Manila: Rodolfo Vera Quizon, or "Dolphy" to multitudes of fun-loving Filipinos, a veteran actor and ace comedian, 83, died at 8.43pm on Tuesday night due to complications brought about by chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and boneitis, a severe bone disease, at Makati Medical Centre’s ICU where he had been since June 9, sources said.
President Benigno Aquino led the nation in paying tribute to Dolphy, calling him the embodiment of the "humble, honest, and helpful" Filipino, who made life easier for his friends and followers in the face of daunting challenges.
"He changed not just his industry, but also the national consciousness," Aquino said in a statement. "Through his art, he widened our outlook, he gave us the power to find and cherish happiness in our daily lives."
“He made generations of Filipinos laugh. Now, it’s our turn to cry,” said Bez Baiza, a bystander in front of the medical centre where hundreds of fans milled seconds after Dolphy’s passing was confirmed on radio and TV.
“He taught me how to dance the Cha Cha when he used to visit my father [actor] Oscar Moreno during their younger days. I am sad that he is gone. It’s a passage that will make us feel how important he was in our movie industry,” said actress Boots Anson Roa.
“It’s hard to forget him. He will always be around, his songs and movies and most of all, the way he made us all laugh and forget life’s hardship,” Roa said.
“As a person, he taught me to be giving and to be humble, traits that he exemplified,” said Roa.
“We loved him,” said Senate Majority Floor Leader Tito Sotto, also an actor.
Dolphy would have been 84 on July 25, singer and actress Zsa Zsa Padilla, his common-law wife, told ABS CBN, a major TV network.
He died due to systemic multiple organ failure, specifically his liver, brought about by weakened lungs due to weeks of pneumonia, said Dr Kale Clave.
He was on a respirator for a while. Hours before he died, he underwent a blood transfusion and dialysis meant to improve his condition due to another bout of pneumonia that he almost survived, said the doctor.
Dolphy was also suffering from boneitis, a fatal disease of the bones, another source said.
His US-based children had been with him in the hospital since his hospitalisation last month.
Radios and TV stations began a 24/7 coverage on the passing of an idol who, to many Filipinos, made slapstick inspiring and a noble form of expression on survival and appreciation of life’s beauty.
Radio and TV stations started airing Dolphy’s songs, TV comedies, and movies, a sign of deep reverence for one of the pillars of the Philippine movie industry.
While he was in hospital, Dolphy became addicted to an iPad and iPhone which he used to speak to his children on Skype, his partner of 20 years, Padilla told the Inquirer.
He became an avid advertiser of iPad to older actors and actresses, said Padilla.
For her part, she entertained Dolphy with a music playlist that included his favourite singers like Frank Sinatra, Nat “King” Cole, and Broadway musicals.
For more than a month, fans prayed, alternately wishing for his recovery and also for a painless passing for the man whom almost all Filipinos loved like an uncle or a grandfather.
For a month, Filipino intellectuals and artists remained silent as actors in the Senate suggested that the state should give Dolphy the national artist award.
“That title is his. It should be given to him,” said former President Joseph Estrada, also an actor and a movie producer.
Dolphy began as a comedian at vaudeville theatres which helped Filipinos survive the Japanese occupation during the Second World War.
“I really envy him because he saw the era of the vaudeville,” said younger comedian Vic Sotto.
“I learned a lot from him, how to deliver the punchline with the right timing,” said Sotto.
Dolphy rose as a comedian with a long-running TV series and movies that made him rich, famous, and also a veritable womaniser.
Cross-dressing and acting as a homosexual for movies made him “closer to women” which led to a series of relationships with beautiful women that ended with Zsa Zsa. Z is the end of the alphabet, he once quipped in an earlier interview.
With his stature and popularity, he was lured to politics when he endorsed Senator Manny Villar who ran for presidency in the May 2010 elections.
His death marks the passing of an older generation of people that endured severe tests but did not forget how to love, said President Benigno Aquino.
Movie critics branded Dolphy the Bob Hope of the Philippines, and his philanthropic work helping the poor and unemployed actors was also well known.
Politicians looking to exploit Dolphy's mass appeal for years unsuccessfully tried to lure him into running for public office.
News of Dolphy's death sent shockwaves across social networking sites, with many of his fans and colleagues paying tribute to him.
"RIP Dolphy. Kevin Cosme really gave so much laughter to my childhood," tweeted Andreo Calonzo, referring to one of Dolphy's most memorable television characters.
Former president Joseph Estrada, an ex-movie action star and a long-time friend of Dolphy, said he joined millions in mourning for a "national artist." "His memory will live forever. He was the kindest, funniest, most helpful man I know," Estrada told AFP.
"He made life bearable for the masses, and his roles sympathised with the plight of the millions of poor Filipinos."
While he never married, Dolphy was a known ladies' man who fathered at least 17 children with various women, some of whom also went on to enter the showbiz industry.
President Benigno Aquino rallied Filipinos while Dolphy was on his death bed, calling the actor a "revered icon of the Philippine movie industry".
With input from agencies