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At Large

Appreciating Dolphy

I was debating with myself on whether I would write something about the passing of Dolphy—Facifica Falayfay, John Puruntong, Markova, Father Jejemon—among other personas he created and made immortal.

After all, I argued, there would surely be no lack of coverage or commentary on him, on his role and contributions to local entertainment and popular culture, and his outsize place in our childhood memories. And I was right, for there has been an outpouring of sentiments and remembrances, an almost obsessive coverage of his illness, death, wake—and no doubt well beyond his funeral and burial today.

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But Dolphy compels some commentary, most basically about the rising clamor from certain quarters for the State to declare him a “National Artist,” even if the moment to honor Dolphy for his body of work has come and gone.

We are such an emotional people. And often, we let emotions dictate our actions. Dolphy had been nominated for National Artist in 2009, the last time the awards were conferred (since deferred pending a suit before the Supreme Court), and now given his passing, there is a sense of urgency behind calls for him to be declared National Artist now na, given the swell of mourning and belated appreciation of his body of work.

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But I think Dolphy, who always seemed so humble and was not wont to draw attention to himself, would be the first to be embarrassed by this controversy created, I suspect, to put the national and cultural leadership in an embarrassing bind.

Our love for Dolphy—and for childhood memories colored by his comic performances and portrayals of the Pinoy Everyman cleverly outwitting those richer and more educated than him—need not be proven. I have no doubt he deeply appreciated any honors given him. Vivid still is the expression on his face when he received a presidential medal from President Aquino, even if Dolphy tried to lighten the moment, and perhaps the emotions swirling in him, by pretending to be bent double over the weight of the medal. But to elevate his lack of National Artist honors to a political issue is to do disservice to his memory and his own humble person.

In life, Dolphy loved well and loved many, even the humblest bit-player who approached him for a hand-out. I have no doubt he knew he was loved as well, not just by the women he romanced and his children and grandchildren born as a result. He knew he was loved by the Filipino people he had entertained, touched, moved and most importantly, whom he had driven to laughter, leading them to forget their troubles for the moment and appreciate the values of family, togetherness, fellowship and kindness of which Dolphy was an exemplar.

* * *

You only have until the next weekend to catch one of the most exciting shows to visit Manila. This is “Tao: The Art of Drum,” that brings a troupe of young athletic performers onstage at the Newport Performing Arts Theater at Resorts World.

Sponsored on its opening night by Travelife Magazine, the “Tao” show began with an introduction by Christine Cunanan, publisher-editor of the magazine, who promised that the show we were about to see would be “exciting, mesmerizing!” She made no mention, though, of the amazingly buffed bodies of the men who make up the majority of the 16-strong cast, although I must say the women were just as fit.

Buffed bodies and athleticism are just the spices added to the main fare, which is Japanese drumming, from small, portable basket-like taiko (Japanese word for “drums”), to the odaiko or wadaiko, giant drums that dwarf their human players usually used in ceremonial or religious rites.

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Adding flavor to the drumming are a variety of other Japanese traditional musical instruments, from three-stringed koto, which look and sound like banjos, to shamisen or zithers, which we most often associate with kimonoed dancers. We also saw bells and harps, bamboo clappers, flutes, trumpets and even flexible screens that were used in one comic-relief moment to draw audience participation.

Most of us associate traditional Japanese musical performances with genteel presentations with male and female musicians in kimono, usually seated on the floor and by convention, poker-faced and employing minimal movement.

Not so the Drum Tao performers. Said to train for months in a mountainside facility (the troupe was founded in 1993), the troupe members are not just musicians (one is said to have led a rock band) but also martial artists, dancers and even comics. Christine was true to her word. A Drum Tao presentation is exciting, indeed, with breathtaking synchronized drumming and moving evocations of Japan’s martial traditions. Also remarkable was a solo performance on a koto, with the traditional instrument made to sound very much like an electric guitar!

Then, too, there are the men with their muscular arms and remarkable physiques, eye-candy on a night filled with percussive beats and otherworldly rhythms.

* * *

I didn’t know how I was going to react to the movie “Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter.” I had read the book with the same amount of trepidation and dread, and certainly didn’t expect it to be so entertaining and engrossing.

Now it can be told, that’s how I felt after watching the movie, too. True, some liberties have been taken. But since the script was primarily written by Seth Grahame Smith, the author of the “mash-up” novel, then I suppose the film could be described as his own “reboot” of the book.

But credit director Timur Bekmanbetov for creating, too, an exciting, exhilarating movie, especially the final confrontation scene on a train. I think his being Russian gave him the moxie to play with Lincoln’s sainted biography, and we are all the more entertained by it.

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TAGS: At Large, dolphy, opinion, Rina Jimenez-David
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