Lessons from Lolo

Published April 7, 2021, 2:20 AM

by Donnie Tantoco

Bienvenido R. Tantoco Sr.’s eldest grandson ponders everything he has learned from his 100-year-old mentor and inspiration

TWINNING The author with his Lolo Benny

“What is the one thing that you want me to learn from you?” I once asked Lolo Benny.

I was very surprised when he said, “You should never deliberately hurt anyone, not even your enemies. Even without trying, you will hurt the people you love. So be very conscious that you hurt no one.” 

Related to that Lolo Benny told me “Donnie, you must always try to be yourself. Learn from me. I am in some ways a good example and in others a bad one. Don’t try to be like me. Learn from others but be yourself. Sometimes others will get affected when you try to be yourself. Don’t fight them, but also don’t allow them to block you. Be compassionate and humble, aware that you are unintentionally hurting others by doing the work you feel is good.”

My Lolo told me that in life, one gets “50 points for showing up, 40 points for looking good, what you do is 10 points na lang.” When I think about this lesson from Lolo, I remind myself that obedience and duty are not to a person, they are to a higher calling.

After showing up, the next step is looking good. This means dressing well, good grooming, personal hygiene, all those things. But character is more important than the clothes you put on.

Lolo Benny also says, “Count your blessings, not your troubles” and bring that energy of excellence, and positivity to the day. If you do this consistently, if showing up is 50 percent and looking good is 40 percent, you are already 90 over 100.

According to my Lolo every company has to make money, but more important, every company has to commit itself totally to a purpose beyond making money. At the end of the day, I know our purpose is to “create jobs in good times and preserve jobs in bad times.” He wants our company to be an engine of profit and a force of good. The evidence of that good is how many jobs we are generating and how many promotions and growth opportunities we are giving.

…In life, according to Lolo Benny, one gets ’50 points for showing up, 40 points for looking good, what you do is 10 points na lang.’

For my Lolo, everything we do must be for the goal of winning. The prize we seek is the loyalty and malasakit of our employees. What follows is the loyalty of our customers and then sustainable profit and growth in shareholder value for the company. The path to creating sustainable economic value now and in the long run begins with an “Employee First” mindset. 

A company must be a lean and mean fighting machine. But it also needs to be the second home and second family of all who work there. If we become second home and family to our employees, then we will become that also for our customers.

Lolo said, “Donnie, this is all you have to remember ‘Kung animado yung mga tao mo, mananalo (or lamang) ka na! (If your people are happy, then you already have a winning edge).” And remember sometimes work has to be fun.

When you ask Lolo Benny about his secret to living a long and happy life, he would say, “Always be grateful no matter what.” It’s about seeing the gift in everything and everyone and, from a place of gratitude, really trying to be a gift and a blessing to others. He also says, “Be a God pleaser and not a people pleaser. Honor God through your work and your life.”

Lolo Benny’s other advice is to be conscious of your desires. Try not to be a slave to them. He says to pursue your desire in a way that does not harm others. Also, he says, “Give yourself leeway in one desire. You can’t be sinless but you can sin less.”

NEVER A DULL MOMENT WITH LOLO The author’s conversations with his grandfather, which he shares on Facebook every now and then, are always a source of delight

The author is president at Rustan’s Commercial Corporation.