It seemed like the first time…

I remember those times when I was around eight or nine years old. We lived in Baguio City and whenever friends or relatives came we would give them a tour around the city. The route was usually from Mine’s View we would go to the Teacher’s Camp then go through Baguio Country Club through Camp John Hay and then to the Philippine Military Academy (PMA).

Now, my parents have been going to the PMA since the 80’s because they had friends who worked there but we didn’t really know cadets or officers. We didn’t even know much about the PMA until summer 2014.

I was 18 and this very normal college student who was wasting her summer vacation like most kids do: eating, sleeping, watching TV/movies, lounging. Ya know, the works. I clearly remember that afternoon I was having my well deserved afternoon nap when my phone rang. It was my mom. She was in her panicky voice when I picked up. Apparently, she became a foster parent to two third class cadets from the PMA class  2017, SALAKNIB.

She was panicky because apparently there was a dinner that evening and that I needed to prepare and that I also needed a friend to come along with me. That dinner turned out to be a hop, which is basically a ball of some sort. There was dinner and dancing.

So I got to know these foster brothers and we exchanged our stories about PMA. My memories of it always raining when we went there and picking up empty bullet shells at their firing range.

Fast forward to March 12, 2017. It was their graduation day. My mom and I took the bus the day before. It was shortly an hour after I picked her up from the airport as she had to come all the way from Puerto Princesa, I was from the Salcedo Market in Makati City.

The security was tight. The Presidential Security Group, no less, did the inspections. The cameras had to go through a test shot to make sure that no flashes were turned on.

The turnover ceremony was weird but also normal, as we have watched the silent drill a few times before. I live streamed the class 2016’s graduation the year before. And after the turnover ceremony, it seemed like a normal university graduation, or any commencement exercise for that matter. There was the prayer, the valedictory speech, and the commencement speech which was given by the President of the Republic of the Philippines H.E. Rodrigo Roa Duterte, and the alma mater song, the taking of oaths to the alumni association. But I think what made this commencement exercises different from the civies graduation is that the guests who are present are from the highest offices in the country, it was live streamed so any one can watch it from any part of the world, the graduates were under the sun(!) which resulted to a guhit, and the pass and review. And the graduates were called by their ranking. I was so impatient as my foster brother was called in the last quarter of the graduates. But nonetheless congratulations to him. And the last person to be called is what they call a goat, who received a lot of money haha that’s another tradition, and she got a standing ovation. Also, seats were very hard to come by!

Even though we’ve been to the PMA many times before, the 2017 graduation was the first ceremony we’ve attended. We’ve not yet attended the recognition, incorporation, and whatever else ceremonies they have. And it was also the first time in a very long time that the weather was good. It’s the same sun as any part of this Earth, but it felt like the good sun. And the breeze was nice too!

“Tita, puntahan niyo rin ako ha,” said the other foster brother, who was turned back and joined the 2018 class. “Saan?” my mom asked thinking that he meant is hometown in Bicol. “Sa graduation,” he said confidently. My mom and I laughed it off, because we swore that this 2017 graduation was the first and last graduation we’ll attend as it was such a hassle going through so much travelling and protocols but because her son asked for a favour we couldn’t decline, I’ll see you Class 2018 ALAB-TALA next year!


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