In his lifetime Conkoy Tuason was respected and admired not only by his friends in high society, business and sports. His own staff loved him because he had a huge heart that was always willing to share. As an example, the daughter of a driver from 30 years ago, according to his son, Gutsy, continued to receive allowance from her father’s boss.
“He was very firm and strict,” shared Gutsy in a Zoom interview with Daily Tribune, but “he was also very kind.”
Between father and son, the relationship was like that of two friends, probably because they only had a 20-year difference in their ages. Together, they dove and explored the Philippine seas from the time Gutsy was 11.
Theirs was not just a bond. It was a lifelong journey that made Gutsy the man we all know him to be, the man of the sea, the photographer, the explorer, and the adventurer who would bring us to the deep either through the tours that he organizes or the books and pictures, all masterpieces that pay tribute to nature and to the greatness and genius of the creator.
Here’s Scott Gutsy Tuason, who shares with us his thoughts about his father, Conkoy, the family man, friend and mentor in life.
Balancing photography and livelihood
Daily Tribune (DT): What did you and your father talk about? What did he tell you about life?
Scott Gutsy Tuason (SGT): We never really had a sit-down man-to-man talk, you know. But all throughout life, he would say things. He was concerned about my financial situation because I didn’t really show a lot of interest in the firearms business that the family owns. And he knew that I wanted to become a photographer, and he wanted me to follow my dream as well. So, he was mostly talking about how one should balance the two together —- my interest in photography, and, foremost to him, a livelihood that would feed me and my family. He didn’t think it right that I should just be a photographer, especially with kids of my own. Because, he said, “You’re not going to survive just being a photographer.”
DT: So, do you still have your store, Squires Bingham Sports, in BGC?
SGT: Yes, I do. That was the way we were able to figure out how my passions for diving and the family business would give me a livelihood that I enjoy. We were able to merge photography, diving and firearms.
DT: How was he with the girls that you introduced to him?
SGT: My dad was pretty accepting. Whatever choices I made, he was okay. He was not the kind who would tell me what kind of girl I should go out with. He left that to me and he was always okay with whoever I would introduce to him then when I was much younger.
DT: And when you introduced Audrey (nee Carpio)?
SGT: He was very happy with Audrey. He was aware that Audrey’s father was an associate justice of the Supreme Court. And she’s intelligent.
And when I mentioned about getting married, he said that I should better be able to provide for my family. He just wanted to make sure. “You better know what you are doing,” he said.
Audrey and I were married in 2014. I was 46. Although we had been together since 2010. We had Tica, our first daughter, in 2011. My mom was sick.
We had two weddings. One in Las Vegas, just the two of us, my cousin and my friend who lived there.
In December of 2014, we had a wedding at Blackbird and then we had the reception at the Manila Golf Club hosted by my Dad.
What will the kids want?
DT: So, what are the names of your children?
SGT: Audrey and I have four children. Two girls and twin boys. There’s Tica whose real name is Antartica, Ocean Antonio who is named after his grandfather on Audrey’s side and then Damian Jose because Jose was also my dad’s middle name, and Damian too is my dad’s name, and my youngest is Coco whose real name is Karena, which is the Spanish version of Karen, my mom’s name.
DT: How was your father as a grandfather?
SGT: He would spoil them. First of all, when we had Sunday lunches, the menu would revolve around the kids. The first question is, what will the kids want? Then, we decide. Tica likes steak. She does not have a big repertoire of the food she eats, but she eats some adult food. Mostly meat. Burger, pasta, pizza, she eats also. Especially the twins and the youngest, they like talong and okra.
They like sinigang, too.
Actually, I always have to control my dad whenever we would travel. I would tell him not to buy so much toys for the kids because they’re already overflowing in the house.
Like he would buy an electric car for Tica. The boys got electric three-wheelers. Things for camping and stuff like that. He was really enjoying being a grandfather. He was in that phase of his life when he was starting to enjoy it.
We also went to the beach with the kids.
DT: Can you cite one or two unforgettable travels with him and that had made you closer or that had a significant impact on you?
SGT: The one that’s always on my mind is that one when we went all over the Philippines on a boat for three weeks. My dad was part of the team that was commissioned to take these
photographers around the Philippines. This was 1979 when President Marcos wanted to do a book called Philippines: Nature’s Bounty. Some were taken underwater and some were taken on land.
I think it was sponsored by San Miguel and Dad was quite close to Andres Soriano, who was chairman at that time. So, he was asked to help take these photographers to the best diving sites in the Philippines. So, we were in a yacht. I was 11. We started in Cebu and ended up in Manila. It took us three weeks to explore the unknown and unnamed places. That was a great adventure.
The year before, my Lolo Celso had taken me to an adventure. Around the world. We went to Europe, we went to America. We went to Hawaii, everywhere. I was 10 years old. I remember when I was a kid, they would always ask me which one I enjoyed more, around the world or around the Philippines and I would always choose the latter, the Philippines in a boat. It was an adventure that I really enjoyed. We went scuba diving, we went snorkeling with all these sea animals, we went swimming. It inspired my passion for adventure and exploration. I also wanted to be a photographer.
That trip really ingrained in me the idea that this is the kind of thing that I want to do. That’s one of the things I was grateful for to my father. He took me on a lot of adventures. And he showed me what’s out there. He gave me my first camera and he taught me how to take pictures.
Strict but kind-hearted
DT: As you look back, what did he stand for in his life?
SGT: I think he was quite an honest person. When it came to business dealings, we never had any issues, like people accusing him of putting one over them or cheating them. That is also what I am trying to follow in the way I deal with people in business transactions.
Another thing about my Dad, he was very kind-hearted. He was very strict with the employees, very firm with them, but he also had a huge heart. He would be supporting the families of his employees. He would always make sure they were taken care of.