Pop Sabandon is dead. Last Friday past 11 p.m., as he exited the hospital after visiting his father-in-law in Gen. Santos City, Pop was shot twice in the head. Shocking. Pop was one of the top tennis players of our land: a former Davis Cup player, he was ranked as high as RP # 3 just a few Februarys ago. But more than his tennis prowess, he was one of the most cheerful and enthusiastic of men.
Last April, he was in Cebu. Joining the Cebuana Lhuillier Men’s Open at Baseline, he entertained the crowd with his bandana-on-the-forehead look and style of play that was aggressive and captivating. One occasion I recall was our dinner last year with Jean-Henri Lhuillier and the rest of the players at Mr. A in Busay. Pops was the star. He sang. He drank. He joked. He smiled. He was simply a lovable, outgoing person.
According to Cebuano tennis ace Michael Quiñones, one of his closest friends here, Pop was a few days away from leaving for Hong Kong for a possible tennis coaching profession. He was only 28.