IT was the least Reynel Hugnatan could do to pay his respect to a fallen friend.
The veteran forward tried to remember his good pal Gilbert Bulawan, by giving tribute to the late Blackwater big man during the PBA Governors Cup game between Meralco and Phoenix on Friday night.
Hugnatan attached a white masking tape on his playing sneaker where the words ‘RIP GB 11’ were written in bold letters.
“Very close kasi kami talaga nun, parang kapatid ko na siya,” said Hugnatan of Bulawan, who passed away last July 3 after collapsing during practice of the Elite at the SGS gym.
Hugnatan said he thought about doing the tribute only on the morning of the Bolts’ game against the Fuel Masters, which Meralco won, 108-103.
The 37-year-old pride of Bacolod was just as surprised as many fans and fellow cagers with the death of Bulawan, with whom he became close when the former San Sebastian stalwart was still with Meralco from 2011 to 2013.
“Kami yung naging close talaga nung nasa Meralco siya, kaya talagang nagulat ako,” said the long-haired Meralco player as he tried to fight back tears.
“Kaya nung tumawag si Mike (Cortez) sa akin, nagulat talaga ako,” he said. “Pumunta na ako agad sa hospital. Pero wala na, e.”
Against the Fuel Masters, Hugnatan finished with seven points and three rebounds in 19 minutes of play.
From now on, he vows to do the same thing just to remember the memory of his late friend.
“Para lang sa kanya (talaga yan),” Hugnatan stressed.