FROM a half open door to a viewing room at the Sanctuarium Chapel in Quezon City, one can feel the pain and sorrow the family of Gilbert Bulawan had to bear after the PBA player's untimely passing on Saturday.
Close kin and friends gathered outside the viewing room as Bulawan's wife Louise was comforted by her mom Jo inside, all just coming to grips with the death of a 29-year-old, 6-foot-5 player who one Blackwater coach said was hands down the fittest in the team.
Louise just wouldn't leave her husband's side, ignoring her family's advice.
Just a day earlier, she and Bi (her pet name for Bulawan) had been to Tagaytay where they visited the Pink Sisters’ Convent to ask for guidance after the wife suffered a miscarriage 10 days ago.
His death was simply hard to believe - and harder to accept.
“Nag-date pa sila kahapon sa Tagaytay, ang saya-saya pa nila. Nag treat si Gilbert kasi gusto niyang pasayahin si Louise after what happened nga,” said Mrs. Aberin.
Outside, Bulawan's practice jersey and shoes can still be seen lying on the center seat of his Ford Everest as friends and relatives finally convinced Louise to go home.
The agony began hours ago when the call came from Blackwater staff bearing the bad news. In no time, Louise was rushing from the couple's home in Imus, Cavite to the Capitol Medical Center, where Bulawan was rushed after collapsing with just five minutes left in Blackwater's practice at the SGS Gym.
Physical therapist Fro Labrador and assistant coach DA Olan immediately performed CPR on the non-responsive Bulawan, who was later rushed by teammate Reil Cervantes, Labrador, Olan and Blackwater official Mike Lim to the nearby Capitol Medical Center.
Team owner Dioceldo Sy and Blackwater governor Silliman Sy immediately followed them to the hospital where Bulawan was declared dead on arrival.
Mark Macapagal and Reynel Hugnatan, two of Bulawan's former teammates at Meralco, were among the first to go to the Capitol Medical Center.
Bulawan, known as one of the hardest-working players in the team, was believed to be in the best shape of his career following an impressive stint with the Elite in their title run in the Chief Minister’s Cup in Penang, Malaysia.
Close relatives said Bulawan underwent a mandatory medical check-up last January when he renewed his professional license with the Games and Amusement Board (GAB).
The 29-year old former San Sebastian Stag was expected to get a contract renewal with Blackwater once his current contract ended on August 31, which explains why he wanted to prove himself anew.
“Gilbert is a known fighter. In fact, ilang teams na inikutan niya sa PBA pero he’s been very resilient, he wants to prove his worth at napakabait ng bata niyan,” said a cousin who stood by Louise's side.
Bulawan is usually jolly and soft-spoken, but friends said the journeyman pro had been emotional the past few weeks, more so with his parents battling illness.
“Masayahing tao si Gilbert, pero ang di alam ng marami, ang bigat-bigat ng dinadala niyang problema,” said another cousin.
Bulawan's remains are set to be interred at the La Funeraria Paz in Sucat, Paranaque.
Meanwhile, here's a video of Bulawan entertaining a PTV Sports crew, led by NicoleRamos, daughter of his former Barako Bull coach Bong Ramos, in his house in Pasig back in 2013.