MANILA, APRIL 9, 2011 (STAR) By Ching M. Alano [Photo is loading... President Aquino joins Ambassador Bienvenido Tantoco, who celebrated his 90th birthday yesterday, and Nedy Tantoco of the Rustan group of companies at the inauguration of the Rustan wing in the Paco Market. WILLY PEREZ]

The once bustling Paco Market leaped back to life yesterday as President Aquino, clad in a barong, inaugurated the Rustan wing of the public market that dates back to the American colonial period in 1911.

Aquino recalled the days when he and his classmates would hold their group studies in one of the houses in Paco, where all the windows were closed. Nobody dared open the windows as darts might come flying in. Back then, Paco was notorious for gang wars.

He noted that, thanks to the private sector, Paco Market has come a long way and he wouldn’t mind bringing his future first lady to eat at its palutuan (dining area).

The Paco Market rehabilitation was spearheaded by the dynamic and indefatigable Zenaida “Nedy” Tantoco on behalf of the Rustan’s Group of Companies and the Tantoco Rustia Foundation, named after her parents, Ambassador Bienvenido Tantoco and the late Rustan matriarch Glecy Tantoco.

“The first time Gina Lopez, project director of Kapit Bisig Para Sa Ilog Pasig, came to our office to tell us about the project, I was immediately drawn to it, even she was surprised. We wanted to do something a little bigger than normal because it was my father Ambassador Bienvenido Tantoco’s 90th birthday and we also come from Manila. Rustan’s started in San Marcelino, a few blocks away from Paco Market, 60 years ago,” said Tantoco.

She added, “Ever conscious of our corporate social responsibilities, Rustan’s is reaching out to grassroots retail. We are striving to impart and share the characteristics that have been embodied by my father to the Rustan Group of Companies: customer service, timeliness, cleanliness, and perseverance.”

In his speech read by eldest grandson Donnie Tantoco, president of Rustan’s Supercenters Inc., Ambassador Tantoco pointed out, “The re-development of the Paco Market is but the first step towards realizing many dreams. Dreams of the renewal and sustainability of the Pasig River cleanup. Dreams of growing a small retailing venture into something great. And ultimately, dreams of leaving a legacy that will create higher quality lives for future generations.”

One of the contributors to the pollution of the Pasig River, Paco Market used to be a very important and thriving market for the residents until it fell into decay. Kapit Bisig Para Sa Ilog Pasig, in partnership with the Sonia Santiago-Olivares & Associates led by Maja Olivares-Co and with the support of the Rustan’s Group of Companies, is revitalizing one of the most important, oldest retail markets of the city of Manila and thus, helping address the pollution of the Pasig River.

Lopez said, “The market is 100 years old, and it used to be a haven for drugs, crime, and bag snatching. The reason we took it on was it feeds into Estero de Paco; you cannot clean the river if you do not clean the estero, and you can’t clean the estero if you don’t clean the market.”

[PHOTO -President Benigno Aquino III at the inauguration of the Rustan Wing of the Paco Market Redevelopment Project in Manila, April 7, 2011.]

Oliveros-Co shared, “I have a personal passion for markets. I believe that markets are a window to the culture of a people. In every great country, you visit their market – the souks of Morocco, the Tsukiji market in Japan, the grand bazaar in Turkey, Chatuchak in Bangkok. It’s not manicured like a mall – we don’t have a market in this country that’s like that. We are hoping to build a model market for the Filipinos in this country.”

Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim observed, “We can see the change right here. They say the rich don’t care about the poor, that’s not true. Today, the rich came down to be with the poor.”

Marilyn Baliscao, president of the Paco vendors, is thankful to the Tantoco family for giving them a nice and clean market that would surely attract buyers.

The new Rustan’s wing or the Specialty Goods Section of the refurbished Paco Market will house 72 stalls selling RTW clothes, shoes, items for the home, among others.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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