Dolphy got last wish: They took him home
Dolphy got his last wish Wednesday when he was brought to the water-front house that he had shared with partner Zsa Zsa Padilla for 20 years.
“Uwi (let’s go home),” he had been mouthing intermittently for days before he died Tuesday evening, according to his son Epy Quizon. “There was no sound, of course, because of his tracheostomy,” Epy told the Philippine Daily Inquirer earlier that day. “But it was quite clear what he was trying to say.”
The brief stop at Marina Bay Subdivision in Parañaque City was likewise Zsa Zsa’s wish—before the Comedy King’s funeral cortège, which had started from Heritage Memorial Park in Taguig City, where the wake is being held, proceeded to the ABS-CBN Studios in Quezon City.
“This was his home for 40 years,” network chairman Gabby Lopez said in his “welcome” speech. The Dolphy Theater was open to friends and fans who wished to view their idol’s remains.
At 3 a.m. Thursday, the funeral cortège moves again, back to Heritage, where the wake continues. Interment is tentatively scheduled on Sunday.
It would seem that even the best preparations could go the way of the unexpected. From the time that Dolphy was confined at Makati Medical Center (MMC) on June 9, family members had been designated chores relative to his condition. Still, Dolphy’s passing took many of them by surprise.
Dino Quizon went to MMC Tuesday night for a routine visit. His father’s condition had improved in the past few days and the family relaxed a little. Dino was met by friends there with the startling news that Dolphy had died minutes earlier, at 8:34 p.m. (The medical report would later cite multiple organ failure brought about by acute pneumonia, renal failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease as cause of death.)
Actor-director Eric Quizon, designated family spokesperson, was in Dinalupihan, Bataan province, on a directing job for TV5. It took him three hours to get back to the hospital.
Shortly before midnight, Eric read this statement to some 30 reporters and cameramen, who were still waiting at the driveway: “He lived a full life. He’s at rest. He’s at peace. He knew as he was going how much the country loved him. He knew how everyone was praying for him. If he could, he would have stayed just so he could thank you personally. But where his spirit was strong, his body had so weakened. He had to go.”
Eric then asked everyone for more prayers and added: “In his honor, please smile at the person standing next to you. Heaven is a happier place with him there. And for us whom he’s left behind, [the] comedy [king] is dead but long live comedy.”
It was Zsa Zsa who, at about 9:30 p.m., confirmed Dolphy’s death in an interview on ABS-CBN. The streets around MMC quickly filled with family, friends and fans.
Among the first to arrive were former actress Liz Alindogan, TV host Willie Revillame and actress Maricel Soriano, who worked with Dolphy on the sitcom “John en Marsha” in the 1980s. Singer-actress Karylle, Zsa Zsa’s daughter by Modesto Tatlonghari, reportedly avoided the press by taking the entrance to the hospital basement.
Despite a downpour, people stood in the open driveway of MMC Tower 1 and the walkway on Amorsolo Street. Camera crews from Channels 2, 5 and 7—camped out in front of the hospital since June 9, took out large plastic sheets to protect their equipment and braced for action. Reporters stood in the rain talking on their phones, updating their editors.
MMC security barred journalists, especially those brandishing cameras, from entering the building. They were directed to stay 20 feet from the Tower 2 entrance.
Philippine National Police (PNP) troops arrived to beef up security. According to one policeman, this was a standing arrangement with MMC, designed for crowd control when a famous patient dies—like former President Corazon Aquino in 2009.
A Heritage Memorial Park hearse arrived at the parking lot between 10 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. and left at around midnight.
Some TV reports continued till 2 a.m., with the TV5 (Dolphy’s home network since 2010) talk show “Juicy” going live.
Freddie Quizon’s son, Rowell, said in a TV interview Wednesday that his grandfather had bought his own coffin in 1976. Rowell also said Dolphy was suited up for his final public appearance all in white, with a red handkerchief in the chest pocket.
The Comedy King looked peaceful, Rowell said, “maaliwalas ang mukha”—like he was just going to a taping.”
