For the 3rd time, woman tops PMA graduating class
- Artemio Dumlao () - March 15, 2007 - 12:00am
FORT DEL PILAR, Baguio City – For the third time since women were admitted into the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) a decade ago, a woman has topped the graduating class.

Soon-to-be Navy Ensign Andrelee Samson Mojica said she never dreamed of becoming a sailor, much less besting her 281 mistahs or classmates in the "Maragtas" Class 2007.

"I only dreamed of getting an education," said the 23-year-old native of Cavite, who failed the PMA entrance exam the first time she took it.

PMA officials led by superintendent Maj. Leopoldo Maligalig take pride in the fact that about 11 percent of the more than 1,000-member Cadet Corps of the PMA are women.

And it’s not only in academics where the women are excelling but also in the field, Maligalig said.

A study of women entering various professions in the Philippines shows that they reach top management levels, said assistant PMA superintendent Brig. Gen. Nicomedes Corpuz.

There have been 148 female graduates of the PMA since 1997. All are doing good work in the military, Maligalig said.

There are 23 female cadets, or 10 percent of the class, who will graduate on Monday before President Arroyo, the second woman president of the republic.

It was in 1994 when the tradition of male dominance at the PMA was broken by virtue of Republic Act 7192, the Equal Opportunity Act.

In 1999, now Navy Ensign Arlene dela Cruz became the first female valedictorian of the PMA. Dela Cruz, who hails from Camiling, Tarlac, was formerly a math major at the University of the Philippines in this city.

Female power again came to fore in 2003 when Marikina lass Tara Velasco, now a second lieutenant, topped the graduating class.

Another 23-year-old, Cadet Jonelle Diego Beltran of Sta. Maria in Zamboanga City, was cum laude this year. He will receive the Vice Presidential Saber and the Philippine Air Force Saber for being the No. 1 cadet joining the Philippine Air Force.

The third top cadet to graduate this year is Arnold Santos Enriquez, 22, of San Roque, Zamboanga City. For being No. 3 in the Military Precedence List, Enriquez will receive the Secretary of National Defense (SND) Saber.
‘From business to military life’
Born in Indang town, Cavite, Mojica is the youngest of seven siblings. She said she first dreamt of venturing into business. She enrolled at the Cavite State University and was already a sophomore when she tried taking the PMA entrance examinations.

Failing for first time, Mojica challenged herself to apply again and finished all the requirements.

On April 1, 2002, her determination found her marching with hundreds more of her mistahs (classmates) at the Borromeo Field during the summer incorporation of new plebes.

Mojica will receive from President Arroyo the Presidential Saber and the PGMA Achievement Award. She will also receive in Monday’s graduation rites the Philippine Navy Sword and the JUSMAG award.

"I only tried my very best," Mojica said. "I challenge all women in the world to do the same. And I hope to bring pride to women."

Fourth placer Cadet Emil Gaspar Leyba, 21, of Acop, Tublay, Benguet will receive the Philippine Army Saber and the Army Professional Courses Plaque, plus the JUSMAG Award for being the top graduate joining the Philippine Army.

Only one cadet is graduating magna cum laude – James Lowell Andaya of Dumaguete City.

The other cadets who made it to the top 10 are: Judyline Badana Canoneo, 26, of Talisay City, Cebu; Cyrus Angelo Alon Castillo, 23, of Muntinlupa City; Reuben Sancho Bolivar Zate, 22, of Nabua, Camarines Sur; Lemuel Rae Ancheta Antonio II, 22, of Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

The other awardees are: Cadets Frederick Tagabuan (Tactics Group Award); JD Ibay (Mathematics Plaque, Natural Sciences Plaque, Engineering Sciences Plaque & Tambuli Award); AB Soria (Humanities Plaque); JD Cabayacruz (History & Strategy Plaque); JE Constantino (Leadership Development Award & Aguinaldo Saber); JN Zulueta (Air Force Professional Courses Plaque); ML de Jesus (Sports & Physical Development Plaque); and Bryan Velasco, editor-in-chief of the Corps Magazine (Journalism Award).
‘Women’s world’
Fifth and sixth in this year’s PMA honor and merit roll are also women. Gemilyn Ardo Mendoza, 23, from San Quintin town in Pangasinan, who will receive the Australian Defense Best overall Performance Award is only four notches behind Mojica, while Judyline Badana Cañoneo, 26, of Talisay in Cebu is number six.

Like Mojica, Mendoza, also repeated PMA entrance exams. She said she enjoyed her four-year cadet life, adding she was "inspired" by her cousin, who was also a PMAyer, to join.

"I only thought of entering the PMA to become better. Now, I am one of the best," she said.

Mendoza, too, is "proud of bringing honor to women of the world" with her feat.

Cañoneo said she also did not expect to be in the top ten of their class, even as she admitted that she "gives the best of herself always."

Raised by a single parent, the sixth placer said she was discouraged by her mother to become a soldier because she is a girl. But she was persistent.

"Magiging military ako, ma (I will be with the military, ma)," she vowed then to her mom. When she took the entrance examinations with her male friends, she was the only one who passed.

Cañoneo said she thought she would only be her mom’s "savior," not the country’s, as signified by the meaning of her class name "Maragtas," or Marangal na Tagapagligtas. – with Jaime Laude

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