Donnie Tantoco Shares Lessons From His Lola Glecy, the Founder of Rustan's

IMAGE Glecy Tantoco (Photo courtesy of Rustan's) and Donnie Tantoco (Facebook)

In 1952, Gliceria Rustia Tantoco, also known as Glecy, and her husband, Bienvenido, fondly called Benny, began selling finds from their world travels in their living room in San Marcelino. Soon after, they opened an emporium which became the destination of choice for the most elegant presents. 


Rustan's Founder Bienvenido Tantoco Celebrates His 99th Birthday Via Zoom

Lessons on Business and Life from the Tantoco Family

Sixty-eight years later, the Tantoco patriarch is 99 years old, and the family spans five generations. And Rustan’s remains the go-to store of choice for the most exclusive luxury brands in beauty, fashion, fine jewelry, and home, among others.

“The story of Rustan’s is about my wife. She was the founder of Rustan’s. Don’t forget about her. It is her story,”  Benny, now 99 years old, told us some years ago.

Recently, their first grandchild, Bienvenido Tantoco III, also known as Donnie, President of Rustan Commercial Corporation, spoke at the Harvard Alumni Club about his late grandmother. He shared similar stories at the launch of the Rustan’s group’s Christmas campaign.

“My lola passed away in 1994. She was a woman of wisdom and I believe these qualities that she stood for resonate more now than ever.

“Number one she was a big believer in curiosity. She said ‘Donnie, well-meaning people pursue their passion. The wiser person, however, follows his or her curiosity.’ She said ‘Donnie don’t suppress your curiosity. Always be curious; never accept anything at face value. Always keep your eyes, ears and your nose open. The problem or the opportunity may actually be right in front of your nose.’ 


“Some people may counter that ‘Curiosity killed the cat.’ Perhaps some kinds of curiosity are bad. But I think the curiosity that my Lola stood for is exactly what we need to do right now. Amidst the worry and anxiety, we must still try to be curious – to dig deeper, to see the significance of people and circumstances. That’s where we will find the opportunity in a crisis. Curiosity requires a humble heart, and an open mind that is hungry to learn more.

“Which brings me to the second thing that she stood for which is to “Be immersive.” How will we adapt to a new situation if we only have a shallow understanding of it? We have to immerse ourselves in a non-intrusive way but with total empathy in the lives of our customers. It is only through immersion that we can understand how COVID is presently and permanently affecting the families we serve. How is COVID creating new struggles, new aspirations, or new desires that we, through our chosen profession, can help address and fulfill. We also need to immerse in the worlds we represent, be it beauty, home, digital, experiences and all of these market spaces that are rapidly evolving. We can strive to bespoke and curate what we do to genuinely be a contributing and value adding part of the lives of our customers.

“The third quality of my Lola is that she was a pioneer. The current circumstances are very bad especially from a health and increasing poverty perspective. However, in a way, it is also conducive for those with a pioneering spirit. The same spirit my Lola had when she said Rustan’s was where shopping is a pleasure in 1952. Back then, shopping was a transaction. She said it was an experience ahead of the best retailers today. She was not afraid to play by different rules, to stand alone, and to fail. She took risks. Her main basis for innovating was, ‘Will this help us win customer loyalty, serve our community, and most of all sustain and help our employees grow?’

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Tantoco shared the memories of his grandmother as the Rustan’s group introduced its Christmas offerings with the theme, “Home for the Holidays.”

The Tantoco family at patriarch Bienvenido Tantoco's 97th birthday.

With many people still home due to the uncertain circumstances of the pandemic, the Tantoco family and Rustan’s are making sure safety protocols are in place for shoppers in store who enjoy the traditional way of shopping, with the beautiful store window displays and the favorite Christmas shop.

For those who prefer to shop from home, a lovely catalog with Christmas shop home décor has been dispatched to the most exclusive homes. For those who are used to shopping online, has a wealth of offerings, with fresh drops regularly. Be sure to check out the Home for Christmas microsite to view all holiday content, including videos of performances; yuletide decorating tips; gift suggestions; and schedules of all upcoming in-store and online activities


A personal shopper is also on call at 0917-1111952 (the last four digits is the year Rustan’s was founded). Everything is done online, and all the presents you choose will be wrapped in the elegant signature packaging Rustan’s has always been known for.


Rustan's Founder Bienvenido Tantoco Celebrates His 99th Birthday Via Zoom

Lessons on Business and Life from the Tantoco Family

Even Santa Claus is available for storytelling and one-on-one Zoom calls in these unusual times. When your kids register, Santa and his elves will ask them to create a wish list to send to grandparents, ninongs and ninangs. Kids can also write letters to Santa at [email protected] with three Christmas wishes. Rustan’s will send a gift to three lucky kids.

“While 2020 has certainly been most challenging, it is not without silver linings," Tantoco said. "We can discover pockets of opportunities to pursue, moments to be grateful for, and more importantly, find deeper meaning in our lives."

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About The Author
Yvette Fernandez
Yvette Fernandez has written over a dozen books. Previously, she was editor in chief of Esquire Philippines and Town&Country Philippines.
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