FORT DEL PILAR, Baguio City – A former errand boy and son of a tricycle driver from Dumaguete City will lead the 227 graduates of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) this year.

Rear Admiral Nonato Calderon, superintendent of the PMA, on Monday said Cadet First Class Erano Bontilao Belen will receive the Presidential Saber from President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on March 1 as the class valedictorian of Masidlak Class of 2010.

Masidlak stands for "Mandirigmang Sibol ng Dakilang Lahing Kayumanggi".

"In many instances we, experienced how it is to eat with only salt as our viand. But this condition of our family did not hinder my parents from sending us to school," Belen said.

Before he joined PMA four years ago, Belen served as an errand boy of a law firm in Dumaguete City as his father is a tricycle driver and his mother is a plain housewife.

He had units in electronics and communications engineering and evangelical ministry which helped him understand life itself and the needed sacrifice and discipline in the academy.

The graduates who will get their Bachelor in Science will receive their direct commission as officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) with the ranks of second lieutenants and ensigns.

Calderon assured that the PMA graduates under the new curriculum have the remote possibility of being mutineers "because mutiny is not part of being professional soldiers."

Completing the list of academic excellence awardees are Cadet First Class Froilan Jick B. Binay-an, second; Nolito O. Ebal, third; Johnson R. Gonzales, fourth; Jaqcob Jorge A. Kho, fifth; Joel S. Perante, sixth; Erwin R. Villanueva, seventh; Alfie P). Agarao, eighth; Karen N. Padayao, ninth; and Ric Ivan C. Joven, tenth. (PNA/Sunnex)