PMA honors Siklab Diwa

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Friday, March 14, 2014


POSH cars. Estate houses. The jetsetter life.

These are the stuff most dreams are made of.

But for the 223 brave souls graduating from the Philippine Military Academy, their dreams will see them riding Army trucks, living under the trees, with the stars as their roof, and will take them to forsaken ends of this land.

All to serve God, country and fellowmen.

Led by its top 10, PMA’s Sundalong Ikinararangal ng Lahing Bayani sa Diwang Wagas or Class Siklab Diwa will troop to the Borromeo field tomorrow, Sunday, to accept their new mandate from President Benigno Aquino III as fully commissioned officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

The top 10

Cadet 1st Class Jheorge Millena Llona from Maopi, Daraga, Albay leads this year’s roster of graduates. Born to copra farmer Nelson and Gloria, the class valedictorian will receive 8 other special awards including the Presidential Saber and the Philippine Air Force Saber.

Also in the top 10 are Cordillerans Cadet 1st Class Billy Casibi Codiam from Kalinga and Cadet 1st Class Alvin Jantala Balangcod from Benguet.

Third placer Codiam will join the Philippine Army where 10th placer Balangcod will join him as soon as their one month respite after their graduation ends.

Cagayan de Oro City is well represented in this year’s top 10 with Cadet 1st Class Greg Philip Lesmoras Monsalud graduating 9th place while boasting of the lone female in class salutatorian Cadet 1st Class Liza Jumawid Dango.

Rounding up the top 10 are Cadet 1st Class Leo Mac Calleung Tuliao, 4th, Cagayan, Philippine Air Force; Cadet 1st Class Noel de Venecia Raguindin, 5th, Dagupan City, Philippine Navy; Cadet 1st Class Carlito Christopher Pajarillo Agustin, 6th, Tuguegarao City, Philippine Army; Cadet 1st Class Frank Anzale, 7th, Leyte, PA; and Cadet 1st Class King Kristian Dennis Marca Argoso, 8th, Quezon, PAF.

The highland spirit

Remarkable as each cadet’s journey is, the spotlight inevitably turns to the Cordilleran sons who have made the region proud.
Cadet 1st Class Billy Codiam of Lubo-Pungol, Tanudan, Kalinga, was born to farmer Marciano and government employee Aida.

An AB Political Science graduate, Codiam recalls his stay in the Academy has never been easy.

“I admit that during my stay in the Academy, I was reported for various violations of the regulation and my accumulated demerits surpassed the maximum allowable number of demerits until such time that I was already candidate for turn back or discharge,” Codiam shared.

But with some twist of good fortune, the Tactics group issued a new policy on the merit system.

“I took this as an opportunity to offset my excessive demerits. I really burned the midnight oil. At first, it was just out of necessity, but as time passed, it had become a habit for me to take my lessons seriously. My aim to gain merits from perfect scores in lesson assessments and unit assessments produced another outcome, I emerged at the top of my class for that particular semester.

Codiam will also receive the Secretary of National Defense Saber, Social Sciences Plaque and the Spanish Armed Forces Saber.

Cadet 1st Class Alvin Jantala Balangcod is proud of his Kankanaey roots.

Prior to entering the Academy, Balangcod recalls the hardships to finish his studies.

“I was only able to finish the first year of BS in Criminology. I took examinations from the different academies and institutions that offer free education because [my family] can no longer afford college education. I was very fortunate to pass the PMA entrance examination and entered the Academy on April 1, 2010,” Balangcod shared.

While life in the Academy was never easy, Balangcod drew inspiration from his family and was motivated by the trials during his civilian life.

“I learned to give my best in living up to our honor code and our motto, courage, integrity and loyalty. However, the greatest learning I had in my journey of cadetship is that poverty or the lack of resources is not a hindrance for one to achieve success. Rather it is a source of inspiration and motivation for one to strive harder,” the 10th placer stressed.

The journalist’s take

Cadet 1st Class Lloyd Rosete of South Cotabato, editor-in-chief of the Corps Magazine, took to journalism during his elementary years.

“As early as my elementary years in King’s College of Marbel in Koronadal, South Cotabato, I have already heard of press conferences where young journalists participate,” Rosete, who receives this year’s Journalism Award, shared.

