Category: dolphy

peque gallaga on
dolphy, the artist

googling dolphy and the national artist award, i found a lot of endorsements from showbiz peeps and politicians and fans, but not what i was looking for: a professional assessment of dolphy’s body of work by one who is eminently informed and credible in the entertainment arts and on filipino culture.

i wished ishmael bernal were alive so i could ask him, and then, again, he never worked with dolphy.  but thinking ishma led me to thinking peque gallaga whom i met in 1980, around the time of ishma’s manila by night, for which he did the production design.  just two years later peque was off on his own, astounding us with oro plata mata, scandalizing us with scorpio nights, scaring us with shake, rattle, and roll, going on to break new ground as director and writer and production designer in every genre, including digital and regional cinema, over the last three decades, deserving every international and local award he’s received, especially urian’s lifetime achievement award, and being dubbed “the compleat cinema artist.”   AND he has worked with dolphy.

serendipitously enough, peque had phoned me some weeks ago just to say how much he loved revolutionary routes.  i was touched and kilig, of course, but more to the point, it gave me the nerve to message him privately on facebook (kahit pa he’s busy working on three movie scripts na iba-ibang genre) and ask what his take is on the national artist issue.

do you think dolphy deserves it?

Peque: Well, I go by the belief that an artist changes perceptions of the people around him… the way they look at the world, at their country and at themselves. Dolphy, as well as Fernando Poe did that. It helped define us as a people. So yes, I strongly believe Dolphy deserves it.

may i quote you in a blog post i’m writing? baka you’d care to elaborate on “helped define us as a people”…

Peque: Yes, you can quote me. Elaborating on “helped define us as a people” will be a super blogging task on my part because it will need all sorts of references and examples. But, like in John & Marsha… Dolphy simply went beyond the ’50s accepted norms of what fathers, Filipino males and macho-hood [are about] that our audiences expected from our male stars. Dolphy changed the stereotype and the cliche. That was effective on a national scale, ergo National Artist.

re tiongson’s issue with dolphy’s portrayal of gays, i suppose it may have worked against many gays na binugbog o nilubog sa drum ng tubig ng mga tatay nilang macho, thanks or no thanks to dolphy. but parang ang labo to judge his worthiness based on that.

Peque: Exactly. Dolphy was playing an elaborate game of mirrors. Most of his audience were aware that he had one of the biggest dicks in the industry and that he was a 100% “tunay na lalake” in the kanto scale of machoness — so his doing gays (that were usually quite understanding and quite truthful, meaning they didn’t resort to huge stereotypical mugging) was in a way the more subversive road towards acceptance by Pinoy society at large, without preaching, sermonizing, or the expected Brocka political agenda movie. As a matter of fact, I think that his weakest gay portrayal was precisely in Tatay Kong Nanay because there was that Brockanian lesson-to-be-learned quality.

Dolphy made it okay, no-big-deal, to cross-dress and play gay; so much so that people like Joey de Leon, Michael V, Ogie, and even Vic Sotto weren’t scared to do “faggotry” and serious “faggotry” at that. There was even that show where all of the male hosts from Anjo Yllana all the way up just came on dressed and acting like girls without camping it up, very much like Monty Python, and without having to ever explain why they were doing it in the first place. And you have to understand that they weren’t observing Gay Pride Week or any kind of cause. They just did it because. As in because! That’s a game-changing thing in the heterosexual world. Something that Nick Tiongson would hardly understand. The guy was sooo wrong about his “crusades” that I actually boycotted the CCP all the years that he was the head of it. The guy simply belongs in the academe, sheltered away from the grim realities of Pinoy zeitgeist.

and what about the notion that dolphy didn’t do slapstick….

Peque: I directed Dolphy twice, once in a comedy/fantasy and another in a TV special, straight drama, and he won best actor for it. He instinctively delivered the ‘life submerged within the text’ just like any Chekhovian would.

