When one buys scuba diving equipment, it can take hours to customize it according to the diver’s needs. However, even the likes of actor Richard Gutierrez won’t mind the long wait at Squires Bingham sports store.
A dive enthusiast, Gutierrez purchased his buoyancy regulator and camouflage wetsuit there. While the staffers made adjustments on the actor’s gear, the owner, sportsman and photographer Scott “Gutsy” Tuason, regaled the actor with dive stories and showed his underwater photographs.
“That’s the beauty about us,” says Tuason, who likes to educate customers on his favorite sports. “We try to make this a nice hangout for shop talk.”
If Squires Bingham were a fashion boutique, it would be in the league of a Gucci or Prada. The well-edited merchandise offers the best in diving, tennis, golf and shooting.
The name was culled from the family heritage. Tuason’s grandfather, Celso Tuason, acquired Squires Bingham & Co., a store known for sporting guns. Through the years, the subsidiary, Arms Corporation of the Philippines (Armscor), manufactured its own firearms.
During the board meeting, the Tuason family brainstormed on ways to expand the business. Tuason came up with the plan to revive the original concept of Squires Bingham as a sports store.
“All the equipment in the shop is what I use,” he says.
In the lifestyle circle, Tuason is known for his underwater photography. He worked on four coffee-table books, “Philippine Coral Reefs in Watercolor” (coauthored with Rafael Cusi), “Anilao” (with Eduardo Cu-Unjieng), “The Ultimate Orient: Philippine South Sea Pearls” (for Jewelmer) and “Bahura: A Passage for the Philippines.”
Tuason also photographed conservation-themed books for young people on seahorses in Bohol and dolphin research in Western Australia. The books are published by Houghton-Mifflin, an American educational trade publisher.
Tuason took to diving at age eight, when he rode his father’s back with an extra regulator. Both witnessed an underwater wedding in Bonito Island, Batangas. He made his first dive at the age of 11 in Cebu. He was a self-taught photographer who later honed his skills as a student in America.
At 44, Tuason plans to compile anecdotes and notes from his 30 years of scuba diving. “There are two kinds of diving. Open water is where there is no reef, and it’s in the middle of the ocean. Black water dives are the night dives. I hang at the end of the rope and wait for all the stuff in the deep water to come by. Large migrations in the animal world happen in the ocean at night. They come to a shallower depth, like 20 to 30 meters. You get to see weird things. Half of the stuff I don’t know.”
On favorite dive spots, he enjoys Anilao for the little fish, Malapascua off Cebu for the thresher sharks, and Tubbataha Reef in Sulu Sea for the clear waters, sharks and manta rays.
In the entire world, Darwin’s Arch in the Galapagos is the most diverse, offering everything, from bonito tuna to whale sharks.
One of his most dramatic dives has been the sardine run in South Africa. “There’s this migration of sardines from the southern seas up to the northern coast of Africa. There are masses of sardines being preyed on by sharks, thousands of dolphins, birds diving down to 20 meters, whales and seals. You’re in the middle, photographing this chaos. It’s like going up to a pride of lions, watching them eat a gazelle or impala.”
In the store, blowups of a Galapagos shark in Oahu and the glowing sunset in Antarctica dominate the walls. The shelves are filled with diving equipment from Scubapro. “It’s the best. I’m not saying it because I sell it. I’m selling it because it’s the best. It holds the world’s record of people breathing from one regulator. They put 100 hoses, and 100 people were breathing from it. The quality of the regulator is astonishing,” he says.
The regulators are made in Italy, while the computers use Swiss precision. “The computers tell how much time you have at a certain depth before you have to decompress. You can’t stay forever underwater while breathing compressed air. You start building up nitrogen in the body, which is not good for you. If you go to 30 meters, you stay for 15 minutes, then you start coming up.”
To set himself apart from the other stores, Tuason acquired exclusive distribution of Hammerhead which includes camouflage wetsuits, long fins, rash guards, hoodies, gloves and booties. While most people prefer the classic black wetsuit, the Hammerhead comes in marine colors and patterns. “People think it’s a bit funky, but I’ve been able to get to the animals,” says Tuason.
He also selected apparel for the ladies such as rash guards made by Sharksin and Neptunic.
For underwater photographers, there’s a section for camera casing which can easily cost P145,000. “You add on the domes, ports, strobes and flashlights. Excluding the camera (approximately P120,000), the whole setup could cost P300,000.
Del Potro’s racket
Asked how diving keeps him fit, Tuason says he prefers tennis. “You get hungry after diving and you can’t do it every day. Tennis is the most aerobic of all the sports in this shop.”
Every afternoon, he plays a mean game of tennis at Manila Polo Club.
The shop offers rackets of his favorite players. Rafael Nadal uses Babolat, while Roger Federer and Juan Martin del Potro swing with Wilson. Then there’s Head, used by Novak Djokovic.
“Different rackets have different distributions of weight, head shape and neck. Certain rackets fit the swing of certain people. I was using the Babolat, made of graphite composite, then somebody told me about the Wilson racket which Del Potro uses. The Head racket worked out. My game improved tenfold from the two days I’ve been using it.”
For mature players, there are lighter rackets with wider circumferences.
While most Tuasons have golf trophies lining their shelves, Gutsy says he has a high handicap. A modest corner displays the Titleist golf clubs, the brand of his favorite player, Adam Scott.
The most salable items are the firearms, produced by the family-owned Armscor. He observes that the shooting ranges in Marikina and at the Armscor compound are busy with events. He points out that one of the world’s top marksmen is Simeon “J.J.” Racaza, a Filipino based in the US.
Squires Bingham showcases Armscor’s high-end firearms that can fetch as much as P75,000.
The American sports watch brand Luminox has been attracting fashionistas. He collaborated with the graphic designer Isabel Gatuslao to create the Gutsy Tuason special edition, to be launched in mid-2013.
“This shop is part of my personality. I want to be around so that they can talk to me about what they need,” he says.
Tuason says since his brother Christopher died in a car accident in 2004, he hasn’t been holding himself back. “That’s when I started traveling. Instead of waiting for tomorrow, I get it done today.”
Squires Bingham is at Unit G, G/F The Sapphires Residences, 2nd Ave cor. 31st St., Crescent Park, West Bonifacio Global City; tel. nos. 8563322 or 0918-9196832