Female cadet tops PMA 'Masidlawin' Class 2020

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 22) — A female cadet from the province of Isabela topped the graduating class of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) this year.

Gemalyn Sugui bested 195 graduates of "Masidlawin" Class of 2020 to become the sixth woman in history to lead the PMA graduating batch since 1993.

Sugui said graduating at the top of her class came as a surprise to her.

"Siguro may plano ang Diyos bakit nilagay Niya ako sa position na ito kahit na hindi ko man ito pinagdarasal na makuha, binigay Niya sa akin kasi kaya ko," she said in a taped interview.

[Translation: Maybe the Lord has a plan which is why he gave me this even if I didn't pray for it. Maybe He gave it to me because he knows I can handle it.]

The 25-year-old Sugui, who intends to join the Philippine Army, is the daughter of a farmer and a public school teacher. She said it pains her that families are not allowed to attend the private graduation ceremony on Friday afternoon due to the COVID-19 crisis.

"Malungkot talaga ako kasi ito talaga ang hinihintay ng family ko na masaksihan sa lahat ng event ng PMA, ito ang pinaka importante kasi ito na ang pagtatapos ng paghihirap ko dito sa academy," she said.

[Translation: It's sad because they have been waiting for this moment. This is the most important PMA event because it's the culmination of all my hardships.]

She is also being awarded the Presidential Saber, the Achievement Award for Academic Excellence, the JUSMAG Award, the Philippine Army Saber, the Spanish Armed Forces Award, the Social Sciences Plaque, the Management Plaque, and the Rule of Law Award.

The Top 10 were an equal mix of male and female cadets.

Below are the Top 10 of Masidlawin Class of 2020:

1. Gemalyn Sugui of Echague, Isabela

2. Jade Villanueva of Tacloban City

3. Jefferson Salazar of Zamboanga City

4. Rojes Gaile Jamandre of Lamut, Ifugao

5. Jeb Bay-an of Kabayan, Benguet

6. Catabay Ladyong of Tabuk, Kalinga-apayao

7. Vanelyn Angel Tabao of Tuguegarao City

8. June Giel Anne Factor of Ilocos Norte

9. Rubenson Abgao of Baroy, Lanao Del Norte

10. Dencel Aina Bayaca of Pampanga

Of the 196 graduates, 100 will be joining the Philippine Army, 45 opted to join the Philippine Air Force, while 51 will be with the Philippine Navy.

President Rodrigo Duterte attended the joint graduation ceremony of the PMA and the Philippine National Police Academy the same day.

In a speech he congratulated the graduates and reminded them of the value of sticking to their mandate of protecting the country.

"[If] those who are tasked with the maintenance of peace and order and the protection of public and private property do not do their mandate or worse, commit that which they are called upon to prevent or guard against...what then?" said Duterte. "Sino’ng tutulong ng bayan? (Who will help the country?)"

He also commended their parents although they were not allowed to attend the ceremony.

"All of you owe your parents so much and that is why I said you should be --- I am sure you will find a way to be together even at a distance just to shorten the space, " he said.

He also awarded house and lots worth P2 million from the company of former senator Manny Villar to Sugui and PNPA topnotcher Fire Inspector Lei Anne Banico Palermo. Meanwhile, the class "goat" or the cadet at the bottom rank from each academy also received a new pistol.

The PMA graduation tradition involves a testimonial parade and review to honor retiring alumni and Trooping the Line where cadets assemble in formations on Fort Del Pilar's Borromeo Field in Baguio City.

The last time the PMA was unable to hold a graduation ceremony was during World War Two. In February, the PMA alumni association delayed its homecoming by a week, also due to coronavirus concerns.

More than 13,000 cases of COVID-19 have been recorded in the country, with quarantine restrictions still in place in different areas.