Farmer’s son from Albay is PMA valedictorian

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Cadet Jheorge Millena Llona, 22, is the son of a farmer from Daraga, Albay. He joins the Air Force.

TOP 10. The best among Philippine Military Academy's 2014 Siklab Diwa graduates with PMA assistant superintendent Joseph Villanueva, superintendent Oscar Lopez (middle), and commandant Rozzano Briguez. Photo by Dave Leprozo Jr/ Rappler

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines – 22-year-old Cadet First Class (CFC) Jheorge Millena Llona, who used to walk great distances to his elementary school, will be handed the Presidential Saber as valedictorian of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) “Siklab Diwa” Class of 2014.

Besides receiving the award from President Benigno Aquino III, Llona will also receive 6 other awards, including the Philippine Air Force Saber.

The son of a farmer, Nelson, from the rural barangay of Maopi in Daraga, Albay, Llona is graduating at the top of his class that numbers 222.

Encouraged by his brother, he joined the Reserve Officers Training Corps so he could get a scholarship in Bicol University. He took up accountancy but his ROTC training got in the way. Fortunately he was accepted at the PMA in his second year, even getting a full scholarship from the Commission on Higher Education.

Upon graduation, he will receive a Management plaque, a Jusmag award that will allow him to study in the US, and the Australian defense best overall performance award.

One classmate that will miss this year’s graduation rites is CFC Aldrin Jeff Cudia who has been separated from the academy for breaching the academy’s honor code.

The social media posts of Cudia’s family alleged that he was dismissed for being two minutes late in class and exposed the confidential deliberation process in the academy. 

Cudia’s separation

Cudia was supposed to graduate salutatorian and receive the Navy saber as the top graduate of the Navy class.

PMA Superintendent Major General Oscar Lopez affirmed the recommendation of his predecessor Major General Edgar Abogado that Cudia be separated from the academy. (READ: Cudia will not graduate from PMA)

Lopez said that because Cudia has not presented any contrary evidence up to now, he had no choice but to affirm Abogado’s recommendation. Separation from the academy is tantamount to expulsion.

Only President Aquino can save Cudia who, according to his family, was vying for salutatorian – until he was found to have violated the Honor Code. 

In 2013, the son of a tuba gatherer, Jestony Lanaja of Davao del Sur was class valedictorian. He graduated at the top of his class which numbered 124. The year before, the son of a carpenter from Batangas, Tom Puertollano became class valedictorian.

Other top grads

CFC Liza Jumawid Dango, the only female in the Top 10, is class salutatorian. The daughter of a soldier, the Marawi-born cadette, studied in Cagayan de Oro. Being an army officer had been her dream since she was young, Dango said.

The rest of the Top 10 graduates include the following:

  • CFC Billy Codiam of Tanudan, Kalinga, who will join the Army. Like Llona, his father is also a farmer, while his mother is a government employee. 
  • CFC Leo Mac Tuliao of Peñablanca, Cagayan. The 21-year-old son of a farmer is one of the youngest in the graduating class. 
  • CFC Noel de Venezia Raguindin of Dagupan City, who will join the Navy. While his mother is an OFW, his father tends to the family. 
  • CFC Carleton Pajarillo Agustin, the son of government employees in Tuguegarao City. 
  • CFC Frank Anzale of Babatngon, Leyte. He said it was his classmates who inspired him to persevere. It was the values of humility and optimism which helped him achieve his goals.
  • CFC King Christian Argoso of Gumaca, Quezon, who will join the Air Force. He is the family’s first soldier. 
  • CFC Greg Monsalud of Cagayan de Oro city. At one point he considered the seminary just so he could go to college for free.
  • CFC Alvin Balangcod of Kapangan, Benguet who used to work in a bakery until an accident paralyzed his hands. Luckily, he recovered. 

Among the women, CFC Leonora Paulino garnered the other Australian defense best overall performance award. She joins Llona and Dango.

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