The class valedictorian of PMA

Published March 18, 2018, 5:34 PM

by Francine Ciasico

By Francis Wakefield

“Alab-Tala” (Alagad ng Lahing Binigkis ng Tapang at Lakas) Class of 2018 today said he could have been the most skillful farm boy in the world had his father didn’t encourage him to study hard and graduate from school.

TOP PMA CLASS 2018 – President Rodrigo Duterte, handed the Prsidential Saber Award to Cadet First Class Jaywardene Balilea Hontoria, for being valedictorial of the 282 members of “Alab Tala” or “Alagad ng Lahing Binigkis ng Tapang at Lakas” 2018, during the graduation rites at Philippine Military Academy (PMA), yesterday in Fort del Pilar Baguio City. President Duterte surprisingly give the gifts to Hontoria a brand new house and lot in Iloilo. Zaldy Comanda
TOP PMA CLASS 2018 – President Rodrigo Duterte, handed the Presidential Saber Award to Cadet First Class Jaywardene Balilea Hontoria, for being the valedictorian of the 282 members of “Alab Tala” or “Alagad ng Lahing Binigkis ng Tapang at Lakas” 2018 class, during the graduation rites at Philippine Military Academy (PMA), today in Fort del Pilar Baguio City. (Zaldy Comanda)

In his valedictory address during the graduation rites held at Fort del Pilar in Baguio City, Cadet First Class Jaywardene Galilea Hontoria said that as farm boy, the farm has been his home for several years and almost learned all types of hard work that came along with farming.

“We would often spend our nights in a small hut near the farm to monitor the rice fields being irrigated over the night. I would wake up around three o’clock in the morning to go home to prepare for school. I first learned to tie bundles of leafy vegetables before I could tie my shoelaces. I first learned to shoot cabbages and tomatoes into a native basket before I could learn to shoot basketball. I used to burn my skin in midday as I finish watering a plot of newly planted pechay plants,” said Hontoria, who is a registered nurse.

“I could have been the most skillful farm boy in the world had I learned one thing that really amazed me — plowing the field. One day, while we were resting in our nipa hut, I asked tatay to teach me how to do it. However, instead of teaching me, he gave me a very striking statement that changed my life forever. My tatay told me, “Son, it is much easier and lighter to carry a pen than to hold a plow. You should study hard instead,” he added.

Even though he was frustrated, Hontoria realized that his father was right.

“I have felt how it feels to have none and that drives me to work for something that I do not have. Life taught me this simple lesson. Inspired by my tatay’s words, I told myself to study hard so that someday I may have a more comfortable life,” said 25-year-old Hontoria, who is native of Balabag, Pavia, Iloilo.

Hontoria said when he graduated from college and eventually acquired his professional license as a nurse, he was not able to feel that certain contentment in life. It is as if something was lacking.

He said then one day, the opportunity of taking the PMA (Philippine Military Academy) entrance exam came knocking at his door.

“The next thing I know, I passed the exam. I was both excited and hesitant however. Coming
from a family without any military lineage, my parents and relatives opposed my decision. I held on to that very slim chance of getting their approval. When I successfully sough their blessing, I left home with the thought that life will never be the same again,” Hontoria said.

Hontoria, in his speech, also admitted that life in the academy was never easy as they were pushed beyond their physical, mental and psychological limits.

“It is a life of orders and followership, a life of endless limitations, restrictions, a life of discipline, a life that has broken us down into pieces and then slowly brings the broken pieces together for us to be whole again,” Hontoria said.

“We have given up the chance of being with our families, friends and loved ones during special occasions and in the times when we are needed the most.”

“While we have learned to face failures, frustrations and disappointments that crushed us down, we would also eventually learn to stand up with the lessons learned held in our hands. We have surrendered our freedom, our rights, privileges and the comforts of our carefree civilian lives in exchange of serving God, country and people,” he said.

Hontoria also said they didn’t join the academy just to become part of the institution or the pay and allowances that come with it.

“No, Hindi po. Kadalasan, natatakot din kami sa tuwing may nababalitaan po kaming namamatay na sundalo sa digmaan (Most of the time we are also fearful when we hear the news of soldiers dying in war). Yes, we are also youth of our land just like the rest who came before us,” Hontoria said.

“But we are a different breed, of a different purpose with a different story. We have given up our own mission and goals in life, for something bigger than our own.”

