Rustan patriarch Benny Tantoco turns 100

Published April 7, 2021, 4:18 AM

by AA Patawaran

Life is short, but we can live long and happy. And these are a centenarian’s secrets

AGE IS JUST A NUMBER In his awe of life and the world, Benny Tantoco isn’t any older now than he was in this picture, at his office at Rustan’s

When life is a challenge for most, Bienvenido R. Tantoco Sr., Benny, patriarch of the family behind the Rustan Group of Companies and former ambassador to the Holy See, is celebrating his 100th summer on earth.

Although life is never without challenges, to Benny Tantoco, it is always a summery day, bright, clear, and cheerful. Last year, when he found one of his grandchildren, SSI Group president Anton Huang, overwhelmed by pandemic fears, he gave the younger man a gentle slap on the back and said, “Hold your head up high, it’s not World War II!” reminding him that there were no bombs falling from the sky or buildings crumbling to the ground.

With his wife, the late Glecy Rustia Tantoco, Benny built Rustan from the ground up. Now, he is considered “the father of luxury retail in the Philippines,” the original “retail therapist,” as his daughter, chair and CEO of Rustan Group of Companies Nedy Tantoco, would call him. He is also the father of six children, of whom only one is a son, Bienvenido R. Tantoco Jr., and the rest are daughters—Nedy, Menchu Lopez, Marilen Tantoco, Merl Pineda, and Tokie Enriquez. He is grandfather to 21, great-grandfather to 40, and great-great-grandfather to one.

But what are Benny’s secrets to his long, happy, fulfilled life? Here are a few guesses in the words of some members of his family, whom the centenarian considers his number one secret.

  1. My father has lived this long because he believes in life and what he can do in life. He has not stopped thinking of ways to make life better. —Nedy Tantoco
  • 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. —Donnie Tantoco, president, Rustan Commercial Corporation
  • One time Lolo told me that oatmeal was his secret to secret to a long life. But I haven’t seen him eat oatmeal in over a decade, so I’m not sure. The other secret, Lolo said, is his passion for life. You can see this in how he lives. He loves to live and the thing that keeps him going is his family. —Christopher James Tantoco, COO, Royal Duty Free
  • He constantly jokes about his diet, such as eating fish, although I know he is not a fan of eating vegetables. I would have to say his overall simple yet enormous enjoyment of life and his ever abundant and extending love for his family. You see his eyes light up and smile when his family is around him. —MJ Tantoco, business development head, Specialty Food Retailers, Inc.
  • I’ve heard that the key to a long life is the number of meaningful and deep relationships that one has and Lolo has certainly developed many during his lifetime. —Noey T. Lopez, CEO, Starbucks Philippines; president, Rustan Coffee Corp.
  • Showing up or being disciplined is not something he finds difficult. It is just Lolo Benny. And when we do ask him, “How can you keep doing that?” he says, “That’s just what a man does.” —Dino Tantoco Pineda, director and board member, Rustan Group of Companies

Read their articles in the lifestyle section of today’s issue, April 7, 2021, on Lolo Benny and his secrets to a long life or watch this video to get a glimpse of his 100 years of good living.