Written in the stars: Jun Lopez and Menchu Tantoco-Lopez have a Starbucks café inside their lovely home. They also have a Yautja statue from the Predator movie series standing guard.
Photos by GEREMY PINTOLO
At home with Jun & Menchu Lopez: Where every wall is a door and the Force is always brewing
ARTMAGEDDON - Igan D’Bayan (The Philippine Star) - August 10, 2019 - 12:00am

It can be quite magical, this house in a galaxy not so far, far away.

Two antique doors from India are mounted on the living room wall like pieces of bas-relief. Another pair, from Morocco this time, is installed on the upper walls of the entrance — near a rack of hats (reminiscent of Casablanca and Romancing the Stone) and a Xenomorph sculpture (from the H.R. Giger-designed Alien movie franchise) made from car parts and bought in Singapore. Could those doors lead us to another world altogether, we wonder.

“Every wall is a door,” says Eduardo “Jun” Lopez Jr. “It’s up to your imagination where it takes you.”

Jun Lopez started Rustan’s Supermarket in 1970 (a year after returning from the US during the first moon landing) and went on to stir Starbucks Philippines starting in 1997 to what it is today. Not many people at the time imagined how warmly Filipinos would embrace Starbucks and the culture of premium coffee. By his side is his wife, Menchu Tantoco-Lopez, the woman behind Rustan’s Flower Shop. To say that she loves flowers is an understatement (her favorites are hydrangeas, roses and, most especially, lavender). Menchu, from the famed Tantoco clan, pioneered the gourmet and liquor section in a supermarket. She currently runs a restaurant and catering business called Gourmet Garage (— and the food she serves us for the interview is nothing short of magical).

Jun’s home cinema has state-of-the equipment as well as life-size statues of all-time favorite characters such as Yoda, Boba Fett and those misfiring Stormtroopers.

“We never intended to have a collection of doors,” Jun explains with a smile. “We just pick up souvenirs wherever our travels take us.”

Jun and Menchu are the heads of their own respective businesses (the bosses of bosses, the buck stops with them), but today they are charming empty-nesters, a lovely couple excitedly talking to us about their collection of artworks (from Filipino conceptual artist Norberto Roldan to French steampunk sculptor Pierre Matter), religious figures (statues of Christ and the Virgin Mary), chess sets (with themes such as animals, Christmas, Indian mythological creatures), pictures with Pope John Paul II, as well as Terminator T2 T-800 Endoskeleton busts and full-blown statues. Yes, you’ve read it correctly — Terminator. No glitch in the times-space continuum, here. The couple don’t adhere to any theme or motif in decorating their home of 50 years. The things you find here are the very things they love.

“See that stainless sculpture?” says Menchu. “It took 35 people to carry it.” The two buy items abroad and have them brought in by sea — artworks, antique finds, life-size replicas of characters from Jun’s favorite movies.

We see a statue of Gollum obsessing over his precious under a piano with a stuffed peacock on top of it (which formerly was a pet of theirs named Gretel). We see a silver skull chair handcrafted by a Japanese artisan. (I took the maker eight months to finish that one piece — sans machinery.) If you sat on it, you would find it deceivingly comfy (the sort of chair Thanos as a retiree would go for). We see the metal door of an atomic submarine converted into a coffee-table. We see a missile from World War II jutting out of the wall of the house. (A remote control triggers its smoke and blitzkrieg sirens.) A gothic Batman standing on a skull here, Han Solo whipping out his DL-44 blaster pistol there.

Movie-magica: Jun Lopez watches movies as Darth Vader and the rest of the Star Wars gang (a couple of Iron Men here and there) watch the watchers.

The film buff compliments his wife on how patient she is in tolerating his ever-growing collection. “Not many wives would allow that (laughs).”

“Everybody says our house is like a museum,” informs Menchu. A veritable museum of artworks and antiques, and the Promised Land for Star Wars and MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) fans.

“I am not an expert in anything, I just enjoy adding pieces to my collection,” adds Jun.

What we see in the living room is jaw-dropping enough, but the man says wait till we get a load of the home cinema.

Imagine hearing the galaxy’s daddy of doom, the imperious Darth Vader, in his James Earl Jones voice, saying: “You’re not a Jedi yet… your destiny lies with me, Skywalker.” Or listening to the Tin-Mannish C-3P0 in George Lucas’ epic space opera clingingly holler after R2-D2. Or being talked to by J.A.R.V.I.S. from the Iron Man movies. A Stormtrooper aims and (usually) misfires. Balrog opens its mammoth jaws. Conan the Barbarian’s sword glints in the dark. A Xenomorph approaches.

