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100 Reasons Why We Love Rustan's Co-Founder Bienvenido Tantoco, Sr.

In honor of his 100th birthday.
ILLUSTRATOR WARREN ESPEJO
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Ambassador Bienvenido Tantoco, Sr. turns a century old today.

He and his late wife, Gliceria Rustia Tantoco, started what has become the luxury retailer Rustan's group in their living room in 1952.

In honor of his 100th birthday, here are a collection of facts and anecdotes, as well as words of wisdom from the patriarch of the Tantoco clan put together by his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. (His great- great- granddaughter, Gianna, is two years old.)


"Lolo Benny loves singing for us." —Maricar and Paul Tiangco

"Lolo Benny always has the funniest stories." —Maricar and Paul Tiangco 

"Lolo Benny filled our childhood with so much fun and adventure—he was the one who made sure the swimming pools had diving boards and a slide, the playground in the Baguio house, the coaster that allowed the entire family to travel on road trips together. I remember him riding with us in the boat in Burnham Park and watching us cousins swim during Sunday lunches. He just loved seeing us all laughing, playing, bonding! A true family man." —Maricar Tiangco

"I share my love for ballet with Lolo.  Watching American Ballet Theater shows during the summer were always the highlight of my vacation." —Maricar Tiangco

"Lolo inspires me to stay active and energized!" —Gabi Tiangco

"Lolo asked me why I went to Ateneo, thinking it was still an all-boys school." —Daniella Tiangco

"I'll never forget the summer of 2015 when Lolo Benny found out I had not watched the musical, Lion King. He looked at my mom and disbelief and said 'it's the best musical. There are many important lessons in life you will learn from that show.' He asked his secretary Jackie to buy tickets and the following day, Tito Christopher, who had not seen it either, and I watched it on Broadway. Lolo was right, I loved it and it remains one of my favorites till this day." —Mischka Tiangco

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"My favorite travel memories are with Lolo Benny." —Mischka Tiangco

Bienvenido Tantoco, Sr. in Venice
Photo by COURTESY.

"He visited me both times at the hospital when I gave birth." —Bea Tantoco Reyes

"If I'm not with Das when I visit him, he is angry. He thinks a man should always be with the wife. And if he is not, he is suspicious of the husband's doings." —Bea Tantoco Reyes

"He loves to sing songs. And he loves it, even more, when you sing with him." —Bea Tantoco Reyes

"He gets foot massages everyday one of the many reasons I feel he is so healthy and sharp at his age." —Bea Tantoco Reyes

"He loves birds and has hundreds of them in his garden. He feeds them two times a day—7 a.m. and 4 p.m." —Bea Tantoco Reyes

"When my brother and I were in college in Boston, we used to always look forward to visiting Lolo Benny at his home in Franklin Lakes. It was home to us for a while. And the moments spent with Lolo Benny here will never be forgotten." —Bea Tantoco Reyes

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"He loves to make pasyal anywhere and everywhere." —Bea Tantoco Reyes

"Lolo Benny was born in 1921, it was the year that people at that time celebrated the 400th year anniversary of when Magellan discovered the Philippines which was 1521. This year is 2021, and we are now celebrating the 500th year anniversary. It's so amazing how Lolo Benny was alive to celebrate the 400th year and now the 500th year of Magellan's discovery of the Philippines—fun and very interesting fact from my dad." —Bea Tantoco Reyes

"He loves to crack jokes. Great sense of humor. The other day, my mom was hugging my and she said said 'Daddy, mahal na mahal ko talaga ang anak mo.' He laughed and was about to crack a joke but he accidentally choked on his saliva. I still keep wondering what he would've said." —Bea Tantoco Reyes

"Dad is really the epitome of a gentleman. That's so true, even if he's tired while we are all having dinner and chatting at his dinner table, he will stay and won't show it. But if he does have to leave, he will excuse himself politely." —Rico Tantoco

With wife Glecy Tantoco in Repulse Bay, Hong Kong
Photo by COURTESY.
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"He gives a prize when you and your spouse are together having dinner with him. It's so important for him to see you with your spouse." —Jun Jun Lopez

"On rare occasions when Margs is delayed for dinner with him, he wont stop asking where she is until she arrives. He would always ask me to call and check where she is." —Jun Jun Lopez

"He always tells me 'yan ang fourth Eduardo,' referring to my youngest son." —Jun Jun Lopez

"He remember songs from kindergarten days and sings them randomly during meals." —Jun Jun Lopez

