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April 14, 2020 In Memory of our MVP Designer and Friend, Gh3ablo

On March 5, 2020 our dear friend and Topcoder community MVP and designer, Gh3ablo, passed away. He had been struggling with an illness for some time but his death still came as a surprise to so many of us who cared about him.

Coming from the Philippines, he joined Topcoder in May 2009 and was passionate about his family, his music, gaming, playing bass, programming, designing and helping all of us with his wit and charm.

Hearing Ghe was not with us anymore was truly shocking and made me reflect on how much he has meant to me and the community for these past eleven years.

THE HISTORY

I joined Topcoder in June 2010 as a total rookie in the design world. I still remember how I saw the platform with a newbie’s eyes: full of many talented members and high prize contests. It didn’t take more than two to three months to discover four legends that I was admiring, that could nail any design type with their good understanding of the problem and great execution of design. They were iamtong, gh3ablo, abedavera, and oninkxronda. No matter the design problem, they were always very creative and bold in their approaches. I was looking at their designs like a kid looks at champions: deeply admiring and respecting them, and eager to learn as much as I could from them.

Besides winning challenges, Ghe had a separate place where he was dominating: the world of bug races. It was what we now call Design First 2 Finish challenges and was run on Jira. He was winning 90% of the bugs and there was little chance to beat him as he would submit in the first two to six hours after work was posted. That work was great quality too, closing the bug pretty fast. However, it was always fun to join a bug race against him, because besides the competition itself, Ghe was a friendly person and he would talk about his design approach after we both submitted or make jokes or talk about games and many other things. It was a competition, but despite this, he was a heartwarming person who was always fun to talk to and learn from. He loved those types of fast contests, because due to his full time job as programmer, the bug races fit easily into his schedule.

Back then, we weren’t connected on any social network, we just used the old Topcoder forums as the place to talk and Gh3ablo was one key person in those conversations. What I saw there was not just people competing, but a community of members cheering each other for wins, for becoming first time parents, for learning to play a new instrument and also helping each other with contests and platform issues. That totally changed my paradigm of what a competitive platform was and I wanted it.

In 2012, I managed to qualify for TCO as a design finalist. While the entire first time experience was mind blowing, the impressive location, the event itself, the competition adrenaline, I loved most that I could meet the other designers and especially the legends I was admiring: iamtong, oninkxronda and abedavera. But, gh3ablo was missing. Their greatness as designers was in direct proportion to how modest and friendly they were. I still respect and admire them in the same way.

In time, I became friends with them and qualified several times to TCOs. However, gh3ablo skipped TCO every time as he couldn’t obtain a VISA for the USA. We always missed him and wished he were there with us.

In 2016, TCO was in Washington DC and several designers travelled to New York, where we had Thanksgiving day together, thinking of Ghe as well.

2016 Thanksgiving dinner, members wearing the tissues to resemble Ghe with his face mask

Through all these years we became good friends. He was very supportive and fun to talk to. I also learned so much from him analyzing his designs, listening carefully to his explanations and tips and I’ll be always grateful for this.

DESIGN NEWSLETTER

After talking for a few years on Facebook, Adam introduced Slack and we finally had a place to communicate better. Due to his spirit, Ghe got his own Slack channel. It was about that time that Adam asked us if we wished to help revamp the old newsletters. We brainstormed together and came up with a fresh newsletter that members loved. The best part of the newsletter was Ghe’s section, where he would post funny memes, advice for members, or sometimes recipes. Below is some of his best content:

Photo manipulation of adroc, by Ghe
Photo manipulation of Yoki, by Ghe
Photo manipulation by Ghe

“So… you didn’t win the checkpoint round – should you even bother joining the final round? I say, if you have the time, why not? Make it an opportunity to learn, try out new things – heck, go crazy! You never know, winning it could just be a little push ahead. :)”

“Recently, I watched this romantic drama… *cry* *tears* *cry*. Beneath the romance shenanigans, I was able to pick up a theme that could easily apply to us as competitors which is – whatever challenge you chose to tackle, embrace it and do your best. Doing so can leave a mark on another’s heart, serving as inspiration to do the same and eventually ripple out, making us a better community to serve and satisfy the clients. This may sound cliché, but it’s always nice to have us reminded once in a while.”

by Gh3ablo

THE PASSION

During all these years we discovered we had many things in common: from our love of superhero movies like Flash, Arrow, Supergirl, Legends of Tomorrow, manga, and Japanese culture to the passion for community and improving the platform and helping the newbie members. We created a Slack group called GRYD (based on its member’s names: Gh3ablo, Ravi, Yoki, Dara) where we would talk about all sorts of fun stuff, sometimes not related at all to work. Just jokes or life things and games, movies, and other times we shared designs for feedback or just talked about different challenges or solutions to platform issues or processes. The hours would fly by fast when all four of us were online and talking – sometimes that part was the sparkle of the day… Ghe would always make things more fun and interesting with his vision of things or new ideas he had. 

