PMA 2018 valedictorian ends cadetship with wedding, new house

MANILA, Philippines– As his cadet days end, new beginnings await Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Alab Tala Class of 2018 valedictorian Jaywardene Hontoria.

During the graduation rites on Sunday, March 18, Hontoria received 11 awards including the Presidential Saber, Chief of Staff Saber, Philippine Navy Saber, Academic Group Award, Australian Defense Best Overall Performance Award, Spanish Armed Forces Awards, Humanities Plaque, Natural Sciences Plaque, Social Sciences Palque, Jusmag Award, and Department of Leadership Plaque.

Perhaps his sweetest treat, however, is a house and lot in his hometown, Iloilo City, given by Camella Savannah. The certificate of ownership of the property was handed to him on Sunday, the first time that such a gift was given in a PMA graduation ceremony.

Hontoria is nothing but grateful, especially to all the people who became part of his journey. He looked back at his life as a young farm boy in Barangay Balabag, Pavia, Iloilo.

"I was a farm boy. The farm was my home for several years and [I] learned all types of hard [work] that came along with farming.

"We would always spend our nights in a small hut near the farm to monitor the rice fields being irrigated.... I would wake up around 3 o'clock in the morning to go home and prepare for school.

"I first learned to tie bundles of leafy vegetables before I could tie my shoelaces. I first learned to shoot cabbages and tomatoes into a native basket before I could learn to shoot a basketball. I used to [get sunburn]... as I finished watering a plot of newly-planted pechay plants (Chinese cabbages)."

The PMA valedictorian then recounted a conversation he had with his father.

"My tatay (father) told me... 'Son, it is much easier and lighter to carry a pen than to hold a plow. You should study hard instead.' Even though I was frustrated, I realized that tatay was right.

"I've felt how it feels to have none and that drives me to work for something that I do not have. Life taught me this simple lesson. Inspired by my tatay's words, I told myself to study hard so that someday, I may have a more comfortable life."

With the help of his aunt, he completed his bachelor's degree in nursing at West Visayas State University and eventually earned his license.

Hontoria, however, said he was still unable to feel contentment despite becoming a registered nurse.

"Then, one day, the opportunity of taking the PMA entrance exam came knocking at my door. The next thing I [knew], I passed the exam.

"I was both hesitant and excited, however. Coming from a family without any military lineage, my parents and relatives opposed my decision. I held on to that very slim chance of getting their approval. When I successfully sought their blessing, I left home with the thought that life will never be the same again."

He admitted that life in the PMA was not easy as he and his fellow cadets were pushed beyond their physical, mental, and psychological limits.

"It is a life of orders and followership, a life of endless limitations, restrictions, a life of discipline. It is a life that has broken us down into pieces and then slowly [brought] the broken pieces together for us to be whole again. We have given up the chance [to be] with our families, friends, loved ones during special occasions and the times that we are needed the most," he said.

Hontoria fought back tears as he addressed his father, Oscar, and mother, Nancy, who were crying behind him.

"To my nanay (mother) and tatay (father), the best parents in the world, I have always looked forward to the day when I would make you the proudest parents," he told them.

"Parati kong pinapanalangin na dumating ang araw na kaya ko nang agawin ang mabibigat 'nyong buhat na responsibilidad sa pagpapalaki sa amin. Sa ibang parents po na nandito, mga nanay at tatay rin po namin, Pa, Ma, Dad, tama na po. Kami naman po. Ako naman po."

(I always pray that I can take from you the heavy responsibility you have carried in nurturing us. To the other mothers and fathers: Ma, Pa, Dad, that's enough. It is our turn. It is my turn.)

Before the day ends, he will also marry his college sweetheart, Loura Fe Dellera, also a nurse, at St Ignatius Chapel here.

"Thank you for being my number one fan, my greatest supporter in my cadetship, my source of strength and inspiration, and for all the unconditional love and understanding," he said, addressing Dellera.

For his fellow graduates, Hontoria had this message.

"To my mistahs, it was indeed a long and challenging journey. We have made many sacrifices for us to reach this point, but things are yet to start as the whole Filipino nation awaits our selfless service," he said.

With this, he encouraged his 281 fellow graduates by saying, "To more challenges that await us, bring it on!"

Hontoria is set to join the Philippine Navy. – Rappler.com