MANILA, Philippines - Dolphy's portrayals of gay men throughout his film career cost him his potential proclamation as a national artist, a recipient of the same cultural honor claims.
According to National Artist for Theater Cecile Guidote-Alvarez, the comedy king's inclusion in the final list of nominees for national artist was "passionately" opposed in the deliberation committee tasked to recommend notable personalities to be awarded the title.
Guidote-Alvarez, who was executive director of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) in 2009, was among those who deliberated on the final nominees for national artist.
Nominated by Sen. Manuel "Manny" Villar, Dolphy passed the first stage of screening, Guidote-Alvarez recounted.
"He was nominated by Sen. Manny Villar," Guidote-Alvarez said in an interview with dzMM Thursday.
"Ngayon, meron pong first stage process sa tinataguriang NCCA-CCP deliberation, may panel of experts na pinipili."
"'Yung first stage po nakapasa si Dolphy, so we were happy about that. Binubotohan po 'yun, [and] he was voted into the list para sa first stage," she added.
But due to a strong opposition from then Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) president Nicanor Tiongson, Dolphy was removed from the shortlist the NCCA and the CCP would jointly recommend to former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
According to Guidote-Alvarez, Tiongson "protested" Dolphy's inclusion as a nominee due to his early portrayals of gay men in films, which the ex-CCP director allegedly saw as demeaning to the gay community.
"Sa second stage, na-shock nga ho kami dahil somebody, a former CCP president, stood violently, or had a very passionate protest against Dolphy. It's on record and it can be -- si Nick Tiongson ho," Guidote-Alvarez said.
"Basically, siya ang pinakamatindi. Sa botohan na-shock nga kami, hindi nakapasa si Dolphy. Sa recollection ko, ang sinasabing protesta was basically hindi karapat-dapat ang body of work [ni Dolphy] na nagpe-presenta not in a good light about the gay [community], the life [of gay men]," she added.
Throughout his 65-year career, Dolphy has portrayed numerous gay characters, dating as far back as 1954, when he played the gay lead in "Jack and Jill."
The film icon followed up "Jack" with a string of lead roles portraying gay men, in films such as "Susanang Daldal" (1962), "Pepe En Pilar" (1966), "Facifica Falayfay" (1969), "Kangkarot" (1969), "Karioka Etchos de America" (1971), "Fefita Fofonggay viuda de Falayfay" (1973), "Sarhento Fofonggay" (1974), "Jack n' Jill of the Third Kind" (1978), "Ang Tatay Kong Nanay" (1978), "Darna, Kuno?" (1979), and most recently, "Markova Comfort Gay" (2000).
Dolphy ignored in 2009 conferment
After a two-year deliberation, the joint cultural agencies on May 6, 2009 recommended 4 national artists to Arroyo.
The veteran actor was not among them.
In July that same year, however, Malacañang announced that the Order of the National Artists would be conferred on 7 people, including Guidote-Alvarez, in recognition of her contribution to theater.
The Palace chose only 3 from the NCCA and CCP's original list.
Guidote-Alvarez acknowledged that the "controversial" additions were arrived upon based on recommendations not only from the two cultural agencies, but also from the Malacañang Honors Committee.
The theater stalwart said she had hoped for Dolphy's inclusion in the Honors Committee's recommended conferrees.
"Ang prinoclaim po ng presidente ay pito, kasi 'yun po 'yung mga pangalan na na-submit both from the NCCA and the CCP board, and from the Honors Commitee.
"Hindi ko po alam kung ano nangyari sa Honors Committee, because we were really for Dolphy. I do have respect for the body of works of Dolphy," Guidote-Alvarez said.
She also lamented that there seemed to be an unpronounced delineation between "high art and pop art," a factor that played in Dolphy's non-inclusion in either list of recommendations.
Clamor for Dolphy's proclamation
Three years since the last conferment of national artists, the issue has again come to the fore after several groups urged the government to finally give recognition to Dolphy.
The clamor grew in recent weeks after news of Dolphy's worsening health became public.
He has been suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and other complications.
He has since undergone tracheostomy, and has been undergoing sessions of dialysis.
Guidote-Alvarez said there may be means to fast-track the veteran actor's proclamation as national artist.
She brought attention to the supposed "right" of the president to "elect" a name to be awarded the country's top cultural honor.
"What they're forgetting, meron hong, as of 1997, meron pong joint NCCA-CCP board which said the president has the authority and the prerogative to deny anything that was recommended by the NCCA-CCP, has the right to name a category, has a right to elect or add anybody in their judgment through the validation of the Honors Committee, who should be given an award, a state award," she said.
But while she considers the feasibility of accelerating the process, Guidote-Alvarez affirmed her support for Dolphy and her unceasing "respect for his body of works."
"With regard to Dolphy, I wanted to fight for this right, [it was a matter of] principle," she said.