"Lolo always asks me to offer wine to Father Mike whenever he joins us for dinner. He is always making sure everyone is enjoying their dinner." —Jun Jun Lopez

"He is always watching if you're eating or not; he gets upset when it seems like there aren't enough place settings for his family at the dining table." —Jun Jun Lopez

"For every meal, there has to be soup, vegetables, main course, dessert, and fruit." —Jun Jun Lopez

"Lolo always tell Margs, 'don't let Jun Jun go to Japan without you.'" —Jun Jun Lopez

"Lolo always calls us at home after we have dinner with him to make sure we are home safe and sound." —Margs Lopez

"He is always watching, always aware of everyone's moves. He has already asked me twice why I don't serve my husband food at the dinner table." —Margs Lopez

"Lolo always asks at the end of the meal if we ate enough." —Margs Lopez

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"Lolo will beat everyone to the restaurant bill and will fight firmly; and he makes sure he gives the fair amount of tip to the restaurant staff." -Margs Lopez

Lolo: 'Saan si Margs? Bakit hindi mo kasama?'
Jun Jun: 'Di sya makakadating Lolo, may sakit sya ngayon...'
Lolo: 'Ano sakit, sakit ng konsomisyon?!?'

"He makes sure I act like a role model for my siblings." —Mio Lopez

"A great memory of Lolo Benny is going out to Starbucks in the morning and enjoying a good frappuccino with him and my siblings." —Nica Lopez

The couple with a Christofle principal
Photo by COURTESY.

"For us, Lolo Benny always made sure to visit and attend our family's events (birth, baptisms, birthdays). Lolo always made sure that we are all taken care of. Lolo Benny, even if he's tired already would never show it because he sees his family/guests enjoying talking to each other." —Quito and Pam Lopez

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"Lolo Benny always treated everyone equally and his love for his staff is truly 100 percent. No discrimination." —Quito and Pam Lopez

Bienvenido Tantoco, Sr. in 1994
Photo by COURTESY.

"He always makes sure that his guests have a way home before he goes up. He will even offer to bring you home even if you have a car. He will sometimes follow you home just to make sure." —Mike Huang

"Lolo's favorite place to shop in New Jersey is the short hills mall. And since it's where I grew up he calls me 'Ms. Short Hills'" —Kathy Huang

"Lolo Benny is the kindest man I know." —Kenzie Huang

"I love him very much." —Kameron Huang

The couple with Italian fashion designer Renato Balestra in 1996
Photo by COURTESY.
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"I remember the grandkids treating Lolo Benny to Fuddruckers in New Jersey for his 86th birthday. It was at the end of a series of long fancy celebrations. 'This is the best celebration!' he declared with a laugh." —Krie Lopez

"For the last few years Lolo Benny would visit Starbucks BGC two times a day every day to walk his dog and watch people. All the partners in the store love him, the BGC guards all know him and salute him and many of the people passing by greet him and chat with him even if they don't know him, so well-loved by so many." —Noey Lopez

"I've never seen Lolo Benny frown." —Stella Lopez 

"Lolo Benny likes visitors." —Emma Lopez

Photo by COURTESY.

"I once asked Lolo Benny, what is the one most important life advice you can give me. His answer really really surprised me he said 'Do not deliberately hurt anyone; not even your enemy.' He proceeded to say 'Donnie, no matter how good you try to be you will unintentionally hurt the people you love the most. You will hurt them a lot unknowingly. So at the very least do not do it knowingly.' I said “Lolo not even those who hurt you like your enemies?' He said 'Yes, Donnie, when you hurt your enemies it's usually from pride. Pride is a sin. Compete with your competitors and beat them. But when you do not deliberately hurt your enemies, you will also be better in not hurting your loved ones because of your pride and ego.'" —Donnie Tantoco

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"Whenever you ask Lolo what he wants for his birthday, his answer is simple: 'to be surrounded by family. What more could you want?' Every year, his birthday is a week-long occasion where our family bonds and creates special memories. We have sports fests and musical programs performed by the family and share delicious meals together with Lolo at the center of it all. I love and look forward to all of Lolos birthday celebrations." —Crickette Tantoco 

"One time, I told Lolo Benny, 'Lolo I can't find a boyfriend. I'm having a hard time.' He answered, 'Eh, why are you in a rush? The right one will come at the right time. Basta, he is good and doesn't beat you up.'" —Camille Tantoco

"One time we went to Bali together, and Dad was busy so I had to be with Lolo Benny the whole time and I was always at the senior table. And, I kept trying to make conversation with Lolo but I didn't know what to say and he said 'It's ok Camille you don't always need to have something to say, you can just relax sometimes.'" —Camille Tantoco