When working on a project Ghe always liked to have fun. He was coming up with all these unique approaches in his designs that were surprising and hard to anticipate. He used to say “Better lose with work you enjoyed than lose with work that stressed you out”. Many times I was saving his design work, in my “Reference Folder” to learn, even if he didn’t win the challenge, as the ideas were unique.

MYSTERY REVEALED

For many years, nobody knew what he looked like. He always used to hide his face behind a mask, never sharing his real photo on Topcoder, Slack or social media. He was a mystery. Not attending the TCOs due to Visa issues put even more of an emphasis on that. That is, until TCO18 Indonesia when the mystery was revealed.

From left to right: cendhika, gh3ablo and iamtong
gh3ablo at TCO18 Indonesia Regional Event

THE MEETING

The desire to meet him live grew even more. Last year, 2019, we finally had the chance to do that at the TCO19 Japan Regional event that we attended as MVPs.

I realized even more then what a wonderful man he was, so respectful and kind. Even if he was fun online, he was a shy, introverted person in reality. We got the chance to help Adam and Harshit with setting up and running the event, go to Tokyo Disneyland, eat amazing Japanese food in restaurants or on the streets, and had a lot of moments to cherish. Little did I know then it was the first and last time we would meet..

Fun at Disneyland Tokyo
The entire group at Disneyland Tokyo
Fun on streets after taking dinner

REMEMBERING

The community was deeply saddened by the death of our beloved friend and so many members shared their condolences throughout Topcoder. We are so thankful for our tight knit family and are happy to share some of these messages.

Ravijune
This is such shocking news to all of us. The legend is no more. He is an amazing friend with a great sense of humor and incredible design skills. I always looked for his meme section in the design newsletter every Wednesday. I had been waiting for you Ghe, to be back on the #Chatwithgh3ablo channel. You gave us lots of great, fun memories. We will miss you, Ghe. You will always remain in our hearts forever ❤️

yoki
He is one of my best friends, my brother. We shared many quality times together. He brought smiles and a warm welcome to all of us here. Sorry guys, I am still gutted, and can barely believe it. I can’t write more about him right now. All I can say is that we all love him, we miss him, he left his spirit, passion, dedication, and such great memories in our hearts. Farewell my beloved brother. You are in a better place now.

starck181995
He was an elder brother to me, always making us laugh and learn. I can’t believe this really happened and I haven’t been able to do much the last few days. Rest in peace brother. I/we love you so much. To his beloved family: stay strong, we are with you.

fajar.mln
Smiling man, strong competitor, beloved friend…I still remember competing with him in a bug race track for design and front end prototype. It was very hard to beat him, and it didn’t feel like competing, it felt like playing a fun game when he participated in the contest. I’ll always love his bass video cover, one of my dreams was to be able to jam with him, it looks like I will need to wait a long time to do that…RIP brother, I can’t believe you’re not with us anymore. It was my honor to be able to meet you in Medan and Yogya a few years ago. I should’ve attended TCO19 regional Japan, now I will regret not doing that forever. Deep condolences to the family, stay strong, because all Topcoder members are with you in this sorrow…we are not just friends, we are family.

trivia79
On the behalf of Philippine TC members (totopc, oninkxronda, quesks, kristofferrouge, macs054, etc.), we are deeply saddened by the lost of gh3ablo. I’m very proud and very happy to have had a close friend like you in TC who guided me along the way. Our should-be next meetup won’t happen again…because you’re now in God’s kingdom…you’re safer now “pre”, no more pain and struggles. We will miss you…..Topcoder Community/Nation loves you sooo much!

hmehta
I remember the day we started community Slack, he was there. He is one of those members who set the family culture we have in Slack today. Thank you gh3ablo for all you did! I met him two years back at the Indonesia Regionals. He became a friend immediately and we had a butter chicken dinner together with everyone. I reached out to him during the Japan event for help. He helped and even kept asking where else he could contribute. His funny creativity and Gh3ablo’s corner will always be missed. Rest in peace my friend!

