"Interesting personalities all."
The Philippine Military Academy graduates of 1970 are the golden jubilarians in this years’ alumni homecoming. As such, the attention of the whole festivities will be on them when they march during the alumni parade.
How time flies. It was as if it were not too long ago that 65 young men from all over the country took their oaths as newly minted 2nd Lieutenants of the different armed services of the Armed Forces at the Borromeo field of their alma mater. At about the same time, four other young Filipino men also took their oaths when they graduated from the different service academies of the United States Military. All told, the class of 1970 totaled 69.
Now, they are all in their ’70s. Of the 69, 20 have already passed to the great beyond, leaving 49 gentlemen available to march.
The class is a bunch composed of interesting personalities. From the academically inclined, true-blue warriors, administrators and office hermits, they all would go on to serve the country for the next 35 years with some still working for the government in other capacities. Twenty-eight of them became General officers while 23 became full colonels. Some who left the service early took on other professions like the class valedictorian Erwin Ver who settled in the West Coast of the United States. From what I gathered, he is still working there. The class First Captain or Baron Ed Jonson, whom I first met when we were junior officers, also left the service early and moved or followed his family to the United States. The US is now home to him.
Of those who stayed in the service, Roy Cimatu and Dionesio Santiago went on to be promoted to four stars and served as Chiefs of Staff of the Armed Forces. Roy Cimatu in fact is still soldiering on as the current secretary of the DENR. Hermogenes Ebdane also was promoted to four stars and served as the chief of the PNP. He was also appointed to the Cabinet, and went on to hold three Cabinet positions under former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. He is now the incumbent governor of Zambales.
Others in the class who are still serving the government in other capacities are Rudy Garcia who is an Undersecretary of DENR and himself a three star general. Nesty Carolina, also a three-star general is still around as the administrator of the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office. Egay Galvante, still another three-star general, heads the Land Transportation Office. Nestor Santillan became the commanding general of our Air Force while Dionesio Santiago was the commanding general of the Army before taking over as the Chief of Staff. Rufo de Vera was a two star general when given the singular honor of becoming the superintendent of his alma mater.
Some of them also ventured into politics and two became House Legislatures in the persons of Romy Acop and the late Roilo Golez. Roy Golez first gained national prominence when he became the postmaster general in the early 1980s at a very young age. Romy Gojo however, simply wanted to serve his Barangay in his native Zambales and therefore went on to be elected as Barangay captain.
Since they are my contemporaries, I knew some of them in high school like Jun Ugali and Vic Signey who were my high school batchmates. Clyde Fernandez and Romy Acop were a year ahead of me in the same high school. Some of them became lawyers, engineers and businessmen and went on to fashion successful careers outside the military. When they entered military service in 1970, little did they realize that they would be witnesses and participants to momentous and tumultuous events in our country’s history. The New People’s Army of the Communist Party of the Philippine was just founded and launched the year before their graduation and the Muslim secessionist movement of Nur Misuari’s MNLF would launch their armed rebellion in the South two years later and the class of 1970 together with other young men who entered military service at about the same time were in the frontlines when fighting erupted during those years.
Julius Javier became one of the most decorated officers and went on to become the first in his class to be promoted to general officer. In the succeeding years, many members of the class would be in the thick of things in the changing political landscape of the country after 1986 and the many coup attempts in the succeeding years. This would somehow simmer down in the middle of the 1990s but would again show its ugly tentacles just as the 20th century was winding down when another change of political leadership happened. This was towards the time that the class just had a few years of service left before retirement. They would go on to take over the reins of the Armed Forces and the Philippine National Police before bowing out of the service.
They therefore have a lot of stories to tell and I hope that their class historian would distribute tapes or video recorders so that those who served in the military and police as well as others can find time to record their experiences so that their knowledge could be preserved. Under some kind of agreement, these records could be turned over to the PMA museum for future historians to use in writing about the history of our country over the last 50 years. Who knows, one or two members of the class may yet decide to write themselves so that their stories could be preserved for posterity.