By Marilou Guieb / Correspondent
A CADET who was turned back from his original class owing to illness and a female cadet were named the top graduates of the Philippine Military Academy’s (PMA) Gabay-Laya Class of 2016.
Cadet First Class Christine Mae Naungayan Calima, the only female among the top 10 PMA graduates this year, said her mother was very hesitant to let her join the PMA. But even as a child, she nurtured the dream of experiencing the stories about military life that her father, a reserve first lieutenant in the Army, used to tell her. She also had a dilemma before she finally decided to take the challenge, as she was already an accounting sophomore at the Saint Louis University in Baguio City.
She admitted that the physical training strained her and to make up on this aspect, where boys are undeniably stronger, she concentrated and excelled in academics. “It is said that females are more hardworking when it comes to studies,” she said.
Calima, 21, hails from Bolinao, Pangasinan. She will be awarded the Vice Presidential Saber, the Air Force, Saber and several other awards in recognition of her academic achievements. She will join the Air Force, and said that the thought of becoming a pilot brings to her a mixture of excitement and anxiety.
Like top graduate, Cadet First Class Kristian Daeve Gelacio Abiqui, Calima has not told her parents of her being second in her class and expects them to just hear the news on radio.
Abiqui, who will be awarded the Presidential Saber and the Navy Saber, can already imagine the surprise on his parents faces when they hear the honor to be bestowed on him. “I want it to be a surprise, “he said.
Abiqui has an added layer of gratitude for his achievement, as he was a “turnback” from his original 2015 batch, after suffering from bloated lungs or pneumothorax due to the training. “It was then the last quarter in our academics and I was recommended for suspension so I could recover,” he said.
It is an added reason that his batch is so endeared to him because they were very accommodating even if, as he said, he was once their upperclassman. They even made him vice president in their “cow,” or third year class, and the class president in fourth year.
“There are only 63 of us in this batch, so I made it a point to strengthen the solidarity. We had many challenges as a class, especially with upholding the honor system. Decisions, unpopular as they can be, had to be made,” he said.
Being a turnback may have contributed to his finishing on top of his class, because to feel that he belonged, he pursued relentlessly and with more vigor his academic, military, character and physical training.
Abiqui said the thought of entering the military was with him since high school, but he entered college when he was only 16 years old at the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) and was too young to qualify for the PMA. Being a UPLB student, the breeding ground of idealistic youth, fueled his desire to change the world.
“The Armed Forces was a very stable institution, so I decided to enter the PMA,” he said. He was then in his second year as a civil engineering student, like his father, a civil engineering graduate who works at the Department of Public Works and Highways.
Abiqui said he will spend a whole month with his parents in Isabela, where he hails from, to make up for the time as he was away from home since he was 16.
Abiqui will join the Navy because he feels that, with the Philippines an archipelagic country, it will be the service of the future, aside from the territorial issues plaguing the country now.
The rest of the top 10 graduates of PMA 2016 are Cadet First Class Arby Jurist Azman Cabrera, 21, of Isabela, who will get the Secretary of National Defense Saber; Cadet First Class Joseph Stalin Abara Fagsao, 22, of Quirino, who will awarded the Army Saber; Cadet First Class Jayson Jess Ananayo Tumitit, 23, of Baguio City; Cadet First Class Mark Joseph Cabanit Daria, 23, of Bangar, La Union; Cadet First Class Ace Uy Clarianes, 22, of Camarines Sur; Cadet First Class Prince Regodon Aday, 23, Davao del Sur; Cadet First Class George Bernard de Guzman, 21, Pangasinan; and Cadet First Class Gerald Manio Gasacao, 22, from Bulacan.
Cadet First Class Denzel Olarte Corpuz, 21, the brigade commander, or “baron,” of PMA Gabay-Laya Class of 2016. Corpuz is from Pasay City and is among the top graduates.
Gabay-Laya Class, with 63 graduates, is the smallest batch since 1970 that had only 67 graduates.
The PMA superintendent, Maj. Gen. Donato San Juan II, explained that it was still consistent with the ratio of some 50-percent success rate from the original number. Only, there was a smaller number of incoming cadets for the 2016 batch. The next incoming batch will be some 400 to make up for the small graduating batch, San Juan said.
There are 56 males and seven females from the original 123 members who reported on April 1, 2012. Fifty of them made it, with the 13 remaining turnbacks. Thirty three, four of them females, will join the Army; 13 (two females) will join the Air Force; and 17 (one female) will join the Navy.
Six members of the class were accepted to foreign-service academies. Four are in the US, finishing their training at the US Military Academy at West Point, New York, the US Air Force Academy in Colorado and the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland; one in the Korean Foreign Service Academy, one in Australian Defense Force Academy; and one in the Japan National Defense Academy.
On March 11 the PMA will hold the traditional rank insignia distribution by the Lim family, and the cadets will have their Ring Hop in the evening.
Defense Secretary Voltaire T. Gazmin will honor on March 12 the outstanding cadets, and the Commencement Exercises will be on March 13, with President Aquino as guest of honor.