Chicago doorman recalls friendship with Dolphy

By Don Tagala, ABS-CBN North America Bureau

Posted at Jul 17 2012 02:27 PM | Updated as of Jul 17 2012 10:27 PM

NEW YORK CITY - Hotel doorman Noel Hidalgo silently prayed at the St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan as his friend Dolphy was laid to rest in Manila Sunday.

Hidalgo works at the Swissotel in Chicago, where he met Dolphy, a guest at the hotel in 2004.

Long-time Quizon family friend Mar Lopez happened to ask Hidalgo where to take Dolphy to church, as it was the comedian’s birthday that day.

Hidalgo took Dolphy to church, and asked the priest to greet the comedian.

Hidalgo said, “Sabi nung pari, pagkatapos nung misa, ‘Every now and then we have visitors from other city, from other states, from other countries. Today we are very lucky, we have here with us the King of Comedy of the Philippines who celebrated his 79th Birthday.’ Everybody started clapping and standing ovation, ang saya nung atmosphere.”

From then on, everytime Hidalgo visited the Philippines, Dolphy would return the favor by taking him around for dinner and drinks.

“Nakita ko sa mukha niya na talagang tuwang-tuwa siya, ako naman siyempre medyo nangingilag-ngilag, pero he made me comfortable,” Hidalgo said, “Nagulat pa nga ako, dinala ako sa bilihan ng barong, binilhan ako ng Bergamo, talagang overwhelmed na overwhelmed ako.”

Hidalgo also said, “Nahulog ang loob ko sa kanya, I never expected na Dolphy, the icon, the King of Comedy na bibigyan ako ng ganung atensyon. I felt important, na feel ko na ibang klase si Mang Dolphy.”

Through the years, whenever Hidalgo paid a visit to the Philippines, he would hang out with the Comedy King and even play bit roles on Dolphy's TV shows and movies.

Hidalgo said, “Binibigyan niya ng pagkakataong kumita, up to the point na yung isang kasama namin, may edad na nakakalimutan ang yung line, ka-cut-in na nuong isang director,” Hidalgo recalled. “Pinagtanggol niya, sabi niya pagbigyan mo, pwede pa yan.”

Hidalgo was one of those who personally received an autographed copy of Dolphy’s autobiographical book.

“Kung makikita mo, ang daming nagmamahal kay Mang Dolphy, siguro kung yung pagkakilala ko Mang Dolphy makikilala rin ng mga taong nagmamahal sa kanya siguro mas lalo siyang mamahalin, nakikita mo yung mga tao, pumipila to pay respects sa kanya, pero nung nakilala ko siya, wow.”

Last March, Hidalgo visited Dolphy at the Makati Medical Center.

“Even though bedridden siya, ang parting words namin eh, 'Noel, I’ll pray for you.' Sabi ko sa sarili ko he’s the one who needs prayer eh, siya pa ang nagsabi sa akin na 'Noel I’ll pray for you',” Hidalgo said, pausing to hold back tears. “Kaya malungkot sa akin ang nangyari sa kanya, para bang nawalan ako ng isang taong magdadasal para sa akin.”

As celebrities, politicians and big names in the Philippines brought the King of Comedy to his burial site, in New York, Dolphy’s unassuming friend, a humble doorman from Chicago, lit a single candle and prayed, grieving the loss of an unlikely friendship.