Family members reacted differently to the patriarch’s passing, Rowell added. “Some of us were just quiet. Others, like Vandolph, were very emotional—that was understandable. He’s one of Lolo’s favorite sons. Tita Zsa Zsa was calm. She just kept saying ‘I love you’ to Lolo.”
Rowell bared for the TV camera his right arm with two tattoos of his grandfather’s face—one tattoo with the Philippine flag in the background. “This is special,” he pointed to the one with the flag. “It signifies our wish for him to be declared a national artist.”
Like most of his siblings, Epy had dropped everything to help keep watch over Dolphy, who never left the intensive care unit throughout his confinement.
In spite of the balloons and colorful greeting cards they decked the walls with, it was no party. “To see him suffering, in pain … my general, my commander in chief … it’s hard,” Epy said.
Some of his siblings had taken leaves of absence from work in the United States, he said. “One of my sisters (Nicole, adopted as a child by Dolphy and longtime partner Zsa Zsa Padilla) gave up her job in Australia.”
He had felt confident about leaving the hospital for a while, Epy said, since the FDCP lunch was held at the Asian Institute of Management in Greenbelt, just a few blocks away. “Zsa Zsa is keeping my dad company,” he said.
The night before, he related, he was told that his dad was “very talkative—he had just undergone dialysis.
The actor took the opportunity to thank Zsa Zsa: “I salute her. She’s been in the front seat of the roller coaster from the start, absorbing the bulk of the stress. If she needed to step out, even for just a while, she made sure that someone responsible would take her place. Of course we all wanted to be there all the time.”
The assignment given to Epy during this latest family episode was to oversee the annual Pidol Golf Cup, a charity tournament that raises funds for the Dolphy Aid Para sa Pinoy Foundation.
The tournament, set at the Eastridge Country Club, was supposed to open on July 25, Dolphy’s 84th birthday. The date has been moved to July 30.
At the time of this interview, Epy seemed unsure about going ahead with the event. “I didn’t want to hold it this year; I had to consult Eric and Zsa Zsa. But I know that if you asked my dad, he would definitely say, ‘The show must go on.’”
‘Not up to us’
When talk turned to the campaign to declare Dolphy a national artist, Epy said: “I just want my dad; everyone else can have all the awards.”
The family wasn’t even lobbying for the honor, he added: “It’s not up to us; we have no control over that. But I agree with what (TV5 boss) Manny V. Pangilinan and (filmmaker) Jose Javier Reyes said in separate Inquirer stories: More than a national artist, my dad is a national treasure.”
Dolphy was dubbed king of comedy because of his humility and commitment to his craft, Epy pointed out. “He didn’t do it for awards. He took his job, which was to make people happy, seriously. He was born to be an entertainer and, as such, he stood the test of time. Award or no award, that will never change. He’s the father I grew up with. He will always be king for me.”
When the Comedy King’s coffin was carried into the 250-seat Dolphy Theater, among the pallbearers were Kapamilya executive Johnny Manahan and comedian Vhong Navarro. Top execs present during the tribute for one of the network’s biggest stars ever—aside from Gabby Lopez—were channel head Cory Vidanes and business unit head Deo Endrinal.
In his speech, Lopez described Dolphy as “an extraordinary person who became a symbol for the ordinary Filipino.”
He added: “(Dolphy’s show) ‘Buhay Artista’ was the original traffic/crime stopper. The whole nation stopped to watch Dolphy and Panchito (Alba).”
Lopez said the comedian’s passing was “the end of an era of television-watching in the Philippines—a kinder, gentler time and full of laughter.”
A necrological Mass was celebrated at 6:30 p.m. and public viewing commenced at 9. Admirers and supporters may again view Dolphy’s remains at Heritage Memorial Park from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday.
Major foreign news organizations published reports of Dolphy’s death. The Associated Press released a story with the headline “Dolphy, comedian adored by many Filipinos, dies.” It was carried by The New York Times, CNN and Fox News, as well as American websites Boston Globe, Newsday, The San Francisco Chronicle and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
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