"And then, he said these are all my vitamins (holding 3 full Ziploc bags). I asked him 'for the whole trip?' And he goes 'No, all for now.' And, he gobbled them all up." —Camille Tantoco

"I would go with him to Starbucks BGC, and he would hold my hand the whole way there." —Camille Tantoco

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"He is so grounded. Once, I asked him for advice on how to become successful. He said 'there's no secret. Work hard. That's all.' He talked about our Lola Glecy with awe in his eyes and said: 'Your lola was smarter than anyone with a master's degree.' We are a lot: his children, his grandchildren, his great-grandchildren, and beyond. He is the most important man in the room, but he treats everyone else as though they were the guest of honor. He gives you his full attention and attendance, remembering birthdays and anniversaries, being the first to visit newborns, going to baptisms, etc. He is gregarious and sharp. He loves making you laugh with his witty, deep comments. Even if I wasn't related to him, I would say he is such a great man!" —Nicole Tantoco De Los Reyes

Ambassador Tantoco and Glecy Tantoco with Nedy Tantoco, Anton Huang, Mike Huang, and Catherine Huang
Photo by COURTESY.
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"Lolo makes it a point to welcome his grandkids or great-grandkids during the time they are born by visiting us at the hospital." —Katrina Lobregat

"During the quarantine last year, he sent us snacks and food baskets and there were times he delivered them personally to our home." —Katrina Lobregat

"When we were younger, and would visit them in Morocco or Italy, he would organize an itinerary of leisure and cultural activities for us so that we would have a full experience of the cities." —Katrina Lobregat

"He is one of the most stylish men I know. His style transcends time and trends." —Katrina Tantoco

"In my late 20s, he sent his kids and grandkids a manifesto for living by the Dalai Lama. He went as far as printing copies for his entire family, framed it and had them delivered to each of our homes." —Katrina Lobregat

"His father passed away while he and his 8 other siblings were young. I think Lolo was in his late teens. Lolo even if he was not the eldest son, took on the financial responsibility of making sure that his siblings could go to school. He had to work at a very young age to help support his family." —Katrina Lobregat

"He is an advocate for education and has sponsored numerous scholars through his lifetimes and schools as well." —Katrina Lobregat

"Even if Lolo was not the eldest amongst his siblings, he took on the financial responsibilities of siblings when his father passed away at a young age. While going to school, he took on several jobs to help his mom and his family cope with their expenses and needs." —Katrina Lobregat

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"Most people know Lolo Benny as a business tycoon. When we lived with Lolo Benny 14 years ago in New Jersey for 6 months, we learned that he loved to set up his home and create a sanctuary. He loved to landscape his garden and buy household supplies to make sure his home was always operating well and comfortable for all those who lived with him." —Katrina Lobregat

"Lolo Benny is always happy, loving and gives nice hugs." —Joey Lobregat

"I love my Lolo Benny like a teddy bear." —Malia Lobregat

"My mom was in labor for over 24 hours when she was giving birth to me. When Lolo Benny arrived from Morocco and went straight to the hospital to visit my mom and I, that was the time I decided to come out into the world. He's our lucky charm." —Xevi Lobregat

"It's incredible how Lolo Benny remembers all his grandkids and great-grandkids and great-great-grand kids on their birthdays, Christmas, and anniversaries. And, he has like a 100 or more." —Xevi Lobregat

"The food is always so good in his house and he makes sure that there are special dishes for kids." —Xevi Lobregat

"When Lolo Benny found out that I was going to Bukidnon for work for half the month, he turned to my wife Katrina and said 'how can you allow him to go? That's not good for you and the family.' Then, he looked at me and said, 'you should work here, where do you want to work? Basta huwag mo iwanan si Katrina. Apat yung anak ninyo.'" —Paolo Lobregat

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"On one of our first buying trips abroad for Rustan's when Kat and I were in our early 30's, he would accompany us on every showroom visit even if he was already retired and good take the days off." —Paolo Lobregat

"Lolo Benny tells us stories of how he struggled early on in his life. He told me the story of having to sell his balisong (pocket knife) to have funds to marry Lola Glecy." —Paolo Lobregat

Photo by COURTESY.