Of course he was slapstick, but in the great tradition of slapstick which is, after all, a legitimate form of comedy. He was up there with Chaplin and Harold Lloyd. He had the lightest touch, he was deft and precise, and his timing was impeccable. His mugging was in line with accepted Pinoy Comedia dell’Arte levels of Pugo and Tugo, and he would never take the mugging to exasperating lengths unlike comedians like Chiquito, Palito and Babalu whose mugging was not only their whole point of the comedy, but would take that mugging to wearying lengths. Dolphy had a certain class and sophistication which he never used as a weapon. I learned more about physical comedy in the two months I worked with him than I did in my Improvisation classes. I was totally humbled.

wonderful! suddenly i’m rethinking my blogpost. a peque on dolphy piece instead…

Peque: I would love to be quoted on Dolphy. The guy is a master and truly, truly an artist… but he never acts as if he was an Artist (pronounced Artiste) with a capital A.

so there!  peque should have been on that panel.  he would have demolished any and all objections. wagi sana si dolphy.

national artist award: transparency vs. confidentiality

on facebook yesterday, dr. isagani cruz posted this status and link re nick tiongson‘s objection to dolphy’s portrayal of gay roles:

I was there, but could not reveal this due to confidentiality. Ex-CCP top official opposed Dolphy’s National Artist Award, says Guidote-Alvarez 

which generated this exchange between danny arao and joel david in the comment thread.

Danilo Arao Thanks for sharing, sir. I was surprised [by] this “disclosure.” It sets a bad precedent. Future deliberations could be compromised as supposedly confidential matters could be disclosed in the future.

Joel David Actually transparency should be part of the process. It’s a recognition with the designation “national.” All this secrecy can be regarded as a large part of the reason for the dagdag-bawas scandal that resulted in Carlo Caparas’s “selection.”

Danilo Arao Hi, Joel. Yes, transparency is absolutely necessary and I think even minutes of the meeting could be made public. But specific comments, especially those deemed inconsequential, should be made confidential or off-the-record. In our own college, we don’t publicly disclose those nominated for Gawad Plaridel. We only announce the winners so that we don’t unnecessarily embarrass those who did not get it (and I think they’re equally deserving if evaluated by a different set of judges)…

Joel David I really must differ. The Gawad Plaridel is an award given by an institution that doesn’t claim to be public, although it is. So its process should be open to members of the public if any member is interested. Both institutions (UP and NCCA) use public funds. GP doesn’t need to “publicize” its process because the public isn’t interested. But at this point, there is interest in the National Artist awards.

Danilo Arao Yes, I see where you’re coming from and that’s also a valid point. But I think our difference of opinion has to do with transparency. It may be absolutely necessary but it’s not necessarily absolute, if you get my drift. At any rate, this deserves further discussion and it may be imperative for NCCA to review its rules and selection processes.

Joel David Here’s my point. If I were in an NA decision-making process, I would also object to the idea of Dolphy being declared a winner. That’s my personal, subjective position. But I would not want to hide in any confidentiality arrangement. It’s not a national security issue. If I wouldn’t want to be embarrassed by taking that position, I’d just recuse myself from participating. Simple as pie.

Danilo Arao  Quick rejoinder: The issue here is not Dolphy but Guidote-Alvarez breaching the confidentiality agreement. Is it ethical and professional for her to do so? Did she break the trust given to her by her peers who participated in the selection process? (In the context of the controversy surrounding the selection of NAs in 2009, we should also consider the fact that her controversial selection as NA is pending in the Supreme Court, alongside that of Carlo J. Caparas.

