MANILA — After 2 years of being unable to return home to their families due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 310 cadets of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) "Madasigon" Class of 2023 officially departed the campus halls as they graduated on Sunday.
PMA said the graduating class consists of 238 males and 72 females, and will be deployed to various units of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) after graduation.
Of the graduates, 158 of are joining the Philippine Army (PA), 77 in the Philippine Navy (PN) and 75 in the Philippine Air Force (PAF), the PMA said.
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. personally led the graduation rites at Fort General Gregorio Del Pilar in Baguio City, his first as the country's commander-in-chief.
Because they were compelled to stay inside the PMA campus over the last few years amid the surge in COVID-19 cases, Marcos Jr. in jest called the graduates "ang class na walang uwian."
"Nami-miss na kayo ng pamilya ninyo pero pinagtiyagaan ninyo kaya tayo nakaabot dito sa araw na ito," he said.
(Your families miss you but you endured until reaching up to this day.)
Marcos said he was open to closely working with the new graduates as they enter the AFP, telling them to "diligently work for unity, respect for democratic ideals, institutions, and mechanisms, and the rule of law."
He also noted the new PMA graduates would be entering the AFP amid his administration's push for its modernization, just days after he signed a law amending RA 11709, which fixed the term of office for the head and other senior officers of AFP.
"As you join the military's ranks, continue to fuel your undying commitment to genuine love for country and for public service," the President said.
2 fallen 'mistahs' honored
Cadet First Class (1CL) Warren Leonor, the class valedictorian, paid tribute to 2 of their fallen classmates who died when they were still freshmen in 2019: Darwin Dormitorio and Mario Telan Jr.
In his valedictory speech, Leonor said Dormitorio's and Telan's deaths broke their class "bodily and in spirit," on top of the "unprecendented challenges brought about by the pandemic."
"You will forever be a cherished part of the Madasigon Class of 2023," he said.
Dormitorio died in September 2019, after being confined twice a month prior with bruises on his stomach consistent with hazing. Two PMA cadets and three of the academy's doctors were slapped with charges following his death.
Two months after Dormitorio's passing, Telan was found dead at the bottom of the PMA pool following a swimming class; police eventually confirmed that he had drowned.
Top graduates recognized
Leonor, who hails from Lipa City, Batangas, is the son of a retired personnel of the PAF, which he will join soon after graduation.
He received the Presidential Saber from Marcos Jr. during the graduation rites Sunday, aside from graduating with cum laude honors.
Leonor also received the following accolades: Australian Defense Best Overall Performance Award, Academic Group Award, Social Sciences Plaque, Air Force Professional Courses Plaque, General Antonio Luna Award, Spanish Armed Forces Award, Philippine Air Force Saber, National Security Studies Plaque, Management Plaque, Tactics Group Award, SPDU Plaque, and Jusmag Saber.
The following also comprise the top graduates of the PMA Class of 2023:
- 2nd: Cadet 1CL Edmundo Logronio
- 3rd: Cadet 1CL Nicole Sarmiento
- 4th: Cadet 1CL Zhen Zhen Cayton
- 5th: Cadet 1CL Rez Mark Cantor
- 6th: Cadet 1CL Rojan Macario
- 7th: Cadet 1CL Samuel Banac
- 8th: Cadet 1CL Kimberly Kate Lawingan
- 9th: Cadet 1CL Rico Jay Fernandez
- 10th: Cadet 1CL Arla Krish Bahingawan