MANILA, Philippines -- Until his last breath, Rodolfo "Dolphy" Vera Quizon sought to affirm his love for Zsa Zsa Padilla, his partner for 23 years.
|Dolphy and Zsa Zsa with daughters Nicole and Zia. File photo
Padilla, dubbed as the country's "Divine Diva," on Thursday revealed the King of Philippine Comedy's last words to her before he passed away on Tuesday.
As he lay in bed at the intensive care unit of the Makati Medical Center, Dolphy whispered "I love you" to Padilla, who used the same three words to end her speech during the necrological service for the veteran actor.
"He (Dolphy) said it to me, 'I love you,' [whispering] dahil wala na siyang boses, dahil meron siyang [tracheostomy tube]," the singer told members of the press at the Heritage Park in Taguig, where Dolphy's wake is being held until Sunday.
Padilla said she was surprised at Dolphy's expression, as she and his family members hardly ever knew when the film icon was conscious.
"'Yun talaga, ang swerte ko dahil nakita ko pa 'yun. Sabi ko, 'Lovey, lovey!' Makulit ako sa kanya eh, dahil ayaw niya ngang nakikita kaming malungkot at umiiyak. Palaging ganoong tono, 'Lovey, lovey, I love you!'
"Tapos sabi niya bigla, 'I love you' [whispering]. [Sabi ko] 'Oh my God, you're awake!' Kasi nung day na 'yun hindi mo na alam kung gising siya. Sometimes he tries to open his eyes, pero 'yung kilay niya nalang gumagalaw," Padilla said.
|Zsa Zsa Padilla (middle) with her daughters with Dolphy, Nicole
(left) and Zia, during Wednesday's necrological service
Even as he passed away due to multiple organ failure, the singer would not let Dolphy's last words be the last of their exchange.
As his remains were being prepared for his wake, Padilla would still speak to the film icon, his grandson Ruel Quizon said.
"Kanina noong inaayusan si Lolo, kinakausap-usap niya parang 'Lovey ang pogi-pogi mo' tapos luluha siya," Ruel said on Wednesday.
During the necrological service held at the theater named after him in the ABS-CBN compound, Padilla would still bid him "good night."
"Kagabi I talked to him -- 'Goodnight, lovey,' ganun parin, kinakausap ko nalang. Kasi lahat sinasabi sa'kin na mararamdaman mo 'yung presence niya," Padilla said.
Their presence in each other's lives for the past 23 years may have been the subject of intrigues, but their closest friends attest to their enduring love even outside the limelight.
|Zsa Zsa and Dolphy in one of their films together. File photo
"'Nung nag-umpisa na 'yung relasyon nila ni Tito Dolphy, witness ako doon sa ... mga phone calls, 'yung love story po nila, hanggang nalaman na nga po ng publiko," singer-host Sharon Cuneta said in her speech during the necrological service for Dolphy at the Heritage Park, Thursday.
Cuneta is one of Padilla's dearest friends. Their friendship spans decades, having met when they were around 18 years old. Padilla is the godmother of Cuneta's eldest daughter, actress-host KC Concepcion; in turn, the Megastar is also the godmother of Padilla's daughter with Dolphy, Zia.
"Umalis po si Zsa Zsa dahil umiiwas na siya, dahil ayaw na niyang makagulo," Cuneta said. "Naalala ko po noon, si Tito Dolphy, maraming humusga, pero dahil sa pagmamahal niya kay Zsa Zsa, he left with only the clothes on his back, because Zsa Zsa was his true love."
"Pero alam mo," Cuneta added, addressing Padilla, "pinakakinaiinggitan ko 'yung pinaglaban ka niya. Mahal na mahal na mahal ka niya, Zsa Zsa, tapos sinuklian naman 'yun ni Zsa Zsa ng sobra-sobrang pagmamahal. Nakita ko 'yung faithfulness niya and loyalty niya and devotion niya kay Dolphy."
Actress-host Kris Aquino, who is known as Padilla's best friend in the industry, also attested to the couple's enduring love.
"My admiration for her as a friend and as a woman, hindi mo masusukat," Aquino said, referring to Padilla. "Lahat tayo pinagdarasal natin na sana, sa pagtanda natin, may magmamahal at mag-aalaga sa atin the way that she cared for him."
"Through The Years," the song Padilla dedicated to Dolphy during his necrological service and tribute on Wednesday, reflected her strong, decades-long partnership with the film icon, Aquino said.
"Siya 'yung namili ng kanta. Sinabi niya na 'yung line daw doon, 'And I'm so glad I stayed right here with you,' I think lahat tayo doon tayo talaga naiyak, kasi naramdaman natin 'yung pagmamahal, 'yung devotion, and 'yung sincerity nung pagmamahal," she said.