FORT DEL PILAR, Baguio City—He was named after the most notorious criminal in the Middle East at the time of his birth, Jayawardene.
That’s how Philippine Military Academy (PMA) top-notcher Cadet First Class (1CL) Jaywardene Galilea Hontoria described the man who his father named him after simply because it sounded quite fancy.
A registered nurse based in Iloilo, Hontoria chose to pursue his dream to serve as a soldier after completing his nursing stint.
His inner call to serve was awakened while in high school, after he was asked to take the PMA exam, but the wish of his aunt, Corazon de Maala, and his family prevailed.
While he learned to love nursing, even earning an award for Best in Community Health Service, he asked his family that since he had fulfilled their wish, he would like to pursue his own deream.
“Somehow, I did not feel complete,” he said.
He was right on time as he was at the cutoff age of 21 when he took the PMA entrance-qualifying exam.
“I had a dream, and I took the steps toward it,” he said.
Nursing seemed to attach to a life of comfort, something he was not used to.
Hontoria grew up in difficult circumstances. As a young 8-year- old, he was out in the fields helping his farmer father till a land as a tenant. He cleared the fields of weeds, helped harvest, segregated good from bad crops and assisted his father in bringing the goods to the supermarkets. This early reality taught him a life motivation: What you do not have, reach out to have it.
Hontoria considered one of his biggest hurdles as being the brigade company commander or baron. This highest position also entailed pressure from officers and looking after your “mistahs.” One has to decide if an order is also good for the cadets.
Lt.Gen. Donato San Juan, PMA superintendent, said it is quite historic to have a baron become a top-notcher, Hontoria being only the third in the PMA history.
San Juan said the first was one Cadet Estrada in 1938 and the second in 1951 was Cadet Leopoldo Reghis, for which a hall is named after at the Academy.
Since females were first admitted at PMA in 1993, they always ended up among the top 10. This year was not different. Cadet 1CL Leonore Andrea Carino Japitan is finishing fourth in her class. Coming from Butuan City, she affirms she is ready to take on battle duties even while as a growing girl, she did not experience violence in her relatively peaceful city. It was her father who had a dream to be a soldier, but circumstances did not allow this. The idea of a military life remained in her consciousness, and when in high school, a time in her life she said she did not really know what to do, the idea appealed to her. Otherwise, she would have taken up accountancy, which she did for one year in college, until she qualified for her PMA scholarship, age-wise.
Japitan will be with the Philippine Air Force after graduating at 21 years old. Her father is a tricycle driver, while her mother is a government employee. Japitan will be getting the Management Plaque.
Finishing number six is Cadet 1CL Jezaira Laquinon Buenaventura from Bais City, Negros Oriental. She will be awarded the Department of Tactical Officers Plaque, Aguinaldo Saber, Distingushed Cadet Award (Starman). She finished two years of BS Biology and was in the Dean’s List at Silliman University before entering the PMA. She will be joining the Philippine Army.
Buenaventura said there is enough gender sensitivity provided in terms of facility at the Academy. She added that while she is close to both male and female cadets, she admits there is comfort in the company of female cadets at the end of the day, when there are girl talks among them. They shared an understanding of feminine concerns in relation to physical training.
Completing the top 10 is Cadet 1CL Micah Quiambao Reynaldo, 22 years old, from Tarlac. She was studying Psychology in her second year at the Tarlac State University when she joined the PMA. She will be with the Philippine Air Force after graduation. She will be getting the Australian Defense Best Overall Performance Award-Philippine Air Force.
Also, San Juan said they are launching athletic recognition separately for male and female cadets this year, and for the first time, the Athletic Saber will go to two graduates: Cadet 1CL Jasm Marie Alcoriza will be awarded the Athletic Saber, together with second-placer Cadet 1CL Ricardo Witawit Liwaden. These separate athletic awards will be a tradition from here on.
Alcoriza hails from Bacolod City and will serve as a Philippine Army officer. She held leadership positions on the taekwondo, basketball and wushu and muay thai squads.
Last year Batch Salaknib had eight female cadets among the top 10 graduates, the most honorees since females were accepted into the PMA in 1993. That year also had the highest number of female graduates, numbering 63.
San Juan added that they have maintained the 20-percent female cadet population required by law.
San Juan added that over the years, the PMA has gained confidence of having female PMA officers become platoon and company commandants or leaders in the battlefield.
“We give equal opportunities. They are just as capable,” he said. “And there is something to be said about women’s intuition on the battleground.”
It was then fresh graduate—now Lt. Col. Leah Lorenzo-Santiago, the first female company commandant way back in late 1997, who broke the tradition of only men on the frontlines. They were clamoring for leadership positions and Gen. Roy A. Cimatu took the chance with Lorenzo-Santiago in the ongoing Mindanao battle then. Lorenzo-Santiago said his soldiers were respectful, but as a Filipino trait, they would always check on her after every operation. Female company commandants have become commonplace since.
Others in the top 10 are Cadet 1CL Ricardo Witawit, 24, from Barlig, Mountain Province, who will be awarded the Vice Presidential Saber, Philippine Army Saber, Sports and Physical Development Plaque, Tactics Group Award and the Athletic Saber.
He was in his fourth year in Civil Engineering at the Saint Louis University in Baguio City when he entered the PMA.
He is the son of Ricardo Liwaden Sr., a farmer, and Catherine Liwaden, a retired teacher.
Third in rank is Cadet 1CL Jun-Jay Malazzab Castro, 23, also the son of a farmer from Cagayan. He was in his second year in Electric and Communication Engineering when he decided to join the PMA. He will join the Philippine Army. He will be awarded the Secretary of Defense Saber.
Cadet 1CL Mark Jantzen Nono Dacillo, 25, from Zamboanga City, ranks fifth. He, too, was in his second year in college taking up General Engineering when he accepted the PMA scholarship. He will be joining the Philippine Army.
Number seven is Cadet 1CL Jessie Antonio Laranang, 22, from Tarlac, also the son of a farmer. He was in his second year at the Tarlac Agriculture University taking up Elementary Education when the call to military life was made. Laranang will be given the Philippine Air Force Saber.
Cadet 1CL Paolo Balla Briones is eighth in rank. Only 20 years old, Briones hails from Baguio City and was in his first year in Civil Engineering at the Saint Louis University when he joined the PMA. His father is enlisted in the Philippine Army. He will join the Philippine Air Force.
Ninth in rank is Cadet 1CL Jayson Raymundo Cimatu, 24. He was about to finish a Bachelor of Science course in Criminology at the University of Baguio when he ventured into the PMA. He is the son of a retired army enlisted man.
Cadet 1CL Christian Michael Olarte Pena from Legazpi City, Albay, will be receiving the Journalism Award as chairman and editor in chief of the Corps publication.
The graduating class has called themselves the Alab Tala–Alagad ng Lahing Binigkis ng Tapang at Lakas.
The batch is 282 strong, with 105 males and 38 lady cadets to graduate in the traditional presence of the President of the Philippines.
It will be a day of pride for the graduates and a historic one for Hontoria, not only as the third baron topnotcher but for a memorable event.
Hontoria will be marrying his college sweetheart, Loura Fe Dellera, also a nurse, on the afternoon of graduation day at the PMA chapel, followed by an open-garden reception at PMA grounds.