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Mr. Manners: Lessons From My Dad

This column is inspired by a post of Maritess “Tokie” Tantoco-Enriquez about her father, the venerable Ambassador Bienvenido “Benny” Tantoco Sr.

I am a great follower of her nephew, Bienvenido “Donnie” Vargas Tantoco III, Tantoco Sr.’s grandson, as he chronicles his chats with his grandfather. Both narrate anecdotes that will inspire us in business and our daily lives.

There is much to be learned from our parents, us baby boomers. Our parents were born in a time of war. They witnessed the carnage done by the Japanese and suffered far more scarcity than we will in our lifetime. They had lost their homes. They were evicted by the Imperial Army. They saw people they knew tortured or even raped. They moved to the province and gave up much of what they had. 

This mold taught them how to save, re-use, and be grateful. The gentlemen were “old school,” and the ladies were reverential and far more caring. They knew their place at the table, and they remained gracious in times of strife. That taught them resilience in every way.

The period of their birth was a gentile period in the Philippines. The Americans had brought a sense of order from the Spanish conquest, and an environment of modernity. Society developed, and so did the manners of those before them. The “Old School” was the moniker for a past not forgotten but to be re-learned. 

There are very few vanguards of these times—the gentlemen who helped define the Philippines as truly the “Pearl of the Orient.” One of these is Ambassador Tantoco Sr. Together with his wife, Gliceria “Glecy” Rustia-Tantoco, they founded what we now know as the temple of luxury retailing: Rustan’s.

In an interview years back, this self-made billionaire said, “Much has been said and written about Rustan’s humble beginnings so that I don’t need to repeat all that now. Suffice it to say that my wife Glecy and I had a dream and we worked day and night together until we achieved that dream.”

His teachings are chronicled by his grandson, Donnie, who is very involved in the retail conglomerate, on his Instagram account. A venerable treasure trove of insights that span generations of learning are captured in his conversations with his Lolo.

 

 

In an interview given to a leading publication, Donnie shares these nuggets of wisdom: “Our grandfather’s main philosophy in business is ‘Kung animado ’yung mga tao mo, mananalo ka na! (If your people are animated, you shall be a winner!)’” In the simplest terms, this means that for as long as your employees are motivated, engaged, and committed, you can’t lose—even if you are starting from scratch or coming from behind.

Ambassador Tantoco Sr.’s youngest daughter, Tokie, candidly posted this on her Facebook account. And it sums up what gentlemen of that era embodied:

 

 

Rustan’s celebrated its 65th year in 2017, and still reaps the benefits that the Ambassador and his wife, Glecy—the woman who changed the way Filipinos look at retail—sowed six decades ago. The family continues to innovate and expand its business portfolio.

The Ambassador has six children (Tokie being the youngest), 22 grandchildren, and 34 great-grandchildren—many of whom are involved in the family companies. He is on the Forbes 50 List for the Philippines, and is heralded as one of the last self-made families of his generation.

“The loyalty of our customers and employees is the best foundation any company can hope to have in an increasingly cyclical and very volatile world,” says Ambassador Bienvenido Tantoco Sr. as told by his grandson, Donnie.