Ka Bino Guerrero: Profile Essay
He wore a fusion of the new and the old: a white barong, jeans, and black shoes. With his cane and native hat, he looked like a gallant sage. When I asked him to find a position he was most comfortable, it did not take him long to find one. He squared his shoulders and looked contemplative with his gaze fixed somewhere. Balbino Pada “Ka Bino” Guerrero Jr. is a character: the kind that belongs to the streets of Cebu.
Perhaps this is the very reason his name resonates in the tour guiding industry. He knows his craft.
For this Negrense by birth and Cebuano by choice, tour guiding is not a mere act of going around rather it is a walk down the aisle of history and a walk to the road of learning and understanding our collective past.
To reminisce, if not revitalize, downtown’s glory and perhaps chip off its ill-reputation a bit, Ka Bino created Old Cebu Walks, a jump-off from Paseo sa Kabilin offered by the City Tourism Office. Paseo sa Kabilin, on the other hand, sprang from Gabii sa Kabilin—an annual celebration of the heritages found in the major Cebu cities.
Ka Bino also drew inspiration from the capital’s popular tours: Ivan Man Dy’s Binondo and Carlos Celdran’s Intramuros, picked the best cuts of these two, and applied them to Old Cebu Walks.
The walk starts at Magellan’s Cross. Few steps from this landmark is Basilica del Sto Niño. Then, the walk passes through a narrow street of flowers and delicacies which then leads to Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral, Rajah Humabon Monument, and the Cathedral of Cebu Museum. It culminates at Parian.
True, it may seem the walk does not require guiding. Anyone could do the walk, but not everyone could do the walk and the talk concurrently.
Most tourists often reduce places as attractions. With Ka Bino, he puts the supposed attractions into historical perspectives. He has anecdotes and interesting stories for big and small things that can be found along the trail. Yes, history is often considered boring. But Ka Bino takes a fresh angle at storytelling.
“We don’t touch the local color. We just tweak it a little. The storyline remains, but the process of telling the story is different,” he revealed his secret.
“When you read history, you don’t rely on one source. You read the footnote and formulate your own interpretation. History is subject to interpretation,” he further disclosed. He felt that he had to double his effort in learning Cebu’s history. His insomnia came out useful: he spent the waking nights by reading history books. He rubbed elbows with Cebu’s academe to learn the latest in social sciences.
Old Cebu Walks is the flagship and, so far, the most established among Ka Bino’s tours. But he also offers Tour Americana, which illuminates the American period in Cebu. It starts at Cebu Provincial Capitol and ends at Cebu Normal University: the home of the Japanese War Museum. He also proposes of having a Ramon Durano Walk, which features the greatness and otherwise of this Danao hero.
If I had to play favorites, I would single out Colon by Night. It talks about the glory of Colon not as the oldest street but Colon in the 70s and 80s. Colon by night evokes a different aura: it emits happiness and nostalgia to Ka Bino.
“Back then, it was Cebu’s shopping mall. People would be proud to say their clothes were from Gaw. There were around thirty movie houses,” Ka Bino reminisced.
What makes Colon by Night special is that it is personal for Ka Bino. Here he would talk about his experience watching Indiana Jones with his father. Excitement fired his eyes while gushing about Vision Theater, which I personally monikered the misplaced building: it is the only ostentatiously Greek building downtown with naked muses at its frieze.
When I think of Colon, I think of Carbon. These two are inseparable in my head, and despite the tour labeled as Colon by Night, Carbon is the little box of surprise inside the package.
When Ka Bino talks about history, he talks about love. He loves talking. He loves Cebu. He loves talking about Cebu. Just like any form of love, it is twinned with disappointment and pain. He is pained how Cebuanos contribute Colon as a place for the poor. It is preconceived as the place of the misfits, the dangerous, the poor, the outcast, the unthinkable.
Paradoxically, the peril of sauntering Colon is considered highest to those who have not actually walked the street. They fear of being robbed or worst killed.
“Cebuanos are simply jaded. Let Cebuano be proud of what they have. There is so much to love about Colon. We should be appreciative of what we have. We long for something that we do not have. We have to love Colon first, because nobody would love it for us. We should love, patronize,” he contemplated.
Ironically, he himself wanted a better downtown. He envisioned Colon as an attraction, where the elite and the IT people could have coffee somewhere, where the products found at a famous cultural store could be displayed and bought, where foreign tourists could find and experience a unique sense of place. Ka Bino found Colon’s night market a mere extension of street vending and not a sign of revitalizing the oldest street.
“We tend to be very superficial and run short of historical sensibility. We have to learn history,” he declared and went on quoting George Santayana.
“When are we going to learn?” he asked with a distant look. But it is more appropriate to ask how are we going to learn than when are we going to learn. After a short silence, he answered his own question.
“Instill love. Not just a mere introduction of the place. Loving the place can make the dreams of the heroes live,” he adjudicated.
We walk for different reasons. Like Ka Bino, I walk for perspective and learning. Walking offers angles, depths, and understandings that other means of transport cannot provide. A city street walker takes a different turn on the street of preconceptions and urban myths.
So after shooting Ka Bino at Yap-Sandiego Ancestral House whose oldness I began to love, I challenged Ka Bino to have his photos taken in front of Basilica del Sto Niño—the starting lane of Old Cebu Walks. I expected he would say no, knowing the afternoon heat could be unbearable.
“Sige. Ako pay hagito’g lakaw,” he smiled.
Published on Sun.Star Yearbook 2014. You can buy a copy at National Bookstore.