The late Dolphy won’t be tagged as the “King of Comedy” for nothing.
In his 68 stellar years as an undisputed comedian and multi-awarded actor, he gave life to a number of prominent characters that did not only etch indelible marks to our hearts and minds, but to the entertainment industry as well. And one of those was the iconic John Puruntong from one of the longest running sitcoms on television, John en Marsha.
Incepted in 1973 on the primetime slot, it provided laughter and good vibes to every Filipino household as it followed the average life of the Puruntong Family, spearheaded by its impoverished patriarch John and his wife Marsha (Nida Blanca), whose affluent and domineering mother Doña Delilah Jones (Dely Atay-Atayan) was not in favor of their marriage.
Despite her disapproval, she still regularly visited their house along with her dependable sidekick-slash-maid Matutina (Evelyn Bontogon-Guerrero), offering to give them financial help which John unwaveringly rejects. This always resulted to a hilarious exchange of insults between them that would not be complete without the wealthy old woman’s mocking reprimand “Kaya ikaw, John, magsumikap ka!”, as a way of disparaging his capability to be a good provider to his family, especially to his three children Rolly (Rolly Quizon), Shirley (Maricel Soriano), and John-John (Ryan “Atong” Redillas). But in the end, they would make amends.
After 17 years on-air, it officially signed off on July 30, 1990, leaving the huge throng of its aficionados with happy memories and life lessons that they would never, ever forget.
It was a brainchild of genius scriptwriter and acclaimed director Ading Fernando who handled it from 1973 up to his death in 1984. He was replaced by brilliant director Al Quinn until their final bow in 1990.
Due to its unprecedented success, John en Marsha was adapted into a movie for nine times, namely, “John en Marsha sa Pelikula” (1974), “John en Marsha Part Two sa Amerika” (1975), “John en Marsha ’77” (1977), “John en Marsha ’80” (1980), “Da Best of John en Marsha” (1983), “Da Best of John en Marsha 2” (1984), “John en Marsha ’85 sa Probinsya” (1985), “John en Marsha TNT sa Amerika” (1986), and “John en Marsha Ngayong ’91” (1991).
ABS-CBN also broadcasted a spin-off of this in 2006 titled “John en Shirley,” with Dolphy and Maricel Soriano reprising their roles, while Matutina made a guest appearance. Vandolph was tapped to play the character of John-John.
Aside from delivering humor and showcasing the slice of life of an average Pinoy family, the extensive effect of the sitcom also gave birth to the “puruntong shorts” fad, the soft-clothed and knee-length bottoms usually wore and became a trademark of the main male protagonist.
Arguably, the people who weren’t able to catch the biggest show of the Martial Law era for they were not born yet within that period are pining to watch one of the finest and formidable masterpieces our country has ever had on Jeepney TV!