Cadet from Tacloban is first female ‘bow wow’ at PMA
BAGUIO CITY, Philippines—People paid little attention when Tacloban City-born Cadet First Class Kerlyn Asuncion stepped up to the grandstand to greet former Sen. Panfilo Lacson at the end of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) alumni homecoming in Fort Del Pilar in Baguio City on Feb. 15.
But this meeting was momentous.
Lacson is the presidential assistant for rehabilitation and recovery, who is tasked with rebuilding Asuncion’s city. Tacloban in Leyte province was flattened in November last year by storm surges unleashed by Supertyphoon “Yolanda.”
Lacson, a member of the PMA “Matatag” Class of 1971, was also meeting the first female adjutant of the PMA corps of cadets. The adjutant is one of the most popular members of the corps due to the officer’s distinctive role during parades, where he or she struts at Borromeo Field.
The adjutant guides the whole corps into formation during parades and then hurries to the front of the formation in a half-march, half-run strut or trot, which the audience finds charming, even funny.
In cadet lingo, the adjutant is referred to as the “bow wow” because the officer barks out orders handed down by the commander.
So the PMA alumni—many of them retired generals and colonels who were trained in an all-male corps before the first female cadets joined the academy in 1993—saw Asuncion “bark” and strut for the first time two weeks ago.
The cadet had not been made available for interviews because of the series of activities since January that would lead to her graduation in March as a member of the “Siklab-Diwa” Class of 2014.
Asuncion’s personal information has also not been released.
But responding to the Inquirer’s questions that were relayed through PMA spokesperson, Maj. Agnes Lynette Flores, Asuncion said it was Brig. Gen. Carlos Quita, PMA commandant of cadets, who expressed his hope that a female brigade adjutant would take part in his testimonial parade when he retired.
Asuncion said she was informed about her selection for the job, but she said she dismissed it as a joke, thinking, “Who would ever think of having a woman do a man’s job?”
At the time, Asuncion had a different and equally important task for the corps, as the brigade finance officer, Flores said. She said this is one of the most difficult responsibilities in the hierarchy of officers in the cadet corps.
Asuncion said she accepted the task immediately. “That is what the PMA taught me, to say yes in every task given to you no matter how difficult or easy it is. That was the start of my career as the first female brigade adjutant. It was the most difficult challenge given to me as a cadet during parades for I have to trot some meters [to reach] my position [at Borromeo Field] instead of just marching off,” she said.
Trot with ‘kembot’
“I still trot with a kembot (a swaying motion),” she said. Fellow cadets have been helping her control her movements in the field, she said.
“Until now, I still practice every morning despite all the compliances (a military term for obligations or requirements) in academics and other responsibilities given to me just to perfect my trotting and shouting (as commands have to be given loudly in the field),” she said in the e-mailed message.
The new task made up somewhat for the heartbreak Asuncion felt last year when Tacloban was devastated by Yolanda.
“I almost gave up,” she said. “I was crying the whole night of Nov. 8 because of the bad news that I saw [on] television … . I really wanted to go home and see if my family in Tacloban [was] fine.”
She said the devastation strengthened her resolve to graduate and help in her city’s recovery.
Her assumption as adjutant breaks another barrier for women since the PMA accepted its first batch of female cadets 21 years ago.
She also brings a new problem with regard to traditional cadet lingo, because calling her “bow wow” brings up the unfortunate street connotation. A PMA alumnus coined the phrase “bow wow, Wow!” but it may take some time for that to catch on.
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