PNPA's sole female topnotcher: What men can do, we can do too

WOMEN ON TOP. Maysy Cataquiz meets Vice President Leni Robredo before the PNPA graduation rites on March 24, 2017. Photo from the Office of the Vice President

WOMEN ON TOP. Maysy Cataquiz meets Vice President Leni Robredo before the PNPA graduation rites on March 24, 2017.

Photo from the Office of the Vice President

CAVITE, Philippines – When Maysy Cataquiz took the Philippine National Police Academy (PNPA) Cadet Admission Test (CAT), she didn't think she would make the cut, much less spend the next 4 years of her life inside Camp Castañeda in Silang, Cavite.

Because when Cataquiz took the exam, it wasn't for glory or honor or ambition but for a much simpler reason: her parents wanted her to accompany her younger brother who wanted to be part of the PNPA.

As fate would have it, however, it was Cataquiz and not her brother who eventually made the cut and joined the PNPA Masidlak Class of 2017.

"Kasi first time ko mag-take, 'di ko matandaan kung nakakuha na ako ng exam na gano'n. Parang, ay, kaya ko pala ang ganoong exam," she told Rappler days before she graduated on Friday, March 24, officially joining the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) as a fire inspector.

(It was my first time to take an exam like that. I told myself, wow, I can do exams like this after all.)

And so Cataquiz, the daughter of two public school teachers, decided to take on the biggest challenge of her life yet: cadetship in the PNPA.

"Okay lang rin naman sa kanila. 'Di naman sila nag-iisip ng gano'n, iniisip rin nila na 'Ay kaya mo 'yan, anak, kasi nakaka-adapt ka naman sa environment.' Supportive naman sila sa nangyari sa akin," she said.

(My parents were okay with it. They never thought that I would have a hard time. They were thinking I could do it because I easily adapt to the environment. They were always supportive of me.)

On March 24, 2017, Cataquiz not only completed her cadetship in the academy but did so with flying colors. She graduated 10th in the class, the only woman among the topnotchers.

"For those young women na nagbabalak rin pumasok sa male-dominated institution, don't feel discriminated but take everything as a challenge na kailangan tayo. Prove our worth as a woman. Kung ano ang kaya nila, kaya rin natin," she told Rappler.

(For those young women who want to enter male-dominated institutions, don't feel discriminated but take everything as a challenge because they need us here. Prove our worth as a woman. What they can do, we can do too. )

4 years a cadet

The past 4 years have not been easy for Cataquiz, who sheepishly admitted that one of the hardest things she had to do was to chop all her hair off, a requirement for all women in the PNPA.

Once she was inside, Cataquiz said it was both easy and difficult. Easy because of the "brotherhood" inside the academy and difficult because of the expectations set for all cadets – both male and female.

"At first, it was difficult because I kept thinking that they were so strong. But I proved myself – that I could do whatever they could do," she told Rappler.

The Class of 2017 graduated with only 22 women in its ranks. 

Cataquiz admits there were times during the 4 years when she felt like giving up. "Kasi sobrang homesick tapos pagod (Because I was very homesick and often exhausted)," she said.

"But through my motivation and inspiration, I was able to do it. Especially when I would think about my family and my life, my future, and my desire to serve the public. This is for the country, so I was able to push through with it," she explained.

The former electronics engineering student also said her ultimate goal had been to be a doctor. As a member of the BFP, she has the option to join its search and rescue or emergency operations teams.

Although a career as a fire inspector wasn't her initial plan, Cataquiz is thankful because she will still be able to do what she's always dreamed of as a child: to save lives.

And her brother? Though he never joined the PNPA, he's graduating this year too, with a degree in information technology. – Rappler.com