By: Cdt. Cecilia C. Bernabe
They were tough. Strong-willed. Highly enthusiastic. Bristling with pride. They look squarely in the eyes of people and say: "Yes, I want to be a female cadet of the Philippine Military Academy." Encouraged by a few, considered incredulous by many, reacted upon with either an open mouth or a raised eyebrow by all, they loaded the PMA buses one early morning of 1 April 1995 and got shuttled all the way to their "precious destination" in Baguio City. They took along nothing but themselves, and thought they would conquer the world.
Then came Reception Day. Not a few expected white-draped long tables loaded with good food as PMA welcomes the New Cadet Battalion within its portals. Never has a welcome been more staggering. In the longest afternoon of their lives, ferocious upperclassmen introduced the latest plebes the Borromeo Field version of living hell. The female plebes, along with everybody else, dashed, scrammed, huffed, puffed, generally made to endure physical exertions calculated to knock them off their knees. Visions spun. Lungs burst, sweat pores spilled out. At the end of it all, nobody among the twenty female cadets buckled down and everyone looked forward to the only rest they were bound to get that late afternoon; when they sat down and got their locks cut short above the hairline.
Days and weeks dragged along. Before coming to the Academy, these females were quite charmed, if not enamored, by the mere sight of the dashing cadets of the Academy. Now, they dread crossing paths with any of these dandy gentlemen who quickly turn into stiff-necked barking monsters demanding instant recognition and fast compliances. How they love to scare the wits out of the female plebes. How they love to see them with their necks arched back, chins jerked down, shoulders thrown back, chests thrust forward, stomachs sucked in, knees clipped together, feet forming forty-five degrees.
The level of aggression is enough to send the females scurrying back to their mother's laps. Consolation is the knowledge that every single upperclassman went thru the same harrowing phase and emerged a snappy, honor-bound cadet. At night, tears flow and prayers fly up to heaven. The female plebes held on. Everyday they see their upperclass female cadets in their well-deserved uniforms, regally carrying strength and firmness, femininity not lacking. Female plebes dream about that day, one clear sunny Baguio morning, when they shall also dress gray, march and exhibit the same calm composure. If they could only get rid of all this body fats.
One of the few heartening things about female plebehood is the warm and friendly treatment coming from the male mistahs. Initial fear bordered on the possibility that males would regard females untowardly on account of their having invaded a traditionally male undertaking. There is no such gender struggle. Females do the same things that males do, sometimes better, sometimes worse.
Life in the Academy offers experiences never encountered elsewhere. Like waking up in the middle of the night to find a guy unashamedly poking his head inside the room checking everyone out. He is the sentinel on duty and has orders to do that. Females spread sticky pomade to flatten their hair and make sure they part it like everyone does. In ten counts, baths are finished. In three chews, a mouthful of food is sqallowed. The exercises have names difficult to remember, much more to execute.
Passing grade in lesson exams is seven out of ten. Coordination is so confusing, err, .... confusing. All these is to destroy the newly-arrived "beasts" that dwell within the prestigious barracks of the Academy. That is, to eliminate within two months the sluggish and squerrish habits accumulated from a lifetime of civilianhood. Nobody said Summer Training is easy. Cadetship is not handed over on a silver platter. It is both an honor and duty that requires full development of the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. Hence the rigid training.
Not many females in the Philippines wish to become cadets. And among those who do wish to become one, only a few are chosen for the privilege. Each female plebe therefore looks forward to that glorious day called Incorporation, then the more glorious one called Recognition, then ultimately, Graduation and becoming a female officer of the land. God same these twenty females of Class 1999 that they may do their duty to live a life of Courage, Integrity, and Loyalty. By God's grace they shall do so.
Source: "The Corps" April-May Issue, 1995