The King and I : The Day I Shot Dolphy
I went into my archive and unearthed these portraits of Dolphy, whom I had the privilege of shooting in 2008. As of last night, though he is still in the ICU at the Makati Medical Center, it is reported that his condition is slowly improving. Let this be my own little way of paying tribute, as well as sending him my very best wishes for a speedy recovery. Get well soon, Sir!
Absolutely nothing could have prepared me for the day I met Dolphy. There I was, standing with my assistants at a soundstage in Manggahan, Pasig where I was about to shoot the King of Philippine Comedy for his movie, Dobol Trobol. I had just finished shooting Vic Sotto, his sidekick in the movie, and were just waiting for Dolphy to get to the studio.
At some point I noticed that the energy in the studio suddenly shifted, as people started shuffling towards the entrance. Judging from the electricity in the air, it could only mean one thing. Dolphy was in the house.
Dolphy seemed to attract a crowd wherever he went, and as he took his position on set, I realized there were easily thirty people watching me, including Dolphy himself, waiting for my direction. (Grace under pressure, I reminded myself. Hahaha!)
I told him we were going to do a series of head shots, beginning with the blankest, most stoic face he could muster. I almost gasped out loud coz I don't think I've ever seen Dolphy look like this!
To my surprise, Dolphy was a lot more reserved in person that I thought, but the moment he stepped under the studio lights, there he was. The screen legend. The man who could make an entire nation laugh.
As soon as I gave him the green light to start giving me different faces, he flashed me this first expression, which got everyone laughing coz he really made us feel like something smelled foul in the studio.
Did you know that before he joined showbiz, Dolphy had worked in some pretty odd jobs like shining shoes, attaching buttons at a pants factory, and arranging glass bottles according to size?
Almost as soon as I started shooting, I realized that there was no point in restraining Dolphy with specific poses and directions, so I just told him to go crazy and have fun. As expected, I could barely keep up with his faces.
I've come to know this face very well, since I was an avid fan of his TV show, John en Marsha, where he and Nida Blanca used to get into all these hysterical situations. And does anyone remember the uber-rich Dona Delilah?
Taking inspiration from Mang Ador and his classic Tropicana studio portraits, I asked Dolphy for one last look. Intimidate me, I told him. And he did.
As a portrait photographer, there is no doubt that working with Dolphy comes with an exciting intensity, the kind that comes from collaborating with an artist who is fully present. And as a Filipino, I am humbled by the opportunity to work with one of the country’s most talented entertainers. He is truly a National Treasure.
Once again, our prayers and thoughts go out to you, our one and only Dolphy. We love you and look forward to laughing with you again.