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PMA grad 2015
President Benigno S. Aquino III salutes the cadets of Sinaglahi Class 2015 during the 110th Commencement Exercises of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) held on March 15, 2015. (Photo by the Malacañang Photo Bureau)

President Benigno S. Aquino III will grace the Philippine Military Academy Graduation Exercises for Gabay-Laya Class on March 13, 2016 at the Fort Gen. Gregorio del Pilar in Baguio City.

The PMA “Gabay Laya” Class of 2016 is one of the smallest PMA batches in decades.[1] “Gabay Laya” stands for “­­­­­­­­­­Gintong Anak ng Bayan Alay ay Buhay para sa Kalayaan.” Of the 20,201 applicants who took the examination for the Class of 2016, 123 entered the Academy, but only 50 cadets completed the course on schedule. Thirteen deferred cadets from previous classes will join the Class of 2016, bringing the total number of graduates to 63.

Profile of the Graduating Class
Army Air Force Navy Total
Male 29 11 16 56
Female 4 2 1 7
Total 33 13 17 63

History of the Philippine Military Academy

The Philippine Military Academy traces its beginnings to the officers’ school of the Philippine Constabulary in Manila, which opened on February 15, 1905 at the Sta. Lucia Barracks in Intramuros.

The school transferred to Baguio three years later, on September 1, 1908, with Major James F. Quin as Head. The passage of Act No. 2319 by the Philippine Legislature on April 14, 1914, provided funds for the maintenance of the officers’ school. Subsequently, Act No. 2605 was passed on February 4, 1916 and renamed the school “Academy for Officers of the Philippine Constabulary.” It extended its course of instruction to carry out its mission to train men to become officers of the Philippine Constabulary. The passage of this Act marked the beginning of the requirement that candidates must pass a competitive examination.

On December 8, 1926, Act No. 3496 was passed by the Philippine Legislature and declared the official name of the school as the Philippine Constabulary Academy. The nine-month course transitioned to two years, until it became three years in accordance with the provision of a subsequent amending Act. A modification of the act also provided for the strengthening of the Acadamy’s faculty and the readjustments of its curriculum.

By this time, the Academy had already earned the status of college. Colonel R.A. Buckworthford, who was the Superintendent from 1929 to 1932, stated:

“The Academy is vested by law with the status of a college. The diplomas awarded to the Academy graduates should be recognized as equivalent to an AB or BS degree in the same way as West Point diplomas are recognized by most universities and other collegiate institutions in the United States.”

The rise of the Constabulary Academy to full college status came with the passage of Commonwealth Act No. 1 (the National Defense Act) on December 21, 1935. Prior to the Commonwealth, the colonial status of the Philippines meant that it could not provide for its own armed forces. With the transition period to full independence; however, the Commonwealth government embarked on putting in place the institutions necessary for a professional officer corps. The academy further extended its course of instruction to four years, conferred on its graduates the degree of Bachelor of Science, and authorized the final change of its name to “Philippine Military Academy.” In signing the National Defense Act, Pres. Manuel L. Quezon reaffirmed the need for a competent officers’ school and its important role in the building of a strong Philippines.

From the time of its transfer to Baguio on September 1, 1908 to 1936, the Academy was situated on Constabulary Hill, which was subsequently named Camp Henry T. Allen in honor of the man who was greatly responsible for its growth and development. In 1936, the Academy transferred to a bigger though temporary location at Teacher’s Camp, also in Baguio City. Again, the Academy saw extensive changes in its course of instructions in both military and academic courses.

The outbreak of World War II disrupted entirely what had auspiciously begun. The cadets of Class ’42 and ’43 graduated ahead of schedule. They and their officers and instructors were assigned to combat units in Bataan and other sectors of the country.

The Philippine Military Academy officially reopened on May 5, 1947 in Baguio City. Classes began on the first week of June and were held at the old Camp Allen. Rehabilitation and development went hand in hand with the training of the then singular class of cadets. In the absence of upperclassmen, a few members of Class ’44 and ’45 were given the responsibility of indoctrinating the cadets until the integration of underclassmen to the Corps. Because of the need for wider grounds, a site in Loakan was acquired. The Academic Building, which was constructed at a cost of P 1,300.000, was initially erected on this new camp. Because the Corps was still small, the Academic Building was used as barracks and classrooms for the cadets. In early 1963, it was given the name Melchor Hall, after Col. Alejandro Melchor, who was Dean of the Academy.

After the construction of Melchor Hall, additional buildings were built. There were the officers’ quarters, the Station Hospital, and Yap Hall, which served as the cadet mess hall. For sports, a gymnasium was built and named Jurado Hall. There is also the covered court complex that doubles as auditorium, martial arts facilities, three tennis courts, and a 25-meter swimming pool.

To accommodate the increasing number of cadets, three additional barracks were constructed – the Regis Hall, the Central Barracks, and the Mayo Hall, and two newly constructed barracks which are collectively called Ramos Hall.

The Philippine Military Academy today has undergone many innovations—the Tri-Service Curriculum, infrastructure projects, the Faculty Merit System, and the acceptance of women into the Cadet Corps. But the Academy continues to be a symbol, a name, and a school. It epitomizes the best traditions of the service. It bears the standards of character founded on honor and fortified by discipline. It is a school that has trained men for over eighty years in the defense of the state and furtherance of peace and order. It has a proud heritage to cherish, a glorious tradition to uphold, a noble standard to maintain, and a vital mission to accomplish.

With its history considered, the Academy continues to endure and looks forward to the future guided by its motto “COURAGE, INTEGRITY, AND LOYALTY.”