Joel David  It’s disturbing to even think that just because Cecile may have been a dagdag-bawas beneficiary, her credibility has been compromised. That’s not how a democracy works. If one day GMA claims to have evidence of wrongdoing by Pnoy, it’s in everyone’s interest to check her claim before judging her motives. As to a prior agreement by the NA committee to observe confidentiality – that’s an arrangement that could have worked given a few assumptions: that collegiality existed among the members, and that they’d be careful enough with the process so that no controversy will arise. In short, it’s purely for their benefit, not the interested public’s. Once that implicit agreement is ruptured, then all bets are off.

i agree with joel david re transparency but not regarding his objection to dolphy being declared a national artist.  like direk peque gallaga, whose thoughts i’ll be sharing in my next post, i think dolphy deserves it, and deserved it 10 years ago. 

i get where danny arao is coming from.  until the rule on confidentiality is dropped, there can be no condoning guidote-alvarez’s disclosure.  however, her controversial selection as NA in 2009 does not render what she disclosed in-credible.  and now that it’s out in the open, there is no ignoring or pooh-poohing the information.  tiongson’s “comment” cannot be rated “inconsequential,” considering that it cost dolphy the national artist award.

if the selection process had been transparent, and the minutes of meetings made public, nothing off-the-record, would tiongson have dared, or gotten away with it?  would someone not have dared in turn, nay, been obliged, to take up the cudgels for dolphy?  tiongson’s position is defensible but only on the level of gay portrayals.  no matter how “violent” or impassioned tiongson’s disapproval, surely there were even more powerful arguments in favor of dolphy.  it’s not as if kabaklaan were all that dolphy’s body of work is about.

confidentiality is elitist, and it sucks.  public deliberations would be highly educational and raise discourse and consciousness on what it takes to be a national artist.

also, what does it take ba to be a panelist in such deliberations.  kailangan ba talaga ng sangkatutak na academic credentials?  baka dapat meron ding psychological screening to determine kung may hang-ups about this or that.  time for the ncca and ccp to level up.

dolphy, kabaklaan, award!

caught a part of cecile guidote alvarez’s guesting on dzmm’s dos por dos.  she was explaining to anthony taberna and gerry baja that, contrary to popular notion, hindi niya inagawan si dolphy ng national artist award back in 2009 when gloria macapagal-arroyo named her for the award along with francisco manosa, jose “pitoy” moreno, and carlo caparas.  say niya, the ncca and ccp had long wanted to give dolphy the award — she didn’t say exactly when — but that there were objections from nick tiongson about dolphy’s body of work and portrayal of kabaklaan (or something like that, correct me if i heard wrong).  complicated na usapin, which should could have been addressed by that book on dolphy.  hmm.  lito zulueta is right, a new category created especially for dolphy, like Broadcast Arts, sounds good.  walang kabaklaan sa Buhay Artista at John en Marsha.

Why Dolphy can’t be National Artist any time soon
By Lito B. Zulueta

His vital signs may have improved, but comedian Dolphy remains at the intensive care unit of the Makati Medical Center, so calls for him to be proclaimed National Artist, while they may have abated in the meantime, are expected to continue. But the drawn-out selection process and other inconvenient realities may conspire to rule out any immediate proclamation.

President Aquino is under pressure to proclaim Dolphy and include him in the Order of National Artists. But he himself has pointed out he’s deferring to the selection process as formulated by the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) and National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), whose boards, sitting jointly, elect the awardees.

While nominations may be submitted by government and nongovernment cultural organizations, educational institutions and private foundations, nominees are subjected to an intensive screening process, in which the accomplishments and merits of the nominees are evaluated by the National Artist Award Secretariat and its Special Research Group happen before a two-part deliberation procedure.

The deliberation is undertaken by two different panels that compose the National Artist Council of Experts. The panels are composed of esteemed scholars, academicians, researchers, art critics and other knowledgeable individuals from the seven classical arts, as well as living National Artists.

(Disclosure: This writer was a member of the second panel during the National Artist selection process in 2003 and 2006.)

After the second deliberation, the experts finalize a short list of nominees and present it to the joint NCCA and CCP boards, which deliberate and make a vote. The final list is then submitted to the president of the Philippines for confirmation, proclamation and conferment.

“In this light, it can be readily seen that the selection of the National Artists is a long process which sometimes takes about two years,” the NCCA said in a statement. “That Mang Dolphy has not been awarded the recognition yet does not reflect on the government or the arts sector wanting or not wanting to do so.”

