Orlando Gutierrez: From shoes to saddles
A bicycle saddle is as much a personal investment as it is a monetary one. Avid cyclists spend around three to five hours on their bikes for a typical weekend ride, and saddle comfort is crucial to the experience, enforcing that personal connection. A good saddle also saves money; if you find the saddle that fits, you won’t be out looking for another any time soon.
Mang Lando makes sure bikers have a smoother ride.
“Napunta ako dito sa Pasay para mag repair ng sapatos. Natutunan ko magbalot ng upuan dahil sa mga siklista. Dumami ng dumami ang mga customer ko, kaya hanggang ngayon ito pa rin ang trabaho ko. Naiwan na ang pag-repair ng sapatos,” Mang Orlando “Lando” Gutierrez, the veteran repairman recalls.
Some people are lucky, finding the right one only after a few tries, and others spend years buying, fitting, selling, and buying again all in the hopes of finding the right saddle. Spending a lot of money on a saddle doesn’t guarantee a perfect fit, but when you do find the correct saddle for your physique, then everything just falls right into place. Riding your bike just feels fun again.
With constant use and abuse, though, saddles age quite quickly. That once smooth leather cover becomes a shadow of its former self, the deep colors and highlights now faded. But is it really time to let that saddle rest and buy a new one just like it? What if you can’t find one that fits? For problems like these, there is one person in Cartimar who makes quick work out of those problems just to get you back on your bike. Meet Mang Lando, Cartimar’s resident saddle repairman.
“Kung alin ang dumating, ‘yon ang trabaho ko,” Mang Lando quips. His work ethic is particularly interesting, one that so many Filipinos can relate to. We as a people are natural survivors, never too stiff and never too compliant. That right mix of willingness to be flexible, plus the headstrong resiliency to keep moving forward even in the thick of things is a trait shared by most. Mang Lando is the embodiment of that spirit, and he took it to heart and let it lead his life.
Born in Barrio Del Pilar San Fernando, Pampanga as one of six siblings, life was particularly tough for Mang Lando. Mang Lando was just over a year old when his mother died and his father abandoned them some time later. He was left to the care of his grandparents where he spent most of his childhood. Learning early on that he needed to earn a living, he sold horse feeds to farmers during the rainy seasons and shined shoes during the summer. He was just 13 years old at the time. “Binuhay ko na sarili ko, kasi nga maliit palang ako naulila na ko sa magulang,” he shares.
He learned to shine shoes on the side. “‘Pag tag-ulan, ang trabaho ko ay kumuha ng pagkain ng kabayo, ibebenta ko ‘yong isang sako ng sinkwenta sentimos may pang pagkain na ‘ko. At pag tag-init naman doon ako sa bayan nagsha-shine. Kumita ka ng piso isang araw masaya ka na noon. Madami ka nang mabibili sa piso eh.”
Tough times have bred a tougher person, and throughout Mang Lando’s life he has shown that his ability to take in all opportunities as stepping stones for success has made him who he is today. Even at a young age, he has displayed strength of character in not giving up. And because of his outlook in life, he acquired the skills of the trade which later on became the foundation of his success in repairing saddles.
The Old Fixie
Mang Lando’s relationship with his bike was brought about by necessity. While shining shoes in his hometown during the summer season, Mang Lando had to walk two kilometers to and from his grandparents’ house every day. A bike would definitely make that trip a whole lot easier, and in 1960 he decided just that. As he recalls, “‘yong tinitirahan naming mahigit dalawang kilometro ang layo… Kaya naisip ko mag-iipon ako para makabili ako ng bike.” He saved P30 from his earnings and used it to buy a second-hand bike for P25.
The bike that he bought turned out to be a fixie, and it made his daily travel to the town proper faster and easier. With most of his money spent on buying his very first bike, maintaining the bike in good working order required some creativity. “‘Yong sa mga gulong na tinatapon, pinupulot ko ‘yong kaya pang magamit. Kung mayroong biyak ang gilid, tinatahi ko at saka dinudugtungan para magamit ko. ‘Yong interior naman, siguro kung minsan inaabot ng anim na patse para lang magamit ko eh. ‘Pag may nakikita akong tinatapon, at ‘pag puwedeng i-patse pina–patse ko. Hindi ako bumibili, nanghihinayang ako sa bibilhin ko eh. Ganoon din naman, bibili ka ng bago mabubutas din. Eh di ‘yon nalang, ganun din kaya ‘yon ang napag–tiyagaan ko.”
