"We rest our hopes in their limitless capacity to become worthy leaders and defenders of the people's freedom, the flag and country."
We stand at attention as the Masidlawin Class of 2020 of the Philippine Military Academy, led by a farmer's and teacher's daughter from Isabela, virtually march before our eyes after completing a rigorous four-year training at the elite institution which has produced many officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
Cadet 1st Class Gemalyn Sugui, valedictorian of the latest batch of graduates of the Academy, and her co-honor students – graduating in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic – have promises in their steady strides as they keep marching on from the virtual graduation stage.
The first virtual graduation saw 193 completing the four-year course, 170 male and 23 female, who will all be commissioned into the three services of the military: Army, Air Force, and the Navy, which includes the Marine Corps.
Sugui and her co-graduates have on their shoulders the faith not only of their kin and friends but their countrymen who, sans doubt, will be resting their thoughts and hopes in their limitless capacity to become worthy leaders and defenders of the people's freedom, the flag and country.
Sugui, repeated his feat this year after finishing as high school valedictorian in her hometown of Echague in the agricultural province of Isabela between the Sierra Madre and the Caraballo mountain ranges, before finishing Bachelor of Science in management Economics at the state-run University of the Philippines in the Pines City.
Since 1993, Sugui has notched the honor of being the sixth female top graduate of the PMA.
We sympathize with the graduates that they could not, as has been the tradition, make the marching steps before the grandstand, to be attended by their commander-in-chief, President Rodrigo Duterte, and the top brass of the defense and military establishments.
But we know – and we know they know – that they have the heartbeats for this force majeure, given the strict restrictions and protocols raised by the health authorities following the stab made on the population by the pandemic, hopefully the last in this generation.
PMA Supt. Admiral Allan Ferdinand Cusi said it aptly and in clear terms: "I believe this is a necessary decision to safeguard the health and general well-being of the CCAFP (Cadet Corps, Armed Forces of the Philippines) and the whole PMA community... As a parent, I know how heartbreaking and disappointing that decision is, but we have to do what is best for all. Safety and health are paramount at all times.”
We add our voice.