"Lolo Benny is very thoughtful of all others—he always asks me about my parents and siblings. As an in-law, that makes me feel very welcome in his family." —Isa Tantoco

"Lolo Benny likes to eat out and even more than that, enjoys taking his family out to eat. Whether in the Philippines or abroad, you know you're in for a treat when Lolo is in the mood for Italian, Japanese, etc. because his favorite restaurants serve the most delicious dishes." —Isa Tantoco

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"Lolo Benny likes to hold my hand when I walk or sit beside him." —Isoletta Tantoco

"Lolo Benny taught me how to mano and that's how I've been greeting him ever since." —Isoletta Tantoco

Photo by COURTESY.

"Lolo is just the best role model to look up to.  Lolo taught me to be a gentleman and still continues to remind me on how to be one. Even at 100." —Chris Tantoco

"Lolo's curiosity for life is what keeps him alive. When traveling or being with Lolo there really is no dull moment." —Chris Tantoco

"Lolo always thinks of others before himself.  Which is why he's such a great person.  He genuinely is caring. They don't make them like that anymore." —Chris Tantoco

"One summer Lolo took MJ and I to Universal Studios Florida. I was too scared to go on the tower of terror but MJ wanted to go. Lolo saw that we were arguing so he decided to go ride." —Chris Tantoco

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The Tantoco men
Photo by COURTESY.

"Would you believe he knows the song by Pat Boone 'When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano'?" —Nedy Tantoco

Photo by COURTESY.

"Razor sharp humor, every Sunday family dinner." —Nikki Huang

"Seeing his face light up when I dance." —Belle Huang

Photo by COURTESY.
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"Lolo is the perfect gentleman. When I visited him in New Jersey and I was not with Paolo, he drove me all the way to Boston on a whim so that I would not have to go by myself. He told his other grandson, 'Christopher, punta tayo sa Boston!' and they drove me to everywhere I had to go all the way from New Jersey." —Dina Tantoco

"Every time I see him, he always says that he was the first person who saw me when I was born." —Alana Tantoco

"On my sixth birthday, he gave me a talking unicorn. It was my favorite." —Marina Tantoco

When I think of Lolo Benny I think of birds. He loves birds, and I do too. I love his small aviary in his house." —Zachary Tantoco

With daughters Marilen, Merl, Nedy, Menchu, and Maritess
Photo by COURTESY.

"Lolo Benny will never say 'no' to anything you ask him. Our best family memories are because of Lolo Benny who gathered the whole family every year on his birthday on a trip somewhere out of town so that we could enjoy and bond." —Rica de Jesus

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"He was always supportive of my ambitions. He even offered to send me to school abroad to get the best education possible for both Tennis and Culinary." —Javier Miguel L. de Jesus

"For every monumental milestone in my life growing up, Lolo Benny has made an effort to be there for me—from my first communion in Manila to my high school graduation in Concord, New Hampshire. Such is no easy feat for someone who gives all his attention to a tribe of great-grandchildren. Yet, Lolo Benny's love is so abundant that it manages to be felt by all of us, especially when it matters the most. I will always be in awe of Lolo Benny's commitment to family." —Jaime Eduardo L. de Jesus

"My memory of Lolo Benny was when he accompanied Rica and me in 2002 to meet Franck Muller at his Watchland headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland." —James de Jesus

"Another memory was around 1991 when Lolo Benny and Lola Glecy rode in my two-door rusted jalopy and I drove them to Sotheby's and Christie's in New York. It was they who took me to my first auction while I was still in college." —James de Jesus

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"Lolo taught me to enjoy the daily mass by buying me my first missal to match his! It was the best way to keep a teenager engaged during the time I went to high school in Rome during his time as ambassador to the Vatican." —Dino Pineda

"It was a privilege to travel with Lolo—Morocco, Spain, Italy, the U.S.— he micromanaged every detail to make sure everyone had the best experience. He had boundless energy day to day. Some of the younger folk could barely keep up.  At 91 he climbed the Spanish steps in Rome—all 138 of them—and when we marveled at this accomplishment, he grinned widely and exclaimed, 'Shall we go again?'" —Marivic Pineda

"Lolo always talks to me about my late grandfather, Nori Poblador. He has told me many many stories, even some naughty ones that perhaps I am not supposed to know." —Marivic Pineda

"He is a patron of the arts and supports our passions." —AJ Pineda

A family trip to Singapore for his 90th
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"Lolo Benny is always punctual. The few times I've been late for our breakfasts, he never hesitated to leave for Starbucks without me. He once told me that punctuality has always been important. Particularly when he was Ambassador to the Holy See, you cannot be late for a meeting with the Pope! And even if you're not having an audience with the Pope, being punctual shows you respect the person you are meeting with." —Catherine Huang

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