Most memorable day: Farmer’s son top graduate of PMA
FORT DEL PILAR, Baguio City — March 18, a Sunday, will be the most memorable day for Cadet First Class Jaywardene Galilea Hontoria.
In the morning, Hontoria will receive his military commission and the Presidential Saber from President Rodrigo Duterte as valedictorian of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Alab Tala (Alagad ng Lahing Binigkis ng Tapang at Lakas) Class of 2018.
In the afternoon, the 25-year-old registered nurse from Pavia town, Iloilo province, will marry his college sweetheart, Loura Fe Dellera, also a nurse, at St. Ignatius Chapel here.
“It is overwhelming, but I am very excited and happily looking forward to that day,” he said.
Hontoria and his fiancée graduated from West Visayas State University.
A consistent honor student since high school, Hontoria will be the third cadet to graduate as both class baron (brigade commander) and valedictorian since the PMA was established in 1936. The two others were Aristeo Ferraren in 1938 and Leopoldo Regis in 1951.
Hontoria, who is joining the Navy, will receive the Philippine Navy Saber, the Armed Forces Chief of Staff Saber, the academic group award, the Australian defense best overall performance award, the Spanish Armed Forces award, the humanities plaque, the natural sciences plaque, the Joint US Military Assistance Group award and the department of leadership plaque.
His father, Oscar, is a farmer, while his mother, Nancy, is a homemaker. Both will be attending the graduation ceremonies.
“My tears of joy are overflowing that I may need to put them in my pocket,” Oscar told the Inquirer in Iloilo.
“As a parent, I was also concerned about the risk he will face being in the military, but he really wanted to be a soldier and serve the country and I supported him,” he said.
Graduating salutatorian is Ricardo Liwaden, also a farmer’s son from Barlig town, Mountain Province. Jun-Jay Castro of Amulung town, Cagayan province, placed third.
Joining them in the Top 10 are Leonore Andrea Japitan of Butuan City (fourth); Mark Jantzen Dacillo of Zamboanga City (fifth); Jezaira Buenaventura of Negros Oriental province (sixth); Jessie Laranang of San Clemente town, Tarlac province (seventh); Paolo Briones of Baguio City (eighth); Jayson Cimatu of Aurora province (ninth); and Micah Reynaldo of Bamban town, Tarlac (10th).
The Alab Tala Class has 75 female cadets, the biggest number so far in PMA history. Of the 282 in the class, 143 will join the Army, 71 the Air Force and 68 the Navy.
Hontoria almost did not make it to the academy when he took a nursing course, following in the footsteps of his aunt, Corazon De-maala, who financed his studies.
“I had to suppress my dream of becoming a cadet to avoid offending my family. They wanted me to be a nurse,” he said.
Immediately after passing the nursing board exams in 2013, Hontoria took the PMA entrance test at 21, the age limit set by the academy.
Family’s rice terraces
His three-month stint in the Coast Guard inspired him to join the Navy, Hontoria said.
Liwaden, the class salutatorian, said he helped take care of his family’s rice terraces in Ifugao.
“Growing up, I would go straight to the terraces from school to help my parents—even on weekends. This prepared me physically for the rigorous military training in the academy,” he said.
“I did not aim to be in the Top 10,” he said.
“My goal was just to survive but I gave my best in everything,” said Liwaden, who is joining the Army. —With a report from a Nestor P. Burgos Jr.
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