PHILIPPINE Military Academy (PMA) Cadet First Class Gemalyn Sugui from Echague, Isabela is this year’s PMA valedictorian - the sixth female in the history of Asia’s premiere military academy to graduate number one of a class.
It was in 1993 when women were granted the rights to become trained combat soldiers in the academy.
This year, Sugui joins the roster of women who topped the class including 2019 Mabalasik Class valedictorian Dionne Mae Apolog Umalla, with Arlene Dela Cruz making the feat in 1999, followed by Tara Velasco in 2003, Andrelee Mojica in 2007 and Rovi Mariel Martinez in 2017.
In a simple and private commencement exercise at Fort del Pilar in Baguio City, the 25-year-old daughter of a farmer and teacher was awarded the Presidential Saber for topping her class.
Before entering the academy, she graduated Bachelor of Science Management Economics in University of the Philippines - Baguio.
Sugui narrated a part of her wanted to be a member of the military and both her parents were supportive when she passed the PMA entrance examination.
“Mahirap iyong experience sa PMA pero never sumagi na gusto kong mag quit, gusto ko talaga iyong pagpasok sa PMA. Naisip ko na iyong pagcollege ko na sinimulan ko kahit nahirapan ako tinapos ko, paano iyong gusto ko talaga ang pagiging kadete. Kahit nahirapan, tinapos ko at hindi ko naisip na mag quit,” she added.
It came as a surprise she described when she discovered that she is the top of the class.
“Siguro may plano ang Diyos kung bakit niya ako nilagay sa posisyon na ito. Kahit na hindi ko man pinagdarasal na makuha binigay niya sa akin kasi kaya ko, at kung ano man iyong dahilan tatangapin ko at papanindigan ko.”
She also thanked her parents and dedicated her success to them addressing all PMA aspirants to give their best.
“Give it all your best, walang makakapigil sa isang pursigidong tao.”
Sugui was awarded the Achievement Award for Academic Excellence, the JUSMAG Award, the Philippine Army Saber, the Spanish Armed Forces Award, the Social Sciences Plaque, the Management Plaque, and the Rule of Law Award.
She is among the 196 graduates of PMA “Masidlawin” (Mandirigmang Isinilang na may Dangal at Lakas UpangMaging Tanglaw ng Inang Bayan) Class of 2020.
This year’s salutatorian is Cadet First Class Jade Villanueva from Tacloban City and awarded with the Vice Presidential Saber, the Association of Generals and Flag Officers Award, the Academic Group Award, the Australian Defense Best Over-all Performance Award, the General Antonio Luna Award, the Army Service Professional Courses Plaque, the Department of Leadership Plaque, and the Humanities Plaque.
Top 3 is Cadet First Class Jefferson Salazar from Zamboanga City and was awarded the Secretary of National Defense Saber, the Philippine Navy Saber, the Australian Defense Best Over-all Performance Award, and the Mathematics Plaque.
Cordilleran Cadette First Class Rojes Gaile Jamandre who hails from Lamut, Ifugao is graduating Top 4 of the class.
Another Cordilleran, Cadet First Class Jeb Bay-an from La Trinidad, Benguet is Top 5. He will also receive the Philippine Air Force Award and the Australian Defense Best Over-all Performance Award.
Cadet First Class Catabay Ladyong from Tabuk, Kalinga is Top 6.
Cadet First Class Vanelyn Angel Tabao from Tuguegarao City and Cadet First Class June Giel Anne Factor from Piddig, Ilocos Norte are Top 7 and 8, respectively.
Cadet First Class Rubenson Abgao is Top 9 from Maliwanag Baroy, Lanao del Norte.
He is also awarded with the Air Force Service Professional Courses Plaque.
Top 10 is Cadet First Class Dencel Aina Bayaca of Floridablanca, Pampanga.
In addition, the Brigade Commander of the Cadet Corps of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Cadet First Class Marion Dale Cordova of Nagcarlan, Laguna is awarded with the Chief of Staff Saber and the Achievement Award for Leadership.
Despite the pandemic, the 2020 batch will be reporting straight to their respective major services in the Army, Air Force and Navy as new additional officers.
In an statement, the PMA added in consultation with health authorities and higher headquarters, PMA decided not to open the graduation rites to the general public due to the Covid - 19 pandemic crisis, to include the parents, relatives, friends, and loved ones of the graduating cadets.
“I believe this is a necessary decision in order to safeguard the health and general well-being of the CCAFP and the whole PMA community. As a parent, I know how heartbreaking and disappointing that decision is, but we have to do what is best for all. Safety and health are paramount at all times,” said the Superintendent, Vice Admiral Allan Ferdinand Cusi AFP.
He cited the risk involved and the exposure to Covid-19 is still highly uncertain, complex and unpredictable during this trying times.
“In line with this, I personally wrote, congratulated and informed each parent of the graduating class regarding this decision. We assured them, however, that the graduating Class of 2020 will be rendered a meaningful recognition of their graduation. I believe we owe it to the graduating class to exhaust all efforts in our decision-making and planning process to make this time special for them, albeit under the guidelines set by the government in addressing the Covid-19 crisis to ensure the safety, well-being and health of all our cadets and the whole PMA community,” Cusi said.
The strong 196 graduates are composed of 173 males and 23 females.
There will be 100 (10 females) joining the Philippine Army, while 45 (6 females) and 51 (7 females) members are joining the Philippine Air Force and Philippine Navy, respectively.