FACES OF CEBU: Gaudioso Cabaral, 79, shell carver

Faces of Cebu

FACES OF CEBU: Gaudioso Cabaral, 79, shell carver

: Niña Mae C. Oliverio Multimedia Reporter – CDN Digital May 26, 2024

Gaudioso Menguito Cabaral, 79. CDN Digital photo by Niña Mae Oliverio

CEBU CITY, Philippines—Five hours before he left his station, 79-year-old vendor Gaudioso Menguito Cabaral endured the heat as he waited for more customers.

Cabaral, one of the vendors selling souvenir items near the iconic Magellan’s Cross in Cebu, stayed under a shade of a tree while still calling passersby to check for the products he was selling. These are carved shells that have Cebu designs.

This is his daily routine from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. near the Magellan’s Cross.

At that time, he was dressed in his gray collared polo paired with shorts and slippers. He also had his white cap, which bore his surname ‘Cabaral’.

“Tagpila ni ‘Tay?” (How much is this, Tay?), a passerby asked.

“Tag seventy-five, sir,” (Only P75, sir) Gaudioso answered, hoping the customer would buy. Eventually, the customer casually returned the item to tatay Gaudioso and proceeded inside the church.

No sale, but it’s okay. Cabaral is used to this.

How he started

Born in March 1945, Cabaral started selling crafted shells at the age of 24. He has had bad days, but he has had some good ones too, especially during times when many tourists come such as during the Sinulog Festival every January.

Cabaral learned his talent for crafting from his father, who inspired him to continue the journey of making and selling souvenirs.

An image of the Magellan’s Cross carved on a shell. CDN Digital photo by Niña Mae Oliverio

However, his father died when he was 10 years old. Cabaral said that he already had an idea of how to make the craft by observing his father back then. But his neighbors helped him in doing it since their neighbors in Barangay Pasil in Cebu City were also into the same craft.

“Nakahibaw ko kay uban man ko’g suroy-suroy sa pier sa akong amahan,” Gaudioso said.

(I learned the craft because I used to go with my father to the pier.)

In 1969, when he was 24, he was originally stationed in Pier 1 to sell souvenir items since his targeted customers were the US Navy. Back then, the items were priced at P5 each.

“Niingon akong papa, sa nahinumdoman nako, ingon siya ‘Ayaw gyud ni siya’g biya-e kay kani hangtud sa hangtud gyud ni siya, maminyo ka, mabuhi nimo imong mga anak og maminyo ka maong ayaw gyud ni siya og biya-e,’” Gaudioso said.

(My father said, as far as I can remember, not to leave this business. He said ‘Don’t live this. This should continue until you get married. You can feed your children with this so don’t leave this.)

“Ang tawo ra’y mawagtang. Ang kani siya, di ni mawagtang,” he added, pertaining to the carved shells.

(People will pass. But this won’t.)

Family’s business

Since he started continuing his father’s journey, Cabaral said that he never decided to stop selling, except during the height of the pandemic between 2020 and early 2022, when senior citizens like him were not allowed outdoors.

Gaudioso Cabaral, waiting for customers to by his souvenir items. CDND photo by Niña Mae Oliverio

The souvenir shell craft indeed helped him with his family’s needs. He was able to send his children to school with it. For a long time, until his children lived independently, these souvenirs were their primary source of income that greatly supported his family.

However, Gaudioso acknowledged that at this age, he could no longer execute the things he used to do when he was still younger.

That is why his sons, who are in their 50s now, are the ones helping him craft the shells. But it is still him who sells them.

“Sila sad motrabaho usahay ani, ako nala’y tigsuroy. Usahay mo drawing pod ko ani. Karon hinay naman ko, di pariha sauna paspas kaayo,” Gaudioso said.

(They also work on this, I just sell them. Sometimes I draw. But not too much because I am slower now unlike before.)

Crafted from the heart

Gaudioso is not the only vendor selling souvenir items outside the compound of Basilica Minore del Santo Niño. Some sell keychains, ukuleles, tote bags, wallets, and other souvenir items that carry the memories of Cebu.

Despite the changing times and competition, tatay Gaudioso Cabaral si not worried at all because he believes his items are unique and crafted mainly from the heart.

Human beings will not live forever. Given this reality, Gaudioso says that only death or health problems can stop him from selling the souvenirs.

“Ako gihapon ning padayonon kay naa man gihapo’y mangita,” Gaudioso said.

(I will still continue selling because there are still those who look for these items.)

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