Born 1903 in Piddig, Philippines, Teofilo learned to swim by teaching himself in the knee-deep Guisit River near his home. Orphaned at an early age, he and his brothers practically raised themselves. He swam every day in the river and would help the women cross the river and carry the clothes to wash.
Around 1920, he enlisted in the 57th Infantry Regiment of the Philippine Scouts made up of native Filipinos assigned to the U.S. Army’s Philippine Department under the command of American officers. It was an honor and privilege to be in the Scouts and sports was an important element to instill exercise, loyalty and pride.