Top PMA cadet shares ‘mixed feelings’ upon graduation

Natashya Gutierrez

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Cadet 1st Class Jestony Lanaja, valedictorian of 'Pudang Kalis', shares the tough experience of being in the Philippine Military Academy and encourages his classmates to hold strong to the school values

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines – “Let us keep the values of courage, integrity and loyalty intact, and let it be a beacon that would guide us daily in our thoughts and deeds.”

This was the message of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class of of 2013’s topnotcher, Cadet 1st Class Jestony Lanaja.

The 22-year-old Lanaja, who hails from Davao del Sur, topped the 124 members of “Pudang Kalis” to become valedictorian.

Pudang Kalis stands for soldiers with heart and honor, unified in strength, and is derived from a Muslim term for “sacred sword.”

In his graduation speech, Lanaja talked about the sufferings he and his classmates went through and the temptation of giving up.

“Let me just say there were more than enough to break us – body and spirit. Give up! Because we mssed our families and the carefree lives we used to live. Resign! This was an option not a few times entertained by many of us. But no, we never gave up,” he said.

Lanaja called his 4 years in the academy “well worth it,” and talked about having mixed emotions over graduation.

“I am engulfed by mixed feelings of joy and melancholy. I am happy that rigid training have come to an end. But fear grips me too for what lies ahed and how to live up to the expectations of many is overwhelming,” he said.

In a touching moment, he spoke in his dialect to express his gratitude to his parents Antonio and Erlina, a tuba gatherer and a housewife, saying all he had achieved was because of them. He also thanked his classmates for “being a source of strength.”

Of the 124 graduates, 67 were from the army, 24 from the air force and 33 from the navy. There were 105 males and 19 females.

Lanaja grew up in a poor community without any electricity until he reached fourth grade. He is the eldest of 3 siblings — Angeline who has dropped out of school, and John Patrick, who is deaf mute.

The young cadet worked in a sugar cane plantation and a coconut farm to earn money for college. He was elected as a councilor in his barangay and studied in a trade school, before he entered the PMA. –

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Natashya Gutierrez

Natashya is President of Rappler. Among the pioneers of Rappler, she is an award-winning multimedia journalist and was also former editor-in-chief of Vice News Asia-Pacific. Gutierrez was named one of the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders for 2023.