CAVITE, Philippines – When Macdum Darping Enca was only 18 years old, he made a decision that would dictate the direction of the rest of his life.
He took the Philippine National Police Academy (PNPA) Cadet Entrance Exam, passed it, and made a curious decision not to tell his parents.
"I only informed them when I was in the last phase of the cadetship admission, which required going to the PNPA," he told Rappler in an interview days before their graduation on March 24, 2017.
When he eventually made the cut, Enca said his parents were surprised. "It's not that easy to let go of your son," he added
So worried were they about him that his father, a civil engineer, decided to stay behind for two weeks after his reception rites in the PNPA. "I think he was afraid that I might… [or] he was worried about me getting tired or having that turning point where I might just back out of the PNPA. [My family] is always there," he recalled.
But those days of uncertainty are a lifetime away. Under the bright Cavite sun on March 24, Enca marched as a cadet one last time as the PNPA "Masidlak" Class of 2017's top graduate.
His father wasn't able to make it to his graduation rites on Friday because of a recent medical procedure, something that made the eloquent and perennially composed young man choke up during his graduation speech.
"But I'm sure he was able to watch on TV," Enca told reporters after the graduation rites, flanked by his adoring relatives.
The call to serve
Enca had already finished his first year as an electrical and computer engineer scholar at the University of Southeastern Philippines in Davao City when he took and passed the PNPA exam. Although it was initially difficult for his parents to accept, the decision to join the academy – and eventually, become a policeman – came easy for Enca.
As a high-schooler, Enca was a member of the United Voices for Peace Network, a network of young Muslim leaders and professionals who worked to sustain peace in their community, helping families in far-flung areas.
One of his high school years was spent in the United States, as part of the American Field Services Intercultural Programs Youth Exchange Study.
"I saw that being a PNPA cadet and eventually, a public safety officer, is a great avenue to help more," he told Rappler.
"It's a sense of wanting to help people," said Enca, who will be commissioned into the Philippine National Police (PNP) as a Police Inspector.
The 4th in a brood of 6, Enca said quitting was never an option. "I'm determined and my being in the PNPA is a sacrifice. And when you say sacrifice, that means there's a determination to do the things you need to do," he said.
When he was young, the dream of Enca's father was for his son to be a engineer. His mother, a public elementary school teacher, doted on him and encouraged both academic and extra-curricular activities.
And although being a commissioned officer wasn't exactly in the books for their 4th child then, it's been his family that Enca leans on through thick and thin.
"I look up to my family in all the things I do. I'm challenged when I'm having a hard time. I see myself as a successful person so when I graduate from the academy, I will be able to help my family."
Enca, the son of an engineer, will be the first commissioned officer in his immediate family. "Ang araw na ito ay tila ba isang panaginip na maituturing (Today feels like a dream)," he told the crowd in Camp Castañeda, a mix of his classmates, top public officials, and relatives and friends of the Class of 2017.
Just like Duterte
Aside from the pile of academic awards Enca brought home, he also holds the distinction of being his class' regimental commander.
The new police inspector from Cotabato compared himself to President Rodrigo Duterte, the country's first Mindanaoan president. "Tulad po ninyo, hindi ko inaasahan na ako ay uupo bilang isang lider (Like you, I did not expect to be chosen as a leader)," he said.
That the class' top 10 hailed from Mindanao did not go unnoticed by Duterte.
This year's march took longer than usual, as Duterte took time to quickly chat with almost all graduates, particularly those from Mindanao. Enca said the president personally showed his pride over the Mindanaoan graduates, noting that his grandmother was a Maranao.
Enca also left out several paragraphs in his prepared speech, a copy of which had been given to media beforehand. The fresh graduate notably skipped paragraphs about two rather controversial topics that concern the police – criticism over the faults of wayward members and long sought-after peace.
He explained to media later on that he decided to cut those parts since his speech was too long.
Speaking to media, Enca said that despite the criticism thrown their way, his classmates – particularly those who chose to join the police force – are ready to fulfill their sworn duty.
"Tila ba kay bilis ng panahon, ang lahat ng ito ay nagsimula sa 'Insha Allah' o 'sa sa pahintulot ni Allah' na ngayo'y isa nang 'Alhamdulillah!' o 'ang papuri ay kay Allah,'" said Enca in his valedictory address.
(Time flies so fast, all of this started with "Insha Allah" or "God willing," and now it is "Alhamdulillah!" or "Praise Allah!")
The glory of March 24 will linger for a while in the hearts and minds of Class of 2017, but sooner rather than later, they'll have to face the realities, challenges, and burden of being the country's newest set of commissioned public safety officers. – Rappler.com