The measure of greatness of the man who made millions of Filipinos laugh can’t be measured by a National Artist Award conferred by a committee and anointed by Malacañang. Indeed Dolphy’s significance as a national treasure transcended any award from men or laws.
A true-blooded Manileño, Rodolfo Vera Quizon, Jr. was born on the 25th of 1928 in Tondo, Manila as the second of 10 children of Melencio Quizon, a ship mechanic, and Salud Vera Quizon, a tailor.
Recollections of his boyhood were filled with memories of variety shows at Life and Avenue theaters, yet the skinny and asthmatic Dolphy would confess later that his initial dream was to join the US Navy.
The gangly teenager did odd jobs as a shoeshine boy, factory helper, porter, and calesa driver while watching the then very popular vaudeville shows. He also frequented the at Life and Avenue theaters watching vaudeville shows while selling peanuts.
Dolphy started his career at age 16 as a chorus boy. He adopted the name Golay and often performed with big stars of the era that include Fernando Poe, Sr., Bayani Casimiro, and the comedy duo Pugo and Tugo. It was World War II. His comic tandem with Panchito began during their stints in the radio.
In 1952, Sampaguita Pictures paid him P1,000.00 per movie as he debuted in the big screen which starred the love team of Pancho Magalona and Tita Duran. In 1954, he made the first of many gay roles in “Jack and Jill”, an adaptation of a Mars Ravelo komiks serial.
After his contract with Sampaguita expired in 1964, Dolphy at age 36 ventured on the television industry. His first project for ABS-CBN was “Buhay Artista”, which became a Sunday evening hit for eight years. It starred Dolphy, Panchito, Ading Fernando, and Dolphy’s vaudeville colleagues Teroy de Guzman, Babalu, and Bayani Casimiro.
In 1965, Dolphy put up his own film company, RVQ Productions, whose first venture was a movie version of “Buhay Artista”. He scored one of his biggest box-office hits as actor and producer in 1969 with “Pacifica Falayfay”.
In 1973, Dolphy transferred to RPN Channel 9 where Ading Fernando created the sitcom “John en Marsha”. It starred Dolphy as the poor but principled John Puruntong who married a rich woman’s daughter, Nida Blanca’s Marsha, but refused any financial help from his mother-in-law, Doña Delilah, portrayed by Dely Atay-Atayan. “John en Marsha” ran for a record 17 straight years until 1990. In 1978 Dolphy starred in the Lino Brocka drama “Ang Tatay Kong Nanay” as a gay parent to child wonder Niño Muhlach.
Dolphy lived a colorful personal life. He never married but fathered 18 children by six different women, all of whom he supported financially. Certainly, Dolphy’s greatest love was Zsa Zsa Padilla, the singer and actress 36 years younger, who had been his devoted partner in the last 22 years of his life.
In November 2010, Pres. Noynoy Aquino bestowed the Grand Collar of the Order of the Golden Heart on Dolphy, the highest honor given to a private citizen by the President of the Philippines. His peers believed he deserved to be named National Artist in his lifetime and nominated him twice during the term of Pres. Arroyo.
On July 10, 2012 Dolphy died at 8:34 p.m. at the Makati Medical Center due to complications from pneumonia, 15 days shy of his 84th birthday, ending a career spanned six decades and 13 Presidents from Jose P. Laurel to Noynoy Aquino, and encompassing the vaudeville stage, radio, movies, and television.