“For the moment, we understand that Mang Dolphy has been nominated and is now undergoing the process of evaluation—along with other noteworthy artists,” the NCCA added. “In the meantime, we continue to pray for his recovery and return to full health.”

Presidential prerogative

It is possible of course for the President to set aside the selection process, the National Artist arguably being a presidential award. The CCP and NCCA after all are under the Office of the President.

Although there’s another school of thought that maintains the award is not a presidential award, that it’s an award by the Republic and that the head of state is there merely to proclaim the names who have passed muster in the joint boards of the CCP and NCCA, history shows that a sitting president can add his own preference to the final list. President Fidel Ramos was the first to do this when he added a separate category in the awards and made historian Carlos Quirino, his Pangasinan province mate, National Artist for “Historical Literature” in 1997.

President Joseph Estrada followed Ramos’ example when he proclaimed the late Ernani Cuenco, who did the musical scores for his movies, National Artist for Music in 1999.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo followed suit when she made Alejandro Roces, her father’s education secretary, National Artist for Literature in 2003, and Mindanao artist Abdulmari Imao National Artist for the Visual Arts in 2006.

Perhaps because her term was the longest after Marcos’ and she had been able to tweak the CCP-NCCA list and add her own preferences twice, Arroyo might have been emboldened to drastically revise the list in 2009, a year before she stepped down from power, adding four names which didn’t pass the selection process—architect Francisco Mañosa, fashion designer José Moreno, theater artist Cecile Guidote-Alvarez and filmmaker and komiks novelist Carlo Caparas.


Around that time, there had evolved the belief that while a sitting president could add to the final list, s/he could not subtract from it. But Arroyo did the unthinkable. She not only broke ground by adding not one or two to the list, but four; she also dropped from the list Ramon Santos, who had been elected by the joint CCP-NCCA board as National Artist for Music along with the Tagalog novelist Lazaro Francisco, Federico Aguilar Alcuaz, and filmmaker Manuel Conde. Her act was contested and a court injunction was issued against her proclamation order. The awarding was not consummated. The case is pending in the Supreme Court.

Many are hoping that the high court would firmly settle the matter and clarify the nature of the National Artist Award. But the practice of presidential prerogative appears historically determined.

Established in 1972 by President Ferdinand Marcos through Proclamation No. 1001, the award was created in recognition of the achievements of Filipino artists who embody “the nation’s highest ideals in humanism and aesthetic expression.”

Back then, it was the CCP that solely screened the nominees although strictly speaking there was no nomination process (at least not the process that is implemented today by the National Artist Committee).

It was common belief that Imelda Marcos, who had styled herself patroness of the arts, freely decided whom to give the award. If there was really a selection process, the CCP functioned as an advisory board to Madame Marcos. Moreover, unlike these days when the awards are given every three years, there was no deadline back then. The award could be vested on anyone at any time, depending on the urgency of the moment, as when it was given to Vicente Manansala posthumously in 1982, and Carlos P. Romulo in his sickbed in 1984, a year before he died.

The history of the awards should indicate that President Aquino could give the award to Dolphy anytime he might wish to do so.

Moreover, Arroyo had established through an administration order the Malacañang Honors Committee on top of the National Artist Awards Committee and the joint CCP-NCCA board. As far as anyone knows, the order has not been rescinded. In fact, President Aquino gave Dolphy in 2010 the Grand Collar of the Order of the Golden Heart, one of the awards under the Honors Committee. But since Aquino has vowed to be the opposite of his predecessor, he’s expected to leave the matter to the National Artist Awards Committee and the CCP and NCCA.


But even if the selection process were to be fast-tracked, would Dolphy qualify as National Artist for Cinema?

