President Benigno Aquino III on Sunday hailed this year’s graduating cadets of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) who called their batch "Pudang Kalis."
"The Pudang Kalis Class of 2013 is ‘replete’ with these kinds of stories, of men and women who have battled through their share of hardship and emerged triumphant," the President said in his speech during the PMA commencement exercises held at Fajardo Grandstand, Borromeo Field, Fort Gregorio H. Del Pilar, here.
"From Maryam Balais, your salutatorian, who fractured her hand during training, to Cadets Aragona, Gonzales, Landicho, and many other classmates who worked as fastfood crew members before entering the PMA. All of you are beneficiaries not only of your own hard work, but of the collective efforts of those around you," he said.
President Aquino challenged the PMA graduates "that the efforts and the sacrifices made by those who helped you succeed will give rise to an abiding sense of responsibility within you — that you will likewise dedicate time, energy, and the same kind of loyalty to your fellow men."
"The work of the entire Filipino people brought you to today’s triumph. It is my hope that your every action from here on is dedicated to this same people — because, after all, is it not true that all problems arise from those who think only of themselves and of their own interests," he said.
The President cited this year’s valedictorian Jestoni Lanaja, in hurdling so many challenges before he became a PMA cadet.
"He (Lanaja) did not grow up well-off. His brother never had the chance to go to college, and his sister could not get her disability treated in hospitals. But through years of drawing palm wine, his father supported Jestoni until he became a cadet here in the PMA. Now, Jestoni bears the Presidential Saber, a symbol of the honor and of the great responsibility that comes with being class valedictorian," he said.
The President also mentioned Prolen Banacua, who is graduating third of PMA Class 2013.
"Even before he (Banacua) became a soldier, he battled with and ultimately overcame Hodgkin’s lymphoma. I am sure that his pride and joy is equaled, and even perhaps surpassed, by his father, who worked as a machinist, and by his mother, a factory worker — both of whom strived to ensure that Prolen did not face cancer alone, and that their son would have a good future to look forward to, one made possible by a good education," he said.
President Aquino also cited the situation in Sabah, Malaysia, which led to a bloody conflict, and displacement of Filipinos who have been residing there.
"Did its masterminds consider how their actions would affect the majority? We have an estimated 800,000 Filipinos quietly living and working in Sabah. Did the masterminds of this situation consider any of this as they provoked and aggravated the situation — as they gathered the funds needed to rent boats, to buy gasoline and food, guns and bullets? You would know this from your classes in Logistics," he said.
The President said it is clear that "whoever was behind this only thought of themselves and of their own interests, disregarding those of their fellow men."
"And even if we believe that those who went to Sabah only wanted to stand up for what they believe in — wouldn’t it have been better for everyone involved if they did so through calm and reasonable discourse, in accordance with the law and the appropriate processes," he said.
"If we were to resort to saber-rattling and violence, the problem would only grow bigger, and in all likelihood, would only carry over to the next generations. We have already seen the positive fruits of dialogue with our countrymen who, like us, want the Bangsamoro to progress. Earnest dialogue is more effective, more productive, and more beneficial to all, as opposed to pointing weapons at each other. Forbearance and reason are not equivalent to cowardice — on the contrary, these are the measures of true courage and resolve, because through these we are able to consider the well-being of not only those living in the here and now, but especially those in the years to come," he stressed.
As the next leaders of the Armed Forces, President Aquino said, "you bear on your shoulders a grave responsibility."
"And as someone who is a little bit older than you, perhaps this is the lesson I can impart: whenever you face a dilemma, you need only put yourselves in the shoes of those that will be the most affected, the most abused, the poorest, those who are in most need of your protection — and I can promise you, what is right and what is wrong will become clearer. They who are in the margins of society, they who are our ‘bosses’, the Filipino people — they are the ones who will set the direction we must take; so long as we always keep their well-being in mind, we will never stray," he stressed.