Balbino Luna Retuta obituary photo
In Memory of

Balbino Luna Retuta

March 20, 1919 - September 30, 2013


Balbino's Life Story

Balbino Retuta was the patriarch of our family. He was the loving husband of Nieves Arellano Retuta. The proud father of Priscilla, Pedro, Roberto, Ovendalin, Benjamin, and Jaime. He was affectionately known as "Amang" to his many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

He was born on March 20, 1919 in Badoc, Ilocos Norte Province of the Philippines. He was the youngest of eight children born to Rufino Retuta and Maria Luna. Orphaned at the age of six, Amang was raised by his elder siblings Quirina, Candida, Francesca, Arcadia, Baldomero, Ulpiano and...

Balbino's Life Story

Balbino Retuta was the patriarch of our family. He was the loving husband of Nieves Arellano Retuta. The proud father of Priscilla, Pedro, Roberto, Ovendalin, Benjamin, and Jaime. He was affectionately known as "Amang" to his many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

He was born on March 20, 1919 in Badoc, Ilocos Norte Province of the Philippines. He was the youngest of eight children born to Rufino Retuta and Maria Luna. Orphaned at the age of six, Amang was raised by his elder siblings Quirina, Candida, Francesca, Arcadia, Baldomero, Ulpiano and Gorgonia. He attended elementary school before having to drop out to work on the family farm full-time. Amang understood the importance of an education and would earn his high school diploma as an adult and later an associate's degree in animal husbandry from the Araneta Institute in Manila. Farming and tending to animals would always be an important part of Amang's life. Even when the family immigrated here to the United States, he tended to a backyard garden full of Filipino vegetables and kept chickens as well.

Amang and his cousin, Florentino migrated to the Hawaiian Islands to labor in the sugar fields. Upon his return to the Philippines, Amang was drafted into the Philippine Scouts, a military division of the United States Army, assigned to the United States Army Philippine Department. He was assigned to be the personal driver of a military official, Officer Macay, at Ft. William McKinley in Guadalupe Rizal. Part of his duties was to chauffer the Officer Macay's family members. It was during one of his drives that Officer Macay's niece caught his eye. The pretty young lady was Nieves Arellano and would soon be his bride, the mother of his children and later our "Inang" or grandmother. Amang and Inang were married at Ft. McKinley in May 1941, during World War II. Shortly after their wedding, he was deployed to the frontlines.

He fought in the Battle of Bataan, the most intense phase of Imperial Japan's invasion of the Philippines during World War II. Under the command of General Douglas MacArthur, the troops fought long and hard but were ultimately defeated. They had no choice but to surrender to the Japanese military. Amang, along with 72,000 American and Filipino troops including his brother in law, Theodore Guerrero and future Philippine President, Ferdinand Marcos became prisoners of war and a part of history. They became unwilling participants in what would become known as the Bataan Death March. The 63-mile march began at the southern end of the Bataan Peninsula on April 9, 1942. The march would have been long and arduous for anyone, but the already starving prisoners were to endure cruel and brutal treatment throughout their long journey. Amang was one of the many POWs who were tortured during captivity. He was shot three times in the wrist, leaving his hand permanently disabled. Despite the unimaginable conditions and torture, he survived to be reunited with Inang and meet his first born child, Priscilla.

After his liberation as a POW the young family settled down in Pangasinan where Amang's brother Ulpiano was already established. Amang began a business of buying crops from the local farmers to sell at the divisoria (market place) in Manila. As the years went by, Amang and Inang's family grew to include six children and several grandchildren. They also had a profitable family farm. Using his degree in animal husbandry, Amang became the unofficial veterinarian for Pangasinan.

It was during their time in Pangasinan that Amang and Inang joined Iglesia Ni Cristo. The church would become a central part of our family. Amang became a deacon in the church and opened his home to the resident ministers to reside during their assignments to the locale. He organized a carpool and donated use of his jeepney to support envangelical missions to the remote barrios in the Pangasinan Province. His jeepney was also used an ambulance for the townspeople.

Amang and Inang worked hard to send their eldest child, Priscilla, to Far Eastern University Premedical School in the Philippines and later to the United States to continue her studies in 1969. Amang and Inang had a dream to relocate their family to America. When they first arrived in the United States in 1978, they went to visit Priscilla in Texas but ultimately decided to settle in San Jose where an Iglesia Ni Cristo locale had just formed. Amang and Inang became part of the earliest members of the San Jose Locale. They opened up their home for weekly committee prayers. Amang also continued to serve as a deacon as he did back in Pangasinan. They supported themselves through Amang's job as a security guard at Hewlett Packard in Sunnyvale and Inang provided daycare services for church members' children.

Throughout the 1980s and 90s, Amang and Inang's dream of relocating the Retuta family to the United States began to materialize as each of their children and grandchildren immigrated. Amang and Inang's household expanded as their home became the first stop for their children's familes as they arrived to the States. At one point there were as many as twelve grandchildren under their roof. All of us grandchildren have many memories of living with Amang and Inang.

At the turn of the century, Amang watched as his grandchildren grew up; many graduated college and had families of their own. As long as his health would allow, Amang tended to his garden and looked forward to attending church twice a week. Inang passed away in September 2009 and his health began to decline. He was called up to Heaven on September 30, 2013.

