BAGUIO CITY, Philippines – Twenty-one year old 2nd Lieutenant Dionne Mae Umalla delivered a heartfelt valedictory speech on Sunday, May 26, during the graduation of Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Mabalasik Class of 2019.
It was the 5th time a woman did so since the first Asian military institute accepted women in 1993.
Umalla was on the verge of tears 3 times during her speech, as she recounted her humble beginnings and the sacrifices of her mother, a retired teacher in their hometown of Alilem in Ilocos Sur. (READ: ‘My mother is my hero’: Female cadet from Ilocos Sur tops PMA Class 2019)
Her mother Dominga is a single parent, who raised her and her 3 older brothers after their soldier father left them for another family in Mindanao.
Despite this, her father was present in the ceremony and was seated beside her mother.
Umalla said she originally dreamt of becoming a doctor and a teacher but she was unable to achieve them due to poverty. She instead entered the PMA.
“I’m sure many of the mistahs felt the same,” she said.
According to PMA Superintendent Majoral General Ronnie Evangelista, a typical cadet gets a gross of P35,000 monthly to cover basic necessities inside the academy.
While she may not have attained her childhood dreams, she said she would soon be earning a doctorate – earning applause from the crowd.
Of the 261 graduates, 26 have unemployed fathers while 13 have deceased fathers. There are 43 farmers, 3 tricycle drivers, one pedicab driver, two security guards, 5 laborers, 4 carpenters, two fishermen, and two janitors among the fathers of the graduates.
Only a few come from military families. Twelve graduates have fathers who are military officers while 23 have reservists, jail officers, enlisted personnel, and police officers as fathers,
As for the graduates’ mothers, half are housewives, 33 are teachers, and only one is from the military.
About 140 of the graduates come from families earning P30,000 or less – much less than what a PMA cadet is getting.
According to Evangelista, some of the graduates would be bringing home P300,000 each. – Rappler.com