MANILA, Philippines – Through it all, in the face of 12 bouts with pneumonia in a span of one year, the Philippine Comedy King never lost his sense of humor.
Rodolfo Vera Quizon, known far and wide as Dolphy, gave his lingering sickness a good fight, even joking about it among friends, until he breathed his last at 8:34 p.m. of Tuesday at the Makati Medical Center in Makati City.
“You have killed me many times, huwag n’yo naman akong madaliin,” the King of Comedy told a group of media persons in one of his last engagements. “Darating din tayo d’yan.”
The 83-year-old actor who specialized in comic roles in both TV and movies in a career that covered over 60 years died in the presence of family members and other relatives.
Dolphy had been confined at the Intensive Care Unit of the MMC since June 9 this year. Diagnosed in 2007 with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), a progressive disease not unlike cancer, he had been in critical condition since. Dolphy’s confinement had been marked by a series of dialysis sessions and blood transfusions.
Rumors of the actor-producer’s failing health had been swirling in local show business the past couple of years. Reports of cancelled work at the last minute on his movie and TV sets only fueled such talks.
A young actress cast in one of these projects said co-workers would show up for work on the set only to be sent home after hours of waiting because the lead actor, Dolphy, was indisposed.
Dolphy, who battled with asthma throughout his life, admitted in December he had weak lungs. His partner, Zsa Zsa Padilla, expressed concern over his failing health even as she cautioned him from continuing work in showbiz.
On his last few months, he was never without an oxygen tank close by. Doctors had also advised him to stay away from crowded places to strengthen his immune system. It was the reason why he opted not to attend the Metro Manila Film Festival parade of stars two years ago even if he had two entries, the comedy film, “Father Jejemon” and the 1920s period piece, “Rosario.”
Dolphy also failed to grace the awards ceremony of the same festival on Dec. 26, presumably to avoid being in the company of so many people. Dolphy’s absence, however, failed to decrease his chances of winning acting awards at the 36th edition of the MMFF that year.
That MMFF year, he made history by winning both the Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor trophies for his work in “Father Jejemon” and “Rosario,” respectively. A few months back, Dolphy was presented the Grand Collar of the Order of the Golden Heart by President Benigno S. Aquino III in what many considered as a first step to being named National Artist.
Epy Quizon, one of Dolphy’s children who have followed in his footsteps in show business, said it had long been the desire of the family to make their father stop all work. Dolphy refused to quit and preferred to continue working. He ran what was to be his last regular show, “Pidol’s Wonderland,” on TV5 and had just finished what was to be his last movie, “Father Jejemon.”
In an interview with Bulletin Entertainment, Dolphy said, “I used to think I was retired, until another project would come along.”
Epy said the family compromised with Dolphy’s wish to continue working by setting time limits to his schedule. The actor worked only on weekdays, between 3 to 7:30 p.m.
Zsa Zsa Padilla, Dolphy’s companion for the last 22 years, said they had long ago wanted Dolphy to retire, but like a soldier in the line of duty, he wouldn’t hear of it. The Comedy King even recorded a CD of his favorite songs and novelty numbers.
He considered having recorded a full-length album under Poly East a milestone, a souvenir, nay, a legacy, he could leave behind for friends and family.
Entitled “Handog ni Pidol: A Lifetime of Music and Laughter,” the CD chronicles the colorful landscape of Dolphy’s career with a track list of standard classics (“The Way You Look Tonight,” “What A Wonderful World”), novelty (“Sitsiritsit,” “May Sakit Ang Tao Sa Ilalim Ng Kubo”) ballads, and other homegrown favorites.
We asked Dolphy what he thought was still lacking in his long, long career which saw him through stints in vaudeville, movies and television.
He said there was none. He’s been there, done that, yet he never stopped.
He might have turned a bit slower, having just stepped out hospital then, but his wit, zest for life, that sense of humor, had not lost that characteristic spark and sparkle.
Dolphy thanked his long-time partner, Zsa Zsa Padilla, for having stood by his side through thick and thin.
He said, “I thank God for having given Zsa Zsa to me.” She wears many hats for him, including texting, which he has no knowledge of.
“We have been together for 22 years, he has always kept me inspired,” Zsa Zsa countered. The singer-actress called herself a producer by default, having taken over producing chores for “Jejemon” on its last quarter filming.
“Hindi na kasi makapirma ang producer,” she joked.
Rodolfo Vera Quizon is one of the last stars who crossed over from the vaudeville era of the 1940s to mainstream movies and television. Discovered for the movies by Sampaguita Pictures in the 1950s, he played support and then lead roles in countless movies and TV shows.
Among his most memorable performances were in “Ang Tatay Kong Nanay,” “Facifica Falayfay,” and “Markova.”
On television, Dolphy turned into a pop icon by way of “Buhay Artista” and “John en Marsha.” (NESTOR CUARTERO)