Our friendship started 26 years ago.
Jose Rivera Gullas, one late afternoon after playing doubles with his brother Eddie at the Cebu Country Club, called to have a chat.
“What can we do to help tennis?” he asked.
Our afternoon chatter extended to multiple meetings at his UV office.
“Sir Dodong,” as we called him, wanted to uplift the youth. He longed to establish a tournament that would reach out to 8-year-olds and 18-year-olds; to beginners and multiple-champions. He wanted a small grassroots event that would transform into a major championship.
The 1st Gullas Tennis Cup was born in 1995.
Year after year, the tournament grew. First, the locals joined. Next, those from Bohol and Dumaguete hopped to our island. The Gullas Cup turned into a must-join sortie in the Visayas and Mindanao. It garnered the Philta Group 2 ranking and Manila netters would skip a week at the metropolis to join Cebu’s top game.
Fritz Tabura, our tournament director, and I would visit Mr. Gullas’ office at the UV Main Campus every year to discuss the event.
Each summer, when the Gullas Tennis Cup would normally be held, Mr. Gullas wanted to give more to the players. We were one of the first to give free T-shirts. The registration fee, usually P400, we offered at P150.
We concocted a Fellowship Night where we had free food (lechon), dance and song numbers (by the players), and raffle prizes. Since players from all over the country trooped to the many venues that we had through the years — CCC, Casino Español, Citigreen, Alta Vista, Pardo TC, Naga, Lahug (Suson), Consolacion, Villa Aurora, Sancase — the party was a fun experience for the tennisters.
It’s not all about tennis, he’d often say.
Dodong Gullas was known for his love of basketball as a player, coach and manager. Back in 1957, he led the UV Green Lancers to the national title, defeating the Ateneo Blue Eagles.
He loved tennis. Dodong Gullas played the sport as a form of exercise for many years. And in the Jose R. Gullas Tennis Cup, he would visit to watch the games or to attend the trophy ceremony. Many of those that he and his son Johnvic awarded became national champions: Niño Alcantara, Sally Mae Siso, Jacob Lagman, Niño Siso, Michael Quiñones, Oswaldo and James Dumoran, and Ilak Tabura.
Sir Dodong valued the word “values.” In the annual press conference that we’d conduct before the tournament’s start, he would stress the importance of sports among the youth. He despised the prevalence of drugs in society. He often said that sports was the cure
Our last Gullas Tennis Cup was the 23rd edition in June 2018. I remember visiting his brand-new office at the UV campus. He inquired about my dad Bunny and daughter Jana. We talked about his two major events that were unfolding the following year (2019): the 100th anniversary celebrations of UV and The Freeman.
Dodong Gullas left us for good last Thursday. It was game, set and match for our tennis mentor.
I’ll never forget his humility and kindness.
JRG. He was Just, Respectful, and a Gentleman.