Amang led a very full and long life. He served God and his countries. He will always be missed by those whose lives he touched. We cherish our memories of him as we celebrate his life well lived.

Fond Memories of Amang

"While I was in elementary school, if there was a thunder storm looming my Dad would walk to school to bring me a sweater and umbrella. He was thoughtful and protective." - Priscilla Brown

"When I used to drive him to run errands, take him to church, or take him to his doctor's appointment, he would sing a Filipino Folk Song titled, "Leron Leron Sinta" by Alberto Florentino." - Pedro Retuta

"Amang used to take Ovendalin, Jaime, and me to church on a tricycle because the chapel was three miles away from the house." - Benjamin Retuta

"Ovendalin and I were in charge of corralling the chickens into the chicken coop each night by 6:00pm so that the rats or the stray cats in the neighborhood did not eat them. If there was a chicken found out of the coop or dead in the morning, Amang would punish us." - Ovendalin & Benjamin Retuta

"Back in the Philippines, we did not have a television. Grandpa and Grandma would tell us about their experience during the Japanese occupation in the Philippines. Us grandkids, would always entertain them by dancing or doing poetry. Grandpa would give us 25 cents but Jenny, Bong, and myself would always go to Grandma to ask for more money. After harvesting the crops, Grandpa would divide the tobacco field for us grandkids to harvest the remaining tobacco leaves. He taught us how to earn our own money." - Vivien Craine

"Grandpa was a fashion critic. When Manang Vivien and I first came to United States, Grandpa took us shopping for new clothes. Everything we tried on was ugly according to him! Everything!" - Jenny Leer

"My dad liked to buy really loud brightly colored shirts. Orange was his favorite." - Priscilla Brown

"Manang Vivien and I were so excited to have Grandpa teach us how to drive. We started off the driving lesson smiling ear to ear and ended the lesson crying. He was yelling at us at the whole time! I had given up learning how to drive for several months. But then, one time Grandpa drove me to the store and his driving scared me. I nearly kissed the ground when I got out of his car safely! I decided I had to learn how to drive or risk having him drive me everywhere!" - Jenny Leer

"I was always scared when Grandpa was driving because when somebody passed him, he would get irritated and start racing them. Yahooooo! Grandma would have a tight grip on the inside door handle and say, 'Apo ngayen lakay!' " - Vivien Craine

"Grandpa loved to watch action movies. Whenever there was a fight scene, he would get all into it. He was moving his legs, bobbing and weaving and throwing in some of his own punches as if he was fighting too!" - Jenny Leer

"I will always remember Amang's backyard garden. I loved the smell of the wet dirt, the bitter melon hanging from the trellis and the orange squash blossoms. I remember as a very young girl, I would play in the mud, digging up worms and burying marbles while he tended to his garden in the mornings. We wouldn't say much to each other but it was still a nice time spent together. He loved that garden and all of us kids knew to stay out of the garden beds or else!" - Heather Brown-Hom

"Grandpa loved his backyard garden. He would spend hours back there. Grandma would have to call him in to eat lunch. His hearing was starting to go, so sometimes he missed Grandma's lunch call. By the time he came in, the family had started eating, thinking he was on his way in. He would be so mad and say in Ilocano - which of course always makes it sound so much more serious, 'You didn't even care to call me?! You couldn't wait for me before you started eating?!' He would refuse to eat the food that Grandma prepared and would start making his own." -Jenny Leer

"Amang always had the heater in the house and in the car on blast. When he would pick us up from Sunday school the car would be so hot but no one dared to touch the controls in his car. We were so scared. It cracks me up now to think about it." - Sharon Carino

"When Amang would order a pizza, he would always share with all us grandkids so he would slice that pizza into the smallest pieces. He would do the same with a mango." - Vanessa DePhillips

"At one point in the early 1990s, there were about a dozen of us grandkids living at Amang and Inang's house. As kids, we had a blast playing together and we could get quite noisy and rowdy. Amang didn't appreciate all the noise so he would kick us all out of the house to play outside and we couldn't come back in until lunchtime . . . only to get kicked back out again until dinnertime!" - All the grandkids tell this story

Notable Ancestors

Juan Luna y Novicio (October 23, 1857 - December 7, 1899)

Amang's uncle on his mother's side, Juan Luna was a Filipino painter, sculptor and a political activist of the Philippine Revolution during the late 19th century. He became one of the first recognized Philippine artists. Regarded for work done in the manner of the Spanish, Italian and French academies of his time, Luna painted literary and historical scenes, some with an underscore of political commentary.

Antonio Luna (October 29, 1866 - June 5, 1899)

Amang's uncle and Juan Luna's younger brother, Antonio Luna, was a general who fought in the Philippine-American War. He was also the founder of the Philippines's first military academy. He was regarded as the most brilliant of the Filipino military officers during the war. When he became commander of the Philippine Revolutionary Army, he organized professional guerrilla soldiers later known as the Luna Sharpshooters. His three-tier defense, now known as the Luna Defense Line, gave the American troops a hard campaign in the provinces north of Manila.

URL for information on ancestors

Antonio Luna -

Juan Luna -