A tribute to Bambi Borromeo

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By Betsy Gazo

Kaleidoscope

Saturday, August 30, 2014


I WAS just thinking. This is just a wild guess. When the Department of Tourism came up with the slogan “It’s More Fun in the Philippines,” they probably had in mind a brilliant tour guide from the island of Negros.

My tourism colleague Bambi Borromeo fits the description of an excellent guide to Negros Occidental. His Negrense roots gave him access to our distinctive culture and the island’s interesting old families who were either his relatives or family friends.

His sonorous voice beckoned, cajoled, coaxed, and brought life to what the locals would think are subjects too boring and trite to be thought of as places and things of value to strangers.

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Bambi loved good food and it is no wonder he specialized in food tours that had the who’s who in the food industry from Manila come over to sample our offerings. His favorite food destination seemed to be Monsignor GG’s cozy colonial residence at Manapla where guests can lunch on the good Padre’s famous adobo milyonaryo and pochero amidst an authentic ambience that fulfilled the urbanites’ hacienda fantasies.

Then, our tour guide would inject his de rigeur spiel on the way to Manapla which went this way, “Imagine the monsignor slaaaaving over a hot stove.” This would send a ripple of appreciation among the passengers who were flattered to think that the master of the house personally cooked lunch for them.

My friend was a marketing man and advertising executive to the core. He always had a way of making people see things in a different light. From his brains spilled the precious gems that helped businesses create an identity. My growing up years was replete with memorable commercials when he was creative director of a top-notch advertising company in Manila.

Who could forget the “Milo a Day” and Milkmaid’s “Grow Tall Little Man” ditties? I asked this award-winning genius how he came up with “Grow Tall Little Man.” He narrated how, as the deadline for the ad approached, he and his team were stumped. They couldn’t think of anything. Exhausted from wracking his brains and not having slept the night before, he sat on a bench at the Luneta Park to relax that early morning.

That very day was the deadline for the Milkmaid commercial. Then, the spark of inspiration came. From the bench, the adman observed joggers and fitness buffs doing their calisthenics - including a very young boy with his family. Something clicked. And voila, he had a TV commercial that eventually launched the career of child wonder Niño Muhlach.

This expertise in the advertising field served Bambi well as a tourist guide. He knew what emotion to draw out from his audience with each destination. He was a master with words which he would utter with just the right tone, inflection, and pause. He’d regale me with stories in an inimitable manner that could teach Scheherazade a thing or two about story-telling. Let him talk only if you have hours to spare because this guy loves to talk.

Often, I’d crack up when he starts using gay lingo. His favorite phrase when he eggs me on after I tell him my plans for the day was, “Hala, go!” His other language, Spanish, came in very handy when touring and entertaining the island’s Spanish-speaking visitors. He was multi-talented and could discuss anything under the sun.

Bambi was someone who always saw the good in others and never tired of being generous both with his resources, encouragement and compliments. A lot of people took advantage of this generosity (mostly with Bambi’s permission) and we would often pick his brains for the gazillions of ideas hidden there.

Below is Lee Santiago’s beautiful tribute to Bambi. Lee sums up what many would have said about our dearly beloved. It was Bambi who opened up to Lee the opportunity to write about Negrense cuisine in the November 2011 issue of FOOD Magazine.

“When Bambi starts to talk, you listen. Become a sponge and listen. His words are not just meaningless blabber but a treasure trove full of nuggets of wisdom with great value. His valuable inputs during meetings and brainstorming sessions are like diamonds he would love to fling in the air for us to catch freely.

I will always remember Bambi in his usual animated stage whenever he discusses something. I remember the staccato of his voice, the hand movements, the very timely pauses, the smile, and the “mudlo” of his eyes which would punctuate one of the many sessions full of wisdom, knowledge, history, trivia, ephemera, revelations, trade secrets, etc.

I know that a lot of us have picked Bambi’s brain for a suggestion and an idea. Libre pa. Personally, I would like to thank Bambi for his encouragement and for giving me the opportunity to write in my own style. I would also like to thank him for the graphic design jobs he would throw my way, which really helped me a lot when I was in between jobs and freelancing.

Thank you for your generosity. Salamat gid kay ikaw permi ang gabayad sang kape. We are all stockholders of Bambi’s wealth which he shared with us and invested in us with great love and generosity.

As a gift to Bambi and Negros, I promise to bring visitors to our province. I promise to give them a Negrense experience that will always be etched in their hearts. Akon promisa nga amumahon maayo ang bisita. Pakaun-on cansi, inasal, lumpia, panara, piaya, kag iban pa. Ipa pang-os tubo. Ipasakay sa bagoneta. Lagawon sa mga daan nga panimalay. Pa tangla-on sa mga kabog sang Mambukal. Ipa saot sa MassKara. Kag iban pa. Kag iban pa. Madamo nga Salamat sa imo ka alwan Bambi.”

I want to end my tribute with the following that I posted on Facebook. I wrote it with so much pain in my heart and with tears streaming down my face. It echoes the feelings of the moment which included shock, anger and regret (that Bambi should have taken better care of himself.)

Bambs, I will really, really miss you. It's not the same without you. You made the everyday, run-of-the-mill stories so extraordinary and you'd have me spellbound with your anecdotes. You made me roar with laughter with a perfectly timed punchline. You made me glow with encouragement and a well-placed compliment. I will miss the chismis you'd share that might be useful for future tours. I will miss our tete-a-tetes over your favorite Earl Grey tea and cake, and you'd usually pick up the tab. Who else is going to call all of a sudden and chirp "bonjour!" in that beautiful seductive baritone? I can't...I can't...I can't understand...If my tears were pearls, they couldn't pay back your generosity and comforting presence. I love you, my dear friend. Rest in peace.*

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on August 30, 2014.

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