For the cadets in the Philippine Military Academy (PMA), surviving the four-year challenging education is already a major feat. But to excel in it and land on top of the class is the ultimate achievement most of them could only dream of.
For this year’s PMA topnotcher Jestony “Tonton” Aman Lanaja, his dream was only to finish his education and eventually become a good soldier. But he got more than what he asked for by besting 123 other cadets in his Pudang Kalis (Sacred Sword) Class.
Tonton says that his success is primarily due to his discipline, diligence, patience, and hard work. For instance, the 22-year-old cadet would stay up until midnight to study and review his lessons while most of his classmates are sound asleep. Then, he would wake up along with the rest at 5 a.m. to prepare for their 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. classes. At 4 p.m., cadets would proceed to their military training.
“Kahit kulang ang tulog ko, mga four to five hours lang, parang normal lang sa akin. Nasanay na kasi ako sa hirap,” shares Cadet First Class Tonton who is a Brigade Academic Officer.
As one, he is tasked to take care of the academic concerns of all the cadets, by following up their grades, class schedules, and deficiency lists or those who will be taking tutorial/make-up classes. On top of his duties, studies, and military exercises, he is also member of the corps squad in Arnis.
In the Academy, he says, it’s not enough to just excel in academics or military training. One should be able to thrive in both, and maintain a good character to survive.
“Challenging talaga ang education sa PMA. Ang training namin dito holistic. Hindi ka lang dapat nakafocus sa academics or physical exercises. Dapat balanced ka at marunong ka mag manage. Importante rin ‘yung pakikisama sa mga mistah mo. Kahit gaano ka katalino kung ‘yung attitude mo hindi naman angkop, makakaapekto din ‘yun sa overall performance mo,” reveals Tonton, who took up a building and wiring installation course at the Technical Skills and Development Authority prior to entering the Academy.
Apart from their academics, Tonton says they also have to learn the principles of their chosen profession through military subjects that include followership (first year), self-mastery and weaponry (second year), squad leadership as they are made responsible for new cadets (third year), and platoon leadership (fourth year).
For him, the most challenging part of his PMA education was in first year during his transition from being a civilian to a military officer.
“Kasi hindi mo na hawak ang oras mo. Dito you are bound by rules and regulations. Pero bago palang kami pumasok ng mga close friends ko na cadets na taga Mindanao, ipinangako na namin sa isa’t isa na walang mag qui-quit kahit gaano pa kahirap. Sama sama kami dito hanggang sa huli. Mas higit pa sa kapatid ang turingan namin dito,” he says.
RESPONSIBLE SON AND BROTHER
More than being the class valedictorian and his other awards, Tonton says that his greatest triumph is making his family happy and proud of what he has achieved. He shares that his father, a coconut wine gatherer in Hagonoy, Davao del Sur, told him how touched he was that his son was not ashamed of him and didn’t attempt to hide his simple job from the media.
“Nagpapasalamat yung tatay ko na hindi ko ikinahiya ‘yung trabaho niya. Sabi ko bakit ko naman ikahihiya ‘yun eh marangal naman ang trabaho niya kahit mahirap lang kami,” reveals Tonton who is the eldest in a brood of three.
Due to the meager income of his father, his 19-year-old sister was only able to finish high school. His youngest sibling, a deaf mute, has only reached Grade 4. Despite their struggles, Tonton says all of them were raised well by their parents Antonio and Erlinda.
“Disciplinarian ang tatay ko. Ipinagbabawal kami gumala sa gabi at makipag-inuman. ‘Yung nanay ko naman ay napakamaalagang nanay, asikasong asikaso lahat ng pangangailangan namin,” he adds.
With them as his inspiration, Tonton vows to work hard when he joins the Philippine Army and save his hard-earned money to support his family, and send his siblings to school.
BRIDGE BETWEEN GOVERNMENT AND PEOPLE
As one of the country’s most promising soldiers, Tonton hopes to bring pride and honor, and uphold the integrity of the institution by fulfilling the mandate asked of him.
“Gusto ko maging simpleng sundalo na nakakatulong sa mga tao, lalong lalo na sa walang wala. Gusto ko maging bridge ng gobyerno sa mga tao sa remote areas. Pero hindi lang ito sa salita, ipapakita ko through my actions na hindi nasayang ng taong bayan yung ginastos nila para sa edukasyon ko,” says Tonton.
On Sunday, March 17, Cadet First Class Tonton Lanaja will lead his class in the PMA’s 2013 Commencement Rites at Fort del Pilar in Baguio City. He will receive the Presidential Saber Award from President Benigno S. Aquino III, and also the Philippine Army Saber, Academic Group Award, Computing and Info Sciences Plaque, Army Professional Course Plaque, Jusmag Award, Gen. Antonio Luna Award, and the Spanish Armed Forces Award.