OUTSTANDING SOLDIERS. Three Army soldiers (left, background) are among this year's awardees of the annual search of 'The Outstanding Philippine Soldiers'. The photo was taken during the presentation of the awardees held in AFP Officer's Club House in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City. Among those who attended are AFP CS General Jessie Dellosa (5th from right) and Mr Aniceto Sobrepena, the President of Metrobank Foundation Incorporated (6th from right). (Photo by Pfc Marlon San Esteban)
FORT BONIFACIO, Taguig City – Three Army soldiers are named ‘The Outstanding Philippine Soldiers (TOPS), a joint program by the Rotary Club of Makati Metro (RCMM) and Metrobank Foundation, Inc. (MBFI).
The new awardees include Colonel Milfredo M Melegrito, Director of Land Welfare Center, Training and Doctrine Command; Technical Sergeant Rolando L Diomangay, Chief Clerk Adjutant of the 53rd Engineering Brigade; and Master Sergeant Juana R. Hernal, Branch Non-Commissioned Officer of the Program and Budget Branch, Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff for Education and Training, G8.
Annually since 1994, the RCMM and MBFI name the TOPS awardees of the year in recognition of the invaluable contributions of the men and women of the Armed Force during the entirety of their service in the military.
It is a manifestation of the shared conviction of RCMM and MBFI to credit distinctive excellence among the military. The award is an expression of the civilian sector’s appreciation for our soldiers’ act of valor in defending the nation’s peace and freedom.
Originally raised in Leyte, Hernal’s family moved to Lanao del Sur in search for greener pasture. During her childhood, she had witnessed the animosity among Muslims and Christians in her new hometown, causing the series of violent clashes there.
Unfortunately, her father fell victim to these atrocities, leaving them poorer with no land to till and no source of income.
Surviving life's challenges without his father, young Hernal inched her way through elementary and high school, graduating as a class valedictorian. Earning a scholarship, she pursued BS Commerce in college and joined the military in 1989, just right after graduation.
“I grew up in the mountains; it was only during my last year in college that I was able to visit the city. I did not realize back then that this will be the turning point in my life,” said Hernal.
It was during this visit that Hernal met a female soldier, a member of the Women Auxiliary Corps (WAC), who inspired her to join the military service.
“I am aware that there are female soldiers, but I have yet to see one. I was inspired. The uniform attracted me to be one of them; for me, it speaks of dignity,” she said.
During her early years in the service, Hernal’s potentials were already recognized by her superiors who gave her positions of higher responsibility.
Early on as a Private First Class, she already handled the position Finance Sergeant in the Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff for Education and Training.
Her job involves preparation of cash advances (CAs) for pay, allowances and collateral entitlements and the liquidations of the same.
Even before the computer age (and one can imagine how difficult it is to manage financial transactions in the absence of technology), Hernal was able to devise systemic processes that have been adopted to facilitate speedy transactions.
She has received various awards and commendations for her initiatives while being excellent on top of every task. Among these are the Military Commendation Medal, Chief of Staff PA Award, and a Command Plaque.
Hernal took her Financial Management and Comptroller Specialist Course at the Keesler Airforce Base in Mississippi, USA. There, she emerged a class topnotcher with 99% general weighted average earning the Distinguished Graduate Award and Academic Excellence Award.
This Army woman’s life extends far beyond the four corners of her office. During her assignment to the 5thArmy Training Group (5ATG) in TRADOC, she selflessly channeled her knowledge gained from schooling as an instructor.
She also helped intensify the Handog ng Dugo Ko, Dugtong sa Buhay ng Kapwa ko Program in the area.
Hernal shared that she found the sense of fulfillment in what she does; sharing her knowledge and skills to fellow soldiers, most of them men; and helping make the lives of the people a bit easier through various humanitarian efforts.
“My stint at the 5ATG opened up my whole being, it made me see the world and my life in a different perspective,” she added.
She also realized then that one doesn't need to be rich in order to help the less fortunate.
“Use your faculties; your mouth to convince people, your arms to give warmth, and your legs to deliver,” she said.
Likewise, she supported the “Green Philippines” Program of the government by effectively coordinating with school administrators and barangay officials of Echague, Isabela for massive tree planting activity.
