Speech at the Golden Anniversary of PMA Matatag Class of 1971

18 December 2021 / 02:13 PM

Speech at the Golden Anniversary of PMA Matatag Class of 1971

In recent decades, scientists have been putting forward the radical idea that the human brain is designed to forget that old, unused memories wither over time like a photograph left under the sunlight.

This is exactly the reason why getting old sucks. Let me say what my “mistahs” hate to hear, but I will say it anyway: there is a moment in being old when nothing is left in your brain except happy, pleasant, even naughty memories that you cannot even remember. Do not get me wrong. The surviving members of this year’s Golden Jubilarians, the Matatag Class of 1971 are not there yet.

And when the inevitable happens to many of us - maybe ten to twenty years from now, or earlier - I am quite certain - that my brain would designate a special compartment that houses the good, the bad, the ugly and even the painful memories inside the resounding walls of our cadet barracks, the cadet mess hall and everywhere else within the confines of Fort del Pilar.

Five decades and four years ago, on our reception day - April 1, 1967 to be exact, fate brought together 148 young men to this hallowed ground up in the misty mountains of pines and evergreens.

Stripped of civilian antics, our plebehood instantly subjected us to tough training, unique rules and regulations, and the highest norms of conduct that nobody but us would comprehend.

Being the lowest life form in the cadet corps, a plebe’s single goal only mattered: to learn to be obedient followers so they can be fit and prepared to become field commanders and leaders of men that are apart from and above the rest.

Our days as Yearlings, Cows, and Firsties further shaped and honed us to the principles of honor, discipline, and excellence, to stand against anything that threatens our country’s march toward the path of security and progress.

On March 28, 1971, 109 men all imbued with the values of Courage, Integrity, and Loyalty – were supposed to step out from the gate of Fort del Pilar. Sadly, one of those young men, Page 2 of 7 the late First Class Cadet Wilfredo Tapia succumbed to leukemia, thus posthumously graduated with the rest of us.

From then on, the rest is history.

For the Matatag Class of 1971, it was 50 years of glory, service, triumphs, defeats and sacrifices.

Our class members were called different names - some good, some bad; sometimes even vitriolic and vicious - which I had actually experienced - as we belong to arguably, thus far the most controversial class to emerge from the Academy since its founding in the early 20th century.

But one thing is certain: we are never called “The Matatags” for no reason.

Living up to our class moniker, our class fought and bled in many battles - we stood at the forefront of armed rebellions and peaceful revolutions that set the course of our nation’s history.

Even in our second careers as elected or appointed public officials, as well as in private enterprises, within us is our ironclad commitment to the virtues taught to us by our beloved Alma Mater. These virtues are much-warranted in today’s unprecedented challenges: the long-term impact of the pandemic, the ballooning national debt, the biggest dip of our economy, the maritime disputes in the West Philippine Sea, as well as the undeniable climate crisis.

At this very moment, I ask of you a few seconds of silence for all of our countrymen who as we speak, have been suffering the devastating impact of Typhoon Odette.

The world indeed shifts under our feet and nothing but change has remained constant.

Looking back, much has changed in the landscape of PMA in over five decades. The prospect of the country’s 1st National Cyber Defense Academy along with the largest intelligent network through Project Lightning in Baguio City were unimaginable back in our day.

Between you and me, what we can now anticipate appears to be a “digital renaissance” in the next three years. This Page 4 of 7 breakthrough technology is our way to revolutionize our connectivity landscape which already addresses the speed, cost, and efficiency requirements to literally connect everything.

Yesterday, I had a chance to see for myself Baguio’s Smart City Command Center – the realization of Mayor Magalong’s vision of operationalizing digital governance in order to unlock even more socio-economic opportunities in the city. The innovative solutions in crowd density monitoring, timely incident reporting, and even real time weather prediction will surely be key in elevating the quality of life of the city’s residents.

Indeed, what we are bound to do, as leaders in various sectors of our country, is to stay the course and keep in pace with pivotal transformations in our society – akin to that of the meaningful governance reforms of Baguio City Mayor and fellow cavalier, Benjie Magalong

This includes pacing ourselves to the thriving digital economy that is bound to change not only our defense system, but literally every single aspect of our nation’s well-being.

Only if we institute the much-needed reforms of our society in line with the demands of our time can we live up to the legacy of being “Matatag”: strong, unbowed and unyielding

We are the keepers of this legacy.

Let it be said by future generations of soldiers that in times of the country’s political turmoil, never did we sit idly nor wallow; in times when we were called to be of service to our fellowmen, never did we turn our backs - instead we wore our badges with honor and dignity; in the face of the challenges that confronted our country, we carried with us the highest ideals of nationalism and patriotism in the performance of our noble duty – not for anyone but for the Filipino people.

As the long gray line keeps getting longer behind us, we remain unbowed in carrying our proud heritage, of our esprit de corps as cavaliers. Page 6 of 7 We keep history alive as we gather here today on the iconic Borromeo Field, and to this end, let the words of our Academy song enliven the memories of the 108-strong group of men who have offered their best share of illustrious service to the country and the Filipino people:

Let thy sons ever be

Men of Integrity, Courage and Loyalty

Academy, oh Hail to thee…

MARAMING SALAMAT!

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