MANILA, Philippines — He lived large and loved often. Precisely because he embodied the quintessential traits of Everyman – and his movies never afforded him the dimensions of Superman – he fell short of the epic requisites of hero.
Yet he died a national treasure (small letters, no capitals), a National Artist (capitals) in waiting. Open the treasure chest and a million chuckles, a billion laughs would escape into the sunshine. What was so special about Dolphy? I once asked another comedian, Joey Marquez, why funny men like himself and Dolphy got away with all the girls who traveled in and out their door, and he said, “We make them laugh.” The crying can wait, maybe when the babies start coming . . .?
As the beloved bringer of laffs – according to Dolphy, “timing” was key to releasing the laughing gas – you would have to bust a Chinese abacus to count his flings, but for balance, there were the “serious” romances – Vangie, Grace, Baby, Gloria, Alma, Lotis, Pilar, Zsa Zsa, whom he loved long enough to produce children or create a meaningful relationship with.
To the casual observer, it would seem that the children, all 18 of them, were more special than the women; they were why their father stayed single. The children were why he worked so hard, why Christmas Eve always left him stuffed and full to the brim, so many family dinners to partake, family after family, all in one night.
After reading the biography of Dolphy written by Bibeth Orteza, the film director Peque Gallaga said: “One is never sure if it is the portrait of Dolphy or the Filipino people.” What a wonderful movie his life story would make! Yes, but who’d dare play Dolphy?