MANILA, Philippines -- Ronnie Quizon was cooking for a simple get together with some friends, who were helping out in the kitchen.
“I was trying to make it spicier, because I remember the chili peppers,” Quizon recalls. “Daddy enters the kitchen and stands beside me, watching me cook approvingly, with that usual pleased smile of his.”
That’s when Quizon woke up. It was a dream.
Later on Facebook he posted: “Daddy visited me in my dreams! What a way to wake up for my birthday!”
It was November 29, his 47th birthday – and his first without his father, Philippine comedy king Dolphy, who died earlier this year.
There have been no crying spells since the funeral, he says. “I guess I can say that I'm coping up well, under the circumstances. But there have been spells of loneliness or simply just missing him being around or having conversations with him. His incredible wisdom and humor during those moments are priceless!”
Dolphy died of multiple organ failure on July 10 following a bout with pneumonia, 15 days short of what would have been his 84th birthday. The veteran comedian was in and out of the hospital when his health started to fail in 2009.
Quizon and younger brother Eric were the official family spokesmen when the nation wept over Dolphy’s passing – the end of an era that began in 1944 with a stage performance. President Aquino declared a day of national mourning on July 13, a testament to Dolphy’s contributions.
Quizon actually spent his 47th birthday a few days earlier with a little family get together at Eric’s cozy restaurant in Quezon City because Eric had an upcoming trip abroad. Black and white photos of his dad were all around.
But to say that his actual special day was totally uneventful was, according to Quizon, “a big understatement, because I woke up that morning, with the memory of my father being in my dreams! I can still remember that part of the dream, actually, and I recall waking up feeling really good. Having my father visit me in my dream on my birthday is certainly a big event for me.”
He doesn’t remember what he was making in the kitchen but he remembers trying to make it spicier because he recalls having lots of pepper on the counter.
Quizon knows it will take him a while to heal emotionally because it’s hard for him not to think about his dad. If he’s not passing around jokes, he talks excitedly about his dad on Facebook. “And there's so much in this world that gets me thinking of him from time to time; so many places, so many moments, so many memories.”
People talk about his dad most of the time. “To this day, I would still see friends I haven't seen for so long, and strangers everywhere I go, who would come up to me and express their condolences and say how they loved him,” Quizon says. “And the ones who were there during the hospitalization and the funeral would sometimes talk about my dad simply because seeing me reminded them of him.”
Photoshop a picture of Quizon into black and white and he looks like Dolphy in the 1970s reborn.
This Christmas – like Quizon’s 47th birthday – will also be bittersweet. It will again be a small gathering on December 16 because some of the family are spending Christmas abroad, and some are living outside the Philippines.
“Since most of us in the Philippines already have our own families by now, there is an obvious alternative instead of spending it with my dad. As for me, I have no plans for Christmas yet, except for seeing whoever amongst my loved ones are here,” he says.
But definitely it will be different without Dad around for the first time.
“I have no Christmas or New Year wish this year, except the usual wish of a better year ahead for everybody. It was never really my thing to make wishes on special occasions, just because it's a special occasion. I hardly make wishes for myself too. There were, in the past, but I consider those as rarities,” Quizon reflects.
“However, instead of making wishes, I say prayers, mostly about thanking the Lord for all the blessings, apologizing for my shortcomings, and asking for the welfare of my loved ones. I rarely ask for myself too, in the belief that the Lord will provide.”
These days Quizon has been looking forward, excitedly telling people and online friends to watch an upcoming biopic about Emilio Aguinaldo, "El Presidente," in which he portrays chief Aguinaldo adviser Apolinario Mabini. It will be his first appearance in seven years as an actor.
Quizon may miss his dad a lot but he doesn’t really wish he were still around to see the movie. “I believe he can enter the cinemas for free these days if he wanted to,” he says with a laugh. “I'm just wondering what he would tell me – or my brother Epy, since he's in the movie too – if he was around to see the movie and talk to me about it.”
Quizon believes in the afterlife and that his birthday dream was Dolphy’s way of saying that he’s still around. Daddy was again his dream the following night.
Perhaps one of life’s lessons that Quizon has learned from his father’s passing is the gift of giving.
“I can't really say if I've grown stronger since his passing. Maybe time will tell. All I know is that I think I'm better at accepting losses now,” he says, looking back. “I also have friends who have lost loved ones this year. I’ve found that I have a greater capacity to provide strength for others.”