Tomorrow, Sunday, we set aside our cups of coffee, tea, chocolate or milk or glasses of wine and present arms to the 263 Philippine Military Academy's Mabalasik—Mandirigma ng Bayan Lakas at Sarili Iaalay para sa Kapayapaan—Class of 2019.
The young men and women officers, topped by 21-year-old female cadet Dionne Mae Umalla from the upland town of Alilem in Ilocos Sur, and who demonstrated moral fiber and toughness as she shuffled feet along the corridors of the training school for future officers of the Armed Forces, will have their commander-in-chief President Rodrigo Duterte as guest of honor in Sunday's graduation rites in Baguio City.
Dionne looks up to her mother, retired public high school teacher Dominga who raised her four children, the oldest now a police major, by her lonesome after her soldier-husband left them to start a new family when she was only in Grade 2.
The academically gaffed Dionne, also the class valedictorian in high school, has had her eyes and mind in sync when she entered the heretofore all-male institution, telling reporters eventually: “Its not about whether you're a male or a female.
“It's how you contribute to the betterment of PMA and how you strive for excellence, reason why I believe it's just how you perform.”
Umalla, who will join the Philippine Navy and who will receive the Presidential Saber, among 14 special awards, is now in the company of four other female cadets to top her class since the academy started accepting women.
The four earlier topnotchers were Arlene dela Cruz (1999), Tara Velasco (2003), Andrelee Mojica (2007), and Rovi Mariel Martinez (2017).
In the Mabalasik Class, Umalla is joined by four other female cadets in the top 10: Cadet First Class Jahziel Gumapac Tandoc (La Trinidad, benguet); Marnel Dinihay Fundales (Leganes, Ilocilo); Glyn Elinor Buansi Marapao (Buguias, Benguet); and Ruth Angelique Ricardo Pasos (Pasig City, Metro Manila).
We congratulate as well the other graduates—73 of them female—who will become part of the sentinels of our Constitution and society.
After the heels together, now forward march.