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No goodbyes for Sir Dodong

TO THE QUICK - Jerry Tundag (The Freeman) - March 1, 2021 - 12:00am

If you think Sir Dodong (Jose Rivera Gullas, February 1, 1934 - February 25, 2021) led a charmed life because he was rich, powerful, and good-looking, then you mistook the man for your own perception of him. Instead, Sir Dodong led a restless life, always troubled by thoughts of not doing enough, consumed by worry that he might have failed the expectations of people, both close to him and casual relations.

By this time, almost everything significant about the man shall have been said or written and I will not attempt to go there anymore. Anything that will come from me will only get overshadowed by words from those who saw him better from their own particular angles. And the one thing Sir Dodong always wanted me to do, and extremely liked about my writing, is writing to be different, to have a perspective substantially peculiar.

Whenever he wants me to write something, whether for publication or just for his own pleasure or amusement, he would invariably instruct me to give it "the Mister Jerry touch", whatever that meant. And whatever that meant, it gave me the confidence and pride any employee would pay dearly to have from his boss.

It was this confidence and pride that made me stay with him for close to 40 years now (from reporter to editor-in-chief to publisher in a span of 35 years until retirement from office work in 2018, and continuing to this day as a columnist). I don't know what some may think of this, but having stayed with Sir Dodong for more than half of my own life is perhaps the greatest tribute I can pay him.

Into those nearly 40 years of working for his beloved The FREEMAN went almost everything that I am. I found my beautiful wife here. My three wonderful daughters who mean the world to me were born, raised, and educated here. Another daughter passed on from here. I will be lying and lying badly if I will not say that The FREEMAN is home to me. And that Sir Dodong is the father I found in there.

I will not say the glorious things that seem to be the requirement of the occasion. I am a writer. I eat words for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. My words will only ring hollow in the face of so many written or said by others far better than I am. It is enough that I make public the fact that I have stayed with Sir Dodong for nearly 40 years now. To me that says a lot, not just about my regard for Sir Dodong but, more importantly, about Sir Dodong himself.

In all those nearly 40 years that I can speak authoritatively of, Sir Dodong has seen a never-ending cycle of people coming in and people going out. No problem with welcomes. It is the goodbyes that deeply wound Sir Dodong. He hates to see people go, especially under circumstances that are far from celebratory. It gives him sleepless nights. It leads him to question himself --did he miss something? Was it something he said? Or failed to do?

In the last few years of his life, some of us in The FREEMAN tried to come up with a book on his legacy. But for one reason or another, we failed him in this one consuming desire. Yet, on hindsight, it is just as well we failed. A book would have limited Sir Dodong to what a group of writers say in a few finite pages. His real legacy is what lives on in the lives of so many he touched and changed. So why say goodbye to one who has never left?

JOSE DODONG GULLAS
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