Blackwater coach names one play 'Gilbert' to honor late player Bulawan's memory
Blackwater honors the late Gilbert Bulawan by retiring his jersey. PBA Images

BLACKWATER has not only retired the playing jersey of the late Gilbert Bulawan to help keep his memory alive. The team also designed a play dedicated and named after him.

Riel Cervantes, the closest buddy of the power forward out of San Sebastian, disclosed coach Leo Isaac named one of the Elite’s plays after Bulawan to honor the memory of one of the team's defensive lynchpins.

“May play kami sa kanya, yung ‘Gilbert,’ said Cervantes, “para hindi siya mawala sa (alaala) namin.”

Blackwater employed the play at the height of its sizzling fourth quarter rally that howevercame just short in a 96-90 loss to NLEX in the team’s debut in the PBA Governors Cup.

Prior to the match, the Elite formally retired Bulawan’s No. 11 jersey especially encased in a glass, and which Cervantes and alternate board of governor Siliman Sy handed to his wife Dr. Icey Bulawan.

As someone who’s been very close to Bulawan since he arrived in the franchise last year, it’s Cervantes who’s affected the most by his death.

It was actually the 29-year-old forward who was the last person Bulawan approached and hugged before he collapsed on the playing court of the SGS gym on that fateful afternoon of July 3 when the Elite wrapped up their Sunday practice.

Minutes later, Bulawan was declared dead on arrival at the Capitol Medical Center.

[See Autopy report reveals Gilbert Bulawan suffered from enlarged heart]

“Wala naman siyang sinabi. Basta bigla na lang siyang yumakap sa akin. Akala ko nga nagbibiro, tapos ayun bumagsak na siya,” said Cervantes, talking about the sad incident for the very first time.

He admitted being saddened by the loss of his friend that Riel had to skip practice for about a week.

“Mahirap sa akin yung first few days. Hindi ako nag-practice for almost a week,” Cervantes disclosed. “Masakit sa akin. Noong araw lagi kaming magkatabi niyan, out-of-town lagi kaming magkasama.”

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Cervantes describes Bulawan as ‘totoong tao, sobrang bait niyan.”

Other than being jolly, there’s one thing Cervantes will miss the most from Bulawan.

“May dala ako laging speaker sa gym. Pag nagpatugtog na ako, kakanta na yan,” said the native of Virac, Catanduanes as he lightened up while recalling some of Bulawan’s funny moments during practices.

His favorite music?

“Old school yan, Air Supply,” he said with a smile. “Pag narinig niya na yan, andiyan na si Baduy, kakanta na yan.”

Cervantes got a bit emotional the first time he attended practice and he started playing his speaker. None among the Blackwater players sang along with the music like what his late friend would usually do.

“Naluha nga ako kasi wala na siya,” he said trying to hold back tears in front of the prying media. “Kung andun siya, sisigaw na yun, pag may speaker na dun.”

Follow the writer on Twitter: @gerardmos