BAGUIO CITY — The valedictorian of the Philippine Military Academy’s (PMA) Madasigon Class of 2023 on Sunday paid tribute to 2 of his classmates who died during their freshman year.
In his valedictory speech, Cadet 1st Class Warren Leonor said fallen cadets Darwin Dormitorio and Mario Telan Jr. would always be a part of their batch.
Dormitorio and Telan would have graduated with Leonor and their batchmates on Sunday, if it weren't for their deaths from hazing and drowning, respectively, in 2019.
“To our dear mistahs who have departed, Cadet Darwin Dormitorio and Cadet Mario Telan Jr., you will forever be a cherished part of the Madasigon Class of 2023,” Leonor said in his speech delivered before President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and other military officials.
Dormitorio died in September 2019, after being confined for stomach pains. Police later determined his death to be from hazing after they found bruises in the cadet's stomach consistent with the crime.
Two PMA cadets and 3 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 a PMA pool after a swimming class; police eventually confirmed that he had drowned.
Leonor described Dormitorio and Telan's deaths as among the “unprecedented challenges” their batch had to overcome during their stay in the academy.
Leonor looks back at hardships, thanks family
Also among the hardships his batch had to face, Leonor said, was being unable to go home to their families during semester breaks over the last few years. This, as they were forced to stay inside the Fort General Gregorio del Pilar in Baguio City at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Fresh from being severed from our families, we were unable to celebrate our recognition day… and were unable to go home during semestral breaks,” he said.
“But we were fortunate in many other ways because we were given a rare privilege of embarking on this journey,” he said.
Leonor, the son of a retired technical sergeant in the Philippine Air Force, is expected to enter the said branch after graduation.
He also thanked his family for their sacrifices and support throughout his stay in the academy.
"To my beloved parents, Retired Technical Sgt. Joel Leonor and Angelina Leonor—Mommy, Daddy, para po sa inyo lahat ng ito. Bunga po ito ng mga sakripisyo para sa amin ni Ate," he said.
"To my siblings—ang tagumpay ng isa ay tagumpay nating lahat. Thank you for being my Number 1 support system, for not letting physical distance weaken our bond, and for always being there for me," he added.
The Batangas native also urged his mistahs and underclassmen to continue striving for honor and excellence despite the challenges.
“I witnessed the hardships born out of destitution… [but] I never blamed my parents for our circumstances,” said Leonor.
“For me, lacking in something is but a temporary obstacle to achieving success,” he said.
Leonor is the top graduate of the 310-strong "Madasigon" Class of 2023, consisting of 238 males and 72 females.
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.
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.
"To the Filipino people, we are ready to serve you," Leonor concluded his speech.
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