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Whether he was playing gay stereotypes or every down-on-his-luck everyman, we all knew Dolphy as a parent. As "The Good Father" in 1975, as "Tatay Kong Nanay", or, of course, as John or Kevin. We also, of course, knew of him as a very real father to his 18 children. In every role, real and onscreen, Dolphy taught us what it means to be a grownup.
Some lessons we'll always be thankful - and better - for:
1. Magsumikap ka
Some things are just out of your league. But so what? Beautiful women. Fast cars. A winning Sweepstakes ticket. A roof that doesn’t leak. You may be out of luck the rest of your life, but all that means is that you have to pray and work a little bit harder than everybody else. As John Puruntong and then as Kevin Cosme, Dolphy taught us to pray – staccato blinking tears away if necessary – and to keep faith in ourselves. Do these and...
2. You win some, you lose some
You'll get the love of your life. But then you may also have to live with in-laws from hell. Either way, life gives you what you deserve. Enough happiness to keep you thanking Heaven, and enough reality to keep you humble. The secret is knowing the difference between blessing and curse, but only so neither's meaning or purpose is lost. You'll still have to swallow both, anyway, because one doesn't make you stronger without the other.
3. Heroes, like friends, come in different forms and funny names
Sometimes heroes come in the form of a scrawny, curly-topped lad with a big nose. Sometimes he’s bald with a talent for playing the guitar. Or he could have a really long chin, and/or a round belly. Or he could look and sound like a horse. No matter. Know your friends and they’ll have your back. You’ll all get beaten up in the end, but you’ll all get beaten up together. And that’s what impresses the girls, actually.
4. Do the most with what Life gives you, but never stop dreaming
What did the young Rodolfo Quizon want to be? A dancer. If not that, a dancer.
But then a funny thing happened on the way to Avenue Theatre: "Dolphy". He'll do better as a comedian, he was told. And they were right. And yet ...
In his 80s, in his final interviews, Dolphy – legendary comedian, legendary father, legendary Filipino - was asked what he wishes he could do. His consistent reply: To dance some more.
5. It's OK to make mistakes, love will save you every time
Dolphy's life was an open book. His biography, written by Bibeth Orteza, reads like it was transcribed by Bibeth Orteza. In it, Dolphy recites his life with unwincing honesty and, ergo, charm. He talks about his many children by many women. About where "The Good Father" often went bad, went wrong. He had regrets. He had mistakes. And his children had major, major, major mistakes.
But every week Dolphy hosted lunches and dinners to which his children never failed to come home, to hug him and each other as if their love was no different from what we all know in our own homes and families. And it wasn't.