FORT DEL PILAR, Baguio City - The top 10 graduating cadets of Philippine Military Academy (PMA) "Pudang-Kalis" Class of 2013 were presented to media yesterday at the country's premiere military school, here.
Lt. Gen. Ireneo Espino, PMA superintendent, said the PMA Class will be known as Pudang-Kalis which stands for "Puso't Dangal ng mga Kawal ng Lahing Nagkakaisa (Heart and Honor of a United Race of Soldiers)."
Cadet First Class Jestony Armand Lanaja, the eldest child of a poor and landless family in Davao del Sur will graduate on March 17, as this year's PMA topnotcher among 124 graduating cadets of whom 19 are female.
By tradition, the President Benigno S. Aquino III, as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), will present Lanaja with the Presidential Saber Award. He has chosen to serve in the Philippine Army (PA).
Top 2 is Maryam Balais, second placer, a native of La Trinidad, Benguet, who will join the Philippine Navy (PN).
Third placer, Prolan Atchico Bonacua of Valenzuela City, along with Jesse Nestor Saludo of Cavite, fourth placer, and Joselyn Advincula of Tagaytay City, fifth placer, will join the Philippine Air Force (PAF).
Down the line from sixth to 10th places are Leodoe John Tulang of Agusan del Sur; Mark Ferdinand P. Villamin of Rosario, Batangas; Vanessa P. Factor of Antipolo City; Jhed C. Dumocloy of Cagayan; and Maila Maniscan of South Cotabato.
This year's valedictorian described his father as a hard-working "tuba" (coconut wine) gatherer.
He said it is the only livelihood option of his father because their family cannot go into farming since they have no land to till. His mother is a housewife.
Lanaja said that due to poverty, one of his brothers could only finish high school and no proper medical assistance could be given to his disabled sister.
"I have to enter the academy (PMA) because it offers free quality education aside from giving benefits," he said before pausing and then saying: "Of course, I became a cadet to serve my country and people."
A good son and brother, he plans to send his salary back to the province to alleviate the plight of his family.
Lanaja described his PMA four-year engineering course as "rigid and tough but extensive to prepare the cadets for their future military careers as professional soldiers."
Lanaja being the top cadet of his class was confirmed by Espino.
Lanaja will also receive the Philippine Army Saber during the PMA graduation ceremony on Sunday. His other awards include Academic Group Award, Computing and Info Sciences Plaque, Army Professional Course Plaque, Jusmag Award, Gen. Antonio Luna Award, Spanish Armed Forces Award.
Balais, the top 2, will receive the Vice Presidential Saber and Philippine Navy Saber, as well as, Australian Defence Best Overall Performance Award. She was a BS Nursing student before joining the Academy.
As top 3, Bonacua will receive the Secretary of National Defense (SND) Award and Aguinaldo Saber. A separate report said he is joining the Army like Lanaja and not the PAF.