Vice President Jejomar Binay commended Cadet First Class Kristian Daeve Gelacio Abiqui, this year’s topnotcher of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA), noting that the young graduate has proven that indigenous peoples (IPs) can also excel.
Abiqui will graduate today with flying colors after several years of rigorous training as part of Gabay-Laya (Gintong Anak ng Bayan, Alay ay Buhay Para sa Kalayaan) Class of 2016.
“Nakakalungkot hanggang ngayon may mga nangmamaliit at nagsasabing kami daw po ay mga hamak na IP lamang. Pero tingnan ninyo, ang valedictorian ng PMA ngayon, Ibanag! [It is sad that until now there are those who belittle us saying we are mere IPs. But look, PMA’s valedictorian is an Ibanag!]” Binay said in a statement.
The Ibanag is among several original ethnic groups who live in northeastern Luzon. They are concentrated in the provinces of Cagayan, Nueva Vizcaya, and Isabela.
The 24-year-old Abiqui, who hails from San Pablo town in Isabela, had to stop in his second year at the military academy for health reasons but he persevered.
Abiqui will receive the Presidential Saber Award, Philippine Navy Saber, Academic Group award, Australian Defense Best Overall Performance Award, Humanities Plaque, Mathematics Plaque, Natural Science Plaque, Navy Professional Course Plaque, and the General Antonio Luna Award.
Binay hopes that Abiqui, who will join the Philippine Navy, will inspire others.
“Kasama po sa pagtahak natin sa landas ng pagkakaisa at pag-unlad bilang isang bansa ang pagyamanin ang ating kultura. Isa si Cadet First Class Abiqui sa mga patunay sa galing at pagsisikap naming mga IPs [Enriching our culture is part of our journey to unity and development as one nation. Cadet First Class Abiqui is living proof of us IPs’ excellence and perseverance],” he said.
Binay, whose mother, the late Lourdes Cabauatan, hailed from Cabagan town also in Isabela, is proud of his Ibanag roots.
He leads the Ibanag Heritage Foundation Inc., an organization dedicated towards the preservation of the ethnic group’s culture.
The PMA’s second top graduate is a woman — Cadet First Class (Cdt 1CL) Christine Mae Calima of Bolinao, Pangasinan. She is the only female cadet to make it to the top 10.
She will receive the Vice Presidential Saber and Philippine Air Force (PAF) Saber. Her other awards include the Tactics Group Award, Australian Defense Best Overall Performance (Air Force) Management Plaque, Social Sciences Plaque, Department of Tactical Officers Plaque, Department of Leadership Plaque, Air Force Professional Courses, Aguinaldo Saber, Spanish Armed Forces Award, Association of Generals and Flag Officers Award.
Arby Jurist Azman Cabrera from Cauayan, Isabela ranked third. He will receive the Secretary of National Defense Saber Award. Cabrera will join the Air Force.
The other top graduates are Joseph Stalin Fagsao of Maddela, Quirino who will receive the Philippine Army Saber for being the number one graduate in his chosen branch of service.
The 22-year-old orphan is also a recipient of the Australian Defence Best Overall Performance Award (Army), Computing and Information Sciences Plaque and Army Professional Courses Plaque.
He is followed by Jayson Jess Tomtit of Baguio City; Mark Joseph Daria of Bangar, La Union; Ace Uy Clarianes of Libmanan, Camarines Sur; Prince Aday of Sta. Cruz, Davao del Sur; George Bernard Garcia of Labrador, Pangasinan; and Gerald Gasacao of Meycauayan, Bulacan.