Death of John Puruntung-A A +A
By Ram Mercado
Sunday, July 15, 2012
FOR almost a week, the Filipino cineaste was in a state of gloom. Lovers of comedy king Dolphy shed copious tears, induced by a sense of loss hyped by electronic media.
Radio and television reported a continuing and sustained account of the comedian’s confinement, his struggles inside the ICU, while documenting his death until yesterday’s last farewell.
Dolphy’s official and original wife was Grace Dominguez of Mabalacat. She became a celebrity, arguably the first among the prettiest lasses of the town. Mabalacat produces today some of the fairest Kapampangan maidens, proof of which are the devastatingly beautiful candidates in the interminable local beauty contests.
The late gunslinger Marciano Canlapan aka “Marsing” of Angeles City, former security aid to Mayor Francisco Nepomuceno, was the guy who suggested the screen name John Puruntung to producers/writers of a comedy show which was then being conceptualized.
Canlapan, suspect killer of the late actor Rey Paulino, used to work as bodyguard of some powerful figures in Metro Manila when he met Dolphy. He was gunned down while walking among the mourners in the funeral of a friend in barangay Cutcut, Angeles.
TV has become a powerful influence in people’s life. It can transform the death of a single person into a national tragedy. It can magnify a family’s grief into global magnitude.
This was evident during the wake and burial of three actors -- Rico Yan, Fernando Poe, Jr., and lately, Dolphy. It was the same media hype that kept the nation in throes with the passing of Cardinal Sin, President Cory, and INC executive minister Eraño Manalo.
Most heartbreaking of the funeral scenes was the outburst of weeping for Ka Erdie. Most emotional of the rites was the Cathedral vigil and eulogy for Cory. She also had the longest crowd in attendance from church to memorial park.
Teenage crowds were the largest with Rico Yan’s funeral, but the deeper sense of loss by the hoi poloi went with FPJ.
Last week’s event that closed over six decades of the comedian’s colorful career elicited overpowering sadness and suffering from his families and fans.
Repeated scenes of expressed sympathy, sentimental recall as the camera panned softly on Zsa Zsa Padilla’s pretty face and her two children by Dolphy – tearfully quiet on her side - had infected home viewers with familial empathy.
TV reporters made glowing accounts of how a man, with 18 offspring from six women, had successfully bonded with his children. He was described in metaphors that made him bigger than life – Dolphy was watching out for all of them.
The fact that last week’s episode was brought virtually in our living room, I tried to make sense out of the man’s vigil which turned out to be pure, solid entertainment.
One lesson stands out – You reap what you sow. The deceased’s generosity and kindness was the single virtue that all and sundry had testified in interviews and in their messages. He had sowed love and reaped national affection.
Generosity and kindness was the substance and spirit of his humanity. He lived to love and bond with those poor colleagues in the deepest way.
“There was no mean bone in him,” said Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim. “He must have been born with angels behind. His only sin was that he loved too well and too much,” he said. Dirty Harry confessed he was a sinner who admired Dolphy’s boyish innocence.
Dolphy’s fault as John Puruntung was that he romanticized and related extremely to the Pinoy Every Man’s follies and dreams. The ordinary family identified with his character and sense of values in both “John En Marsha” and “Home Along the Riles.”
John has not brought his family and himself into a better life – from a barong-barong to a modest bungalow at least, or from being an informal settler along the railroad to a humble abode worthy of a dignified and pleasant life. But he was loved and adored because of his failures.
Fans thrilled to FPJ’s persona for their sense fulfillment of justice done – a wrong corrected, an injustice vindicated. With Dolphy, human foibles and weaknesses are swept under the rug of humor. Despite the Puruntung family’s life in drudgeries and failures, everything turns right and joyful when we collectively share the same condition.
After several “parangal” three things caught my attention: the soulful and soaring rendition of the Lord’s Prayer by mezzo soprano Sarah Geronimo; the stand-up performance by comedian Brod Pete (Isko Salvador) brought the house down; and the cryptic answer of Dolphy to Mayor Lim’s query on his secret (Dolphy) being a ladies’ man – “sa atin na lang ito Padre,” the lover boy was quoted by the mayor, adding, “Pasensiya na kayo may mga babae dito.”
An earlier speaker, Cesar Cosme, gave away the answer when he said “si Mang Dolphy hindi lang gabay, ngunit siya’y ilaw ng “tahanan.” “Ilaw” denotes the familiar light bulb called “bombilya” in Pilipino. That’s when I saw Ms. Zsa Zsa wince, and pretended not to have heard the tweet that elicited a ruffle of sigh from the knowledgeable.
Published in the Sun.Star Pampanga newspaper on July 16, 2012.