Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Tricycle driver’s son tops PMA Class ’10

Marilou Guieb
Business Mirror

FORT DEL PILAR, Baguio City—The son of a tricycle driver topped this year’s graduating class of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA).

Cadet First Class Eraño Bontilao Belen, who used to be an errand boy in a law office before joining PMA Class 2010, is the top graduate of PMA Masidlak (Mandirigmang Sibol ng Dakilang Lahing Kayumanggi) class.

Belen is the son of Julito and Flor Belen.

“Many times, we experienced how it was to eat only once a day, and if we were able to eat at all, we only had salt for viand,” Belen said.

Poverty, however, did not stop the science high- school graduate from Dumaguete City.

Belen said that everytime he experienced difficulty in school, his father would prod him and say, “if others can do it, so can you.”

The elder Belen, he said, had him memorize the multiplication table after classes during his elementary school days, and this taught him the value of dedication, the secret to his being a consistent honor student which qualified him for a science high school scholarship.

In his second year in high school, he adopted the motto DOPH, or  “Determination against Catastrophe is Pleasure and Honor.”

In college, despite being a city scholar attending night classes, he ran errands during the day for a law office. What he earned also helped put food on the family table.

“This [being a working student] taught me time management which was an efficient tool at the PMA, because here it was not only the academics we had to hurdle but also physical training,” he said.

First Class Cadet Froilan Jick Binlingan Pinay-an, who hails from Hungduan, Ifugao, will graduate second in the class. While happy, he said that he was not “overwhelmed.”

The top 10 cadets were only told of their ranking when they were presented to the media. Pinay-an knew what was coming, saying that as a second class cadet, he was third in his class. Having been consistent in his studies, he knew he was going to retain his ranking. Pleasantly, though, he ended up a notch higher.

Like Belen, Pinay-an grew up in a poor family that was rich in character. His parents were both dedicated farmers, and Pinay-an himself said that he took up farming for two years before entering PMA, and considered those two years as the best moments in his life.

Belen and Pinay-an are the top two of the 226 Masidlak Class graduates, of which 195 are male and 31 are females, making it the batch with the largest number of female graduates.

Cadet First Class Nolito Ebal, 23, of Misamis Oriental, is third in the class. He grew up in Iligan City. Cadet First Class Jhonson Gonzalez, of Pamplona, Camarines Sur, the fourth in the class, is also a farmer’s son.

The graduates who bagged the fifth to 10th places are Cadet First Class Jacob Jorge Avila Kho, 25, of Baguio City; Cadet First Class Joel de los Santos Perante, 22, of Tacloban City; Cadet First Class Erwin Ramos Villanueva, 25 of Dasmariñas City, Cavite; Cadet First Class Alfie Pancho Agarao, 23, of Carles, Iloilo; Cadet First Class Karen Nuevas Padayao, 21, of Ormoc City, lone female on the top 10; and Cadet First Class Ric Ivan Cordero Joven, 22, of Surallah, South Cotobato.

The Presidential Achievement Award for Leadership and the Armed Forces Chief of Staff Saber Award for being brigade commander or class “Baron” were awarded to Cadet First Class Alfonso Magno Irriberri.

The PMA superintendent, Vice Adm. Leonardo Calderon, described the Masidlak Class as the “most cooperative and of high intelligent ranking,” because 31 percent of the class were honor students before entering the academy.

Calderon also said five of the graduates already had college degrees before being accepted to the academy.

A total of 122 members of Masidlak Class will join the Army, 45 will serve in the Air Force and 59 will join the Navy.

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