AFTER four years of hard work and dedicated schooling to become professional soldiers in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), 281 cadets will receive their diploma and other tokens of recognition during the graduation rites of the Philippine Military Academy on Sunday. On the centerstage are the officers and members of PMA Alab-Tala Class of 2018 Alad ng Lahing Biningkis ng Tapang at Lakas led by Cadet Valedictorian Jaywardene Hontoria, the Baron for Brigade Commander of the Cadet Corps. He is the third Baron in the 67-year history of the PMA to graduate on top of his class. He is from Balabag, Pavia, Iloilo, and is also a nursing graduate practicing his profession before he joined the country's premiere military school. "It was really my desire to become a soldier," he said, "I will always be a nurse while in the battlefield."
In keeping with its proud tradition, the President of the Philippines who is the Chief of Staff of the AFP will be the Guest of Honor and Speaker. Hence, apo Rodrigo Duterte will be on the centerstage with the graduating cadets who will receive their individual diploma and commissionship as Officers in the AFP's various branch of service, depending on the graduate's choice. Hontoria will join the Philippine Marines.
As the class topnotcher, Hontoria will receive from apo Duterte the Presidential Saber Award. He will also receive the Chief of Staff Saber, Philippine Navy Saber, Academic Group Award, Australian Defense Beast Overall Perfomance Award, Spanish Armed Forces Award, Humanities Plaque, JUSMAG Award, and the Department of Leadership Plaque.
With pride and distinction, the Salutatorian of the graduating class is Cadest First Class Ricardo Liwaden from Barlig, Mountain Province. Three women cadets also made it to the Top 10.
The major weekend activities of the PMA graduation program starts this morning with an "open house." Thousands of relatives and friends of the graduating class from all over the country are expected to crowd the program lanes at the academy to enjoy their loved one's "once in a lifetime" spectacle. My wife Consuelo Sol and I are not exempted. With the Lord's blessing, we have a grandson, Cadet Dwight Bermudez, 21, who is with Class Alab-Tala 2018. Dwight is the eldest son of Jessie and Angel Bermudez of Jones, Isabela and Malaybalay, Bukidnon Province. The late Jessie is the third younger brother of my partner Sol. The mother of Dwight, his two younger sisters, and his grandmother arrived in the city Thursday night. They are now staying with us at Benin, Pinsao Proper for the PMA graduation activities. The family of my wife's younger brother, Modesto, also arrived yesterday to join us in celebrating Dwight's achievement. We have two PMAyers in the clan. Retired Col. Felipe "Pipes" Buena, the loving husband of our daughter Marisol graduated from the PMA as the No. 2 man in his class in 1978. For many years, he was with the staff of former President Fidel V. Ramos. More prominently, during the EDSA People's Revolution in 1986.
Suffice it to say that the Philippine Military Academy is one institution that is close to our hearts. Since the start of the annual Silahis ng Pasko sa Baguio Christmas Season in 1973, PMA was the event host of the "PMA Cadets Day at the Park" program. In other words, PMA was one of the original charter program sponsors of the month-long Yuletide Season event in the city, a caring and sharing offering. The PMA presentation at the Burnham Park every year is an "immersion" brand of activity to bring the Academy and the Cadets closer to the people and vice versa. The episode which is highlighted with a Cadet's Silent Drill Exhibition and a PMA Band Concert at the Park are truly special events to help generate and enliven the spirit of Christmas, particularly among the city's cosmopolitan residents including the young, the elderlies, the PWDs, and visitors.
For many long years, yours truly, was personally part of the PMA activities. With pardonable pride, the PMA authorities acknowledged my modest contribution as City Tourism Direction in 1973 fostering closer relationship between the city and the Academy. A Plaque of Appreciation for my services was presented by PMA Supt. Brig. Gen. Ernesto Gidaya. In 1993, I received a Plaque of Appreciation for my continued efforts as City Councilor doing the same promotions, from PMA Supt. Rear Admiral Virgio Marcelo.
During the PMA Foundation Day Celebration in 1986, the PMA also presented to me a Plaque of Appreciation for my invaluable services as a "journalist", particularly for my various tri-media coverage about PMA's activities. The prestigious award was signed by PMA Supt. Brig. Gen. Jose Maria Zumel. The picture in my column this week tells the story.