Rock dela Rosa is no stranger to attention.
That’s what happens when your father is suddenly and simultaneously thrust into the limelight and under a microscope. It’s been almost a year but police Director General Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa remains a mainstay on primetime news — often finding himself defending the national police over criticisms of a government-backed drug war, declaring investigations into alleged corruption within the ranks or standing next to an even bigger draw, President Rodrigo Duterte.
The younger Dela Rosa knows exactly what his father goes through daily: the pressure, the scrutiny, the success and even the failings. Rubbing elbows with Miss Universe Pia Wurtzbach? Check. Bringing home a fugitive from Bangkok on a commercial flight next to your family? Check. Finding out cops are involved in the murder of a Korean businessman inside the national police headquarters? Check.
But on May 1, Rock stood among the 350 new recruits of the Philippine National Police Academy (PNPA). Or more like, stood out. This time, the media's attention was on him. After all, it’s not every day that the only son of the country’s top cop joins the academy.
“Feeling ko po ngayon parang blessed po ako. This is not just a blessing but also a privilege kaya kung anuman ang mangyari, lalaban po ako,” he said.
Wearing white shirts and jeans, the aspiring cadets were welcomed to the 4-year cadetship in Camp Castaneda in Silang, Cavite. They marched into the open field as relatives and friends cheered on from the bleachers.
The stage parents had a field day too.
“Anak ko ‘yan!” yelled one parent.
“Sobrang proud ako na makita siya ngayon diyan,” said another parent.
Yet it didn’t take long before the beaming smiles of the plebes were gone. On cue, the upperclassmen of the academy ran towards the cadets, swarmed around them and began yelling at them. It was madness. The upperclass told the newbies to drop to the ground and start doing push-ups. When arms got tired, they were told to do 20 more. Other cadets were told to start doing body rolls on the ground, dirtying up the clean, white shirts. Others were told to alternate between jumping jacks and sit-ups. Cadets had to do the bidding of the upperclassmen for three non-stop minutes per station. There were eight stations, representing each company of the PNPA.
Some cadets were told to close their eyes as they perform the harsh physical activities — seeing their parents from the stands might cause some of them to give up.
This is how the PNPA welcomes the freshmen.
Rock did not have any special treatment. Onlookers were both amazed and aghast as the upperclassmen screamed at the top cop’s son. In that moment, would-be police officials were allowed to give a Dela Rosa some tough love.
The actual, real, can-fire-you boss was nowhere near the academy. While his mother and sister attended the send-off to cheer him on, Rock’s father chose not to attend the reception rites.
"Takot ako baka mas lalo siyang pahirapan ng mga upper class na kadete pag andon ako... baka ma-challenge sila, pakita na talagang they are over and above the plebe who is my son. So ganon 'yun, ganon ‘yung attitude ng kadete so iwas nalang ako baka mamaya mas lalong mamalasin ang anak ko," Dela Rosa told reporters hours after.
Dela Rosa had his own first-hand experience of an environment where respect and discipline are instilled beyond the approved curriculum. He enrolled in the Philippine Military Academy 35 years ago.
Dela Rosa said that he would have wanted to be there to see his son off to school.
"Every significant event na mangyari sa buhay na anak mo, gusto mo talaga bilang tatay na andon ka... dapat nandoon ako pero pinigilan ko talaga dahil alam mo na," Dela Rosa said.
While Dela Rosa did not attend the reception rites, he was the one who brought his youngest to the academy a day earlier. Police sources said that Dela Rosa made arrangements so that his arrival at the PNPA would not draw any attention, even instructing several of his security convoy to remain outside the camp. Still, the arrival of the 4-star general meant that police officials in the area had to meet him as a show of courtesy.
Dela Rosa earlier said that he had apprehensions about his son’s entry to the academy.
“Kinakabahan kung kakayanin ba niya. I wish him good luck. Proud ako. Pero bilang ama, kinakabahan din. Makakaya ba niya training? Physically alam ko kayang kaya niya…malakas yun eh. Pero yung psychological, I don’t know. Iba siya. Iba ako,” Dela Rosa said.
"Ako, anak ako ng tricycle driver kaya no retreat, no surrender ako. Papasok ako doon – kahit na babagsakan mo ako ng shot put sa tiyan ko, hindi ako uuwi ng Davao. Pero siya, anak siya ng chief PNP kaya iba na rin 'yung psychological kuwan niya. Medyo kuwan lang ako, apprehensive, but anyway, pabayaan ko siya kung ano gusto niya sa buhay," Dela Rosa added.
Rock has assured his father that he is up to the task. He understand too that his father’s shadow looms over him at the academy. But he insists, his choice to become a cop had nothing to do with his father.
"Dili nako gusto buhaton para sa iyaha, gusto nako ni buhaton kay love nako ang akong pamilya, mga PNP, mura nakog pamilya sa ilaha ug tibuok Pilipino gyud, ug ang Presidente pud, mahal jud nako ang Presidente," the 22-year-old explained. (I am not doing this for him, but for my love for my family, the PNP, my fellow Filipino people and the President.)
During the end of the traditional welcome, Rock sat down to get his head shaved along with the rest of other cadets. He may not be his father and he may want to forge his own path, but with the new cut, the physical resemblance between the Dela Rosas was undeniable.
Exhausted from the initiation, he joined the other recruits in a formation — all of them carrying a bag with personal belongings they brought to the academy. Some cadets forced their tired, aching arms to go up for one last wave — a farewell wave to their parents and loved ones.
Day 1, done. Four more years to go.