(Left) Boy wonder: A sculpture by French artist Pierre Matter. (Right) In space no one can hear you scream: A Xenomorph.

Imagine experiencing all those things — and the movie has not even begun.

Jun Lopez’s home cinema with its state-of-the JVC 4k projectors, thundering sound system (top of the line JBLs) and massage chairs is festooned with life-size statues from the man’s all-time favorite movies. Stark. Darth. Yoda. The coolest home cinema I have ever seen, it is (sentence converted by The Yoda-Speak Generator).

“That is the Creature from the Black Lagoon from the Fifties. I was so scared when I first saw it.” He also fondly recalls the humanoid robot named Gort from The Day the Earth Stood Still. “When you’re young, you get scared by those things. Just like Alien, which changed the entire sci-fi movie genre.”

He adds how he loves foreign films — French, Italian, Middle-Eastern. “I don’t like formulaic movies. I go for documentaries also. ’Yung dramatic, gets you emotionally involved, but not overkill.” Menchu, on the other hand, loves the more romantic fare. She raves about Korean filmmaker Jang Hoon’s A Taxi Driver.

Jun remembers entering the cinema lobby as a kid with all those cardboard cutouts from movies, and wanted to replicate that with his Star Wars statues, which could be programmed to utter a line or two from the iconic franchise. “I never intended to have a collection like this. It just happened. One after the other.”

A hit with guests: Jun had a bomb (disabled, of course) installed through the sidewall of the Lopez’s house — complete with sirens and smoke.

The man also maintains several movie groups that convene every now and then. “We’re not critics ha. We just use it as an excuse to get together (laughs).”

Coffee Paradise And Cinema Paradiso

Jun talks about his love for audio systems (he was into vinyl way back in the Sixties) — and then I thought I heard him say he used to have Mark Levinson gear in the house.

“No,” Jun stresses. “Mark Levinson (the American audio equipment designer) himself came to the Manila and slept in our house. He designed and fine-tuned my system, the HQD. Mahirap i-set up ’yun eh. Besides, he was the one who invented these crazy things (laughs).”

Menchu shows us a Starbucks café — inside their house. With a Predator statue poised like a security guard from deep space.

A chess set from India.

“This Starbucks was from the Rockwell cinema,” she explains. “They were going to do renovations, change the interiors, put everything in a warehouse. So, Jun said, ‘Let’s just bring the entire thing to our house.’”

She also points out a beautiful long table in the area outside the house where the family holds special events (birthdays, bridal showers and such). “That is made from mangkono or ironwood, which is found underwater. It weighs a ton. Jun had it made into a table.” Tough, tough wood. You need diamond-point saws for that.

Menchu tells us that she got her taste for the finer things in life from her mom, Glecy Tantoco.

“Especially how to set tables,” Menchu says with a smile. “I have all kinds of things for table-setting.”

Gollum under the piano, a stuffed peacock named Gretel on top.

Beautiful bonsais are situated near the pool area. Flowers are everywhere. The Lopezes are animal lovers. Two turtles (Elizabeth and Feliciano) are attempting to make more turtles in the side of the house. The koi are huge. Birds hum in the background. Schoolkids occasionally drop in for field trips and marvel at the variety of animals in the Lopez’s garden.

Back at the house, Jun points to wall where a reproduction of a painting by a Dutch master will soon hang.

“I have been to the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia three times. But the one I find most interesting is ‘The Prodigal Son’ painting by Rembrandt because of its theme of reconciliation. How God forgives whatever sin you’ve committed. I always tell my kids and grandkids that if they have a grudge against anybody, or if there are intrigues and undercurrents in this house, consider that painting.”

“What s the Color of Faith 2” by Norberto Roldan.

The sons and daughters of Jun and Menchu (Noey, Quito, Jun Jun, Maricar and Rica) have all started families and careers of their own, but the father always tells them these Jedi-like nuggets of wisdom:

“Be a blessing to others.”

“Be part of making this world a better place.”

“Do your share.”

And, from time to time, get a cup of Midnight Mint, dim the lights, press play, and open a door to another dimension.

A door of perception: A vintage door from India; silver Batman, Darth, Kylo Ren figurines as accent pieces.

JUN LOPEZ AND MENCHU TANTOCO-LOPEZ
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