A 25-year-old female cadet from Echague, Isabela has topped the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Masidlawin Class of 2020.
This year’s PMA valedictorian, Cadet First Class Gemalyn Deocares Sugui, is the daughter of a farmer and a public school teacher.
She earlier completed a Bachelor of Science in Management Economics degree at the University of the Philippines-Baguio.
Sugui bested 195 cadets who will be graduating virtually this Friday afternoon, May 22.
She is the sixth woman to lead the country’s premier military training institution’s graduating class since it started accepting female students in 1993.
She is also awarded with the Presidential Saber, the Achievement Award for Academic Excellence, the Joint United States Military Assistance Award, the Philippine Army Saber, the Spanish Armed Forces Award, the Social Sciences Plaque, the Management Plaque, and the Rule of Law Award.
Sugui intends to serve the Philippine Army.
This year’s ceremony will be totally different from the traditional PMA commencement exercises.
The cadets’ parents and other loved ones will not be allowed to attend the ceremony at Fort del Pilar in Baguio City, due to the coronavirus pandemic.
There will be no media coverage as well.
Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong earlier confirmed he will not attend the ceremonies.
Magalong said in an interview on May 15 that the graduation rites will be sad "without the parents, without the President, without all the fanfare."
The mayor was referring to President Rodrigo Duterte. It has been the tradition that the President of the Republic, the Armed Forces of the Philippines's (AFP) commander-in-chief, leads the annual PMA graduation.
As of this writing, there was no official word from Malacanang if President Duterte will indeed skip the ceremonies.
The graduation rites, however, will be streamed live via PMA’s official Facebook page, according to PMA information officer Capt. Cherry Tindog.
Social distancing and the mandatory wearing of masks will be followed during the graduation rites, Tindog said.
In a statement released today, PMA Superintendent Admiral Allan Ferdinand Cusi explained: “I believe this is a necessary decision in order to safeguard the health and general well-being of the CCAFP (Cadet Corps, Armed Forces of the Philippines) and the whole PMA community.
“As a parent, I know how heartbreaking and disappointing that decision is, but we have to do what is best for all. Safety and health are paramount at all times,” he added.
As of May 21, the Department of Health (DOH) has recorded a total of 13,434 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country, with 3,000 recoveries and 846 deaths.
In a CNN Philippines report today, Sugui said it saddens her that her family will not be able to personally witness her graduation ceremony.
“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,” CNN quoted Sugui.
In the same interview, Sugui shared that she never expected to be her class’s valedictorian.
“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,” Sugui said.
Here are the Top 10 of PMA Masidlawin Class of 2020:
Masidlawin stands for Mandirigmang Isinilang na may Dangal at Lakas Upang Maging Tanglaw ng Inang Bayan.
Of the 196 graduates, 100 will join the Philippine Army, 45 will serve the Philippine Air Force, while 51 will be with the Philippine Navy.