PMA graduation exercise traditions

The Valedictorian and the Baron

The Presidential Saber is traditionally given by the incumbent President of the Philippines to the PMA Class Valedictorian. [READ: Remarks delivered by different Philippine presidents during PMA graduation exercises]

The Baron is the most ranking cadet in the Corps and is technically the immediate assistant of the Commandant of Cadets in the discipline, interior administration, training, and general efficiency of the Cadet Corps. The Baron has the distinction of wearing the longest chevron in the corps of cadets.

The Presidential Saber was first awarded by President Manuel L. Quezon in 1938 to Cadet Aristeo Ferraren, also the Baron of his class.

As per correspondence between columnist Ramon J. Farolan and blogger Winston Arpon, only three recipients of the Presidential Saber were also the Barons of their class: Cadet Leopoldo Regis, class of 1951 (and who died in the plane crash that also claimed President Magsaysay’s life in 1957), Cadet Manuel Arevalo, class of 1964, and Cadet Ferraren.

The Goat

The Goat is the cadet who graduates last in the class. This tradition was carried over from the United States Military Academy at West Point. Though discontinued at West Point since 1978, every cadet at the graduation ceremony knows who the class Goat is and when his or her name is read in the alphabetical list, the crowd bursts into sustained cheers.

Distribution of Rank Insignia

In 1957, Pilar Hidalgo Lim, wife of the late General Vicente Lim, started the tradition of giving all members of the PMA graduating classes their First Rank insignia, which they call their “Lieutenant’s triangles.” Every year, as a pre-graduation rite, the insignias are given to every member of the graduating class, together with 2 letters: a copy of the original letter of Mrs. Pilar Lim, and a letter of a representative of the Lim family, which has continued the tradition.

Official class names

The tradition of naming PMA Classes started with the Dimasupil class of 1967 (see full list below) as a verbal representation of the collective aspirations of the class.

Visit the PMA website


List of official class names (1967-2013)

1967 Dimasupil
1970 Magiting
1971 Matatag
1972 Masigasig
1973 Maagap
1974 Marangal
1975 Makabayan
1976 Magilas
1977 Masikap
1978 Makatarungan
1979 Matapat
1980 Mapitagan
1981 Dimalupig
1982 Sandigan
1983 Matikas
1984 Maharlika
1985 Sandiwa
1986 Sinagtala
1987 Hinirang
1988 Maringal
1989 Makatao
1990 Bigkis-Lahi
1991 Sambisig
1992 Tanglaw-Diwa
1993 Maalab
1994 Bantay Laya
1995 Marilag
1996 Mabikas
1997 Kalasag-Lahi
1998 Masinag
1999 Masikhay
2000 Sanghaya
2001 Kaakibat
2002 Banyuhay
2003 Mandarangan
2004 Maliyab
2005 Sanlingan
2006 Mandala
2007 Maragtas
2008 Baghawi
2009 Masiglahi
2010 Masidlak
2011 Laon-Alab
2012 Bagwis
2013 Pudang Kalis
2014 Siklab Diwa
2015 Sinaglahi
2016 Gabay Laya

List of recipients of the Presidential Saber

Aristeo T Ferraren 1938
Lisurgo E Estrada 1940
Manuel T Yan 1941
Eliseo D Rio 1942
Leopoldo B Regis 1951
Marcelo S Nuguid 1952
Bernabe D Salvador 1953
Donato L Guzman Jr 1954
Rosalino A Alquiza 1955
Jose C Bello Jr 1956
Arnolfo R Ramirez 1957
Gregorio D Bravo 1958
Sebastian B Arrastia 1959
Thaval N Sawangpunka 1960
Alexander P Aguirre 1961
Hernani M Jover 1962
Eckwood H Solomon Jr 1963
Manuel A S Arevalo 1964
Antonio A Daza 1965
Romeo H Bruce 1966
Anselmo S Avenido Jr 1967
Arthur B Garrido 1968
Crisostomo F Abanes 1969
Irwin P Ver 1970
Oscar O Martinez 1971
Eduardo H Gador 1972
Antonio R Torres 1973
Alfredo D Abueg Jr 1974
Raul M Subala 1975
Joel R Goltiao 1976
Kah K Lim 1977
Ho S Yee 1978
Rafael L Llave 1979
Delfin G Lorenzo 1980
Thawip P Netniyom 1981
Renoir M Pascua 1982
Ervin B Gumban 1983
Samuel T Jardin 1984
Manuel R Gaerlan 1985
Gilbert I Gapay 1986
Angel L Evangelista 1987
Antonio P Mendoza Jr 1988
Rei Ferdinan B Picar 1989
Bruce S Concepcion 1990
Jose Ernest B Gaviola 1991
Wayne B Avestruz 1992
Rommel R Cordova 1993
Genaro C Menor 1994
Gerardo O Gambala 1995
Rogelio R Lacerna Jr 1996
Ephraim G Suyom 1997
Joe Roy D Kindipan 1998
Arlene A Dela Cruz 1999
Paul Anthony V Aviquivil 2000
Sadiri R Tabutol 2001
Charlie Antonio Domingo Jr 2002
Tara J Velasco 2003
Rolly A Joaquin 2004
Bryan C Rayton 2005
Ariel M Toledo 2006
Andrelee S Mojica 2007
Ariel G Rallos 2008
Karl Winston Dl Cacanindin 2009
Eraño B Belen 2010
Angelo Edward Buan Parras 2011
Tom V Puertollano 2012
Jestoni Armand Lanaja 2013
Jheorge M Llona 2014
Arwi C Martinez 2015
Kristian Daeve Abiqui 2015

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[1] PMA batches in the 1960s are the smallest in history where there were years when only around 20 cadets graduated. In 2015, 172 cadets graduated from PMA.