A legacy of heroism

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Monday, March 17, 2014


FORT DEL PILAR -- Her father's death paved the way for her heroism.

Philippine Military Academy newly installed 2nd Lt. Precious Jewel Forrosuelo earned her spot in 18th place as part of Class 2014 Siklabdiwa (Sundalong Ikararangal ng Lahing Bayani sa diwang Wagas) during Sunday’s commencement exercises.

Forrosuelo is the daughter of Tactical Sergeant Claudio, who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Valor for showing courage and gallantry during the all-out war against the Moro-Islamic Liberation Front in camp Abu Bakar, Maguindanao.

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Forrosuelo was killed in battle by the MILF in Datu Paglas, Maguindanao in 2000.

Jewel will join the Army, the same branch of service her fallen father took.

"Continuing my father's heroism would not be easy [but] I will not let it be wasted," she stressed.

Forrosuelo said she was only eight years old when her father died. The decision to join the PMA was extremely hard to make but realized her father's love for service was enough to fuel her decision to join the military.

Forrosuelo said the open offer to have an instant slot in the PMA as part of the privileges of being a Medal of Valor awardee's daughter was too much to resist.

Various privileges are given to families of Valor awardees, including 20 percent less on transportation, monthly allowances, education for dependents up to post doctorate degree as well as a guaranteed slot in Asia's premier military academy, without taking the entrance examinations.

"At first, I strived hard to go along with the system of academics, though at first I was discouraged by the fact that all my classmates passed the tough entrance examinations which I haven't took," Jewel said.

Forrosuelo describes the first year of her cadetship as the hardest, physically and emotionally.

"The pressure na bayani ang tatay ko was always there," she said.

Her father, Claudio, died in Matanog, Maguindanao in 2000 defending his comrades and the nation against 500 MILF rebels as member of the 8th Scout Ranger Company, 2nd Scout Ranger Battalion, 1st Scout Ranger Regiment, Special Operations Command, Philippine Army.

Claudio, who sensed the enemies were on the verge of out flanking the troops, led his company to a daring and decisive tactical assault on the well entrenched enemy position in order to ease the pressure from the troops and allow them to extricate their wounded comrades.

While leading the most forward element of the battalion, he courageously held the ground and fought the enemy along with other members of his platoon in a close battle while providing accurate cover fires in order to prevent the enemy from enveloping the troops.

During the fierce encounter, the enemy sustained more casualties than the government troops.

Proud Uragon

Class valedictorian Llona, meanwhile, offered his graduation to his parents and brother, his biggest inspirations he said.

Llona, who will join the Philippine Air Force, related it was his older brother Randy who encouraged him to join the Reserved Officers Training Corps and eventually the Philippine Military Academy.

He recalled how his parents, Nelson and Gloria, had reservations about him joining PMA but was determined to help his brothers and sisters and stressed his desire to help provide for the family.

Llona also found strength in his girlfriend Leilani.

He thanked his mentors inside the academy and Albay Governor Joey Salceda who attended the graduation to personally congratulate Llona and invite him for a commendation program in their home province.

Class goat

This year's Class Goat shares there will be no goat meat to be served in their feast.

Newly commissioned 2Lt. Ernalyn Fernando of Bulanao, Tabuk City, Kalinga shared their celebration back home will probably be composed of carabao meat as she dedicated her graduation to her parents.

Fernando stressed her last place finish is never a setback but a proof of her perseverance in preserving the Honor Code.

This is the first time a woman placed Class Goat since the PMA started accepting female cadets 21 years ago.

But it was not Fernando’s grades, which pulled her down but breaking one of the rules and regulations inside the Academy, which she no longer discussed.

Fernando shared it was actually her grades which prevented her from being turned back.

A former second year civil engineering student at the Saint Louis University here, Fernando is known to push her grades up by topping exams and studying every time she can.

But after breaking a regulation in the academy, Fernando faced her demerits which brought the former consistent dean’s list to the bottom of 223 graduating cadets this year.

She opted not to complain on her demerits and instead faced it head-on like a true cadet believing her last place finish will not stop her from reaching her dreams of becoming part of the Philippine Air Force.

After all, she says graduating cadets are given a clean slate upon entering the different branches of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, all receiving the same pay, which she will share with her family.

She also bragged she will be a few thousand bucks richer than her classmates since the entire Siklab Diwa class agreed to pass the hat to contribute for the pocket money of the last placer in going home to Kalinga.

Fernando’s daughter, Dorothy, said their entire family was surprised at the standing of her daughter who always performed well in class. But she stressed they will always be proud of her daughter. Ernalyn’s father, Henry, was a policeman who died a few years ago. (Maria Elena Catajan with JM Agreda)

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on March 18, 2014.

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