By Alex Y. Vergara
Images by Advan Ramirez
Styling by Rina Go
In his long, fruitful years on earth, former ambassador to the Holy See Bienvenido R. Tantoco, Sr., has received more than his fair share of blessings. Chief among them, of course, is having reached a ripe old age that’s four years shy of 100. As board chair of Rustan Group of Companies, the still sharp widower also enjoys the respect of the business community for his accomplishments as a businessman and pioneer luxury goods retailer in the country.
But of all the triumphs and honors that have come his way, the father of six, grandfather of 22, and great grandfather of 34 cites fatherhood as the biggest and proudest achievement of his life. In a rare interview, Tantoco shares this with us in the Makati home he once shared with late wife, Glecy Tantoco, his partner and collaborator when they opened the first Rustan’s Department Store in Manila in 1952.
Today, Rustan’s, which has several branches in the Philippines, including Cebu, remains the undisputed leader and source of premium and luxury imported, as well as locally produced, world-class goods, from clothes and leather accessories to gift items, from home accessories to consumer durables, from food items to household essentials.
“Fatherhood is one of the greatest privileges of my life,” said the former ambassador. “Fatherhood is being blessed with children who grew up to be decent, caring, and productive members of society. I’m also very happy that they have all decided to work, in one way or the other, in the family business in order to serve the public and continue the legacy that my wife, Glecy, and I started.”
Its rewards, he added, are countless. No doubt, fatherhood, as a source of strength and inspirations, has fueled his productivity and creativity well into his twilight years. Seeing the entire clan thrive has been one of his greatest “joys in life.”
“My joy in life is being able to spend time with my children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. Having a united family that comes together through all the seasons of life is one of the rewards of fatherhood,” he shared.
Fatherhood wasn’t without its challenges, of course. But the rewards, as far as this true-blue Bulakeño is concerned, far outweigh all the trials and headaches that come with it.
Each is unique
“My wife and I are blessed with six children,” he said. “Each one is unique, each one with a strong character, each one gifted with exceptional talents and abilities. I read somewhere that unity is not everyone singing the same tune, but everyone singing a different tune.”
And part of the challenges of being a father is to be fair to all your children and to “love each of them in a different and special way.” Although they came from a single set of parents, each child is special and imbued with his or her unique talents and gifts.
“Given another chance,” he said, “there’s nothing I would do differently. I’m happy with how my children have turned out. I can’t think of doing anything differently.”
His and Glecy’s children are Bienvenido Tantoco, Jr., EVP of Sta. Elena Golf and Country Estate, Zenaida Tantoco, chair and CEO of Rustan Commercial Corp. and SSI Group Inc., Maria Carmencita Lopez, store development director, Rustan Coffee Corp., Maria Lourdes Pineda, president, Hariraya Coffee Shops, Inc., Maria Elena Tantoco, VP for home merchandising and buying, Rustan Commercial Corp., and Maria Teresa Tantoco, consultant and buyer for fine jewelry, Rustan Commercial Corp. All of them, except for Pineda, are also members of the board of directors of Rustan Commercial Corp.
Stickler for schedule
Tantoco, who came of age during a different time, is also a stickler for schedule. He arrives 10 to 15 minutes before an appointment even if such an “appointment” involves going to church and hearing mass, or, as we’ve witnessed, doing a photo shoot.
One of his few pet peeves, said youngest daughter Maria Teresa, is dealing with people who are late. Such is the former ambassador’s respect for other people’s time that he never arrives late even during family events.
When it came to rearing his children, he shared with us a number of life lessons he instilled in them as kids and later as adults and parents themselves. To the old man, everything revolves around relationships.
“I’ve always reminded my children to have a close and personal relationship with God,” he shared. “Life is all about relationships. We have to nurture all the different relationships in our lives—with our children, our friends, and our colleagues. Never be so proud that you feel you already know everything. Don’t stop learning. You have to be open. The world is constantly changing and you need to adapt to a changing world.”
These days, Tantoco keeps himself busy by “traveling, spending time with my family, and keeping myself updated on the key issues of the family business.”
He also basks in his role as grandfather and great grandfather to an expanding clan. “I look forward,” he said, “to seeing the blossoming of my grandchildren and great grandchildren into exceptional individuals in their own right.”
Tags: Bienvenido Tantoco, Glecy Tantoco, Jr, Maria Elena Tantoco, Maria Teresa Tantoco, Rustan Commercial Corp., Rustan Group of Companies, The proudest achievement of Benny Tantoco’s Life, Zenaida Tantoco