To Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Cadet First Class Jheorge Llona, poverty was not a roadblock to excellence.
The valedictorian of “Siklab Diwa” Class of 2014 received the Presidential Saber from President Benigno Aquino 3rd during graduation rites on Sunday in Baguio City.
Llona, a 22-year-old farmer’s son from Maopi, Daraga, Albay, also received the Philippine Air Force Saber, Academic Group Award, Management Plaque, Air Force Professional Courses Plaque, Gen. Antonio Luna Award, Australian Defense Best Overall Performance Award and Jusmag Award, which will allow him to study in the United States.
He said he and his six siblings were taught by their father, Nelson, to work hard to attain their dreams. He finished elementary with top honors and took up Accountancy in Bicol University of Legazpi before enrolling at the PMA.
He recalled that he had to hike to school everyday since their house was in the middle of a rice field in a remote barangay.
“Our parents advised us to strive hard to achieve our desires,” Llona said in a radio interview.
Llona’s triumph was lauded by his fellow Albayanos. The provincial government of Albay passed a resolution honoring Llona. A copy of the resolution was handed to him by Albay Gov. Joey Salceda shortly before the graduation ceremonies.
The Albayanos lauded Llona for pursuing his education and landing on top of his class.
Llona’s family, including his brother P01 Renan Llona, attended the graduation rites.
Besides Llona, who will be joining the Air Force, 15 other Bicolanos graduated from the academy.
Cadet First Class Liza Dango of Marawi City is the class salutatorian. The only female among the top 10 graduates, she received the Vice Presidential Saber, Philippine Army Saber, Humanities Plaque and the Australian Defense Best Overall Performance Award.
In his speech, the President called on the graduates to practice the PMA’s Honor Code even after they have left the academy.
Aquino, the military’s commander-in-chief, said the graduates should continue to observe the PMA rules of “honesty, loyalty, and integrity” since it embodies the true meaning of service to their bosses, the Filipino people.
“If it’s our duty to implement the Honor Code in this institution, then we should also uphold it outside the PMA,” the President said in his speech before the 2014 Class Siklab Diwa, an acronym for Sundalong Ikinararangal ng Lahing Bayani sa Diwang Wagas.
The code has been under a cloud of controversy after the academy dismissed Cadet First Class Aldrin Jeff Cudia weeks before the graduation rites.
Cudia supposedly violated the code by lying about his tardiness in one class.
The President has ordered Armed Forces chief of staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista to investigate the case of Cudia after listening to the cadet’s concerns on Saturday.
Aquino met Cudia and his family for about two hours at The Mansion, the presidential summer residence in Baguio, on the eve of the academy’s commencement rites.
“If lying is not allowed in class and to our fellow cadets, then we should also not allow soldiers to deceive their fellow men and break the Constitution?” he said.
The President hopes that cadets will apply the principles they learned in the academy not to give in to temptations in the real world.
“If cheating in exams is strictly prohibited, then we should also avoid corruption such as when procuring military weaponry,” he said.
“If there’s punishment against cadets who steal from fellow cadets, then help prosecute those who steal public funds,” Aquino added.
The President mentioned his speech that the government will acquire new military equipment, including at least 20 aircraft.
He also announced the purchase of 63,000 new rifles to replace the decades-old guns that are still in service.