Notes on Philippine Military Academy homecoming activities: Vice President Jejomar Binay who also serves as the chairman of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) was the guest of honor at the PMA alumni gathering in Baguio City during the weekend. As I mentioned in an earlier column, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas was the guest speaker at the PMA Alumni Annual General Membership meeting held at Camp Aguinaldo last month. Roxas is an honorary member of PMA Class 1984 while Binay belongs to PMA Class 1998, members of whom are marking their Silver Jubilee this year.
In his remarks at Fort del Pilar, Binay referred to himself as a “kool kat” or “kulang sa sukat,” which is why he failed to make it to the PMA. He was short of the height requirement by several inches. However, he added, “Hindi ako nagkukulang sa kulay o sa pagmamahal sa ating bansa.”
Over the years, much has been said about the practice of adopting various personalities as honorary or associate members of PMA classes. Many of these individuals would certainly add prestige and influence to any group or association that would decide to embrace them as their own. But considering that one of the goals of our development efforts is to have a truly professional and apolitical military institution, perhaps it would be prudent to once again review association policies on this issue. Maybe classes could honor specific individuals of their choice in ways other than by adoption.
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Philippine Red Cross Governor Mabini “EQ” Pablo reports that the Million Volunteer Run project of the Red Cross last Feb. 10 was a huge success. Conservative estimates had over 460,000 runners along Roxas Boulevard, 385,000 in Quezon City, and another 285,000 in other parts of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao, for a grand total of some 1,130,000 volunteer participants. The rally consisted of a broad spectrum of Philippine society: government employees, private citizens, NGO practitioners, students, parishioners, all coming together in a show of unity and strength for nation-building.
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In June 1936, a group of 175 young men, mostly University of the Philippines college graduates boarded trains at Manila’s Tutuban Station for Baguio City. They comprised the main bulk of student officers of the Reserve Officers Service School (ROSS) Class No. 1. The school was headed by a US Army officer as commandant and the faculty consisted of Philippine Scout and Philippine Constabulary officers. The student officers were mostly engineers, lawyers, accountants, and agriculturists with a sprinkling of doctors and dentists. Along with graduates of the Philippine Constabulary Academy, they would form the backbone of the officer corps of our Armed Forces as provided for by the National Defense Act of 1935.
After three months of intensive military training, the student officers were commissioned in the Reserve Force. President Manuel Quezon was the guest speaker at graduation ceremonies attended by members of the National Assembly, the Cabinet and the judiciary. Addressing the graduates, Quezon declared, “No other single group of young Filipino citizens has a greater opportunity for national service than now falls to the members of this class.” True enough, many members of ROSS Class No. 1 would fill key command and staff positions in the Armed Forces. A good number fought and died in Bataan, in the Death March that followed and in concentration camps of the enemy.
The first edition of “The Bayonet,” the class yearbook, was published shortly after graduation. Some of the facts about the class as mentioned in this yearbook were:
1) 130 out of the 175 members came from the University of the Philippines;
2) There were 59 engineers in the class;
3) The first president of the Third Republic, Manuel A. Roxas, was a member of the class. He held the rank of brigadier general in the AFP;
4) Chief Justice Fred Ruiz Castro was also a member of the class;
5) The class had two AFP chiefs of staff—Generals Alfredo M. Santos and Rigoberto Atienza;
6) The class had two Philippine Expeditionary Force to Korea (PEFTOK) commanders—Colonels Nicanor Jimenez, 14th Battalion Combat Team (father of Inquirer’s Letty Jimenez-Magsanoc) and Salvador Abcede, 20th Battalion Combat Team;
7) 39 members of the class perished during World War II;
8) 15 completed the Command and General Staff Course at Fort Leavenworth in the United States;
9) 2 joined the Air Force, 1 the Navy, and the rest the ground forces of either the Army or the Constabulary.
Several sons of members of the class followed in their fathers’ footsteps and joined the Armed Forces:
1) Brig. Gen. Amante Bueno, PMA Class 1954, son of Col. Aurelio Bueno, UP College of Engineering and one of the pioneers of the Engineer Construction Brigades of the Philippine Army;
2) Brig. Gen. Roman Gavino Jr., Class 1958, son of Brig. Gen. Roman Gavino, former president, National Defense College;
3) Col. George Aquino, Class 1963, son of Col. Restituto Aquino, former Armed Forces attaché, Philippine Embassy Bangkok, Thailand;
4) Maj. Gen. Jose Lapus, Class 1965, son of Gen. Ismael Lapus, former commanding general, Philippine Army and AFP vice chief of staff;
5) Defense Secretary Lt. Gen. Voltaire Gazmin, Class 1968, son of Brig. Gen. Segundo Gazmin, former area commander, 2nd Military Area.
(My apologies for having left out anyone.)
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“The Bayonet” had no editor-in-chief, but Ret. Col. Conrado B. Uichanco, an agriculture graduate of UP Los Baños, came up with several anecdotes about World War II that were published in the yearbook:
“Japanese war notes were acceptable because they had a solid backing—the bayonet. For this reason, their value started sliding downward when the Japanese Imperial Forces began to suffer humiliating reverses in the Pacific area. Finally, when Japan surrendered, the currency became worthless.”
“‘Ohayo’ means ‘Good morning’ in Japanese. ‘Oy hayop!’ means ‘You animal!’ in the vernacular. Their euphony is striking. When our people would give vent to their pent up feelings on meeting the ‘sons of heaven,’ the greeting was ‘Oy hayop!’ Just as pleasing to the Japanese soldiers’ ears.”
“Singapore, with its elaborate defenses, raised the white flag in surrender to the enemy very much earlier than our military bastions in Bataan and Corregidor. Although poorly fed and poorly equipped, our men carried on the fight with bulldog tenacity. The secret lies in the men behind the guns.”
Having fought alongside American soldiers with unfaltering loyalty, Uichanco expressed the view that the Filipino soldier did not deserve such shabby treatment from the US Congress when many were deprived of their benefits as veterans of World War II.