The online news portal of TV5
The king of comedy is dead. Like all true kings, he was always polite, always kind and humble. He always met your gaze. Those he did not know, like myself, were certain to always get a smile and if you smiled back, he would get up from his chair and give his hand. That’s how real kings behave and not like prissy snobs.
His family says he was uncomfortable with the regal title. I don’t think so. But I do think he would have wanted it to be official. A king is not king until he is anointed in a cathedral of praise. Sure he had us in stitches, and yes he is king of laughter for us but you cannot hang laughter on a wall or around your neck like the highest cultural honor of state and not some silly substitute hastily dubbed the Order of the Golden Heart as though he was heart surgeon or a cardiac patient who had outlived all scientific expectations.
Dolphy made us laugh because we saw ourselves in the situations he portrayed. Rich, middling classes, and the vast poor; we saw how we made fools of ourselves when especially we did not mean to.
All of us know loneliness but it is felt most sharply by the odd man out, the one who doesn’t know where to park his ass in a party, or who cannot dress properly for the occasion or a bird that can’t fly, a penguin. There is the shame of failing to hide your delight at getting a small portion of what others take for granted; a little praise, a pat on the back; maybe a little money to make your child happy and then having to give it away or pay a pressing obligation.
Dolphy’s comic genius was his depiction of our situation as one where mockery is always about to break out. The best we can hope for is to turn it to laughter even at our expense, making it the only happiness that most Filipinos can afford to give.
A misguided tribute said that Dolphy’s long career of unrelieved comedy was redeemed when he gave a tragic turn to his usual character of a gay making the most of a bad situation. Yet that too was comedy but without pulling any punches as to where the condition of not belonging finally leads.
Tragic roles are easy. Someone of importance loses it all. You don’t have to appear ridiculous. But most people have little or nothing, be it money, charm or social grace -- and lose even the little or nothing. Now that’s funny because being of such small account one would have thought they might be spared the last indignity but they are not spared.
Dolphy never changed the scenes of his comedies. It was the unspoken wisdom of his body of work that governments change, time passes yet nothing changes for the better but there can be contentment if you look for it. I felt vaguely offended when the Dolphy who brightened our gloomy lives during martial law was still the same Dolphy after WE had liberated the country. But he was right and we were asinine to think we had made a difference.
Indeed, in the deepest disappointment, in the most wretched moments of loss, there is always something funny; not least because Someone up there Who claims to be able to do anything, does nothing to keep it from happening. Call Him God, call it Fate, call what you like the power that could make it all right yet doesn’t -- from malice of course so it must be for entertainment. And when someone laughs in a movie house others follow.
It is laughter not courage that is contagious. Comedy is the book of laughter and forgetting, to borrow from Milan Kundera. But Dolphy left the last page blank for us to fill in.
Struggling to stay alive, giving the state every chance to give him his due, still it missed its cue. Perfect. Every man wants respect; not getting any was the stuff of Dolphy’s comedy.
As the enormous regard and affection became more evident, the government and its paid apologists in media started pinning the blame on others than their paymaster. One came out with the story that homophobia prompted the body responsible for nominees to National Artist to reject Dolphy who frequently portrayed gays. But that body is homosexual in composition. What is this, self-loathing?
A president who can reach through the separation of powers to remove the Chief Justice at will, can certainly confer the National Artist Award on a man whose art -- it was art-- also entertained the nation, across all classes, and not just a select few without pretensions of educated taste because none of them has ever produced a halfway literate piece of criticism. But he did not. He gave him instead the Order of the Yellow Pumpkin whose gravity was such as to make Dolphy’s knees buckle under the weight. Dolphy never missed a chance to make fun of anything that so readily came to hand.
Victor Hugo of course missed the Nobel Prize because Nobel had not yet invented dynamite let alone made a fortune from it; but he wrote for the people and was buried in the Pantheon after a gigantic funeral and ceremonies of a splendor that rivaled Napoleon’s.
We must never accept that anyway Dolphy is the National Artist of our hearts. That’s nonsense. There is no such award. No law creates it. It doesn’t exist. And there is only one National Artist Award in law and it was refused Dolphy by a president who has absolutely no respect for process unless it suits him, which it does in this case.
The Liberal Party is hyperventilating because it had hoped to launch its senatorial slate on the groundswell of emotion over Dolphy’s death and so ride, so to speak, his golden casket to electoral victory, thereby earning the sobriquet, Libingan Party or LP.