This effort led to 6, 000 trees planted to different schools, universities and barangays in Echague.
Even as a child, Hernal has valued education so much that today she sponsors 12 indigent students so they can experience the gains of good education. She also helped in the enlistment of platoon-sized personnel who are mostly the sons of indigent farmer-neighbors, CAFGUs and friends.
Church planting (spreading the good news of the Lord) is her growing passion at present. Every Sunday, her garage in Taguig and their barn extension in Isabela serve as the venue for prayer meetings.
With her commitment and continued pursuit for excellence in service, Hernal has proven a woman’s worth amidst the swarm of masculinity in uniformed service.
“My greatest accomplishment was helping 28 high school graduates, who are sons of farmers, enlist in the Philippine Army. Seeing them make a life for themselves, help their families, and achieve their dreams is enough for me,” concluded Hernal.
Dreams built on concretes
Technical Sergeant Rolando L Diomangay leads a fruitful life as a father and soldier.
Named as the Best Enlisted Personnel of the Year of the 53rd Engineer Brigade in 2010, Diomangay served as a role model to his fellow soldiers being on the lead of numerous Engineering projects in the countryside.
However, prior to building roads, schools, and infrastructure, he roamed the mountains of Samar as a member of the 8th Scout Ranger Company. As a Scout Ranger, he saw action against the New People’s Army both in Eastern and Western Samar.
“I was a witness to the atrocities perpetrated by the NPAs in Samar. In 1992, our group was treacherously attacked by the rebels using four improvised landmines. After which, we were hit by heavy volumes of fire. One was killed as result of the encounter, 14 were wounded, me included,” said Diomangay.
“I considered that experience as my defining moment in the Army. I knew back then that it was not the last fight that I would have to fight. I am aware that battles need to be fought, fights need to be won, and peace needs to be achieved,” he added.
From being a warrior-soldier, he saw the big shift in his career when he joined the 53rd Engineering Brigade of the Philippine Army based in Cebu City. Instead of fighting wars, he brings peace and development in the communities.
Being a foreman/member of the Engineering Brigade, he is instrumental in the timely completion of the Army’s infrastructure projects like access road, potable water system, school building, electricity and appropriate health facility.
Diomangay posed significant contributions in the construction of 22 projects in seven barangays in Samar as well as the completion of various Kalayaan Barangay Program (KBP) projects. This include four farm-to-market roads, five school buildings, four health centers, 11 water systems and four electrification facilities.
The KBP and other similar community services by the Army are concrete proofs that non-combat approach to solving insurgency problems in the countryside can be just as effective as taking up arms to win the peace.
Soldiers like Diomangay who are the key players in such missions bring hope of recovery to the residents of different conflict-torn areas in the country.
Though tied up in the arduous duties of a soldier, Diomangay also involves himself in other civilian activities including fun runs hosted by various private and public organizations in Visayas.
The likes of him is the Army’s living proof that the real battle is not only in the wars of arms but a greater battle lies in social and economical challenges that chain the people in the vicious cycle of poverty.
A graduate of PMA “Sinagtala” Class of 1986, Colonel Milfredo M Melegrito has been in the forefront of the Army's fight against NPA rebels in Northern Luzon.
Having assigned as the Executive Officer at the Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff for Operations, Melegrito stood out for his unwavering dedication and brilliance in his past and present duties.
He is the first Commander of a battalion-sized Philippine Contingent composed of 342 personnel from the Army, Navy and Air Force that served in the seven-month tour of duty in Golan Heights, Syria.
His combat achievements were recognized with countless military medals, awards and commendations, including the Cavalier Award for Army Operation in 1995. He also served in a peacekeeping mission overseas, earning for him the UN Service Medal.
Sometime in August 1994, he led his troop in an encounter at the main camp of Northern Luzon Commission in Ilagan, Isabela where his unit recovered 12 assorted high-powered firearms.
With his bravery and effective leadership, his troops triumphed over a series of similar encounters in Marag Valley Complex, which used to be the seat of the communist rebels' Northern Luzon Operational Command and the Northern Luzon Regional Committee.
Due to his effective leadership in combat, both NPA bailiwicks were seized by government forces along with numerous war materials.
Tsg Rolando Diomangay once served the First Scout Ranger Regiment before joining the Army Engineers.