When asked if he ever thought then about the possibility that someday his main source of income would be related to bikes, he replies. “Hindi eh. Ang ang gusto talaga ng kuya ko para sa akin noon ay magtrabaho nalang sa restaurant.”
It was November 1970, Mang Lando came to Manila and found a job in a shop making custom leather shoes. During the “ber” months, people flocked the shop where Mang Lando worked to order custom-made leather shoes. After the Christmas season, however, orders would take a dip. A practical man, Mang Lando would then moonlight to other shops who need help. “Pagkalipas ng Disyembre medyo mahina… sa ibang gawaan kung saan mayroong trabaho, doon ako. Kasi nakilala na ako ng mga may-ari eh, kaya sinasabi ko sa kanila na kung maraming trabaho diyan mag-eextra ako. Kaya lahat ‘yan kinukuhaan ko ng telephone number, para kung alin ang may trabaho, doon ako.”
After decades of making custom leather shoes, Mang Lando earned enough to buy his own equipment and set up shop in Cartimar, Quiapo in 1995. During the last edition of the Marlboro Tour in 1998, a friend from the shop next door asked Mang Lando if he could try his hand at repairing saddles. “Tinanong ako kung kaya kong magbalot ng upuan. Ang sabi ko ‘bumili ka ng pambalot at babalutan ko.’ Siguro mga sampung saddle ang nabalutan ko sa kaniya… hanggang sa nalaman na puwede pala magpabalot ng saddle kaya naturo ako dito. Dito ko nasimulan magbalot ng upuan.”
Although his reputation for repairing saddles is already established, Mang Lando never forgets his roots. He still repairs shoes, albeit cycling-specific shoes now more than others. “Nag-aayos pa rin ako ng sapatos katulad ng mga sapatos pang bisikleta katulad ng mga Shimano at Sidi… ‘yong mga natatanggal ang suwelas nireremedyo ko. Walang nasasayang sakin, sapatos o upuan man.”
On his relationship with pros
Establishing a good relationship with your customers is a good investment for any business. For Mang Lando, it comes particularly easy. Enter professional cyclists, who in their rugged training regimen wear down good equipment in no time. With the sheer amount of time they spend on their bikes, professional cyclists have become returning customers to Mang Lando.
There was one instance with a professional cyclist that Mang Lando fondly remembers. “Nung unang nagpabalot sakin si Victor Espiritu tinanong ako, sabi niya ‘Manong, wala ka bang paboritong siklista?’ sabi ko meron, sabi ko naman ‘yong kakong tumulong kay Davadilla nung siya ay mag-champion, ‘yon kako ang paborito kong siklista.”
“Ang sagot niya sakin, ‘Ako ‘yon eh!’ Oo ikaw ‘yon, hindi ko nalang dinirektang sinabi sa’yo na ikaw. Kasi si Espiritu, sa lahat ng siklistang nakilala ko, ‘yon ang inidolo ko kasi mabait. Napakabait na tao. ‘Yong mga nagpapabalot sakin kinukwento nila… ‘yong medyo nahihirapan umahon tinutulungan ni Espiritu.”
Mang Lando has kept up with the Philippine professional cycling scene even to this day. And as he has established connections with current and former pros, he does have one advice to racers. “Kahit anong lakas mo, kung wala kang suporta mahihirapan ka mag-champion. Kung marunong kang makisama, ‘yan, puwede kang mag-champion,” he shares.
Plans for the future
When asked about his plans for the future and if he plans to open another shop, “Sa ngayon siyempre medyo tumatanda na eh. Pero malay mo mayroon akong makuhang medyo mababa (ang bayad) sa pwesto.”
Mang Lando takes everything in stride. An opportunity to do something new is an opportunity to earn a better living. He has continuously proven that his outlook is the sole thing that keeps him on top of his game, offering his service whenever he can and to whoever needs it. Mang Lando has made a living fixing shoes and saddles, but most importantly, he has shown that through determination and hard work, no hardship is too great to overcome.
“Kahit anong lakas mo, kung wala kang suporta mahihirapan ka mag-champion. Kung marunong kang makisama, ‘yan, puwede kang mag-champion.”
Text: Alfred Arreza | Photos: Benedict Bigalbal | DOP: EJ Guevarra | Video Editor: Chad Simbajon