FORT BONIFACIO, Taguig City—The number one cadet who will graduate from the Philippine Military Academy on March 18, Sunday, is joining the Army, a military official said.
Major Harold Cabunoc, the Army Spokesperson, said that Cadet Tom Puertollano, 21, is among the 102 incoming 2LTs who will join the Philippine Army after their graduation this weekend.
“Cadet Puertollano is among the would-be Army officers who were received by Army Chief Lt General Emmanuel Bautista at the Army headquarters after finishing their on-the-job training (OJT) at the 16th Infantry Battalion in Baras, Rizal last week,” said Cabunoc.
Cabunoc said that as the number one graduate out of the 187 members of PMA ‘Bagwis’ Class of 2012, Puertollano will receive the coveted Presidential Saber Award from President Benigno S Aquino III, and the Army Saber Award from the Commanding General of the Philippine Army, Lt. Gen. Emmanuel Bautista.
Puertollano is the third among 4 siblings raised by a poor family from Lipa City. As a young student in high school, he found himself helping his parents earn a living to support his studies.
“I used to help my carpenter father in doing menial jobs in a construction company, under the watchful eyes of an uncle who was the foreman. This is among my memorable experiences that had shaped my life, leading to my decision to enter the PMA,” said Puertollano, whose mother earns additional income for the family by selling ‘kakanin’ in their village.
Meeting soldiers was quite normal to him because his school was inside the Air Force base. He had a few distant relatives who are in the military, most of whom are in the Philippine Air Force.
His desire to help his family economically made him decide to take the PMA entrance exam while he was on a scholarship study at the Batangas State University.
When he learned that he passed the exam in 2008, there was no looking back.
While at PMA, Puertollano hurdled the same hardships experienced by cadets, especially during their plebehood (first year). He was academically gifted but found it ‘hard’ some technical subjects like Calculus and Physics.
During his third year, he started to excel in most of his academic courses. He was a consistent Dean’s Lister up to the last semester, prior to his graduation.
He said that he also found time to harness his combative skills by participating in judo classes and competition. He equally loves badminton which is among his stress-relievers.
He is among the top 25% in terms of physical fitness.
When he received his monthly allowance for the first time, the thought about his family came to his mind.
“I immediately sent a substantial amount to my family. I am still helping the education of my younger brother,” he said.
He said that his parents were able to visit him only twice during his stay at the academy. His father, Mario, 52, and 3 siblings are all coming to attend his graduation except his mother who died last year.
Joining the Army
Despite his exposure to the Air Force environment, Puertollano has decided to join the Army.
“When I was a second year cadet, I heard many tales about the Army soldiers and their jobs in the communities. I am inspired by the exceptional jobs performed by the soldiers in helping the people in their areas of assignments, especially the so-called peace and development missions,” he said.
Having Gen Gregorio del Pilar as his role model in terms of bravery, he wants to contribute towards ending the insurgency problem in the country.
He took his military subjects seriously, topping in many of the military courses.
“I wanted to make use of all my military skills and knowledge learned in the academy during the time that I will become a platoon leader in the field,” he said.
He said that he wants to focus on his job as a junior officer in the infantry company by mentoring his soldiers and performing his assigned tasks in the best manner he can.
He also said that he plans to marry his girlfriend, Charity, 20, after 7-8 years of his active military service.
“I want to focus myself in the highly-demanding job as a soldier-leader. I want to succeed in my endeavor so I will ensure that my time is devoted to my service,” he said.
The carpenter's son is soon to become an implementer of the AFP's Internal Peace and Security Plan.