Cadet 1st Class Gemalyn Deocares Sugui, the valedictorian of Philippine Military Academy "Masidlawin" Class of 2020, was supposed to graduate last year.
“I passed the exam for 2019. But then I hesitated because it is in conflict with my course. I will graduate in June 2015 but I need to enter PMA that April,” Sugui said.
“My 4 years would be wasted although I was having problems with my thesis,” she said.
So Sugui decided to finish her Bachelor of Science in Management Economics at the University of the Philippines Baguio.
“On the next year, I’m still in the age bracket,” she said.
On Friday, Sugui, who will join the Philippine Army, will lead 195 other members of the PMA Masidlawin (Mandirigmang Isinilang na may Dangal at Lakas Upang Maging Tanglaw ng Inang Bayan) Class of 2020.
Sugui will also receive the Presidential Saber, 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.
It will be the loneliest graduation to be held at the Borromeo Field with no guests allowed because of the COVID-19 crisis – not even parents, relatives, or their foster parents in Baguio were allowed in.
Traditionally, the delegation of Cagayan Valley would include a brass band which would play whenever a graduate from Region II was called.
Sugui is from Purok 3 San Antonio Minit, Echague, Isabela, having been born there on November 21, 1994.
Her father is a farmer while her mother is a public school teacher. Sugui is the youngest of 4 children, and all her elder siblings finished college.
Sugui said that she was clueless about the PMA when she entered in 2016, and that the first two months – known as the beast barracks – shook her from her usual life of a youngest child who depended on her parents for her whims.
“But it never came to my mind to quit,” she said.
Although there are only 23 females in the class, 5 of them made it to the Top Ten.
Inspired by a teleserye
Like Sugui, the class salutatorian is a son of a farmer and a public school teacher.
Cadet 1st Class Jade Campo Villanueva idolized his mother Lucita so much that he finished BS in Secondary Education at the Leyte Normal University prior to entering the PMA.
Villanueva is the eldest of 3 children and he said that he was inspired to join the PMA alfter watching a teleserye about PMA life.
He said that his parents were not keen on letting him enter the academy, and that his mother told him that he could already teach.
“For 21 years, I was the assistant of my mother and when I was inside the PMA, all I was thinking was, who was helping her?” he said.
“When I flunked my BS Accountancy course, I saw my mother cry. I don’t want to make her cry again,” he said.
Villanueva said that he already bought tickets for his family to attend the graduation.
“But now I understood why. The PMA prioritized the safety and health of our families,” he said.
Also joining the Army, Villanueva will receive the Vice Presidential Saber, General Antonio Luna Award, AGFO Award for Leadership Plaque, Australian Defense Best Overall Performance Award, Army Professional Course Plaque, and Humanities Plaque.
Driven by Zamboanga siege
Third in the class is Cadet 1st Class Jefferson Yamson Salazar from Sanat Catalina, Zamboanga City.
He is a Muslim and a son of driver.
Salazar said that what made him enter the PMA was the Zamboanga Siege in 2013 when Moro National Liberation Front rebels laid siege on the city.
“I was still in college (he was 4th year in BS Physics at the Western Mindanao State University) when it happened and we became evacuees. My barangay was in ruins,” he recalled. (READ: Zamboanga: The forgotten crisis)
He did not finish his course and decided to enter the PMA.
“I didn’t expect to be in the Top 10. All I wanted was to graduate,” he said.
Being the highest-ranked in their class to go to the Philippine Navy, Yamson will receive the Australian Defense Best Overall Performance Award, the Secretary of Defense Saber, Mathematics Plaque, and the Philippine Navy Saber.
There were 365 members of Masidlawin Class in 2016, one of the biggest batch to enter the PMA. They were whittled to 196 with 172 males and 23 females. Twenty-two turnbacks (cadets from previous classes who finally managed to complete their requirements) joined them.
One hundred, 10 of them women, are joining theArmy, 44 (including 6 females) are joining the Philippine Air Force, while 48 (including 7 females) are joining the Navy.
There are 10 members of the class who are currently training abroad, 3 in Republic of Korea Military Academy, 3 in Australian Defense Force Academy, 2 in Royal Military Academy of Canada and 2 in Japan National Defense Academy. – Rappler.com