Ka Bino, spreading love for Cebu’s heritage

Marlen Limpag
Cebu Kini

Balbino Guerrero is Negrense by birth but when it comes to Cebu's history, he knows more than the average Cebuano.

He believes, for instance, that Magellan's Cross in downtown Cebu City is ill-named, and that the plaque beneath the structure saying Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan planted it there has it all wrong.

Indeed, for 36-year-old Ka Bino, knowing all there is to know about Cebu is an advantage, nay a necessity, in the tour guiding world that he has come to love. "KSP (kulang sa pansin) man gud ko (I crave attention). I want to talk. I like it when people listen to me," said Ka Bino, to jokingly explain why he was a perfect fit for the job.

While he may have been born in Tanjay, Negros Oriental, he said he is definitely "Cebuano by choice," moving here 15 years ago at the request of a cousin whose husband had to leave for China and opting to stay. Asked about his name Ka Bino, he said it is all that he has kept of his college activist days.

Welcome accident

His introduction to tour guiding some 10 years back was by all accounts an accident but quite a welcome one.

A woman he met while interacting on the radio program of former broadcast journalist Nick Ampatin invited him when she brought tourists around Cebu, and he has been so taken in that he joined a rigorous 17-day tour guiding seminar given by the Department of Tourism (DOT) in 2002.

"I officially started tour guiding in 2003. I still remember my first group, they were members of the Seventh Day Adventist Church on a city tour. When we stopped at Magellan's Cross, they asked why the original cross was covered with wood and not resin or glass. I was expecting a question on dogma, not a technical one," Ka Bino recalled.

Aside from being able to point out places and objects of interest to tourists, Ka Bino said a good tour guide must see to the basic comforts of guests by knowing at all times the location of the nearest washrooms and the answers to common questions like time difference, exchange rate, do's and don'ts in Cebu, Cebuano culture and basic greetings.

He did his work so well that the Cebu City Tourism Commission took notice and invited him to collaborate on a special project called Paseo sa Kabilin two years ago.

The Paseo sa Kabilin or Heritage Walk shows guests the soul of old Cebu by taking them though a tour of decades-old places and structures that have stood witness to this island city's past and helped shape its present.

Old Cebu

In this walking tour, Ka Bino guides travellers as they make their way to Fort San Pedro and Colon Street--both being the oldest of their kinds in the country and established by no less than Spanish conquistador Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, experience a ride on the tartanilla--a horse-drawn carriage that was the vehicle of old, and step foot in 300-year-old homes and structures.

Recently, too, Ka Bino designed a tour that got even famous Manila guide Carlos Celdran interested.

Called Colon by Night, the tour provides an intimate glimpse into this busy street: Vision Theater with its naked sculptures that had scandalized people when it was first built, the junction of Gaisano Metro with the billboard that lights up like Times Square come night, Tabo sa Banay's exotic dishes of lansiao, bakasi, and the like, Cebu City Public Market or Carbon with its united colors of bagoong.

"He told me I'm the Carlos Celdran of Cebu," Ka Bino said with a pleased smile and explained the hat he was wearing was a gift from the Manila guide.

From Celdran, Ka Bino learned an important tour guiding lesson: He must balance his positive and negative contact with the tourists by knowing when to talk and when to stop and give them time to explore on their own.

Guiding rewards

Being a guide has its rewards. Ka Bino said he earns P2,500 from a 12-hour gig plus some tourists are generous with tips.

"Where can you find a job where you go to beautiful places, eat at fancy restaurants, and get paid," he said, adding the biggest tip he received was a mountain bike.

On the downside, what pains him during tours are guests who would rather go to souvenir kiosks that explore historical sites and sing with the bus videoke than listen to him explain the significance of a place.

The Magellan's Cross also gives him a problem during tours because he gets this urge to have its marker taken down every time he brings guests there.

Ka Bino said the better explanation was that the cross now in Cebu was brought by Spanish conquistador Miguel Lopez de Legaspi to commemorate the one planted by Magellan.

"When Magellan's soldiers fled Cebu, voyage chronicler Antonio Pigafetta saw the natives chopping the cross off. Nothing remained of that cross. The natives saw it as a sign of ownership and removed it when the Spaniards left," he stressed.

If ever your travels bring you to this side of the world, look him up. Ka Bino can explain Cebu like on one else can.