“Today, as we gathered here to witness the end of our cadetship and the beginning of our journey in the noble profession of arms, we would like thank all of those who had been part of our journey,” he added.

Hontoria, whose father Oscar is a farmer while his mother is a housewife, graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from West Visayas State University before joining the PMA.

He will join the Philippine Marines.

For being the top of his class or Class Valedictorian, Hontoria will receive the Presidential Saber, Chief of Staff Saber, Philippine Navy Saber, Academic Group Award, Australian Defense Best Overall Performance Award, Spanish Armed Forces Award, Humanities Plaque, Natural Science Plaque, Social Sciences Plaque, JUSMAG Award and Department of Leadership Plaque.

The Philippine Military Academy (PMA) earlier said three women will graduate among the Top 10 of this year’s class in the country’s premier military institution.

PMA spokesman and concurrent Public Affairs Office chief Lt Col. Reynaldo B. Balido Jr., identified one of the three women as Cadet First Class Leonore Andrea Cariño Japitan, 21, of Butuan City, who ranked fourth in this year’s PMA “Alab-Tala” Class of 2018.

Japitan, who will join the Philippine Army upon her graduation, will get the Management Plaque.

Another female, Cadet First Class Jezaira Laquinon Buenaventura, 22, of Bais City, Negros Oriental, is in the Top 10 after placing sixth in her class.

Buenaventura, whose parents are both government employees, was in second year and a consistent Dean’s lister at Silliman University taking up Bachelor of Science in Biology, when she decided to enter the PMA.

She was a Dean’s lister for two terms during the year and in the Commandant’s list for three terms during the year.

Buenaventura, who will join the Philippine Army, will receive the Department of Tactical Officers Plaque, Aguinaldo Saber, and Distinguished Cadet Award (Starman).

Rounding up the Top 10 is another female, Cadet First Class Micah Quiamboa Reynaldo, 22, of Bamban, Tarlac.

Also a Dean’s lister in college, taking up Bachelor of Arts in Psychology at the Tarlac State University prior to her transfer to the PMA, Reynaldo will receive the Australian Defence Best Overall Performance Award-Philippine Air Force. She will be joining the Philippine Air Force.

Last year, eight women graduated top of their class at the PMA.

The Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class of 2017 was led by a female valedictorian, Rovi Mairel Valino Martinez of Cabanatuan City.

Ranked Number 2 in the Class is Cadet First Class Ricardo Witawit Liwaden, 24, a native of Gawana, Barlig Mountain Province.

The son of a farmer and a retired teacher, Liwaden who took up Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering at the University of Baguio before entering the academy, will receive the Vice Presidential Saber, Philippine Army Saber, Sports and Physical Development Plaque, Tactics Group Award and Athletic Saber. He will be joining the Philippine Army.

Balido said Number 3 in the Class is Cadet First Class Jun-Jay Malazzab Castro, 23, of Amulung Cagayan.

The son of a farmer and a housewife, Castro will receive the SND Saber from Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana. He will join the Philippine Army.

Also making the Top 10 are Cadet First Class Mark Jantzen Nono Dacillo, 25, of Tumaga, Zamboanga City, who landed fifth in the class and will join the Philippine Army; Cadet First Class Jessie Antonio Laranang, 22, of San Clemente, Tarlac, who ranked seventh in the class and will join the Philippine Air Force; Cadet First Class Paolo Balla Briones, 20, of Baguio City, who ranked eighth in the class and who will join the Philippine Air Force; and Cadet First Class Jayson Raymundo Cimatu, 24, of Casiguran, Aurora and who landed ninth in the class. He will join the Philippine Navy.

Cadet First Class Christian Michael Olarte Peña, 26, of Legazpi City, Albay, will receive the Journalism Award and Cadet First Class Jasm Marie M. Alcoriza, 24, a native of Bacolod City, Negros Occidental, will receive the Athletic Saber.

Balido said a total of 282 cadets will graduate from the academy this year. Of the number, 207 are male while 75 are female.

Balido said a total of 105 cadets will join the ranks of the Philippine Army, 52 will join the Air Force while 50 will be joining the Navy.

He added that 28 (21 male and seven female) of the 282 cadets who will graduate are already college graduates.

The graduation rite was held at Fort del Pilar, Baguio City, with no less than President Duterte as guest of honor and speaker.

Vice President Leny Robredo, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenza and AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero were also present.