Just ten days after his 52nd birthday, friends and admirers of one of Cagayan de Oro’s most active champions were shocked to learn of his passing.

According to his paternal aunt Carmen “Mameng” Eduave Bacarro, her nephew Surab Blanila Bacarro was the eldest son of her older brother Rustom  (+) and Divina Blanila. He has two siblings: Pastor Russel B. Bacarro and Ralph B. Bacarro.

Gabby learned the ropes of marketing from his Aunt Carmen ‘Mameng’ Bacarro during her time with DTI.

“He was known by so many names –  Daddy Gabby to his CDO Talent Center family, Sir Gab among his colleagues, and in the family, we fondly call him Kokong and simply, Manong to his cousins,” his Auntie Mameng said.

Not many of his friends and acquaintances know how Surab got his famous monicker “Daddy Gabby”.

Maria Rochie P. Enriquez, his first cousin and bosom partner among their relatives and later fellow worker at Dunkin’ Donuts,  relates how he got his nickname: “We were more like a brother and a sister. He called me Cousin and sometime Chie, and I called him Manong Surab. He brought life and joy to all our family gatherings, even if most of the time he arrived late!”

“He introduced to me to a play, Sindi Kandila, which he wrote, directed and played. His main character was named Gabriel (after the Archangel Gabriel) and the name stuck with him for life. He had the gift of motivating, encouraging, helping, and enabling others to become the best of themselves, no matter what situation. He had the ability to look beyond our limitations, and see the good in everyone.”

Gabby’s first cousin Rochie (left) with her Manong Surab (center), her kids and cousin-in-law at a family gathering in 2018. (photo courtesy of Rochie Enriquez)

Born on May 9, 1969 in Carmen, Cagayan de Oro City, Surab graduated High School and College at Cagayan de Oro College (now known as PHINMA COC).

“He was fun, loving and full of life,” Mameng recalls. “He was a sweet, cheerful and smiling person. Despite his struggles in life and family, he remained positive and bright. He was one of the people who saw a glass half-full even in difficulty. He was also an achiever – whatever tasks given to him, he works on it with his whole heart and mind, which is why he accomplished so much during his lifetime.”

Daddy Gabby with his Auntie Bebie, Prosperidad Balinado Bacarro, who raised him from 4 yrs onward.

When his parents separated when he was but 4 years old, Gabby was raised by his aunt Prosperidad “Bebie” Balinado Baccaro, wife of his uncle Virgilio, who trained him in marketing their products at Carmen Market and taught him the virtues of hard work and perseverance.

“My sister-in-law had a stall selling pork products and pork fat which they made into chicharron,” Mameng recalls.

Even when he was already in college, he was still paying his way as a working student at Dunkin’ Donuts where he worked for the next 17 years, steadily rising through the ranks.

Engr. Mark Gesalem, who was Gabby’s boss during the 17 years he worked for Dunkin’ Donuts, relates how early on he saw his potential and promoted him from service crew to supervisor, thence to sales, and finally marketing.

“Gabby was full of life and positive vibes,” Mark recalls. “He was creative, hard-working, and got along well with everyone that I had no qualms about  promoting him to supervisor and then as marketing manager even if wasn’t a college graduate.”

“When he was with Dunkin’ Donuts he usually asked me for advise when I was still with the Department of Trade and Industry,” Mameng said. “That’s why Mark Gesalem (manager of Dunkin’ Donuts CDO) frequently sent their products to our office. Surab usually brought me to Mark’s office whenever they wanted to consult me. But Gabby really had God’s gift with his special talent for marketing, he was innovative and creative.”

Shortly before he passed on, Gabby posted on his timeline a “Special Tribute” to his former employer Madame Rose Gesalem, president of the Dunkin’ Donut chain of stories in Cagayan de Oro, Butuan, Malayabalay, Iligan, Bohol and Cebu.

Daddy Gabby receives the Dunkin’ Donuts Presidential Award (highest in the Visayas and Mindanao) during the 10th anniversary of Dunkin’ Donuts Cagayan de Oro with the late Rosa Gesalem, Presient and Engr. Mark Gesalem.

“REST IN PEACE MA’AM ROSA. I will surely miss you and Thank you for all the teachings. My stay with Dunkin Donuts for 17 years was truly a blessing.  GOODBYE FOR NOW MA’AM ROSA. I LOVE YOU. THANK YOU FOR EVERYTHING.”

Together with his dedication he posted what he calls “one of my most memorable old photos with Ma’am Rosa taken during the 10th Anniversary of Dunkin’ Donuts when Ma’am Rosa and Engr. Mark Gesalem handed me the Presidential Award (The highest award for Dunkin’ Donuts employees in the Visayas and Mindanao.)”

Gabby resigned from Dunkin’ Donuts determined to open his own business and event organizing. His Auntie Mameng suggested he take up her parent’s coffee stall in Cogon Market serving “brewed coffee” and native kakanin like suman, puto and biko, to be named “Lola Eling’s” in honor of his beloved grandmother.

