Ambassador Bienvenido Tantoco Sr. (seated) with his children: (from left) Jun and Menchu Lopez, Marilen Tantoco, Nena and Rico Tantoco, Renato and Maritess Enriquez, Nedy Tantoco, Patrick Jacinto, Merle and Eddie Pineda
Thanks for asking me insights about my Lolo Benny, especially most recently, on the occasion of his 98th birthday. We admire our grandpa. It’s really good to know that there are others out there who can benefit from his wisdom, his legacy, his faith and his joie de vivre.
All I can say is that we are so happy that he continues to be fully present in our lives. He remains strong at 98, not only physically and mentally, but also emotionally and spiritually. We are a huge and growing family. We all have the same DNA and roots, but we are also diversifying as personalities, as men and women with goals, crafts, aspirations and values. Our lolo unites us not only across branches of our family, but also across generations.
Soon my lolo will be the great shepherd of a family that spans five generations. He is a man of chivalry, of great wit, humor and vast experiences. He shares his wisdom with us by engaging us in conversations. He is by no means preachy. He is the most compassionate and wisest listener to converse with. He hates long sentences and complicated words.
He has a heart of gold. He is a successful businessman who was never ruthless. He is a business owner who feels that the most important stakeholders are the employees. I believe he continues to be present, so we as stewards of his business will never forget that.
Here is a snippet of a recent conversation I had with him. As you may know, I have been having breakfast with my Lolo Benny every Wednesday (for as long as we are in the same country) for over 25 years.
Donnie: Lolo, what is it like to be almost 98 years old?
Lolo: It feels normal! I don’t feel any different from two to three years ago. I feel good! I feel grateful.
Donnie: I notice not only how healthy and positive you are at this late age. I also notice how peaceful and content you are all the time.
Lolo: Yes, at this age every day is a gift. Actually, at any age, every day is a gift. I have been living each day as if it were my last for a very long time.
Donnie: Yes, Lolo, I noticed that you still exercise three times a week, that you still groom yourself so well, and every day you are so well dressed.
Lolo: Of course! Don’t you know this, Donnie? You get 50 points for showing up and you get 40 points for looking good! What you do is 10 points na lang. When I show up, well groomed and looking my best, that shows respect.
Donnie: Wow! Many people younger than you have already surrendered to the gradual decay of old age. I guess it helps that your children take such amazing care of you.
Lolo: Yes, I am very, very well cared for. I am lucky that I am never lonely. What’s new with you?
Donnie: Lolo, I attended two Lent recollections last week. We studied the three conversions of Jesus and the short and happy life of St. Stephen.
Lolo: And so? What did you learn?
Donnie: Earlier you said, live each day as if it were your last. We were told to live each month as if it were your last.
Lolo: What does that mean?
Donnie: Well, sa madaling salita, if someone had one last month instead of many years ahead, then he or she would live his life very, very differently. He would focus on what’s really important, like giving his family in one month all his love, gratitude and support. She would make sure her companies can flourish even if she was no longer around. He would make sure he has thanked every one who has blessed him. She would make sure there is no unexpressed love and gratitude left in her. He would not sweat the small stuff. She would not hold resentments. He would try to tap not just his work potential but also his creative potential. She would automatically becomes egoless and more selfless.
Lolo: (Ponders what he heard) Donnie, that is much better than living each day as if it were your last.
Donnie: It sounds easy, but its also very, very hard to live by it.
Lolo: You must try to follow that. That will put you on the right track. Do it. That is your lesson this Easter. It’s not an accident.
Donnie: Okay, Lolo, I will.
Lolo: (Looks at his dog sitting with us in Starbucks) Donnie, watch this. My dog only listens to me. He knows my voice. Prince! (Prince looks up at him) “Lets GO!” (Prince jumps down and heads for the car.) —CONTRIBUTED
The author is the president of Rustan’s Commercial Corp.