Ilocos Sur lass tops 2019 PMA graduating class

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BAGUIO CITY May 21 –Females continue to make waves in the male-dominated military profession as a 21-year old daughter of a retired teachers emerged as this year’s top graduating cadet of the Mandirigma ng Bayan Handang Iaalay ang Sarili, Lakas at Tapang para sa Kapayapaan (Mabalasik) Class of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) which will be having their graduation rites on Sunday at the Borromeo grounds.

            Cadet first-class Dionne Mae Apolog Umalla, 21, of Alilem Daya, Alilem, Ilocos Sur, bested the 262 other members of the graduating class to be at the top of the honor list and will be receiving from President Rodrigo Duterte, the coveted Presidential Saber, the Philippine Navy Saber, Distinguished Cadet Award – Starman, Academic Group Award, Humanities Plaque, Management Plaque, Social Sciences Plaque, Natural Sciences Plaque, Computing and Information Sciences Plaque, Department of Leadership Plaque, JUSMAG Award, Australian Defense Best Overall Performance, Spanish Armed Forces Award and Association of Generals and Flag Officers (AGFO) Award.

            Umalla is the female cadet who was able to top her class since the premier military school in Asia started accepting female cadets in 1993. The other female cadets that topped their respective classes were cadet first-class Arlene dela Cruz in 1999, cadet first-class Tara Velasco in 2003, Andrelee Mojica in 2007 and Rovi Mariel Martinez in 2017.

            The second-year Bachelor of Science in Education major in Math student entered the Academy upon the prodding of her mother who informed about the benefits of studying in Baguio city instead of pursuing her scholarship in Batangas City.

            Umalla is the only female among the 4 siblings of the couple wherein her eldest brother is a graduate of the Philippine National Police Academy (PNP)A, her second older brother is a head nurse and her third older brother is a chemical engineer.

            “I did not expect to be the top graduating cadet because there were numerous instances in my stint in the Academy where I thought of quitting. I prayed a lot to seek the guidance of our Almighty Father in what to do and my prayers to pursue my military career was more than answered,” Umalla stressed.

            She claimed that she will dedicate her achievement to her mother and the members of her family, saying that she remains optimistic that her father whom she never saw since she was in Grade 2 will be able to attend her graduation on May 26, 2019.

            Cadet first-class Jonathan Eslao Mendoza, 21, of Sangley Point Cavite, will be graduating as the class salutatorian and will be receiving from vice President Lenny Roberedo the Vice Presidential Saber, the Philippine Force Saber, Aguinaldo Saber and Australian Defense Best Overall Performance while cadet first class Jahziel Gumapac Tandoc, 21, of La Trinidad, Benguet will be finishing third overall and will be receiving the Secretary of National Defense Saber, Philippine Army Saber, Army Professional Courses Plaque and Australian Defense Best Overall Performance.

            Cadet first-class Daniel Heinz Bugnosen Lucas, 25, of Barlig, Mountain Province will be graduating as fourth overall and will be receiving the Air Force Professional Courses Plaque while cadet first-class Aldren Maambong Altamero, 25, of Kidapawan City, North Cotabato will be finishing fifth overall and will be receving the Gen. Antonio Luna Award.

            Cadet first-class Richard Balabag Lonogan, 22, of Sagada, Mountain Province and cadet first-class Marnel Dinihay Fundales, 21, of Leganes, Iloilo will be occupying the sixth and seventh places, respectively.

            Cade4t first-class Glyn Elinor Buansi Marapao, 22, of Lengawan, Buguias, Benguet will be finishing eight overall and will be receiving the Nay Professional Courses Plaque, cadet first-class Ruth Angelique Ricardo Pasos, 22, of Pinagbuhatan, Pasig City will be placing ninth overall and cadet first-class Daryl James Jargalado Ligutan, 24, of Sta. Mesa, Manila will be rounding up the top ten members of this year’s graduating class.

            On the other hand, cadet first-class Kimberly Joy Saliw-an Baculi, 25, of Taloctoc, Tanudan, Kalinga will be the recipient of this year’s Athletic Saber Award female category, the Tactics Group Award and Sports and Physical Development Plaque while cadet first-class Nicolas Crisanto Raguine Gusayko, 21, of Naga City, Camarines Sur will also be receiving the Athletic Saber Award male category.

            Cadet first-class Geoffrey Ortega Valdez, 24, of Mintal, Davao City will be receiving the Journalism Award while cadet first-class Jesriel Alvendia Calimag, 22, of Commonwealth, Quezon City, will be given the Chief of Staff Saber Award.

            The graduating class is composed of 190 male cadets and 73 female cadets where 134 cadets, 99 males and 35 females, will be joining the Philippine Army; 66 cadets, 47 males and 19 females, will be joining the Philippine Navy and 63 cadets, 44 males and 19 females, will be joining the Philippine Air Force.

            Further, the top ten members of the graduating class is composed of 5 males and 5 females.

By Dexter A. See