Dolphy’s case has been compared with action star Fernando Poe Jr., who was declared National Artist for Cinema in 2006, after his death a year before. But Poe was elected to the Order of National Artists not only on the basis of his acting credentials, but also on the movies he had produced and directed. He was made a National Artist because he was both “Fernando Poe Jr.” the actor and “Ronwaldo Reyes” the producer-director.

A look at the roster of National Artists for Cinema would reveal that nearly all of the honorees are directors: Lamberto Avellana, Gerardo de Leon, Lino Brocka, Ishmael Bernal and Eddie Romero.

De Leon started as an actor but shifted to directing to become indisputably the only Filipino cinematic master.

Manuel Conde, who was elected by the CCP-NCCA boards in 2009 but whose proclamation remains pending in the Supreme Court as mentioned above, was an actor-director. Like Dolphy, Conde was a comedian who starred in several blockbusters, which he himself directed. But of course, he was best known for playing the title role, producing and directing “Genghis Khan,” the first Filipino movie to be shown in a major international film festival (in Venice, the world’s oldest movie festival, in 1952).

Therefore, an objective and fair evaluation of Dolphy’s merits as National Artist for Cinema will have to take into consideration whether they equal those earlier named to the award, all of whom were directors.

But even if Dolphy’s merits were to be based solely on his credentials as a comedian-actor, the rub here is that many of the films upon which his reputation as “King of Comedy” is founded are lost or in such an extreme state of disrepair as to be useless for viewing and appreciation.

Many of these movies he had produced himself under his production company, RVQ Productions. But unlike Fernando Poe Jr., who safely stored and preserved the movies he had produced and directed, Dolphy hasn’t really taken good care of his RVQ movies. Prints of his gender-bending movies, which were ahead of their time and should be considered classics now, such as “Facifica Falayfay” and “Fefita Fofonggay,” are in a poor state. As far as we know, none from the younger generations have seen these movies.

But considering that broadcast stations have libraries and there may still be prints of Dolphy’s work on television, especially on “Buhay Artista” and “John en Marsha,” then perhaps he may better qualify as National Artist for the Broadcast Arts. No one has yet been proclaimed for the category, and naming Dolphy for the award could provide it a good start.


Perhaps the most important consideration on Dolphy’s chances to become National Artist has largely remained unmentioned. It has to do with money.

Conferring the award does not only require strict screening of the nominees; it also presupposes that an audit has been made of the budget for the National Artist Award and a certification has been made that government can afford to pay the emoluments and benefits that go with the honor.

A living National Artist receives a state stipend of some P20,000 a month and is entitled to hospital and medical benefits amounting to P1 million a year. S/he can also apply for a grant of up to P1 million a year from the NCCA, which administers the National Endowment for Culture and the Arts (Nefca).

Since many of the living National Artists are advanced in age and they avail themselves especially of the health benefits that come with the award, the budget through the years has become tighter. This explains why there appears to have evolved a trend of conferring the award posthumously.

Some of the biggest names in the pantheon in fact received the award only after their deaths: Carlos “Botong” Francisco and Amado V. Hernandez in 1973; Gerry de Leon in 1982; and Lino Brocka and Rolando S. Tinio in 1997. This is so because it’s cheaper to give the award posthumously. The family of an artist proclaimed National Artist after his death would receive a one-shot payment of P100,000, nothing less and definitely nothing more.

In 2009, for example, while Arroyo concurred with the joint CCP-NCCA board in proclaiming as National Artists Conde, Francisco and Aguilar Alcuaz, all of whom were dead, she dropped Ramon Santos. It is presumed she needed to delete the composer and musicologist from the list since she had to add her own personal preferences—Alvarez, Caparas, Mañosa and Moreno—who are alive and whose stipends and benefits as National Artists would necessarily deplete further the finances of the awards.

Therefore, the overriding question is: Can government really afford to make Dolphy National Artist?

The first ever National Artist was painter Fernando Amorsolo and he was given the award four days after his death in 1972. It was as if Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos had rushed and created the award just to honor him belatedly. Such doleful, dolorous start set the trend, more or less, for the history of the National Artist Awards.