fan. “I grew up watching and enjoying all of Tito Dolphy’s movies. So much so that when we worked together in the movie ‘Mga Kanyon ni Mang Simeon’ in 1982, I was awed by his mere presence. I couldn’t even carry on a conversation with him.”
Through the years, they would cross paths. “I’d always see him in church or in restaurants and we’d always greet each other. He was a warm, kind and lovely gentleman. He was always dapper in his white pants,” Agbayani said.
Filmmaker Elwood Perez said: “Here was a man who had a total grasp of his essence. His mind was timeless. Simply put, he was a natural. He commanded respect effortlessly.”
Contemporary Anita Linda recalled that she first met Dolphy as a teenager at the Avenue Theater in the 1940s. “I was one of the actors in the theater group of Lamberto Avellana, while he helped his parents who sold ‘merienda’ to performers like me,” she said. “He used to carry the pots and pans. I noticed that he used to hide behind the curtains and quietly watched comedians and stage actors like Lopito, Eddie Infante and Gregorio Tikman perform. Maybe that was why he became a good comedian. He was observant and he learned from the masters.”
Another veteran actress, Marita Zobel, said: “It feels so heavy. Like the end of an era. It’s like saying goodbye to something wonderful so much so that you just want to sit down and cry.”
Zobel, who was a talent at rival studio LVN, never got to act opposite Dolphy in Sampaguita. But in the 1970s, she guested on his top-rated sitcom “John & Marsha.” “After the taping, I approached him for help, on behalf of a charity organization led by nuns,” Zobel said. “Without question, he wrote a check for the nuns.”
Fellow Sampaguita star Gina Pareño said: “He deserves the National Artist award. He is the one and only King of Comedy. It’s truly sad. But I am so proud of his partner Zsa Zsa who stood by his side, in sickness and in health.”
Talent manager and radio commentator Noel Ferrer reminisced: “Once I asked him what he prayed for. I thought he would say a longer life and better future for his family. But he shot back: ‘God has too many things to worry about. I don’t want to add to His many problems. That’s why when I pray, it’s always to give thanks.’”
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