Surigao lass is PMA Class ’24 valedictorian

Jeneth Elumba hurdles rigorous training, academic challenges, health scare and the pandemic ‘bubble’

Cadet First Class Jeneth Elumba (Courtesy of PMA)

Four years ago, Jeneth Elumba had envisioned herself to have a successful career and pull her family out from poverty as her father tills land as a farmer while her mother serves as a barangay official.

That opportunity came when she saw posters announcing the Philippine Military Academy Entrance Examination (PMAEE) while browsing her social media accounts in her hometown in Surigao City, Surigao del Norte.

With the encouragement and support of her father, she entered the most prestigious military training institution in the country as a cadet with the ultimate goal of helping her family.

After enduring rigorous training, academic challenges, and a health scare while a pandemic forced the whole world to stop, Elumba graduated as magna cum laude and valedictorian of the PMA “Bagong Sinag” (Bagong Henerasyong Gagampan ang Tama: Serbisyo, Integridad, at Nasyonalismo ang aming Gabay) Class of 2024.

She is the seventh female cadet to graduate on top of a graduating class in the history of the PMA since it started accepting female cadets in 1993. She was one of the 278 first class cadets who graduated at the Fort General Gregorio del Pilar in Baguio City last May 18.

Looking back

The PMA Bagong Sinag Class of 2024 tracks its beginnings on Aug. 25, 2019 when 1,629 hopefuls, including Elumba, passed the written PMA Entrance Examination out of 33,333 takers.

Of them, 1,150 passers reported to complete the physical examination. After a series of competitive tests, only 350 cadets were chosen to be the members of the batch 2024 who entered the academy just as the Covid-19 pandemic broke out.

“The PMA Entrance Examination posters posted on my social media accounts really caught my attention. But it was ultimately my father who inspired me to enter the academy,” the 24-year-old Elumba recalled.

She said her father had a degree in criminology but life had different plans for him.

“He was inspired to serve the public as a uniformed personnel. However, due to circumstances, it led him to do farming for our family,” Elumba said.

Pandemic blues

Batch 2024 is known as the “pandemic babies” who the PMA kept safe from the virus by forming a “bubble” and creating new ways of learning to ensure their safety. The “bubble” did not allow the cadets to interact with outsiders and the senior cadets were barred from going home for a vacation to avoid contracting the disease.

“When they were third class cadets, we formed a bubble in the PMA. There were no visitors allowed to enter because even if only one cadet gets sick, there is a high possibility that the disease would easily spread since they are living in the barracks,” PMA Superintendent Lt. Gen. Rowen Tolentino said.

A total of 278 cadets of the Philippine Military Academy's (PMA) 'Bagong Sinag' Class of 2024 graduate at Fort General Gregorio del Pilar in Baguio City on May 18, 2024. (Courtesy of RTVM livestream)

“Even in some of their classes, they were done through distance learning, through video teleconferencing. The activities among themselves still continued but the instructors were not allowed to go outside so they could supervise the cadets,” he added.

This took a toll on the mental health of some of the cadets. Some opted to go out of the academy due to challenges brought by their isolation, some because they missed their families, others failed their classes and missed passing grades.

In the end, the batch 2024 ended up with 278 cadets.

The PMA devised a new program to cater to mental health issues among the cadets.

“We provided a program in the bubble for the cadets to be able to relate themselves with other cadets. The Cadet Welfare Office provided surveys and programs to determine the mental level of our cadets. We also provided programs to keep them busy as well,” Brig. Gen. Ramon P. Flores, PMA Commandant of Cadets, said.

“In a nutshell, these particular collective programs and endeavor of the PMA helped our cadets to cope up with the challenges posed by the Covid-19 in that particular period,” he added.

Health scare

Adding to the challenges brought about by isolation due to the pandemic, Elumba encountered a health scare when she was in junior year as a second class cadet.

She had to undergo surgery for appendicitis which prevented her from engaging in physical activities for one year. This almost caused her discharge from the PMA. But with the help of her family and “mistahs” or batchmates, she managed to cope and return to full strength.

She considered that period as a “blessing” as it tested her physical and mental limits, and proved her ability to surpass challenges that serve as obstacles to reach her goal.


The batch 2024 is composed of 224 males and 54 females, which roughly translates to four male cadets for every one female cadet. Yet, Elumba did not mind the stereotypes that surround the military profession as a male-dominated career.

“Honestly speaking, there are struggles along the way but one challenge that a female cadet has to face here in the PMA is the perception that soldiery is a male-dominated career or environment. We have to take note that female cadets here in the PMA are given equal opportunities to excel and even hold leadership positions at the Cadet Corps,” she said.

Elumba was a regiment public information officer of the Foxtrot Company in their class.

Of the top 10 performing cadets from batch 2024, seven are female and three are male. The others are Cadets First Class Mark Armuel Boiles, Kim Harold Gilo, Cyril Joy Masculino, Rosemel Dogello, Alexa Mye Valen, Floyd Niño Arthur Roxas, Giselle Tong, Danica Marie Viray, and Neriva Binag.

During their graduation, the top 10 cadets along with the remaining members of batch 2024 were officially commissioned as second lieutenants and ensigns in the regular force of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Elumba received numerous recognitions including the Presidential Saber from President Marcos Jr., the Philippine Army Saber, the Joint United States Military Assistance Group (JUSMAG) Saber, Australian Defense Best Overall Performance Award (Army), Tactics Group Award, and Army Professional Plaque.

She has chosen to join the Philippine Army.

“I decided on that during my first few months here in the academy. My squad leaders all came from the Philippine Army and they have influenced me to join the Philippine Army,” she said.

Elumba added that during the Army phase of their training, she witnessed how the Army cadets in the PMA “have showed a strong sense of camaraderie and teamwork.”

“I have observed how they value the small pleasures in life. Even a small can of sardines and Skyflakes can already uplift the spirits of all Army cadets here,” she said.

During her graduation, she said that she hopes her family, particularly her father, would be proud of her.

She also urged her batchmates to uphold the values instilled in them throughout their training by the PMA.

“New beginnings await us beyond the walls of this academy. Mistah, we are about to confront the realities of the world outside where our individual journeys will lead us to different units and diverging paths,” she said in her valedictory address.

“Let us go forth and serve our nation with the character, skills, and education that the Philippine Military Academy has nurtured within us,” she said.