Binurong tour guides rally vs. “irresponsible” netizens
posted 27-Nov-2018  ·  
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CALLING ON NETIZENS TO BE MORE RESPONSIBLE IN THEIR POSTS, members of the Binurong Tour Guide Association waved placards at passing motorists and pedestrians at the center of Virac last week following the closure of the popular tourist destination in Baras by its owner, the Sorreta family. Unsubstantiated claims that the scenic spot had been damaged by a 4WD expedition to the point triggered an online bashing targeting the family as well as expedition sponsor Koni Philippines. The provincial government has asserted the site remains pristine.

Members of the Binurong Tour Guide Association staged a rally at the center of Virac last week to express their sentiments regarding the adverse social media comments that sparked the closure of the popular tourist destination in Baras town recently.

The group, accompanied by Guinsaanan barangay chairman Emerito Tariman, occupied a portion of the capital town’s memorial to its unknown soldiers beside the national road and held up messages written on empty sacks before the passing motorists and pedestrians.

The now-jobless tour guides criticized netizens who went on a social bashing spree against Vicente “Teng” Sorreta after he led a 4WD expedition to the Binurong and allegedly destroyed the area’s environment.

It soon turned out that the facebook commenters did not know that Sorreta’s family, particularly 88-year old war veteran Col. Jose Sorreta, owned the 89,000-square meter property and had graciously allowed the barangay and its residents to charge fees for public access to the site.

The resulting online furor forced the Sorretas to close Binurong point to the public, leaving 40 to 60 tour guides without a source of extra income.

Among the rallyists at the former Virac fountain area was Domingo Tanio, who is the oldest among the guides at 63 years old.

“Daculang tuwang ang Binurong,” he said. “Malaking bagay sa amin lalo na kung malakas ang dagat.”

Tanio lives alone now as his wife had already died and his 35-year old son already has his own family. He has a three-hectare land planted to coconuts, abaca and cassava, but he sometimes goes out to sea on his frail paddle banca (sibid-sibid).

“Mahirap na ngayon manghuli ng isda dahil sa cyanide fishing,” he laments, taking comfort in the thought that the minimum P200 he gets from each group of tourists he brings to the point ensures he has food to eat.

“May pang-ulam na at bigas,” Tanio said. “Ngayon, pagsara ng Binurong, walang kita lahat.”

He disclosed that he has been a tour guide since the site was opened to the public by the Sorretas in 2016.

“Kaya pa ta dai pa man akong rayuma, balewala pa ang tukad,” he stated, adding that he normally finishes the climb in 20 to 30 minutes depending on the physical conditioning of the tourists.

Domingo sometimes finds it difficult to understand the foreigners due to their accents and he has to adjust to the slow pace of the elderly in the group.

Sometimes he gets P300 for his efforts, he said. “Ang importante man sana dai napabayaan, dapat alalayan lalo na sa mga masakit na lugar.”

Also enduring the hot sun to join her older counterparts was tour guide Rhea Bruzola, 20, a Grade 12 student at the Baras Rural Development High School.

The association has given priority to eight students in the group, three of whom are in college, to accompany visitors to Binurong during weekends and holidays when they don’t have classes.

The second of three children of a farmer and his tour-guide wife, she finds her part-time job entertaining as she meets people from other places.

Rhea, who started tour guiding a year ago, said she sometimes makes three climbs a week. This earns her as much as P5,000.00 especially during the summer peak season, with the amount spent for her school needs and daily allowance.

For now, both Tanio and Bruzola, as well as their fellow guides, will have to wait for the social media furor to subside and for the Sorreta family, for which they expressed their gratitude, to reopen Binurong point to the public.

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