Whatever little I have gained in life, I owe in large part to the University of the Visayas. The University opened many doors for me: to education, journalism, the law and teaching. I would not have gone far in college without the scholarship that I enjoyed throughout my seven years, three in liberal arts and four in law school.
I was close to both Gullas brothers. Sir Eddie became my law partner after he stepped down as Cebu governor, but I was closer to Sir Dodong first because it was him that I dealt with most of the time while his brother was in politics. We spoke a lot, did business once and collaborated on the University’s sports program. I learned a lot from him and even more importantly about him.
Once, our commerce faculty team figured in a rumble with our colleagues from another department during a basketball game. Sir Dodong tried to pacify us because he was worried that the fight might spill over to the bleachers where our students were watching, but I was not to be appeased. For more than a month, he refused to talk to me and it took an early morning jog at the Abellana oval for me to have the chance to apologize. Never lose your mind while you’re playing, he said.
When he made me the UV Green Lancers team manager, I became a frequent visitor to his office. At one time, he asked me to stay while he was waiting for some bank officers to arrive. They did not show up for almost an hour from the appointed time and when they did, he refused to see them. Always arrive on time for your appointments, he told me. Or call if you will be late. That’s courtesy.
We were in Naga City (Camarines Sur) for five days in 1983 for the national intercollegiate basketball championship, traveling by car from Manila with Sir Eddie at the wheels. Eddiegul coached the Green Lancers team, that included Sir Dodong, to their first national title in 1957, beating Ateneo de Manila, 74-63 in the final game, said to be the first ever to be televised in the country. The feat earned the older Gullas Coach of the Year honors from the Philippine Sportswriters Association and the front cover of the prestigious Philippine Free Press.
When word spread that he was in Naga, old friends came to pay their respects, including Cris Arroyo, star forward of that beaten Ateneo squad that also featured Ed Ocampo, who for years was hailed as the greatest guard in Philippine basketball. We were having dinner at the hotel restaurant on our second night when Arroyo approached our table and after greeting the brothers, pulled a chair and talked to Eddiegul.
After a while, Arroyo stood up but one by one, a long line of local officials followed and sat in Arroyo’s chair so they could greet Eddiegul, who was at that time a member (Vice Chairman?) of the Marcos government Executive Committee headed by Cesar Virata. “Eddiebot must be hungry,” Sir Dodong muttered worriedly and as soon as its last occupant stood up, he promptly removed the extra chair so his brother (and we) could finally have dinner.
Sir Dodong cared about his family. At breakfast the following day, he received a call on the hotel phone (the cell phone was unheard of at that time). It came from the yaya of one of his children, who wanted to know if he was coming home that day. He said that he had to see the tournament through and asked the yaya to put his son on the line. After he was told that his son refused to talk to him, I saw sir Dodong’s face fall.
I knew why it deeply bothered him. Many years earlier when I was newly married, he advised me to always be there for my children. “We are not saints,” he said, but “let it not be said that when our children needed us when they were growing up, we were not there.”
Later that morning, their cousin Ening Completo, who was our coach, came to inform us that one of the players was acting up because he saw limited time in their last game. Sir Dodong was furious and made it known to the player in no uncertain terms during our meeting. After the player apologized and the team promised to “fight, fight, fight,” Eddiegul pulled a bunch of crisp paper bills from his briefcase, handed it to team captain Anthony Mendoza to be shared by all. The brothers really were a good team.
You do not cross Sir Dodong without expecting any consequences. Once during a faculty meeting with the College of Commerce, an accounting instructor prefaced his question with, “if the Gullas family are really sincere.” It really hurt him and he told us so, the offending instructor particularly, emphatically.
Farewell, Sir Dodong. I regret that we haven’t been able to talk like we used to do in the past until you left. But I’m happy to tell you that I was there when my children needed me and I always tried and continue to be punctual (even if sometimes, unsuccessfully) for my appointments because I learned from a good man.