Monday, April 01, 2013

April Fool's Day: My most memorable day in the military

This is the entrance gate of the Philippine Military Academy, the premier military school in the country. The PMA Motto: Courage, Integrity and Loyalty is prominently displayed for everyone to see.

Prior to my entry to the prestigious leadership institution, the Philippine Military Academy, I was a simple 'promdi'.

 Despite having several close relatives in the military service, I knew nothing about the military traditions. I only heard that soldiers are molded as warriors and leaders.

My Uncle Ven, an NCO of the defunct Logistics Command (LOGCOM), did not brief me clearly about the details of reception day. He was the one who accompanied me to the AFP Medical Center in V. Luna Road, QC for our final processing on March 31, 1990.

While mingling with my future 'mistahs' (PMA classmates) at the processing center, I head lots of rumors about reception day. I could remember one 'turn back'  (cadet who was removed from previous PMA batch) who said that we should not 'relax' or else we will end up 'dead'.

There was one batchmate who said that we must be in our best outfit for the Reception Day.

"We will be received by our seniors so we must present ourselves snappily," came his remark.

All of the 'grapevine' came to an end when an NCO (non-commissioned officer) told us during our early evening formation that all of our belongings will be collected.

"You only need a white shirt, pants and shoes during your reception tomorrow. March proudly because you will be welcomed with a warm embrace by your loving seniors," he said with his commanding voice reverberating inside the hall where we were gathered.

The reminders

The weather was fine when we finally arrived at a secluded location for final briefing in the morning of April 1, 1990.

A Sergeant ushered us to a tent where at least 6 barbers gave us our first military haircut. 

I was so proud of my crew cut though you may call it 'pugak' cut.  I felt the same pride when I was circumcised and became accepted as a 'tunay na lalake' (true man).

"Gentlemen, when you're done with the haircut, you can queue for your meals at the tent behind you. Enjoy your meal because today is your big day as a soldier," said the Sergeant.

I was too excited about my upcoming first day as a cadet, who wasn't anyway? Well, maybe those who were forced by their military fathers to follow their footsteps, but not me!

I committed to memory all the important reminders given by the Sergeants: "March proudly because you will be welcomed with a warm embrace by your loving seniors". "Enjoy your meal because today is your big day as a soldier". 

Those were the words that I would never forget in my entire life. 

"Come here, Dumb Guards!"

When we were finally formed along the road near the PMA chapel at around 2:00 pm, my heart was pounding heavily behind my skinny frame of 120 lbs. I didn't really know what to expect. I just knew I wanted to come out of the main entrance gate as a full-pledged soldier.

I was impressed by the images that I saw along the way towards the so-called Reception Area. The whole area was clean and pine trees were everywhere, reminding me of Bukidnon's capital, Malaybalay.

The great sun was shining brightly, giving us the warm we need to subdue to cold breeze that made me shiver more as we approached the Borromeo Field. 

Infront of us, I saw for the first time hulky cadets in their pressed white and gray uniforms. At least a hundred of them were formed in front of us as the ceremony at the grandstand started. 

Several people were called and gave their speech to welcome us. I couldn't recall any name and any single words of wisdom that they might had shared because I didn't know what was about to happen.

After the message of one speaker, the leader of the formation turned about and shouted "Take Charge!", followed by a thundering "Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!".

I was like being struck by Thor's thunderbolt!

Like the hordes of Mongol warriors, the gray clad cadets ran towards us, calling out names. I wanted to run and hide but decided to stand still and wait for my fate to unfold. 

"Mister Cabunoooooooooooooooooooooc! Come here you, Dumb Guard", was the distinctive sound that I heard.

I was confused. I was promdi from Mindanao. I raised my hand and said:

"Nia ra ko sir!" (I am here sir!)

My civilian antics became my worst nightmare that day. My world crumbled down when I had my first taste of  'log roll', 'carry the world', 'helicopter', 'double time' and dashing exercises. 

From a carefree promdi, that reception rite gradually turned me into a better person and a leader of men.

I wanted to hunt down those Sergeants for their 'reminders'. 

I realized later that they were sent for a "Fool's errand" because my Reception Day was on an April Fool's Day. 

Every cadet who made it to PMA realizes later in their life that once upon a time, they became 'fools' at the Borromeo Field during Reception Day.

(Photos are credited to


  1. Wow... we have new fightz again in pma... gudluck guys...

  2. kala nila party kasi nga reception eh....un pala masuko sila sa kaka rolling like a barrel indi sa pagkain hehehehhe....well ika nga kung ginusto mo pinasok mong tradisyon karit gaano pa man yan kahirap malalagpasan mo rin....goodluck sa mga plebo....

  3. Reception yan ng batch 2008 Sir, if I am not mistaken. Was my first to see reception sa PMA. ---Simon

  4. Ohhh okay, great!

    Were you the one who took these photos Simon?

    How I wish I can get photos during my very own reception day! It was one of the most memorable chapters of my military life.

  5. I enjoy watching. And the faces of the proud parents who are no more than surprise by the first time cadets who had no idea that will happen. :)

  6. Sir Good day! If it is fine, I would like to know gaano po katagal dinaraos ang reception rites? Ilang oras din po ang running/jogging sa unang boot camp? Thank you po

    1. Sa amin noon umabot ng isang oras. Scientific naman ang approach ng training at di binibigla ang mga plebo. Be prepared to run 3kms in 16 minutes. Later, aabot kayo ng 10kms under arms. Di mo mapansin, lumalakas ka. Huwag masanay sa malingering na kunwari ay kung anu-ano nararamdaman at nagpapaospital. Walang magandang idulot ang mapanlamang na attitude. :-)