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The Class of 1970

/ 04:03 AM February 24, 2020

Last Saturday, the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1970 marked their golden anniversary with simple and abbreviated homecoming activities at Fort Del Pilar, Baguio City. In 1966, 85 young men entered the academy as plebes, or fourth-classmen. Of the original 85, only 32 would graduate but they would be joined by 33 cadets from other classes — turnbacks — making the class 65-strong upon graduation. Cadet Irwin P. Ver, son of former AFP chief of staff, Gen. Fabian C. Ver and Manang Aida, graduated as class valedictorian while Cadet Eduardo Jonson of Rizal was first captain of the Cadet Corps.

When they entered the academy in 1966, President Ferdinand Marcos was in his first year as commander in chief. By the time they graduated in 1970, the First Quarter Storm had just taken place with anti-Marcos student activists rallying to protest government abuses with the cry, “Makibaka, huwag matakot.” The stage was set for confrontation between the two groups: those for change and those defending the status quo. In the end however, love would prevail as Irwin Ver, top man of Class 1970, wed Gemma Nemenzo, a stormtrooper of the First Quarter Movement. Two weeks ago, veterans of the First Quarter Storm also marked their 50th anniversary.

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The Class of 1970 has retired from the military service, but a number still serve in civil government positions with the most prominent being Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu. Gen. Ernesto Carolina is the administrator of the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office, while Gen. Edgar Galvante is the chief of the Land Transportation Office of the Department of Transportation. In politics, Romeo Acop represented Antipolo City in Congress. While in the service, Gen. Dionisio Santiago was commanding general, Philippine Army and later, AFP chief of staff; Gen. Hermogenes Ebdane Jr. was chief, Philippine National Police; and Lt. Gen. Nestor Santillan was head of the Philippine Air Force. They continue to contribute their time and efforts on behalf of deserving children of fellow soldiers through the PMA Educational Trust Fund. A new wing at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center with 24 bedrooms is their latest project.

Another outstanding member of the class and my trusted lieutenant at Customs, Guillermo “Willy” Parayno, had this to say how the PMA influenced his life: “The life-changing experiences I have gone through, shaped me and I attribute them all largely to the Philippine Military Academy. Our alma mater opened extraordinary doors for me, not just once but thrice. The strength of character and leadership skills that PMA instilled in me as a cadet from 1966 to 1970 were among the solid foundations upon which I was able to develop my career and profession in and out of government.

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“Early on, PMA plucked me out of active military service when I was sent to do post-graduate studies at the University of the Philippines from 1971 to 1973, under the PMA Instructors’ Development Program. At UP Diliman, I won a National Science Development Board scholarship but opted instead to accept an instructor’s position. It was a most valuable personal choice because teaching at UP was a very rewarding privilege and I believe I learned and benefited much more than what I imparted.

“In 1975, after teaching PMA cadets where I further honed my instructional and communications skills, I was granted a scholarship to pursue an MBM degree at the Asian Institute of Management, as the first Zobel Awardee from PMA. The year I graduated from AIM with the prestigious ‘Triple A’ award for their alumni, was the beginning of my many years of civil government service. Not even in my dreams did I think of becoming commissioner of the Bureau of Customs and the Bureau of Internal Revenue. In all the organizations I worked for, the following priorities have been very clear for me—country above everything, people’s concerns secondly, and last, the company’s interest.

“Of all the heroes who inspired me in my life, I would like to particularly thank three alumni of the PMA for putting their trust and confidence in me, and allowing me to shine: Col. Cesar Pobre, dean, Corps of Professors, PMA; Gen. Ramon J. Farolan, longest-serving commissioner of the Bureau of Customs; and Gen. Jose T. Almonte, commissioner of the Economic Intelligence and Investigation Bureau. Thank you for what you have turned me into, and for everything that I am today.”

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