FORT DEL PILAR -- President Rodrigo Duterte led the graduation rites at the Philippine Military Academy engaging cadets in small talk and patting them on the shoulder as he gave certificates of graduation.
Duterte said the historical phenomenon of having eight women in the top 10, including the top cadet, is a fitting tribute to all mothers, sisters and daughters as the nation celebrates women's month.
PMA class of 2017 has 63 female cadets, the most number to graduate in a single class, which comprises 24 percent of the total class, and higher than the percentage required by law, which is set at 20 percent.
Duterte described the 167 strong Sanggalang ay Lakas at Buhay Para sa Kalayaan Ng Inang Bayan (SALAKNIB) as the cream of the crop and asked them to be true to their class name and urged the newly commissioned officer to defend the motherland with honor and might.
The President said the graduating class bested over 22,000 who took the exams and hurdled the rigourous training at academy.
Newly commissioned Navy Ensign Eda Glis Marapao which ranked third who hails from Buguias has made the Benguet town proud with her accomplishment as parents Edgar and Helen in attendance during the Sunday ceremonies.
Eda, according to her father, was in her third year in civil engineering at Saint Louis university when the probability of entering the academy was broached.
"She had no plans before but suddenly she took the exams and passed," her father, a retired military man, said.
The Marapao family has another daughter in the academy and a son, who is also on the brink of entering Asia's premier military academy.
Graduating with top honors, 2nd Lieutenant Rovi Mairel Martinez of Cabanatuan City said to be part of the PMA is a blessing and graduating at the top is another gift from God.
"We commit mistakes, we slept in class, we are imperfect but it does not mean you do not aim for excellence," said Martinez.
Martinez thanked her squad, mentors and family whom she described to have carried the burden of the profession we have chosen.
Duterte meanwhile ended up apologizing to Vice President Leni Robredo after he failed to acknowledge her in his speech during commencement exercises.
The President was reminded of the impasse by his aide de camp four minutes into his speech and went on to acknowledge the Vice President whom he described to be a "very beautiful lady."
Duterte also apologized to the cadet corps for failing to administer traditional "tikas pahinga".
Robredo was placed one seat apart from the chief executive, arrangements specifically made the Palace to not make the paths of the two meet with each having separate schedules and holding areas.
The second top cadet is Philip Viscaya of Ligao City in Albay province.
Other female cadets who were in the top ten are Cathleen Jovi Santiano Baybayan of the City of San Fernando in Pampanga, fourth; Shiela Joy Ramiro Jallorina of Bagabag, Nueva Vizcaya, sixth; Sheila Marie Calonge de Guzman of Manaoag, Pangasinan, seventh; Joyzy Mencias Funchica of Butuan City, eighth; Resie Jezreel Arrocena Hucalla of Nabunturan, Compostela Valley, ninth; and Catherine Mae Gonzales of Zamboanga City, 10th.The fifth ranking cadet is C1C Emmanuel Canlas of Lubao, Pampanga.
Only two male cadets made the top 10.
Martinez is the fourth female to top a class since the academy graduated the seven female cadets in 1997.