Poor boy from Davao del Sur tops PMA 2013 class

Subscribe Now March 11, 2013 at 08:57pm

His was a simple dream: break away from poverty, but his journey towards that goal led him to more than his original goal. The story of 22-year-old Jestony Arman Lanaja, who bested 123 of his "mistahs" from the 2013 graduating class of the Philippine Military Academy, recalls to mind the stories of others before him at the country's only military officers' training institution: A poor boy excelling to greatness.

“My inspiration was my family,” said the mild-mannered Lanaja, who hails from Purok 1 Sacub, Hagonoy town in Davao del Sur.

Arman's father Antonio, a lowly “tuba” (coconut wine) gatherer from their hometown, Antonio's mother Erlinda, and Antonio's siblings - his deaf-mute brother and another one who has stopped going to school and his poor village inspired him to excel in his class, the PMA cadet said.

The PMA, in turn, helped him achieve his goal.

The first class cadet and soon 2nd Lt. Lanaja, who will be joining the Philippine Army, really wanted to enter the PMA after his high school graduation. He was, however, one year short of the mandatory 18-year-old required age for PMA then, so he took the vocational course building and wiring installation.
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Immediately after passing the entrance examination, along with 8,448 other applicants four years ago, the boy from Davao del Sur "reported" to the PMA with 181 others to be part of the Pudang Kalis ("Sacred Sword") or Puso't Dangal ng mga Kawal ng mga Lahing Nagkakaisa or Soldiers with Heart and Honor, Unified in Strength class.

Pudang Kalis was derived from a sacred Muslim sword which is passed by a Muslim clan from one generation to another. The class adopted the title to signify their belief that they are like a sword whose blade will never perish.

From 161 males and 20 females four years ago, 105 males and 19 females are graduating on Sunday.

Sixty seven graduates will be going to the Army, 33 to the Navy and 24 to the Air Force, said Lt. Gen. Ireneo Espino said, adding that hero-cadet Alfonso Aviles was supposed to be graduating with the batch, but “he lacks academics and military training to complete [his course].”

Aviles fought armed robbers in Quezon City several months ago, earning him bullets on his head and body from the suspects. Aviles miraculously survived and is now recovering.

Lanaja will be receiving the Presidential Saber from Pres. Benigno Aquino III on Sunday will also be getting the Phil. Army Saber, Academic Group Award, Computing and Information Sciences Plaque, Army Professional Course Plaque, Jusmag Award, Gen. Antonio Luna award and Spanish Armed Forces award.

“Women On Top”

Second to Lanaja is Maryam Dinamling Balais, an Igorot (Kankanaey) lass from Beckel, La Trinidad, Benguet. She will be serving the Philippine Navy. A Muslim convert from a family of “servicemen”, Balais, who will be handed the Vice Presidential Saber by VP Jejomar Binay, said the PMA is no longer a “men’s world.”

"PMA training is (not) difficult for women," she said, encouraging more young Filipino women to join the academy.

Balais is also receiving the Philippine Navy Saber, Australian Defense Best Overall Performance Award, Navy Professional Courses Plaque, Natural Sciences Plaque and Social Sciences Plaque.

Besides Balais, three of the 19 graduating females are in the class 's top 10 1Cl Joselyn Dimapilis Advincula (number 5) from Tagaytay City; 1Cl Vanessa Pascual Factor from Antipolo City (number 8); and 1Cl MArila Agrabio Maniscan from South Cotabato ( number 10).

Pudang Kalis class has the largest number of females on top 10 since the PMA opened up to women in 1994.

In 1999, Arlene dela Cruz (Phil. Navy) stunned when she topped her male-dominated PMA class. Dela Cruz died in a mysterious car accident in 2008 in Bataan.

In 2007, three females again placed in the top 10 of the graduating class.

All female topnotchers of the 2013 graduating class said they all dreamed of becoming cadets. Like Lanaja, they also came from poor families and they wanted to have a good education.

“I would have continued my Chemical Engineering course at the Mindanao State University where I was already in my third year, but my family could no longer afford it,” number 10 cadet Maniscan from South Cotabato said.

Being a woman, these female cadets said, did not hinder them from reaching the top.

“Women can excel. Kaya natin," said Balais. One of her brothers also studied in the PMA, another topped the Philippine National Police Academy, and another one was taking up criminology.

These female cadets have been supported by their male “mistahs”. Third placer 1Cl Prolen Atchico Bonacua from Valenzuela City said , “we do not treat women differently (here).”

Balais added that while she was the only daughter in the family, she was brought up to act and be treated as a co-equal of her brothers. She added that Islam does not pose any problem with her being a woman and a soldier.

Other cadets included in the class's Top 10 are 1Cl Jesse Nestor Berces Saludo from GMA Cavite, 1Cl Leode John Ruiz Tulang from Agusan del Sur, 1Cl Mark Ferdinand Villamin from Rosario, Batangas, and Jhed Tabangcura Dumocloy from Gattaran, Cagayan.

Source: philstar.com

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