By Artemio Dumlao/The Philippine Star – Jestony Arman Lanaja has a simple dream: to break out of poverty.
And he is off to a good start, leading this year’s graduating class of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA).
“My family is my inspiration,” Lanaja, 22, told The STAR yesterday, when asked how he managed to beat his 123 “mistahs” in PMA Class Pudang Kalis (Sacred Sword).
The unassuming Lanaja, who hails from Hagonoy, Davao del Sur, said that his father is a tuba (coconut wine) gatherer while his mother is a homemaker.
He has a deaf-mute brother and an out-of-school sibling.
Lanaja said he wanted to enter the PMA right after his graduation from high school, but he was one year short of the age requirement then.
While waiting for his 18th birthday, he took a short course on building and wiring installation at the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.
Then in 2009, he was among 182 passers out of 8,449 applicants who took the PMA entrance examination.
Lanaja, who will join the Philippine Army, said his journey to the top of his class was never easy, but the thought of his family kept him going.
On Sunday, he will be receiving the Presidential Saber Award from President Aquino, who will lead the graduation rites.
He will also be getting the Philippine Army Saber Award, Academic Group Award, Computer and Information Sciences Plaque, Army Professional Course Plaque, Jusmag Award, Gen. Antonio Luna Award and Spanish Armed Forces Award.
Ranking next to Lanaja is Maryam Dinamling Balais, a native of Beckel, La Trinidad, Benguet.
A Muslim convert from a family of servicemen, Balais will join the Philippine Navy.
Balais, who will receive the Vice Presidential Saber Award from Vice President Jejomar Binay, said the PMA is no longer a “man’s world.”
“PMA training is never difficult for women,” she said, urging more women to join the academy. “Women can excel, too.”
She will also receive the Philippine Navy Saber Award, Australian Defense Best Overall Performance Award, Navy Professional Courses Plaque, Natural Sciences Plaque and Social Sciences Plaque.
Apart from Balais, three others among the 19 female members of Class Pudang Kalis are in the top 10, namely Joselyn Dimapilis Advincula (5), Vanessa Pascual Factor (8) and Marila Agrabio Maniscan (10).
Class Pudang Kalis has the largest number of females in the top 10 since the PMA opened its doors to women in 1994.
In 1999, Arlene de la Cruz shocked the world when she topped her male-dominated PMA class.
She, however, died in a car accident in Bataan in 2008.
The female topnotchers of the 2013 PMA Class Pudang Kalis said they all dreamt of becoming cadets.
“I would have continued my Chemical Engineering course at the Mindanao State University where I was already in third year, but my family could no longer afford to pay my tuition,” Maniscan said, adding that she still intends to pursue her earlier course while serving as a soldier
Find more like this: News