Last 18 February was the Alumni Homecoming. After a series of hectic preparations on our part tidying up everything, fixing our things for open house, the cavaliers swarmed Fort del Pilar with faces gleaming with excitement like a young boy who was given his first bike. Young and old alike, they proudly wear their bull rings on their fingers, its imposing size somehow illustrates the very importance of the ring. For us, it was an instance of curiousity and astonishment to the many individuals that have come before us. Others that you saw in TV; the former Chief of Staffs, the Generals, the Senators and other prominent members of society are just there enjoying the cool Baguio breeze with nostalgia painted all over their face clearly reminiscent of their good old days as men wearing the sacred full dress uniform.
As a classmate stood in attention in his full dress white uniform holding a flag of some old PMA class, a huge man taps him on the back.
"My last name?"
"I will find out sir," came the quick reply of my classmate.
"Dahil hindi mo ako kilala, mag one-leg up ka"
In an instant, even when sleep was barely 3 hours the night before, one foot ascends from its place in the field. The foot is raised for a couple of minutes until finally,
"Tsun" came another order of the still unidentified cavalier.
In a short while, he feels that the man is leaning against him. He still remains in attention but tries hard to keep his balance exerting all effort not to fall as the weight of the man behind him pushes him forward. A few more moments, the cavalier who ordered "one leg up" and is now leaning against him, raises his hand and waves to the crowd as he is acknowledged as Senator Rodolfo Biazon.
The Alumni Homecoming is an annual gathering of all PMA classes. For the cadets, it is the second busiest activity, second only to graduation week. One wonders why every year, each PMAer will trek going up to Baguio City just to attend this gathering. I, too, wonder. Why is it that the likes of Senator Biazon, whom people see in TV delivering speeches in the Senate, giving interviews on issues and others, go back to PMA every February and find joy in ordering one clueless cadet to raise one leg and then have his huge frame be carried as he leans at the back of the cadet. Others find great pleasure when their company song is sung, or when an old classmate tells the story of the day they fought over a piece of bukayo or when the time he was made to run around the parade grounds for an infinite number of times. It is an interesting phenomenon, a social occurence that some people may not understand. When this men troop the line of the cadets , each of them is suddenly filled with youthfulness marching in cadence with the base drum and beaming with pride. And as the Alma Mater song is sung, everyone stands in attention, they stop everything that they do and then the atmosphere becomes so solemn juving with the song that each PMAer treasure in his heart. After the parade, everyone goes home and everything becomes normal again. Our classes resume and life in PMA becomes the usual.
In reality though, every PMAer leaves Fort del Pilar invigorated with a replenished sense of idealism and commitment. Even as I look at their faces, I could see how much time has taken its toll. Their hairs begin to fade, wrinkles appear from everywhere. Their former muscular bodies have been replaced with big beer bellies and all is left are just fond memories of cadetship and that ring that they wear in their finger. Yet in their hearts, remains the imposing ideals of this noble institution. Within them is a renewed sense of Courage, Integrity and Loyalty. Anyone who has gone through plebehood is never the same person and maybe that is what it is all about. The Philippine Military Academy has given them a deep sense of purpose to be part of something that is great to this country. Within the very walls of this insitution, they have become men. And so they go back each year reliving their experience that made them who they are now, men of Courage, Integrity and Loyalty. They go back to their own lives doing what they do best, as PMAers, as servants of the motherland.