"But it was only in high school when I was able to join our school publication and eventually join the different levels of press conferences. My first event was news writing. I later on found myself in sports writing also," Rosete related to Sun.Star Baguio.

The 22-year-old soon to be Navy man said he took BS Nursing in Notre Dame University also in South Cotabato for two years. But he was driven to take the PMA exam when his family encountered financial constraints with his older sister also taking up nursing.

"And it has also been my dream to enter the Armed Forces. I took up Nursing because I wanted to be a military nurse," he said.

Upon entering the Academy, Rosete learned of his opportunities to write and put to use his journalism background.

Rosete did not waste any time pushing the pen and soon found himself as a regular contributor of the publication which he led during his Immaculate year.

“I found fulfillment handling the Corps Magazine because it gave us the chance to showcase PMA. The publication gives us a chance to give civilians a peek into our life and be able to inspire them through our experiences,” Rosete said.

He stressed it is also through the different publications in the Academy where cadets are able to show the lighter sides of their personalities.

"To let [civilians] know we are human and help them understand the different emotions and opinions we have is truly a fulfillment for me. All these we try to express as guided by our honor code and our motto," Rosete ended.

A dark cloud hovering

One could only speculate how the ranking officers of Asia's premiere military institution, its top 10 and other awardees truly felt during the press conference presenting the top graduates Tuesday.

After all, they are in the midst of controversy with their esteemed honor code being questioned.

But even with the Commission on Human Rights on the heels of Aldrin Cudia's case, PMA Superintendent Oscar Lopez announced the final disposition of the Armed Forces of the Philippines disallowing the embattled cadet to graduate on Sunday.

According to Lopez, Cudia, who remains at the Academy’s holding center to this day, has not completed his on the job training and other academic requirements when he was ordered to be separated from PMA.

But CHR-Cordillera director Harold Kub-aron revealed the agency interviewed Cudia Monday after his parents filed a complaint before their office citing their son’s right to due process was violated.

Kub-aron added the CHR is verifying documents and pieces of evidence submitted by Cudia’s family on the allegations pitted against him by the Honor Committee.

Kub-aron disclosed the cadet is voluntarily filing a case against the PMA Honor Committee stressing he did not lie.

Reportedly, the beleaguered cadet gave a different excuse from his two companions for being tardy in class.

The CHR director also told local reporters Cudia turned over a recording device to the agency.

He added the cadet’s parents do not believe the decision of the Honor Committee, a group composed only of cadets, is binding and could be the only basis for his dismissal.

Cudia disclosed in his affidavit of how the Honor Committee voted twice.

The first vote, he said, was changed from 8-1 into a unanimous vote ruling he is guilty of lying, a serious violation in the Honor Code of the country’s premier military institution.

The cadet was supposedly ranked third and the top of the Navy class according to Lopez.

Lopez has since submitted the review of Cadet Cudia's case to the AFP led by Chief of Staff General Emmanuel Bautista who ordered a reinvestigation of the cadet’s case.

Lopez maintained the previous decision of then PMA superintendent Edgar Abogado to remove Cudia from the Academy despite pleadings of his family.

Life goes on

According to Rosete, they will be given a month's vacation after graduation before getting posted in their chosen branch of the AFP.

"I will take this time to go home to South Cotabato," he shared.

The cadets who faced media on Tuesday, reserved as they may be, still displayed a confidence which cannot be denied them. Perhaps this is the result of surviving 4 years of the mental, physical and emotional rigors of the so-called cradle of the country’s heroes.

Perhaps.

Part of the appeal of the Philippine Military Academy is its mystery, how it can be viewed by civilians from the outside, learn a piece of its history but still not know what it means and takes to be a graduate of this institution.

Constantly under the scrutiny of media and public, constantly subject to criticism, accusations and judgment, they nevertheless, dared to dream.

“The dream of being a military man was not my ultimate goal until I was inspired and influenced by the soldiers who gave some, but most especially those who gave all in performing their mandate to serve the Filipino people and the nation,” Balangcod said.

But if the fulfillment of one’s dreams is indeed the measure of a man, then Cadet Codiam could not have asked for a better validation for their hard work and dedication to serve the country.

He asked, "Please be proud of us."

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on March 15, 2014.

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