MANILA, Philippines?Hilarious as ever, the Philippines? comedy king Dolphy drew laughter at Malacañang Monday when he joked that the chunky gold necklace placed on his shoulders by President Benigno Aquino III was too heavy for his 82-year-old frame.
But funny he was not when it came time for him to formally accept the Grand Collar (Maringal na Kuwintas of the Order of the Golden Heart)?the highest award given to a private citizen?from the President, whom he did not support in the May presidential election.
Dolphy was cited both for his distinguished 60 years in the entertainment industry and for his charity and philanthropic projects under the Dolphy Aid Para sa Pinoy Foundation. The foundation awards scholarships to deserving children of overseas Filipino workers.
He would later tell reporters he was grateful that the President gave him such a recognition, although he had supported Mr. Aquino?s chief rival in the election, Sen. Manny Villar.
Onstage?with his partner, singer-actress Zsa Zsa Padilla just a few meters away?Dolphy addressed the Chief Executive as ?Presidente Noynoy Corazon Aquino.? The veteran showman jested about ?treasu(ring) this award until my memorial park.?
After Helen Keller
Then he turned serious and emotional, profusely thanking the President.
?Talagang tumaba ang puso ko rito?hindi lang ako, buong pamilya ko, mga kaibigan ko (My heart is really filled?even my family and friends appreciate this),? he said in a short speech. ?This is my first time to receive such a coveted award.?
Dolphy noted that he was only the second to receive the award, after Helen Keller, the famous American writer and lecturer who dedicated her life to helping the deaf and blind in countries like the Philippines. She herself was deaf and blind.
According to Malacañang, the Order of the Golden Heart was set up in 1954 by the late President Ramon Magsaysay to recognize individuals who have rendered distinguished service or given material aid to improve the condition of the masses.
After the ceremony, Dolphy elicited laughter again when his family was called to be photographed with the President.
As some of his children?like Zia (his child with Padilla), actors Van Dolph (with former partner, actress Alma Moreno) and Rolly and Epi Quizon?joined him onstage, Dolphy told the audience that he had many children, including seven based in the United States and one in Australia.
Bread for stones
Dolphy told reporters he could ask for nothing more.
Of Mr. Aquino, he said: ?I didn?t realize till now that our President was such a good man. I threw stones at him last election; now he gave me bread?this award, for which I will always be thankful.?
Asked whether he thought the Grand Collar was more fulfilling than a National Artist award, he quipped: ?I?m satisfied with this. There?s so much opposition for that other one. Whether or not I get it no longer matters. They could give me a National Arthritis award, for all I care.?