MANILA, Philippines – Honoring Rodolfo “Dolphy” Quizon Sr. as one of the country’s national artists is “on track,” according to a member of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), the body tasked to screen nominees for the prestigious award.
Professor Ed Lejano Jr., who also heads the University of the Philippines' Film Center, said on Thursday that he believes the time has come for Dolphy to be named a National Artist.
“The time has come and I think the universe has aligned for the award to be given to him,” Lejano told ANC’s “Prime Time.”
Lejano said Dolphy, who he described as a “well-loved” icon, is a national treasure because he was able to give laughter to millions of Filipinos.
“That’s his gift to the Filipino people, giving laughter,” Lejano said. “He was able to make us laugh, that thing alone is a treasure.”
Throughout his storied career, Dolphy has portrayed gay characters in both comedy (“Jack en Jill,” “Facifica Falayfay”) and drama (“Markova: Comfort Gay,” “Ang Tatay Kong Nanay”).
While Dolphy, in his earlier years, played gay characters in a comedic light, his performance in the 2000 film “Markova” showed the more delicate side of homosexuality, which saw Dolphy channeling depth instead of his usual slapstick style of acting.
“’Markova’ was his tribute or to make up for his politically incorrect portrayals—in hindsight—of gay characters in his earlier films,” said Lejano.
But while Dolphy championed gay cinema, it may have also cost him the National Artist award in 2009.
According to Cecile Alvarez-Guidote, a former executive director of the NCCA, then-CCP chief Nicanor Tiongson “protested” Dolphy’s inclusion as a nominee due to his early portrayals of gay men.
Guidote alleged that Tiongson saw Dolphy’s portrayals as demeaning to the gay community.
Tiongson admitted that he had reservations about Dolphy being named a National Artist but said the selection committee was comprised of 20 experts and he alone could not engineer the outcome of the process.
“I believed that the two icons he created for film and TV – the screaming gay and the happy-go-lucky poor man – have, in the majority of his movies, equated gayness with abnormality and mindless frivolity on the one hand, and romanticized or deodorized poverty on the other,” Tiongson said in a letter sent to the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
Support for Dolphy
Although Dolphy was rejected in 2009, Tiongson said he continues to respect and admire the King of Comedy.
Several personalities, even President Benigno Aquino III, are pushing for the declaration of Dolphy as a National Artist.
However, Aquino noted that the selection process should be followed.
The Supreme Court had issued a temporary restraining order against the conferment of the award to several personalities.
But the Office of the Solicitor General has given the go-signal for the NCCA to start the selection process for the next batch of national artists.
Lejano said aside from the clamor, Dolphy’s contribution to the entertainment industry proves that he is deserving of the award.
“Those are big shoes to fill, he certainly left a vacuum in Philippine entertainment. A talent like Dolphy comes one in a lifetime. There’s only one Dolphy, it’s a tough act to follow,” he said.
The 83-year-old Dolphy died Tuesday night due to multiple organ failure.