PMA salutatorian: She’s a dancer, licensed teacher

Bobby Lagsa

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PMA Class 2014 salutatorian Cadet First Class Liza Jumawid Dango did not get into military service on her first try

PROUD FAMILY. The family of PMA Class Salutatorian Cadet First Class Liza Jumawid Dango proudly shows off her photos. Photo by Bobby Lagsa

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – The class salutatorian of Philippine Military Academy (PMA) “Siklab Diwa” Class 2014 is a marathon runner, a wide reader, a licensed teacher, and a loving daughter. But if there is one thing she loves the most, it is dancing.

“She dances hip hop and is very fluid and graceful in standards,” Engineer Geneflor Dango-Exclamador said of her younger sister, Cadet First Class Liza Jumawid Dango.

Before joining the PMA in 2010, Dango obtained a degree in education from Xavier University-Ateneo de Cagayan, graduating cum laude. She was a dance troupe member there, and also at the PMA.

Unexpected feat

Her father, retired 2nd Lieutenant Generoso Dango, could only smile when her daughter was announced as class salutatorian. He said it was “never expected.”

Mother Florencia explained: “She never shared her academic status. She [only] shares where they would go for training, where they would go if they have shore leave.”

Dango’s neighborhood, Camp Edilberto Evangelista, headquarters of the Philippine Army’s 4th Infantry Division, is jubilant over the feat of one of its own.

Captain Christian Uy, spokesperson of the 4th ID, said the Army is proud of Dango’s accomplishment, which has boosted the morale of the division. He said that soon, a “daughter” of the 4th ID who used to run around the camp’s tree-lined street will join them in serving the Filipino people.

The neighborhood is in the vicinity of the 4th Light Armor Battalion,  Generoso’s mother unit before he retired.

“This road used to be muddy before it was cemented. This road witnessed my daughter’s love for education and life,” Generoso recalled.


Florencia said it was her husband who urged their daughter to join the military after her college graduation, but this year’s PMA salutatorian failed on her first try.

Generoso said Dango’s first failed attempt to apply for the military’s Officer Candidate Course (OCS) was heartbreaking. She complied with the requirements and passed the battery of exams but in the end, the army only took in the male passers.

Florencia said Dango resumed tutoring services after her initial rejection. Her father, however, was undaunted and urged her to prepare for the PMA entrance examinations.

“I told her to go the gym and take the exam in 2009,” Generoso said.

Dango has always strived to achieve her aspirations. Florencia said her daughter, then a grade school student, would cry whenever she failed to get a perfect score in her exams.

From Camp Evangelista Elementary School, Dango proceeded to the Regional Science High School, reserved for the best and the brightest of the region.

At Xavier University-Ateneo de Cagayan, Dango balanced her studies with extracurricular activities, joining student organizations and leadership camps whenever the opportunity arose.

To illustrate Dango’s social skills, Florencia said her daughter’s friendliness once brought more than 50 guests – Dango’s alone – to their barangay fiesta.

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

At the PMA, Dango demonstrated leadership skills as well. She and PMA Class 2014 valedictorian Jheorge Llona represented the academy at the 15th Ayala Young Leaders Congress (AYLC) in 2013.

Shortly after she entered the PMA in 2010, Dango ran in the Milo marathon finishing third place in the 10-kilometer category under the banner of the PMA.

“Her friends in the PMA said that she can outlast them in running,” said Generoso, grinning.

Combat deployment

Asked about the deployment of her daughter, Generoso, who served the military for 26 years, said that part of the reality of being in the service is combat duty.

After her Scout Ranger Orientation Course in Tarlac, Dango, who is joining the Army, will report to the Army headquarters in Fort Bonifacio for deployment to different divisions.

“We have accepted that being in the military, our life is already in [a]precarious balance,” Generoso said. He paused, as if reflecting on his own life in the service, and continued, “It’s just luck and fate.”

Florencia said she has instilled in her family the power of prayer and faith in God.

“We pray and go to church every Sunday. When she [Dango] is here on a break, she sees to it that we get to attend mass….I always emphasize that she couple her faith with prayers and actions – faith in God, prayers in seeking God’s guidance and actions to keep your life in the right path,” Florencia said.

Dango’s family and close friends are busy preparing for their journey to Baguio City for the PMA graduation on Sunday, March 16.

Dango will be the only female among the top 10 graduates of PMA Class 2014, and will receive the Vice Presidential Saber, Philippine Army Saber, Humanities Plaque, and Australian Defense Best Overall Performance Award. –

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