Filipino West Pointers advise a new graduate
A POINT OF AWARENESS - Preciosa S. Soliven (The Philippine Star) - September 5, 2019 - 12:00am

My oldest daughter, Rachelle is a registered nurse living in New Jersey with her three daughters. Several times that I saw her, I made sure to visit the famous West Point, the United States Military Academy (USMA). This included meeting the last three Filipino West Point graduates in 1993: 1st Lt. Rene Jose Jarque, 2nd Lt. Julius Tomines and 2nd Lt. Dennis Eclarin.

The Phl-Am Mutual Defense Treaty provided West Point scholarships

In 1993, Colonel Dennis Eclarin, our Filipino scholar, graduated among 1,000 US Military Academy seniors at West Point, located by the Hudson River, upstate New York. Four years of rigid but superior academic and military training worth $200,000 has been concluded. With the ending of the Mutual Defense Treaty between America and the Philippines that same year, the annual West Point scholarship grant for Filipinos was cut off. From then on the Philippines, with all the other Asian countries must vie for one of 10 scholarships available. 

Two months after his graduation, from the US Military Academy, then 2nd Lt. Eclarin was welcomed to the Philippine Society of West Pointers. Members of this society are closely linked to the Philippine Military Academy where they do part of the yearling freshman year before leaving for West Point. Historically, both the USMA and PMA are strongly related since West Point heroes Gen. Douglas Mac Arthur and Gen. Dwight Eisenhower helped establish the PMA during the Commonwealth period. About 12 alumni members of the West Point Society met at the Officers’ Club of Camp Aguinaldo to welcome 2nd Lt. Eclarin, the 73rd scholar.

The ‘Duty, Honor, Country Pledge’ of the Philippine West Point Society

Society president Col. Ted Sanchez (ret.), Class ’54, one of the best instructors PMA has ever had and the general manager of the National Electrification Administration, said, “Duty, Honor, Country. This should be our pledge forever, Dennis. During our Career, as we raise a family simultaneously, until after we resign or retire. On the onset, you are a marked man – by your PMA classmates who vied for the West Point scholarship but did not make it, by your platoon soldiers who will expect much from you, and by the enemy who will be on the lookout for the prize victim. You will have to perform and prove yourself. At the same time, this certain illusion of a West Pointer, you must put in the right context – or you may yet destroy.”

Major Joe Dado, Class ’55, head of the Philippine National Railways, said, “You are ‘kuya’ to your men. Listen to them. You will learn a lot from them. Learn to blend with your community yet keep the right distance to avoid familiarity.”

BGen. Louie San Andres, Class ’57, a Meralco board member at that time told Eclarin “The first impression you make as a West Point Graduate is that you are ‘God’-like. People will say, ‘Let’s not mix with him. He knows too much.’ Instead, you must mix with them—to let them see you are human like them.”

PNP Chief Inspector Cris Acosta, Class ’82, a nuclear physicist and former Special Assistant at the Office of the President said, “you have had too much of US history, US culture. Review your Philippine history. Review Philippine current events.”

General George Washington referred to West Point as the “Gibraltar of America.” Right after the defeat of the British forces in Saratoga, he directed Colonel Kosciuszko to set up on this granite promontory up in the Appalachian Mountains a permanent garrison in 1778. This would thwart the British efforts to control navigation and split the colonies. In spite of the American colonial soldiers’ daring, Washington noted that they were simply a disunited ragged army, mostly illiterates. He proposed to the US Congress the establishment of a training school for military professionals.

Mr. A.L. Palomar, Class ’67, businessman of Ayala Company said, “You will make three major decisions when you get your commission. First, choosing the unit to be assigned and your field of specialization: army, marines or air force combat or non-combat field, Scout Rangers or Special Forces. You will earn P3,000 plus another P3,000 allowance. Second, you will eventually get married and raise a family. As your family grows, expenses of child-rearing and child education will increase. Unless your wife works, too, the pressure will be too much. You will be in a dilemma—career or family. Third, after 10 to 15 years, you may resign. Big companies are likely to hire you. This often becomes the final choice, rather than get compromised in your military career, ending in dishonor or negligence of duty.”

Mr. E.Q. Abesamis, Class 65, an executive of the International Cargo Terminal said, “West Point has molded you, shaped your ideals. These are likely to clash with the ways of the Philippine Army today. Thus, you will be puzzled, discouraged, and frustrated like we were.”

Major Romy Posadas, Class ’75, now working with Ayala Corporation said, “Promotions, Philippine-style, is ‘palakasan’. There will come a day when your West Point training which stresses that every rise in the rank must be merited will be shattered. Unfortunately, the power system of family influence and ‘utang na loob’ prevails more in our culture, overriding the professional way of earning promotions every step of the way.”

USMA established after18 years of deliberation by US Congress

It took 18 years for the US Congress to legislate Washington’s proposal to establish the US Military Academy. Its opponents attacked it on the basis that it was unnecessary, insufficient and a “wasteful retreat for the sons of the rich.” It took a combination of domestic revolt, Indian wars, clashes with Barbary pirates, a naval war with France as well as the pen of Alexander Hamilton and persuasion of General Knox to convince Congress of the necessity to action.

Best Scout Ranger Company of the Year 1999

After graduating from West Point, 2nd Lieutenant Dennis Eclarin joined the Scout Rangers, following in the footsteps of his mentor, General Rafael Ileto, West Point graduate of 1943. At the height of the Moro wars in Mindanao, Capt. Eclarin commanded the 4th Scout Ranger Company. He was instrumental in the recapture of the infamous MILF stronghold, Camp Abubakar. For this exploit he and his men were awarded “Best Scout Ranger Company of the Year 1999” for having only two wounded and no casualty. This was during President Estrada’s governance.

PHILIPPINE MILITARY ACADEMY UNITED STATES MILITARY ACADEMY WEST POINT
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