iamtong

I still can’t believe it, I wish this was his best prank ever. I had a conversation with him around one hour before he passed away. I had no clue that emoji would be the very last thing he said to me. He made it fun until the end and it was probably his way to say goodbye. It was roughly ten years back when I first got to know him in bug races. He became one of the best friends, more of a brother, lovely uncle Ghe to my kids. He was always there to listen and help. He had a very hard time with health issues in these past four or five months, a couple surgeries had been done, he was in so much pain and still could not find out exactly what had caused the illness. I was wishing and praying hard for him to be healthy again. We planned to do so many things and go places when he recovered. He is at least no longer in pain now. Rest in peace Ghe. Thanks for everything you have done. Thanks for being gh3ablo. Please keep him and his family in your prayers.

adroc
Gh3 became famous (to me) and my friend from our design/UI Proto Bug Races (precursor to F2F)… he was always faster than everyone else. But what really made him famous is that in the Bug Races (we used Jira at the time) he would chat/post all night long/throughout the challenge with the other designers about the problem or about gaming or just whatever life things were going on. I would post the Bug Race, go to bed at some point, and in the morning there would be all these conversations posted on the Bug Race with him and all of the other designers… it was a lot of fun (like the bug was secondary/just a reason for everyone to chat all night with gh3ablo). He was a lot of fun and always willing to help. He was also extremely creative, truly thinking differently about everything… he always went for Bold. I am going to miss him so much. Because everyone loved chatting with him (I loved chatting with him) I asked him to host a channel on the Community Slack and to provide any funny “gh3’isms” for the design newsletter. I also can’t believe it’s been 10+ years everyone.

hi4sandy
It’s shocking news for me, he was very young. I met him some months ago in Japan. When in Japan I spent some time with him walking the streets, going to shops, talking. When I met him in person, it was hard for me to believe that a guy who always likes to talk in a fun way can be serious too. What I felt with my in person interaction is that he’s a bit shy and he loves his friends and family. He always makes everyone smile. RIP my friend.

PereViki

mahestro
I love the feeling of this soft breeze; it reminds me of the mountain – This sentence has stuck in my head since I sat with Ghe in Manila. He compared the soft ocean breeze with the one he felt back home. What a simple, humble, and lovely person he was. Despite his shy nature, he could be witty and hilarious, cracking jokes as fast as his design skills.

It’s devastating to accept the idea we won’t see such a gentleman again, such a nice guy. The world seems to be in a conspiracy when good people abandon us way ahead of time. He leaves an infinite hole in our community – irreplaceable.

Do not go gentle into that good night, Ghe. Wherever your particles are wandering now, I hope they are floating around the simple mountain life you loved; hugging your daughter, growing next to wife, your same highschool sweetheart love. Live long in our memories, Ghe.

jmpld40
I am super sad about Ghe and this is another reminder how what we do is amazing. Without Topcoder, so many of our members would never have met and had these long friendships. We wouldn’t have the friends and extended “family” around the world. What we do by connecting truly talented people, despite it being a competitive atmosphere, can not be found elsewhere.

Be proud every day that you are part of the Topcoder community. These are individuals making a better life for themselves and their family. They are one big, happy, tho competitive, family. We cherish them all and grieve when they are gone. Thinking about this family and sending prayers to all that knew him.

gh3ablo playing video games

Every year at TCO, we have the TCO spirit award which is dedicated to the people who represent the community. We’ve had great members win the award, however I always believed if Ghe were there he would deserve it as he truly represents the community. We have decided that this year and forever the Topcoder Design Month in May will be dedicated to Ghe.

Thanks to oninkxronda, the winner of the Design Month Banner challenge, in memory of Ghe

THE END OF THE STORY

Most of the time we’re so busy with work that we have no time to socialize, not even with other Topcoder friends. But it’s those times when a person reaches out to you to see how you’re doing, or when someone starts sharing XD tips on a channel just because he thought other members could benefit from that knowledge, or when you join a channel and then someone cheerfully welcomes you and many other such small details like this, that really connect us as members, friends, and family, at a deeper level than just work; as a community. Such a person was Ghe – one of the community member pillars. The mysterious designer, always hiding behind the facemask, sharing his funny memes and jokes, his knowledge, wit and charm. We are all going to miss you and you’ll be in our hearts forever ❤️

Thank you for everything! 

If you would like to share your condolences or memories of gh3ablo, please do that here.

Thanks to riopurba for putting together this video about Ghe

DaraK

Guest Blogger



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