Honorable Ambassador Bienvenido Tantoco, Sr., The Man Behind The Rustan's Legacy, Has Died
"Lolo Benny," as he was fondly called, was 100 years old when he passed away
Bienvenido Tantoco Sr. has passed away, as confirmed by family.
Surrounded by three of his daughters, Nedy (Zenaida), Tokie (Maritess), and Merl (Marilou), the Tantoco patriarch died peacefully in the early hours of July 6, Tuesday. Lolo Benny, as he was fondly called, turned 100 years old in April and leaves behind a legacy in both business and family matched by none.
The centenarian's work as one of the country's original retailers has made the Tantoco name synonymous with luxury; together with his late wife, Glecy, who passed away two years ago, Lolo Benny gave many Filipinos their first taste of shopping for the finer things in life right here in the Philippines.
The family business, then just a couple's small enterprise, quickly grew and and is now encompassed under a company everyone can recognize. The Rustan's Group of Companies, or simply Rustan's, was a product of his endeavoring spirit and the wonderful things one can achieve when a family works, and loves, together.
But Lolo Benny wasn't just all business (though his children will tell you how their parents instilled the same entrepreneurial spirit in them and made sure business acumen was a life skill they all possessed). After all, one doesn't earn the nickname Lolo Benny without being an amazing father, grandfather, and in his case, a great grandfather, and great great grandfather, too.
He was every inch just as active and caring with his family as he was with his business.
In the words of Nena Tantoco, his daughter-in-law and wife to his eldest child and only son Bienvenido "Rico" Tantoco Jr., "[I] am deeply grieving Daddy Benny’s [loss]. His presence as my father-in-law is precious and most meaningful and life-giving... During [the] pandemic, he was always a living loving presence at our pool bar lanai or Rico's home office."
Lolo Benny is one of the few people who got to experience family the way he did. He was alive to see the birth of a fifth generation member of the clan, even witnessing his great-great grandchild's first birthday last year.
Aside from being a luxury retail magnate and an admirable head of the family, Lolo Benny also represented the Philippines in a variety of international settings. He was the Ambassador to the Vatican (even meeting Pope John Paul II himself); met the Prince of Malta, Angelo de Mojana di Cologna; and rubbed shoulders with fashion greats like Karl Lagerfeld, Patrizia Gucci, and Oleg Cassini.
Being in the world for an entire century carries with it many experiences; undoubtedly, Lolo Benny was blessed with good fortune and great blessings, but also weathered a handful of storms and challenges of all manners and sizes. Through it all, his family saw him go through it all with grace and head held high.
In a story about Lolo Benny previously published in April this year and accompanied by a Metro Society cover, we had the opportunity to ask five of his six children this question about their father: The introduction to his biography has this line: his faith has never wavered. What moments or circumstances were the greatest and truest manifestations of his faith?
Their answers give us a glimpse of the kind of person Lolo Benny was.
Maritess: “One would think that it was his appointment as the Philippine Ambassador to the Vatican. But in my humble opinion, it was from an experience I had when I was about 15 years old. We were in New York on a buying trip and they took me along that summer for exposure and experience. Every day, I remember Dad would go to mass at the Church of the Sacred Heart on Madison Avenue because he was devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The church was a good 40 blocks away from where we lived and he would walk both ways to get to and from there, every single day.”
Marilen: “Daddy has an apostolate to the Divine Mercy. I have known that he and mommy were devotees of the Sacred Heart and as time passed, it became stronger. Daddy is also devoted to Our Lady of Guadalupe. Before he sleeps, he prays the rosary every night. We also hear mass with our employees at the Sacred Heart church where there are special occasions.”
Marilou: “It was during his time in Rome when back in Manila there was political upheaval connected to the Marcos regime. And my parents’ subsequent exile in Morocco to escape political persecution.”
Nedy: “Specifically after the Marcos era, Daddy was very sure that God would take care of him, his family, and his business.”
Rico: “He believes that Christ is our Savior and he will take us to eternal happiness with him in spite of our sinfulness.”
Although the time has come to bid Lolo Benny a physical farewell, his memory will endure in the groundbreaking work, and the family, that he leaves behind.
Photos courtesy of Rustan's