Tuesday, July 31, 2012
DOLPHY: A FAREWELL
The long-lasting popularity of one Rodolfo Quizon Sr., a.k.a. “Dolphy,” was the envy of every other Filipino actor/comedian that carried the banner of bringing comedy relief to the Filipino masses. No one in the Philippines could come close to matching the familiarity and success of the “King of Comedy’s” endearingly slapstick, knee-jerk, yet unpretentious and self-effacing style.
From the vantage point of millions of Filipinos, it was possible to see themselves through Dolphy’s onscreen character, whether it was viewed on a movie screen or on television. He was the financially-cramped denizen struggling to find a path towards the socio-economic surface; the benevolent, run-in-the-ground father figure hardly able to enjoy a moment’s peace what with life’s long-distance initiation into hardship; but he was also the lovingly-expressive, earthbound performer, the vaguely-intelligent, yet street smart commoner who never tried to impose his ways or ideas on others and who went out of his way to help those who needed help.
Dolphy’s screen image can just as well be explained however, by his off-screen persona. He was exactly the same person in real-life that you witnessed on the screen. What you saw in his films and television comedies was what you got in person. Overweening ego was never a problem for Dolphy. Neither was runaway ambition. As much as his huge body of comedic work, it was Dolphy’s aversion to going into Philippine politics—a move that was bound to lead to fiasco had he given in to temptation and signed up for it—that might have been the most symbolic decision he ever made.
Dolphy’s famous answer to the call of political office can find something of an analogy to the final scene in the 1972 film “The Candidate.” In that movie, the winner—played by Robert Redford—of a hard-fought US senatorial campaign, cluelessly asks his campaign manager “What do we do now?” Dolphy never got as far as Redford‘s character, but his own response to the possibility of gaining political office mirrored what Redford’s character said. Dolphy was to wonder aloud what he himself would do if he were to win.
Not wishing to become a farcical replica of the pretenders who have laid spurious claim to political office in the Philippines, Dolphy clearly chose wisely in not running. He shared an appreciation for the onerous duties and demands of public office and was acutely aware that his cerebral shortcomings would not be adequate to the task. Dolphy would have been the first to tell people he was not qualified to be a politician, unless he was ready to draw a clear and cynical contrast with what a politician in the Philippines ought to be, as opposed to what a politician in the Philippines really is.
Dolphy did not allow himself to fall into the trap that a number of Filipinos celebrities have fallen into: being so arrogant as to think that their fame and prosperity in the entertainment industry automatically bestowed upon them the qualifications necessary to become responsible and altruistic political leaders. Two essential conditions for being a politician in a liberal democratic system are honesty and selflessness. Take a look at the present collection of Philippine legislators. How many of them come close to fitting that criteria?
It’s not that Dolphy doubted his own honesty and capacity for selflessness. It’s that he knew that those very attributes that anchored his conscience and consciousness would not be allowed to see the light of day in the wretchedly scandalous cauldron that is traditional Philippine politics. Many well-intentioned politicians have tried to make a difference in that cauldron only to come out either disillusioned or forced to conform to the serial dysfunctionality, fragmentation, and corruption of contemporary Philippine politics. Dolphy simply did not want to be the latest convert to that unenviable list of parliamentary dissemblers, charlatans, and narcissists.
The predictable fate that awaits many a celebrity politician in the Philippines is the compilation of postural talking points, easy rhetoric, and worldly payoffs, but very little in the way of action and energy. There could no clearer statement of this than what Dolphy said several years ago to the political overtures that were floated towards him. It is not that he didn’t know what to do had he won, but that he knew exactly what would have been expected of him.