A couple of months away from celebrating his grandfather Bienvenido Tantoco Sr.’s 100th birthday, Donnie Tantoco shares some of the lessons he learned from him about taking care of oneself and of others.
My Lolo Benny will be 100 years old on April 7. That’s just two and half months from now. I am so grateful for his continuing, loving, influencing, and teaching presence in my life. I have never outgrown him nor stopped learning from him. He has a man who listens at least twice as much as he talks, and thus his teaching style is really through his action and example.
It’s amazing to watch a man that is on the one hand ready to move on, but on the other hand also so eager to still live each day to its maximum. The biggest lesson for many of us, is that every day of life we are given is a gift. I think the biggest secret of my Lolo is that he does not treat another day of life as something that just happens naturally. He truly treats each day that he wakes ups as a gift and an opportunity. And he has had this attitude and perspective since he was young.
Today is a present
Every day is gift. Everything that happens in that day is either a blessing or a blessing in disguise. I think this is why I have hardly seen my grandfather get angry or gripe, or said negative things. He always stops me when I start to say negative things: “That person is not here to defend himself,” or “that’s the past, no sense crying over spilled milk.”
When my intentions are not pure, he will say “namamangka sa dalawang Ilog.” His attitude that another day of life is a gift, fills him with this constant energy of gratitude. He has been through a lot. And I still don’t sense much ego, nor see any bitterness in him. He does have regrets, some guilt, a few resentments; but there is no bitterness.
This mindset also encourages him to then be a gift. He earnestly seeks to make his life one of giving and thanksgiving. He and I are morning persons and he is diligent with his calendar. He looks at his appointments and tasks as opportunities to contribute, to be a gift to a team meeting, to a person, to an event, etc. To be gift begins with being punctual. And hence he is the most consistently punctual person that I know. He says “If you are on time, you are already late.”
So being grateful and intentionally being a gift is the first lesson for overall wellbeing that I learned from a Lolo that is about to celebrate his 100th birthday.
Coaching with love
He also has a morning ritual. This includes getting up early because this is the only time of the day that he can reflect and be by himself. He does not choose to do a lot at any point in time, but whatever he does he wants nothing less than excellence. In other words, whatever he chooses to do, he is intentional and disciplined. He would say, “you cannot be intentional, if you do not give yourself time to think and pray.”
So that early morning of prayer and reflection is important to him; and he does not miss his appointment every morning to have a conversation with God. It’s as if he is intentionally offering the first hour of his day each day to God.
After reflection, until recently when he fully retired, he would do some work. He answers anyone who writes him within 24 hours. He does not just say “noted” like many of us do. From his response, you know that he really read your message and he thought about your context. Alongside the stamp that either says “approved,” “see me,” or “disapproved,” is oftentimes a message of caring wisdom. Another lesson I learned is to answer your messages but in a way that is coaching and encouraging.
This is the key to not only your wellbeing but the overall wellbeing of your team. In fact, he told me that the purpose of being whole is so that you can be whole for others.
Body and mind
For as long as I have known him, he has always exercised. I don’t think there was ever a month in the last 40 years where in he took a break from exercise. He was one of the first persons that I know off that had a gym in his house. When we travel we always end our days with long brisk walks. I have had many wonderful but also strenuous walks with my Lolo. They last for at least an hour.
He should exercise because where he has absolutely no discipline is at the dining table. He used to love food, and he loved the experiences, conversations, and bonding that can happen over a well-prepared meal. To live a day with joy means that we should have at least one good meal a day.
Another thing I learned about overall well-being from my Lolo comes from his constant reminder to me: “Donnie! Remember this—you get 50 points for showing up! And 40 points for looking good!” Many times I don’t feel like showing up for life. I’d rather hide. Hiding gives me a bag fat zero. Simply showing up even for one minute brings me halfway to 100. It’s when I show up that a blessing happens like a new relationship, a chance to demonstrate my love, a new learning, a fascinating exposure, an opportunity to contribute to a purpose larger than myself.
I love most of all his “40 points for looking good” My lolo is the most stylish person I know. I often thought that he patterned himself after one of my style idols who is Gianni Angelli. I once asked him and he said “who is that?” So I realized he is an original. I love the way he grooms, curates his outfit, mixes prints and colors to reflect his inner creativity, and match his mood for the day. I love the way he stands out in a sea of dark suits.
But “40 points for looking good” means much more than feeling lean because he exercised that morning, or being clean, stylish and smelling good because he groomed and dressed himself so well.
To him it means it being intentional about the character you choose to put on and bring with you when you show up. That character has to be real, and be the very best you are and can offer. So what I learned from my Lolo is not so much what you do to enhance your overall wellbeing and live life fruitfully at a physical, relational, spiritual and professional level. It is why you do it. His reason comes from a place of gratitude; it is simply to be whole with himself so that he can