April 17, 2024

So much in life changes over the course of 90 years, and the journey could be a best-selling book, a perfect way to flip through the pages of time.
Col. Filoteo Sotto Arevalo celebrated his 90th birthday on Feb. 16 with all his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren at his Musar Building. He is formerly an octogenarian (age 80 to 89), now a nonagenarian (90 to 99), and like former Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile will be a centenarian (100 to 109).
Although terribly missing “ling” Norma, who recently passed, the affair turned out to be a blessing and thanksgiving event for a fulfilling life, well lived with love, laughter, comfort and care, and he could not ask for more.
He was born at a seaside resort along the coastal town of Buenavista, Marinduque, amidst shrubs of green trees and sparkling rivers. As a young child he strutted and played in the acres of vast land owned by his forefathers planted with mahogany, coconut, avocado, bananas, and so many fruit trees all lusciously blooming. Standing guard was a shack whose windows caught a glimpse of the rising sun each morning of the eastern day.
As he grew, he took note of the blissful quiet of the surroundings and vowed to live there forever in simplicity, solitude and seclusion, thus for the next decade or two, he lived the life of a rural folk, happy and contended.
What used to be fertile land and natural waters form part of the large Musar Resort and Hot springs which he has recently visited twice in a row, even if it takes nine hours of travel by land and roro-ship. Now a tourism destination, the resort has become a major tourism attraction in what used to be a sleepy hometown.
Destiny however intervened and in 1952, he broke soil, took and passed the entrance examinations for admission to the Philippine Military Academy, to fulfill a lifelong ambition and his covenant with destiny. Thus, in the august halls of the academy and the long gray line, the name “Balong” was born.
In 1956, he graduated and joined the Philippine Army as second lieutenant, and while in-service he served as company commander in Sulu, trained Reserve Officers’ Training Corpsand PMA cadets. In the intelligence services, he became a peace negotiator with the Muslim rebels and New People’s Army cadres and capped his career as Chief of Staff of his alma mater PMA.
It was in the City of Pines, that he met Norma Musni, a young lass whose love for music knew no bounds while studying at the then Baguio Colleges Foundation. Immediately after his graduation they tied the knot at the PMA Chapel at Camp Allen and thereafter he shipped off to Mindanao while Norma prepared to take on the responsibilities of child rearing, education, and growth.
Five of his children followed his PMA footsteps: former Customs Commissioner Alexander (PMA ‘82), Air Force turned PAL and KoreanAir pilot Cpt. Filoteo Jr. (PMA ‘84), M/Gen. Robert (PMA ‘85) now GM of the Human Settlements Development Corporation; Lt./Gen. Benedict (PMA ‘90), currently Visayas commander; and B/Gen. Armand (PMA ‘91), currently Camp Commander of AFPHQ at Camp Aguinaldo.
Five cavaliers plus a father remains to be a record-breaker indeed. Although not to be outdone, the rest of the six other children likewise shined on their own: Dr. Annabelle, retired director of a medical facility in Florida and favorite son-in-law, Dr. Jun Aragon; Dr. Ronald, medical-technologist Board topnotcher and a neanthologist in New York. Bernadette, CEO and GM of Musar and Ema; Filma, New Jersey school teacher, and Mike Marchisin; Marilou, director of Musar music school; and Armored Division lawyer Lt/Col. Macky Maquilan; lawyer Ma.Tarahata, Regional Trial Court Branch Clerk of Court and Judge Jorge Manaois.
The spouses of the gentlemen were similarly formidable, Benedict’s Becca Montenegro, senior faculty at Assumption College; Armand’s Joanne Avenido, former banker and now an enterprising general’s wife. The grandchildren are making a name for themselves while the great grandchildren excel in school.
The night was an evening to remember as the family paid tribute to the patriarch. He enjoyed the solemn mass, the food and booze, his giving of gifts to those present which was supposed to be him receiving, reminiscing of the past, the joy of family, the music, dancing and traditional birthday games and when the imaginary Taps was played, he readied himself to rest, slumber and sleep.
Glancing once more at his family, he must have murmured to himself the last line of the spiritual legacy of Gen. Douglas MacArthur he wrote for his son, Arthur, “have not lived in vain.” Norma agrees from heaven.
Sigh.