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Lessons Rico & Nena Tantoco taught their children on life, love & marriage |

Fashion and Beauty

Lessons Rico & Nena Tantoco taught their children on life, love & marriage

LIFE & STYLE - Millet M. Mananquil - The Philippine Star

One trick in marriage survival is this: Remain hopelessly romantic lovers. Find romance and healing in music.

How do you make a marriage last 50 years  with all sweetness intact? One of the best couples to ask for advice on marriage survival would be Rico Tantoco and Nena Vargas-Tantoco. After  seven children, 14 grandchildren, and 50 years of ups and downs, they are still holding hands and exchanging kisses. 

Last Saturday, Rico and Nena celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary at the Manila Polo Club in a most romantic , touching yet funny and rock ’n’ rolling way. “My parents are so authentic and down-to-earth, that’s why we chose this ‘Love Rocks’ theme,” explains Donnie Tantoco, the eldest son who conspired with his siblings in preparing this event and keeping it a secret  from their parents at first. But as they would later realize, it would have been hard pulling a surprise on this couple who are such a fun, spontaneous pair capable of planning  instant events  themselves. There is never a dull moment for Rico who is EVP of Sta. Elena Properties, and Nena, who was consultant for many years at the visual merchandising division of Rustan Commercial Corporation.

On top of putting together details for this anniv was Katrina Tantoco-Lobregat who had been working on it since September last year. “This is the baby I gave birth to this year,” says Katrina who is beautifully pregnant. “The next baby will be in October.”

Sending pegs and ideas on the details — from flowers to bridal attire to food to program numbers, Katrina suggested the colors midnight blue, blush, cream and muted copper. The couple would  enter dancing to the tune of “Will You Marry Me” by Bruno Mars. The six decades of their married life — starting with courtship in the 1960s, would be portrayed in song and dance numbers onstage, paired with flashback photos. The  milestones of the couple with those of  the Tantoco children and their spouses — Donnie with Crickette, Joel, Gippy with Hindy, Robbie, Katrina with Paolo Lobregat, Paolo with Dina Arroyo, and Bea with Das Reyes — were depicted onstage. Though Joel passed away eight years ago, his presence was still felt (and missed) with the recital of the poem he composed years ago. There was laughter, there was music and then there were tears during touching moments in this family’s beautiful saga. Through it all, the family patriarch, Rustan’s  chairman emeritus Bienvenido Tantoco, was all smiles. 

As Rico and Nena entered the dining hall holding hands and really dancing, I imagined the song of the Beatles playing : “Well, my heart went boom, when I crossed that room, and I held her hand in mine.”

Well, our hearts went boom looking at them.






1 Focus on each other as  marriage partners and keep a nurturing home. Donnie says the first 10 years of his parents’ marriage were spent in Troy, New York. “Away from the dynamics of life in the Philippines, an idyllic place in a pristine environment close to a lake that even had beavers. The intimacy our parents created when we were a young family is the reason we are still emotionally connected with each other as adults.”

2 Stay strong and persevering during trials. During turbulent times in the country’s history when , like many others, their family had to move to another country, Donnie saw how his parents’ commitment to each other became stronger. “My dad became stronger and carried his vision to build something completely new, which is now Sta. Elena Golf Course.” During the decade when his mom lost her father and his dad his mother, they sought strength and solace from each other. “I remember the day in New York when I was alone with my dad, and after he found out that our grandmother Glecy was terminally ill, it was my first and only time I held him, to give him some measure of comfort,” says Donnie who is used to being the one comforted by his parents.“The death of our brother Joel eight years ago was the most painful thing we had to go through. My parents let the pain run its course and somehow saw the plan of God, the meaning in it. Their example made us stronger.”

3 Work hard but beyond making money, you have to improve the lives of people. Care for social profit as much as financial profit. “Not many people know that my dad helped save La Mesa Dam. He planted trees all over Luzon. I recall accompanying him to areas where there were rebels, to whom he took a peaceful approach of explaining what had to be done, in the process gaining their trust, support and confidence.They ended up liking him so much, they held camping parties in his honor,” Donnie recalls.

4 Keep your balance and be authentic.Engrossed with too much work, Rico and Nena encouraged their kids to go inward with them, get to know their real selves and be true to that. It was all about living with soul. “We would spend Mom’s birthday in a spiritual and self-reflecting way. One time, we went to a monastery high up in the mountains of La Union where there was no electricity,” Donnie recalls.

5 Never lose your sense of wonder, and discover the inner child in you. Have a sense of mystery. At the same time, never, never stop growing and evolving. “Mom is constantly surprising Dad with new parts of her persona,” says Katrina. “And Dad remains a mystery and keeps Mom on her toes wondering what he is all about.”

6 Learn to have fun and  not take yourself too seriously. Katrina says her dad once posted on his Instagram page: “My doctor asked if any of my family suffered from insanity. I replied, no, we all seem to enjoy it.” Katrina adds: “My parents know how to laugh at themselves and  at each other.”

7 One trick in marriage survival is this: Remain hopelessly romantic lovers. Also, find romance and healing in music. No wonder Katrina put on each table, lyrics from songs of bands, from the Beatles, Bee Gees, ABBA, Temptations  and Carpenters to  Guns ‘N’ Roses, Spandau Ballet, Culture Club, Cold Play, One Direction and Depeche Mode, to name a few.

8 Always be grateful. “My parents taught me to live life with an attitude of gratitude,” says Paolo. “They taught me to be happy with what I have and not to always want more. I believe this is one of the reasons why both of them are so happy.”

9 Be kind and generous. “My parents treat their staff so well and make them part of the family. I love how Mom holds daily meetings with her staff and prays with them. I am trying to do this in my own household, “ says Paolo who remembers that his dad’s latest text to him was this: “Many times, you have to give up something to make others happy.”

10 Live a God-centered life. “My parents taught me to keep God close not just in times of need, but all the time,” says Paolo. “I love how my dad sends me messages when I need them most; they encourage me and help me with challenges I face. I remember when I was asked what I wanted to be when I grow up, I always said I want to be a family man just like my dad. The one dream I had my whole life was to get married, have a family and live happily. Because of my parents, I am living that dream now.”

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Follow the author on Instagram and Facebook@milletmartinezmananquil. Email her at

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