Filipino cadet flies high at USAF Academy

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The lone Filipino cadet who graduated with honors at the US Air Force Academy (Usafa) on Wednesday wants to serve the country well, help send his six younger siblings to school, and raise a Christ-centered family.

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Theodore Karl Quijano, the 16th cadet from the Philippines to graduate from the prestigious Usafa at Colorado Springs since 1956, was in the academy’s Superintendent’s List, having graduated with academic, military, and athletic distinctions.

“God, family and country—it was clear to me that I was doing this for them, not for myself,” Quijano said of the hard work he put into his four years at Usafa. “I wanted to work for something bigger than myself. This drove me to work really hard and do the best I can.”

Dream of flying
The first son of working-class parents from Dipolog City, Quijano said he grew up at the fringes of the city’s airport, where he dreamed of some day flying an aircraft.

After his graduation from the Usafa, Quijano was sworn in as second lieutenant in the Philippine Air Force by Col. Arnel Duco, the PAF’s Washington DC-based Military Attaché.

Quijano’s parents and his girlfriend Connie Endrina of Di­polog flew to Colorado to attend his graduation on Wednesday afternoon.

His father, Teodoro, said he is proud and thankful for what Karl has achieved so far, which he admits was beyond his expectations.

“Because of our station in life, I thought I would be happy to see Karl finish college,” the elder Quijano said by phone in Filipino from Colorado Springs. “I thank God, because he not only finished his studies; he earned a college degree in America.”

‘Good, smart kid’
Mang Teodoro said Karl is a “very good and smart kid.” “When Karl was one or two years old, I noticed he was really a fast learner. He tinkered with his electronic toys and was very fond of his toy Armalite rifle,” he said.

After Karl became CMT (Citizen’s Military Training) corps commander at the Zamboanga del Norte National High School in Dipolog City, Mang Teodoro knew his son would soon be a military officer.

Apart from being in the Superintendent’s List for overall excellence and the Dean’s List for academic excellence, Quijano also received the Outstanding Basic Cadet Award from the academy’s commandant for Military excellence.

He also earned his Parachutist Badge, Space Wings (for completing the space operations program that taught him, among others, how to operate satellites), Glider Pilot Wings and the Powered Flight Wings.

Quijano ranked second in athletics in his batch and is the only Filipino cadet (out of 15 who preceded him in the Usafa since 1956) to get a perfect physical fitness score in the academy’s 500 Club.

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