Political Tidbits is the prestigious column of Belinda Olivares-Cunanan that ran for 25 continuous years in the op-ed page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the newspaper that she helped put up with its multi-awarded founder, the legendary Eugenia Duran-Apostol, in December 1985, just two months before the EDSA Revolution.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Dolphy and my brother-in-law,Oscar Caluag, both 83, shared cliff-hanger confinement experience in MMC’s ICU; former President Erap said to be ahead of Mayor Fred Lim by over 20 percent in recent survey in Manila; Karen Jimeno now licensed to practice in New York

Comedy King Dolphy Quizon

Last Tuesday evening, July 10, I was at Makati Medical Center’s Floating Island Restaurant  to help celebrate the 75th birthday of my elder sister, Tita Olivares-Caluag, when we learned that Dolphy had just passed away at the MMC’s ICU from multiple organ failure due to acute pneumonia.  Dolphy and my brother-in-law, businessman Oscar “Oca” Caluag, one of the seven surviving members of Ateneo’s class ’50, (as Standard’s eminence grise,and Oca's classmate, Emil Jurado, likes to point out in his column), were confined at the same time at MMC’s ICU for a whole month. And though they never knew each other, the parallelism of their personal and medical circumstances was just incredible.

Both men were admitted at 83 years old, with Oca turning 84 this July 20, while Dolphy would have turned also 84 this July 25. Both were  roller-coaster cases at the ICU the past whole month---quite ill with pneumonia, heart complications and renal problem needing regular dialysis, and stoically enduring a number of procedures.  Both patients shared common medical expertise applied on them---in Oca’s case, his medical team was led by his first cousin, the famed cardiologist Dr. Florina Kaluag, who's still going strong and holding clinic at MMC at a phenomenal 92 years of age.


Dolphy was confined on the other side of the ICU, but since entrance was through the same hall, our family would see Zsa Zsa, Eric Quizon and the rest of the Comedy King's large brood, as well as many movie celebrities walk in and out over the weeks. Oca’s nephew, Fr. Tito Caluag, would regularly celebrate mass for his uncle’s steady recovery in the hospital chapel and our clan would include Dolphy’s recovery in our prayers.  

So much so that as Dolphy’s condition began to worsen---at the end of the second week he needed a tracheotomy which became infection-prone---we somehow felt a sense of oneness and identification with the Quizon family.


Last Tuesday night, therefore, as we celebrated Tita Caluag’s 75th birthday in the hospital’s restaurant (she refused to have it anywhere else), complete with  mass by Fr. Tito, some sinful lechon and blowing of birthday candles – and  as we rejoiced over Oca’s transfer three nights earlier to a regular room after over a month of wearying cliff-hanger confinement at ICU and seemingly interminable delicate procedures---the news about Dolphy’s death hit us too. Even though the deterioration of Dolphy's health was chronicled daily by the big horde of media camped outside the hospital, sadness still enveloped our family gathering when the news came. We felt we had lost a relative.

As the news spread throughout the hospital, the sense of loss became  palpable even among the guards at the front entrance and the hospital personnel. 


For me, however, it was more than sadness. Like millions of other Filipinos my siblings and I grew up with Dolphy’s humor in those days before the advent of television. John en Marsha, his long-running radio serial with Nida Blanca as his ever-loving wife and Dely Atay-Atayan as his over-bearing and imperious mother-in-law, was simply an event we didn’t miss at dinner time.  My father, a radio freak who enjoyed “Kwentong Kutsero” and other radio series as well as political commentaries, particularly loved “John en Marsha.” In my mind’s eye I can still hear him bellowing with laughter over Dolphy’s punch lines.

To me one of the aspects that made Dolphy a great comedian was the incredible sense of timing of those lines of his---so natural and effortless. Also, “John en Marsha” was invariably good clean fun for us listeners of all ages, unlike nowadays when there are deplorable vulgar undertones in TV shows that render  many a parent uneasy about their kids of tender age.  


Former Pres. Joseph Estrada
 The Liberal Party, bereft of candidates despite its being the ruling party, has coalesced with the Nacionalista Party of Manny Villar and the Nationalist People’s Coalition of Danding Cojuangco.  With this grand alliance the LP hopes to bag the two senatorial reelectionists said to be front-runners, Francis Escudero and Loren Legarda, even though they had been mentioned months back as certain to run under the UNA coalition of VP Jojo Binay and former President Estrada.

I would not be surprised if these two senators jump to the LP, but I’m quite taken aback by the sign-up of Manny and Cynthia Villar with the LP. For I recall how bitterly then NP presidential candidate Manny was demonized by the LP campaign that raked up the alleged questionable circumstances of his family’s poverty, and maliciously linked him to former President GMA, to the point of coining the term “Villaroyo.” That coinage was perhaps the biggest single damage to Villar’s presidential campaign.

Now LP stalwart Franklin Drilon was quoted as saying that “Villaquino” is much better than “Villaroyo.” For sheer tactlessness, indeed Drilon has few rivals. Moreover, it shows that in politics there are no permanent enemies, only transitory interests.


I was at the 46th wedding anniversary celebration of former Manila Mayor Lito Atienza and wife Beng at the Century Park Sheraton Hotel last Monday surrounded by their eight children, notably ABS-CBN host Kim Atienza and former candidate Ali Atienza. Former President Estrada was among the honored guests and I note that he has trimmed down, doubtless in anticipation of his running for mayor of Manila against LP’s incumbent Fred Lim. The fight for the capital city would doubtless be the most watched local battle, as Lim would doubtless be backed to the hilt by the rich resources of the LP (after all, he defied election laws by flying Cory’s and Ninoy’s yellow flags in the Luneta and Roxas Blvd. for many months of the 2010 campaign).

 But word is that a recent survey shows Erap ahead of Lim by more than 20 percent. I don’t doubt this---there’s still that undeniable charisma of this guy over the masses.  I can see his winning campaign line: Kinuha sa akin ang pagka-pangulo. Pagbigyan naman ninyo ako na mapaglingkuran kayo ditto sa Maynila.


Atty. Karen Jimeno
 News came via Tweeter that Corona defense spokesperson Karen Jimeno is now licensed to practice law in New York City, after she was sworn in at a court there. Congratulations, Karen. You're the type who, as the song goes, can make it anywhere, and of course, nothing bigger than NYC.

I followed the six months of CJ Renato Corona's impeachment trial and there were many things I came to admire in Karen (the other also much-admired spokesperson was Atty. Tranquil Salvador). Both Karen and Tranquil were always calm, cool and collected even when things were not going well for the defense panel. Countless times they had to think fast on their feet before hordes of cameras even when issues were not yet very clear to them.


But for me, one thing that stood out about Karen is her conviction. During the trial she never denied that she was among the lawyers who objected to what’s termed the "midnight appointment" by GMA of CJ Corona. But she stressed that after the Supreme Court spoke and ruled that appointment as valid and constitutional, she felt the issue was over and the country ought to close ranks around Corona. As she argued, “that’s what we lawyers are trained to uphold---the supremacy of the SC in interpreting the Constitution, the RULE OF LAW.

When the post of spokesperson for CJ became available, Karen said she didn't hesitate a second to accept it. And she did a good job---presenting issues in a clear but graceful manner, with a pretty face to boot.

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