PMA graduates smallest batch in almost 5 decades

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines – The Philippine Military Academy (PMA) will graduate on Sunday, March 13, the smallest batch of graduates since 1970.

The PMA Gabay Laya (Gintong Anak ng Bayan, Alay sa Buhay Para sa Kalayaan) Class of 2016 has only 63 members, with 13 of them turnbacks – the PMA term for those belonging to previous classes.

The class valedictorian, Cadet 1st Class (Cdt 1CL) Kristian Daeve Gelacio Abiqui, is a turnback for medical reasons.

Cdt 1CL Christine Mae Calima, the class salutatorian, is the only female in the Top 10.

The  7 females of Gabay Laya are the fewest since the Magnificent Seven of 1997, the first female graduates of the oldest military academy in Asia.

PMA Superintendent Major General Donato San Juan said that only 123 members attended the Hell Week of 2012 and only 50 finished, with 13 turnbacks joining them.

San Juan said that he will be recommending the additional 50 exam passers in the incoming class to supplement the small number this year. The PMA is allowed to get 350 passers every year. If President Benigno Aquino III approves the PMA resolution, the school will take in 400 in April.

Abiqui, who just celebrated his birthday last March 4, is an Ybanag from San Pablo, Isabela. He was already on this 3rd year in his civil engineering course at the University of the Philippines in Los Baños when he passed the PMA exam.

"I joined the activities of LFS (League of Filipino Students) in my first year. I was very idealistic then. I joined the PMA because I find it a stable institution where I can instill change," he said.

Abiqui will receive from President Aquino the Presidential Saber for being valedictorian. He will also receive the Philippine Navy Saber for being the first in Navy, the Australian Defence Best Overall Performance, and the General Antonio Award. He will also get the plaques for humanities, mathematics, natural sciences, and Navy professional courses.

Despite the attrition rate of 56%, this class has 6 high school valedictorians, 2 salutatorians, and 10 honorable mentions like Abiqui.

Calima was a valedictorian and was already in second year in accountancy at the Saint Louis University in Baguio when she joined the military academy.

She said that there were 21 females who entered the academy and 14 were turned back. She said that the female PMA graduates always reminded her and her peers to fight harassment and discrimination in the academy.

Calima will receive the Vice President Saber, Philippine Air Force Saber, General Aguinaldo Award, Australian Defence Award, Tactics Group Award, and plaques for management, social sciences, tactical officers, department of leadership, and Air Force professional courses.

The 3rd top graduate is Cdt 1CL Arby Jurist Cabrera of Cauayan City in Isabela. He will receive the Secretary of National Defense Corps Award.

Fourth is Cadet 1CL Joseph Stalin Fagsao of Madella, Quirino, who will receive the Philippine Army Saber for finishing first among the Army recruits.

Fagsao, Abiqui, and Calima will be studying in the United States as part of the Jusmag, while 3 others will be studying in the military academies of Australia, Korea, and Japan.

The rest of the Top 10 are:

When they were cadets, they received more than P27,000 as monthly allowance. Among the Top 10, only 3 have family incomes higher than what they got in PMA, with 3 of them saying that their monthly family income was only P5,000. – Rappler.com