House for top PMA grad, gun for ‘goat’
FORT DEL PILAR, Baguio City — A gun for the class “goat,” and a bigger gift — house and lot—for the valedictorian.
President Rodrigo Duterte gave these presents on Sunday at the graduation of Philippine Military Academy (PMA) “Alab Tala” Class of 2018.
Newly commissioned Ensign Jaywardene Hontoria, 27, was scheduled to marry his fiancée, Loura Fe Dellera, at 4 p.m., hours after 282 members of Alab Tala (Alagad ng Lahing Binigkis ng Tapang at Lakas) paraded on Borromeo Field here.
Hontoria was handed a certificate for his new house at Camella Homes in Pavia, his hometown, in Iloilo province. It was signed by former Senate President Manuel Villar, chair of Vista Land and Lifescapes Inc.
This was the first time a top PMA graduate was given a house and the class goat, the one who graduated at the bottom rank, a new pistol.
Newly commissioned Army 2nd Lt. Haezzer Keith Atiwag drew the biggest applause for finishing last, a position usually revered here for beating the odds.
A resident of Barlig town in Mt. Province, Atiwag broke protocol and bowed to his classmates and then to Mr. Duterte and Vice President Leni Robredo.
Also applauded was Pongpeera Disapirom of Bangkok, the only foreigner in the class, who is joining the Thai Army.
In his valedictory address, Hontoria, a registered nurse, said the PMA molded them to become a different breed of soldiers who were reshaped to face all forms of problems.
But he admitted that “we can also be afraid,” citing instances when his “mistah” (classmates) read news reports about soldiers dying in combat.
“I was a farm boy …. and learned all types of hard work. We spent our nights in a hut overnight … I would wake up at 3 a.m. to go home and prepare for school,” Hontoria said.
“I first learned to tie bundles of leafy vegetables before I could tie my shoelaces. I first learned to shoot cabbages and potatoes in a native basket before I could learn to shoot a basketball,” he said.
Hontoria said his father, a farmer, advised him to pursue education because it was “much easier and lighter to carry a pen than to carry a plow.”
As his parents teared up behind him at the stage, Hontoria said: “We have learned to face failures and disappointments. We surrendered our freedom, our rights, privileges and comforts of our carefree civilian life, in exchange for serving God, country and people.”
“We are still the hope of the country,” he said.
Addressing the new graduates, Mr. Duterte said Filipinos “look up to you as the protectors of our nation and the next leaders of tomorrow.”
As he pardoned the offenses of cadets, a tradition in PMA graduation, Mr. Duterte said: “What are their offenses? Are their sins like mine? Well, the next time after this, I won’t have anymore pardons for you.”
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