Epy Quizon: Dolphy’s 14th child makes his mark as film thespian

‘I’ve been around a long time.’ Photo: Lambert Parong for The FilAm

‘I’ve been around a long time.’ Photo: Lambert Parong for The FilAm

Father and son: ‘We didn’t have a  normal father-son relationship.’

Father and son: ‘We didn’t have a normal father-son relationship.’

By Cristina DC Pastor

Up until his final moments, Dolphy was trying to be funny.

Actor Jeffrey ‘Epy’ Quizon, 42, shared fond reminiscences of his father, Philippine entertainment’s legendary comic who died in 2012 of multiple organ failure.

Dolphy was diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. At his hospital bed, he was severely weakened by his respiratory condition. He was antsy, irritable and pleading for a steroid inhaler that would assist with his breathing. The family would not give it to him because he had maxxed out his dosage. Help was called. A swarm of doctors and nurses arrived. As they gathered, a song was heard in his private room. Dolphy played along like a conductor to the rhythm of the song as he looked at the white-robed medical staff surrounding him. The following day, his lungs collapsed.

When Epy came to visit the following day, he told him, “Ayan dad, ang yabang mo kasi eh.” Epy shared this, probably his last, hilarious anecdote with his dad. Dolphy passed away two, maybe three, months later.

Sharing vignettes of his life with his legendary father is not easy for Epy, one of Dolphy’s18 children born from six relationships.

“I’m the 14th of all of the children,” he said. “We’re 18 in all.”

Epy’s mother was 1960s actress with the screen name Pamela Ponti. She has appeared in three comedies, two of them opposite Dolphy. Alice Smith – whose father was American – would quit showbiz, retire to domestic life to raise four children with Dolphy: Ronnie, Eric, Madonna, and Epy, regretting in a published interview that she did not stay long enough with him. “I should have stayed.” Dolphy was known to have a series of romances throughout his film career until he settled down with singer Zsa Zsa Padilla.

“We didn’t have a normal father-son relationship,” said Epy, who is visiting New York after his indie film “Unlucky Plaza” won honors at the International Film Festival Manhattan; Epy was voted Best Actor. “He was always busy.”

Of the children, although not all are into showbiz, it is Epy who is now making a name as a serious actor, a thespian. Older brother Eric has been in the business longer — since late 1980s — winning numerous acting awards but now trying to carve his niche as a director.

It now appears to be Epy emerging. Modest about his track record, Epy said he’s been around a long time too.

“I’ve done more than a hundred movies; I’m now 42,” he told reporters at an press conference to promote “Heneral Luna” where he plays Apolinario Mabini referenced in history books as the Sublime Paralytic. “I’ve played all kinds of roles.”

He began to make movies in 1990, trying out the comedy genre in “Og Must be Crazy” starring his dad and girlfriend Zsa Zsa. His roles ranged from comedy to action to drama. In “Heneral Luna,” he finally got noticed as another Quizon in cinema where he is neither Facifica Falayfay nor John Puruntong.

“I’m a professional,” he said. “I don’t mind playing comedy, just tell me what is the job. Do you want me to be funny? Can I do it? I’ll take any role even for free especially if I believe in a project. Always, I’ll give it a 101 percent.”

The role of Apolinario Mabini did not fall on his lap because he’s been a steady, competent actor or because he is bona fide showbiz royalty. “I auditioned for it,” he said.

He recalled coming to the audition studio but not knowing what role he was to prepare for. When he learned it was for Mabini, he dug into his classroom memory of what Mabini was, what he looked like, and how he could channel him. He was shown a photo, saw a slicked-back hairstyle. Immediately Epy knew what to do.

“I wet my hair, combed it back to show my forehead, then I sat slumped on the chair. If you’re a paralytic, you are physically incapacitated, you can’t push your upper body,” he said. “I got the role as soon as I sat down.”

But Epy got into a social media commotion when he posted comments about some students’ reactions to his role: “Someone asked why am I always sitting down?”

He felt slightly disconcerted that his post and the wild comments from netizens caught the attention of President Benigno Aquino III and Education Secretary Armin Luistro. But to this day, he wonders, “What are our students learning in school about our history if they don’t know who Mabini is?”

It remains to be seen how “Heneral Luna” will fare in the Oscars’ Best Foreign Language Film competition, the first time the Philippines will have an entry. Epy said one of the factors to a film having a strong chance getting a nomination is when it has a “successful run” in theatres.

“We need to support the film for it to have a good run.” Keep in mind, added Epy, that the Oscars is an American award and the film has a strong activist statement about Philippine-American relations.

A line in the film that stays with him is: “Bayan or sarili; negosyo o kalayaan? Mamili ka!”

“Tangina!” he exploded with emotion. It’s a question, he said, Filipinos continue to confront to this day.

As Apolinario Mabini in ‘Heneral Luna’

As Apolinario Mabini in ‘Heneral Luna’

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