Who could forget the King of Philippine Comedy, Dolphy?
And even more unlikely is the probability of failing to remember how he made our days brighter with his laughable antics, puzzling yet amusing facial reactions to flabbergasting situations, his overall comedic genius that makes him a natural performer whenever he appears onscreen. One cannot also count out his impressive dramatic chops in tearjerkers that really made us weep unabashedly.
His death eight years ago due to multiple organ failure was a huge loss to the entertainment industry, as his mere absence on film and TV made audiences long for the brand of organic humor as the country’s top comedian with precise timing and delivery that is rarity if not totally nonexistent nowadays.
Dolphy made us laugh—actually, really laugh out hard in the purest sense—not with the discomfort of realizing someone else might be hurt with his jest but only with the genuine, irreparable wit for which he is most famous.
Over the years, we’ve known Dolphy through the characters he played on TV and films, and these iconic portrayals further added to his illuminating stature not only in entertainment but in Philippine culture as well.
To celebrate his 92nd birth anniversary on July 25, here are seven of the Comedy King’s most iconic roles that will be forever etched in every Filipino’s hearts and minds, and leave them smiling or guffawing every time they revisit them.
Gorio (Jack And Jill, 1954)
Image credit: Far East Film Festival
Produced by his first studio, Sampaguita Pictures, Dolphy played a role that established himself as a movie actor in Mars Ravelo’s “Jack And Jill,” as Gorio, the gay brother of tomboyish Benita (Lolita Rodriguez), who is actually a jeepney driver. After being orphaned, he would soon be adopted by a rich family while Benita would pretend to be a boy to get a job. With his girlish antics, the role became a staple for Dolphy in his succeeding movie appearances.
Facifica and Pacifica (Facifica Falayfay, 1969 Mga Anak Ni Facifica Falayfay, 1987)
Image credit: ABS-CBN News
“Facifica Falayfay” is one memorable offering in 1969 from Dolphy’s own production unit RVQ Productions that was actually adapted from a Mars Ravelo comic book. Dolphy played Facifica, a lovable gay character who was raised like a girl by his mother Aling Kobay (Dely Atay-Atayan) due to her obsession of having a daughter. But when she passed on, Facifica would learn combat skills from his brothers and in turn, become a real man. He would then meet Ligaya (Pilar Pilapil), with whom he falls in love and protects from harm, and thus turns straight and marries her.
A sequel, “Mga Anak ni Facifica Falayfay,” was released 18 years later, wherein Dolphy has become a police officer named Pacifico, who has since remarried after raising his three sons with his late wife Ligaya, including Rodrigo (Roderick Paulate), who turns out to be gay. In coming to terms with this fact, Rodrigo would learn that his dad also used to be gay but Pacifico refused to admit he was Facifica. In the end, Pacifico would accept Rodrigo’s sexuality.
Coring (Ang Tatay Kong Nanay, 1978)
Photo credit to owner
In one of his most remarkable performances as an actor, Dolphy starred in the classic directed by the late National Artist for Film Lino Brocka, “Ang Tatay Kong Nanay.” Dolphy played Coring, a gay beautician who fell in love with Dennis (Phillip Salvador). Dennis would then have a child named Nonoy (Nino Muhlach) with the prostitute Mariana (Marissa Delgado) but couldn’t take on the responsibility of being a parent. He would entrust Nonoy with Coring when he works overseas. Hesitant at first, Coring would eventually accept the role of being both a “tatay” and a “nanay” to Nonoy, as he wanted Dennis to just focus on assuring a better future for his son. Throughout his stay with Coring, Nonoy believed he was actually his real parent. This was until Mariana returned and tried to take Nonoy away.
Dondoy (Darna, Kuno?, 1979)
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With much hype and excitement, people always looked forward to learning who among the gorgeous and alluring female stars in showbiz will be named as the Pinay superhero Darna through several generations.
But who would think, especially during the late 1970s, that Dolphy would also portray the luscious, powerful character? Well, satirically of course! He plays Dandoy, a humble tricycle driver given the magical stone by the original, true Darna (Brenda del Rio), who was incidentally pregnant and could not fulfill her superhero duties. As Darna Kuno, Dandoy appeared in a Darna costume all with the same powers that the real heroine possessed. Even Dandoy’s love interest Annabel (Lotis Key) got wind of his secret and likewise swallowed the magical stone and became the other Darna Kuno. Both Dandoy and Annabel as Darna Kuno 1 and 2 would fight off evil beings, such as tikbalangs, aswangs, and even aliens. After their successful stint as replacement Darnas, the real one returns after giving birth to a daughter who also wore a Darna costume.
John Puruntong (John en Marsha, 1970s-early 1980s)
Image credit: ABS-CBN News
In a comedic television role that Dolphy had been closely associated with from the 1970s to the first half of the 1980s, John Puruntong was definitely representative of the struggling Filipino head of the family and everyday man. From his daily encounters with zany kumpares and pesky associates to handling an overbearing, elitist mother-in-law Dona Delilah (Dely Atay-Atayan), John remains the cool, responsible dad to Rolly (Rolly Quizon) and Shirley (Maricel Soriano) and a loving husband to Marsha (Nida Blanca). Dolphy played John in numerous film versions and several seasons of the show that is considered one of the highest rated sitcoms in Philippine TV history. A spin-off, “John En Shirley,” was aired on ABS-CBN in 2006.
Kevin Cosme (Home Along Da Riles, 1992-2003)
Image credit: Star Cinema
In the tradition of “John En Marsha,” Dolphy took a TV role that further catapulted his greatness as a comedian. In the burgeoning era of a revitalized ABS-CBN in the early 1990s, Dolphy would take on the role of yet another responsible father-everyday man named Kevin Cosme in the hit sitcom “Home Along Da Riles.” A widower, Kevin would take care of his four children—Bill (Smokey Manaloto), Bob (Gio Alvarez), Bing (Claudine Barretto), and youngest Baldo (Vandolph) amidst the challenging conditions of a home by the railtracks. He is a hardworking janitor/messenger for a placement agency who dreamed of someday working overseas as a cook. Not only would Kevin have to encounter difficulties of raising his kids but also deal with a persistent former lover, his sister-in-law Ason (Nova Villa), her greedy half-brother Richy (Babalu), and other characters in the closely knit, tightly spaced neighborhood that rumbles violently when a train passes. Dolphy also played Kevin in two film versions of the comedy series.
Walterina Markova (Markova: Comfort Gay, 2000)
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In what is considered as his most shining moment as an actor, Dolphy ditched his funnyman side momentarily for this one significant project that heralded worldwide acclaim. As the old version of Walter Dempster or Walterina Markova, he told the story of his lifelong suffering in the hands of an abusive older brother, and eventually as a “comfort gay” to satisfy the sexual cravings of Japanese soldiers in World War II. Playing his younger selves in various points in his life were sons Eric and Epi Quizon.
For this performance, Dolphy won the Prix de la Meilleure Interpretation in the Brussels Film Festival in 2001 with Eric and Epi. He also received various acting nominations in the FAMAS, Gawad Urian, Young Critics Circle, and the Metro Manila Film Festival.
These portrayals surely place the Comedy King not only in the lofty annals of Philippine entertainment and culture but also in the simplest manner we face our way of life as a people, making us really have a hearty laugh despite the toughest of ordeals.