Farewell, Wolfran
WRECKORDER - FGS Gujilde (The Freeman) - July 2, 2020 - 12:00am

Double fault, I don’t exactly know how to start. Indulge me. Today I eulogize a good friend, Wolfran Branzuela, who succumbed to cancer last June 27. More known as YY among his family and friends, he was my doubles partner in Mandaue City Tennis Court, home to some good tennis players in the country, except the both of us. We took on the sport late in life and played on instinct without any training, formal or otherwise. At middle age, we don’t want others to tell us what to do, and such arrogance only bastardized the sport.

But who needs coaching when we were content with playing for fun, bottles of beer, pride and some ribbing after, win or lose. With confidence exceeding ability, we joined the 2014 Mayor’s Cup doubles tournament in the lowest category, where else. We lost our first match. Aside from our lack of skill, one of us had one drink too many the night before. I was too drunk to remember who it was.

But the double round robin elimination format gave us second lease and reach the finals maybe, if we win 13 consecutive matches. Long shot, one false move and we’re done. For some stroke of luck, we reached the finals against a twice-to-beat pair of seasoned players. Tall order, and we’re both 5’5” or shorter.

By some stroke of luck, we won the first match but played the final match with nothing to lose. We knew the guys at the other side of the net just humored us, or the crowd. True enough, we were blanked 0-4, but for some reason found a way to turn the match around and evened at 4-all until tiebreak. Wolfran sealed the match with his trademark overhead smash of an easy ball. The crowd was stunned. What just happened?

But this freak accident of a championship is just one of the simple, cheap joys in life we celebrated – bottles of beer in the gutter, even under the rain or flood. We turned the tennis court into our virtual playground until our last out-of-town session with him during the birthday of our good friend Elmer Ferrolino who could have won a tournament had he played. But I wouldn’t know how many, must be less than three.

 Except for Randel Macalolooy who either attended a domestic matter or just domesticated, our tennis club constants were all there – Dale Bate whose six-pack abs stood the test of time, Benjie Trinidad who transitioned from basketball to tennis by force of age, and the Dela Cruz brothers, Jogen, Jerome and Jason, ranked from oldest to youngest, not by how they played, a sibling issue that may never be settled unless Jerome concedes, even if he maintains he is tallest at 5’7”.

That no-spouse furlough was punctuated by our usual banter in sports, sex, religion, politics and the undying issue of who fears his spouse the most. Then death, that had us pensive when he said he goes ahead of us. We smiled but feared there was some truth to it. After he suffered stroke, he was no longer the indefatigable Wolfran who never passed a chance to drink.

Thin and frail, he saw it coming, but went at a time when we can’t even attend his wake or funeral. But he knows we would if only we could. Rest in peace, best friend Wolfran. You have won many battles in your lifetime but had to lose the final match point. Don’t feel bad. No one wins it.

TENNIS
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