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BAGUIO, Philippines – The Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Madasigon Class of 2023 may be the first class in the academy whose lives were adversely affected by the COVID pandemic ever since they were plebes.
Class Valedictorian Cadet First Class Warren Leonor said on Monday, May 8, they were not able to leave home in the four years that they were at Fort del Pilar because of the strict COVID-19 protocol in the academy.
“Honestly, we had low morale even at the start of our days here,” said 22-year-old Leonor.
“On our recognition day, I was excited to see my parents enter PMA, but they were just held at the gate,” he said.
Recognition Day is when the plebes were finally recognized by their upperclassmen as part of the PMA.
Leonor said that he was only able to see his parents in 2022.
For the first three years, they were not allowed to leave the academy.
No one among the Top 10 admitted to having contracted COVID-19 during their stay.
Reports from the Baguio City Health Department said that cases at the PMA started pouring in at the end of 2020. This, despite the non-entry of PMA visitors in the whole fort since February 2020.
As it turned out, the first cases occurred because of the food servers coming from outside who contracted COVID-19.
Brigadier General Julius Tomines, the commandant of cadets, said that some of the graduating cadets were affected, but most were asymptomatic.
“They were immediately isolated,” he said.
As of now, he said, they have 13 cases of COVID-19 at the PMA and all were asymptomatic.
Tomines said that because of COVID-19, most of the activities were confined to the academy. He said that the on-the-job-training as well as field exercises were all done among themselves.
But the lack of outside activities allowed the Madasigon Class to concentrate on their studies.
Tomines said that the attrition rate among the graduates was very low. He said that, out of the 350 allowed per year, there will be 311 cadets graduating.
But that does not mean that all of them were from the starting class like Leonor.
Tomines said that 49 of the graduating cadets were turnbacks from the past three years. There were also some from the original class who are expected to graduate later.
During the PMA graduation on May 21, the PMA authorities are still waiting for the Office of the President about the entry protocol.
During the press conference for the Top 10 on Monday, the media had to present their vaccination cards. Those without booster shots were administered with antigen tests. – Rappler.com