However, that project was shelved when he was vigorously recruited as Sales and Marketing Manager by Unipace Corporation which owns and operates the Gaisano Chain of Shopping Malls in in Cagayan de Oro (with branches in Puerto and Bulua), Iligan, Malaybalay, Valencia and Butuan.

When he passed on May 19, his colleagues at Gaisano posted the following tribute in their social media page:

However, even more extraordinary than his marketing and sales savvy which  made him one of the most sought-after icons in the region was Surab’s unselfish sharing of his knowledge and skills through two institutions he founded in October 22, 20022.

According to an article written by Jennifer Valcobero in a local newspaper in 2017, CDOTC (Cagayan de Oro Talent Center) and MTC (Mindanao Talent Center) were established to train local talents develop their capabilities as well as their marketing and sales savvy. As far back as five years ago, he already had some 6,000 members graduate and affiliated with both institutions.

“Other than his numerous names, Surab also wore a lot of hats,” Mameng shared. “He was one of the resource speakers of the Department of Trade & Industry Negosyo Center, the dynamic Marketing Executive of Gaisano Group of Companies, and above all the founder and pillar of Cagayan de Oro Talent Center. “

Daddy Gabby was often invited as marketing resource speaker and panelist by the DTI Negosyo Center and conducted seminars for small business owners all over the region.

Through CDOTC and MTC, he conducted free seminars for talents he spotted which he believed had potentials as well as marketers who deserved them but did not have the means to pay, as well as paid seminars for corporate clients to train their staff.

“All I want is to give hope to those people who have the talents. They just have to believe in themselves,” he often would say.

On April 30, 2017 he celebrated his 25 years in Sales and Marketing with the theme: “I am blessed with Hundreds of Children” at Centrio Mall.

“For 25 years, I have had very good relationships with everybody. You just have to be true to everyone, and be kind. Because of this 25 years of experience, all that I can say is, if you can help others, then help, but if not, maybe not today but in the coming days, you can. The most important thing for me is the relationship. Even if there is no money is involved, as long as I have a good relationship, everyone will also trust you with their long-term commitment.”

 “I want to invite more people, especially those who don’t believe in themselves. They shouldn’t let fear hinder them. If they really want to be somebody in the future, like becoming a good marketer, singer, or dancer, just follow the dictates of your heart – especially the passion. And then, humble yourself always. Always set your feet on the ground,” Gabby’s piece of advice for people to hold on to their dreams.

“By nature, Surab was an encourager, a motivator and an inspiration,” Mameng recalls. “He was never selfish to share his talents and his skills.  But even with his accomplishments, he remained humble and respectful. He would always consult me for any major decisions he would make. Oh, how I miss our talks!”

Indeed, despite his numerous engagements and commitments, Daddy Gab always found time to remember his friends, as former Ms. Cagayan de Oro queen maker Gean Tulang Cesar attested when Gabby surprised her son Andre with a billboard birthday greeting at Gaisano City.

“Thank you for making me feel special. You didn’t have to go out of your way to attend to Andre to check his birthday billboard greeting which we both planned. That’s how big your heart is, I am beyond blessed to have known you. Thank you Sir Gabz, eternally grateful. Rest in peace.”

Daddy Gabby was a pillar of support for Miss Cagayan de Oro Beauty Pageant through the years.

“The local entertainment industry lost a pillar in the person of Daddy Gabby Bacarro. Not only has Daddy Gabs generously offered himself as Godfather to many kids who had dreams of making the most of their talents in singings , dancing , modeling and more . Because of him , many dreams were realized. His iconic pose of wide smiles and happy hands will always be etched in eternity on each and every person whose life he has touched . Rest in peace Daddy Gabby . Thank you for the goodness of your heart. You will be greatly missed .”

“When you even see MTC, CDOTC, ‘Daddy Gabby’ is a very good father, brother and a friend. When I started my review center in 1991, Gabby was always there to support me – the knowledge, guidance and his advice. Without him, the achievement of my review center will not be attained,” said Marivic Yamit Tabasan, Director of Peak Review Center.

“Gabby is a good person. You trust Gabby’s talents and guidance, because without him you cannot achieve your full potential. Gabby is here because he has the passion to serve our community, and he has the love of developing young children. His passion will always be a legacy in Cagayan de Oro,” she added.

He would often stress that the secret to being successful in your career was having a big heart.
“I just want to share to everyone that if you really want to last long to a company you are working with, just be true to yourself. Be honest to your work. Love your work, and love the company you work with. And you also have to love the company you previously worked with, do not talk bad about it. Always remember it helps you and your family, even if it’s just a little. Consider them as part of your life. So focus on your work. If you are in the top-level position, do not demand special treatment, just keep everything simple,”.

Daddy Gabby celebrated his 25th Year in Sales and Marketing with thousands of his “children” at Centrio Mall.

“He was single, but he had more children than any one of us could handle – ladies, gentlemen, boys and girls who lovingly call him Daddy Gab,” Mameng noted. “He was a beautiful, rare soul and will be greatly missed.” (compiled by T2Mike@metrocdo.com)

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