Former Ambassador Bienvenido “Benny” Tantoco, Sr., patriarch of the Tantoco retail family, died on Tuesday, July 6. He had just turned 100 last April 7.
He and his late wife, Gliceria Rustia-Tantoco, founded the Rustans luxury retail empire in their San Marcelino, Manila home in 1952, beginning first as a showcase of souvenirs from trips abroad. Since then, the department store has risen to have five branches – Rustans Shangri-La, Ayala Alabang, Cubao, Cebu, and the flagship branch, the one at the Ayala Center in Makati. Meanwhile, the Rustan Group of Companies has under its portfolio today Rustan Marketing Corporation Inc., SSI Group Inc., Adora, Santa Elena Realty Inc., Royal Duty Free Stores, Rustan Coffee Corporation Inc., as well as the Tantoco-Rustia Foundation.
In 1983, during the Marcos years, Mr. Tantoco was appointed ambassador to the Vatican. His wife, Gliceria, a close associate of former First Lady Imelda Marcos, died in 1994.
The companies that had sprung from Mr. and Mrs. Tantoco’s efforts changed the retail landscape of the country, thanks to numerous licensing, franchising, and distribution deals with some of the world’s most coveted luxury brands. These have included Oleg Cassini, Gucci, Salvatore Ferragamo, Givenchy, Prada, Burberry, Montblanc, Tiffany & Co., and Hermès.
The brand is still going strong, with many members of the family’s second and third generation at the company’s helm. Even at his advanced age, Mr. Tantoco never lost the energy to attend store openings and other milestones at the stores the family founded. At events, he would be wheeled in and would take the center position at celebratory family portraits. His eldest daughter, Zenaida “Nedy” Tantoco, is chair and CEO of the Rustan Group, while grandsons Anton Huang and Bienvenido “Donnie” Tantoco III sit as presidents at SSI Group Inc., and Rustan Commercial Corp., respectively. His other children and grandchildren also occupy many positions within the companies.
Amb. Bienvenido Tantoco, Sr. is survived by his children Rico Tantoco and wife Nena; Nedy Tantoco and longtime partner Patrick Jacinto; Menchu T. Lopez and husband Jun; Marilou T. Pineda and husband Eddie; Marilen Tantoco; Maritess T. Enriquez and husband Renato.
A statement from the family reads: “A revered figure in the retail industry, business circles, and diplomatic community; as well as for his various church and philanthropic endeavors, he lived his life full of energy, warmth, and devotion. He lived his best life and reached the age of 100. Together with his wife, Gliceria “Glecy” Tantoco, they changed the landscape of luxury retail in the country. Throughout the years, Amb. Tantoco, Sr. received awards and accolades for his outstanding business achievements and societal contributions. Beyond his reputation, he is mostly admired for his love for God, family, friends, and his extended family of staff and employees.”
“Amb. Bienvenido ‘Benny’ Tantoco Sr. will be honored in celebration of his life and laid to rest with a memorial service to be announced soon,” the statement ended. — JLG