FOUR years in the making was this PBA dream for Paul Gulfo.
As early as 2017, he was already looking to make the leap to the pro leagues, coming from Calgary to the Philippines and even training with some clubs in the PBA D-League.
"I wanted to pursue my basketball dreams of playing pro and I even had a small stint practicing with Racal Motors," he looked back, flying to the country after playing for one year in Ambrose University.
But as motivated as Gulfo to chase his dream, there was a far more important matter that he had to attend to.
His mother Eugenia, who hails from Rosario, Batangas, had fallen sick and Paul felt that it was better for him to tend to his ailing mom.
"I decided I wanted to come back home and spend more time with my family. I wanted to be here for her," he said.
It was a choice that Gulfo's mom didn't like, wanting his son to focus on himself and continue his dreams in their homeland. But Paul has made his decision.
"As much as she disliked my decision, I wanted to be here for her," he said, going back to Canada and working as an inventory analyst for a telecommunications company there.
Gulfo juggled that role of working, taking care of his mom, and keeping himself in shape as he actively played in the local leagues there peppered by fellow Filipinos. That went on for the next three years until April last year when Eugenia passed away.
Saddened as he was, Paul knew that he'll always have an ally up above as he reboots his dream and participates in the upcoming PBA Rookie Draft.
"I'm motivated to make my mother proud and I know she’s up there watching and still by my side supporting me," he said. "I know my mom is proud of me no matter what I do in life, but I want to make her proud of something she's been wanting me to do for a long time."
Gulfo, 28, believes that he can match up against his fellow applicants as the Canada-raised guard banks on his athleticism.
The 6-foot-2 slasher, after all, has done just that in his runs in Calgary D-League, where he played for UNDRStateMNT.
"I'm a scoring guard that's mainly known for my athleticism, but I don't want to be known for just that. I want to show that I have other skills as well with my shooting and attacking the basket," he said. "I feel those are a few of my stronger skillsets, as well as playing the pick and roll. I also feel like I'm an underrated passer, but being an unknown guard, I understand I have to show all these things."
The success of Phoenix Super LPG sniper and Fil-Canadian Matthew Wright in the league also fuels Gulfo, as he said: "Knowing he was from Canada and how he's doing well in the PBA is something I try to reach for as well."
At the core of it all, the biggest driving force for him is his desire to make his family proud, for his dad Dante and his late mom, and their relatives in Batangas.
And as much as his dreams had to take a step back, Gulfo said that had no regrets with the choices he made, hoping to be an inspiration to little-known ballers who want to pursue their dreams of playing in the pro league.
"It's never to late to chase your goals. I want to serve as inspiration to the young ones that any goal is possible, that if you dream it, you can achieve it if you’re willing to put the work in," he said.
"I feel like all my life with basketball, I’ve had to prove myself to get to where I am today, so being an 'unknown' is nothing new to me. I'm embracing it and it drives me to prove people wrong."
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