Monday, February 17, 2014

Excellence has become my way of life: Why?

Just about a month ago, I received the Award for Continuing Excellence and Service (ACES) from Metrobank Foundation Inc. It was among the awards of recognition that I got for continuously pursuing excellence in my endeavors in the military service. (Photo by Cpl Marlon San Esteban)

I always consider every job given to me as my very own 'obra maestra'. I always ensure it has a mark of excellence in the same manner a craftsman exerts all his efforts in creating a masterpiece. 

My personal story about pursuing excellence dates back to the time when I was a weak plebe who was forced to face an opponent in a boxing match. 

Despite being untrained (and unprepared), I was plunged into the fight simply because I was the only one who weighed 110 lbs like my opponent. 

To boost my confidence, my coach told me that my opponent was weak. I can still remember his words:

"Actually, he is not a good boxer. It is your chance to box a senior cadet!"

Then, what do you expect? Beaten black and blue, I ended up confined at the PMA Station Hospital. 

My 'tormentor' tried to please me by 'recognizing' me with a traditional handshake. It did not erase the bruises that I got from his strong punches.

Then, a few weeks later, I was surprised to see the name of my opponent in a list of sports achievers that was posted inside Jurado Hall. He was Class 1991's Strongest Cadet!

That incident motivated me to rise from the challenge and become a better person in any way I can.

"I will train to become strong and more skillful next time. Kapag lumakas at gumaling ako, makakabawi din ako sa boxing ring."

A couple of gym years later, I became stronger and more confident.  
I learned judo, wrestling and excelled in them. In 1992, a world champion lifter, Major Tony Taguibao, introduced me to Power Lifting. Since then, I got 'addicted' to the sport. As a result, I lorded some events in our Physical Fitness Test like the pull-ups and push-ups, making me one of the strongest cadets during that time. 

I was the only cadet who broke a Philippine record in Powerlifting in September 1993, and established the first PMA records in all 3 of its events (bench press, squat and dead lift). As a 60-kg athlete, I tallied a total lift that was over six times my body weight. Nobody in my weight class in PMA can beat me in lifting events. 

But, I never loved boxing as a sport. I therefore failed to get even and fulfill my promise to maul someone inside the ring. But deep inside me, I knew that I had achieved what I wanted when I was a plebe.

Culture change

I can vividly remember that we were First Class cadets (graduating class) when I and my mistahs (classmates) tried our best to change the culture of Hawk Company where we belonged.

Former members of this cadet corps unit can attest to the fact that this company used to be known for being the 'best' in terms of the number of resigning or AWOL plebes. Our company was famous for being 'magan' (hard-headed, strict). I was once a magan too.

When I was a plebe, I always had a hard time passing my technical subjects (Algebra, Engineering Drawing) because I didn't have a solid foundation in them. Because I didn't have the chance to spend more time studying due to the traditional 'compliances', I had 'back subjects'.

When it was our turn to be the ruling class in 1993, we gradually introduced a culture of excellence. We closely supervised the cleanliness of barracks, marching drill practices and excellence in sports. 

We told our juniors (PMA Classes 95-97) to strive for excellence in all their endeavors. As a consequence, we started winning  some of the weekly 'best-best' in drills and inspections. We showed them the way, and in fact, even First Class cadets (4th year) were deeply involved in accomplishing our various activities. Sadly, we failed to get the much coveted trophies such as the Superintendent's Cup, Jurado Cup and the like. We simply planted the seeds that would be reaped by our juniors in the later years when it was their time to lead.  

 As a Company Athletic Officer, I received the award of recognition for excellence in sports in behalf of the Hawk Company prior to our graduation in March 1994. (PMA Photo)

In 1993, I lifted 167.5kgs in Dead Lift event of the Powerlifting Championships that was held in PMA by the Powerlifting Association of the Philippines. I broke the existing Philippine Record in the 60kg weight class during that time. It was my own way to show that I fulfilled my ambition to become the strongest cadet of the PMA. (The Sword photo)

Dare to fail

During my fourth year in the academy, I was already lagging behind in our class lineal list. My over-all grade was adversely affected by my failing grades as a plebe, and, it was aggravated by my own 'misfortunes'. As expected, I was at the top 20 at the bottom of my class. 

One day sometime in the first semester of academic year 1993-1994, a good friend of mine, Cadet Apollo Teves of Miag-ao, Iloilo challenged me. 

"Mistah, I challenge you to be the Class Goat (the last man in the class roster) and deliver a speech!"

I knew that was a serious challenge. To be the "Goat", I need to get the lowest grades possible. It was like walking on a wire placed one hundred meters above ground. A single misstep, I would be dead. Naisip ko, di ko rin naman kayang mag-compete sa Number 1 sa itaas, bakit hindi sa Number 1 sa ibaba para maiba!

While other contenders who also competed for the position as a Class Goat had a hard time passing some of the subjects, I had the edge because most of the subjects were 'Socials' like Philosophy, Law, and Constitution which were all 'easy' for me. I had a photographic memory. Dahil abogasya ang orihinal kong ambisyon sa buhay, may pagka-'Pilosopo' ako. 

I simply gathered enough 'proficiency' so that I can afford to make some 'stunts' during the final exams. I decided to take the final exams in my favorite social subjects despite being exempted for having a grade above 9.0/10.

In many occasions during finals, my instructors were surprised how I finished the tests a few minutes after our papers were distributed. 

Seeing me leave the room, one of these instructors, Mrs Piol asked me: "And, where are you going Cadet Cabunoc?"

"Maam, I am done with my exams and I will go back to barracks now."  

I got zero in the finals but I achieved a 7.000 (70.00%) grade in that subject.

So, to make the long story short, I got the Class Goat and I delivered a speech, the first time that a cadet did it since the PMA was established in 1905! 

Ika pa nga kasi sa kasabihan, kung gusto may paraan

I dared to fail!

Well, you may not consider that as an example of excellence but I honestly thought otherwise. Actually, I wanted to prove something: 

"Not all academically-gifted people are excellent leaders."

When I was called to receive my diploma, I was expected to do some 'publicity stunt' like the previous 'Class Goats'. I surprised then President Fidel Ramos when I delivered a speech. I also gave him a hat and a hand-made kaydet doll for FL Ming Ramos. (PMA photo)

(To be continued)


  1. Congratulations to a great man! Pinabilib nyo po akong tunay! More blessings!

  2. wow ..sabi nga... ang nauuna ay nahuhuli at ang nahuhuli ay nauuna!.. ano po ba sir yung speech mo non? hehehehe

  3. Sir, do you have a blueprint of the graduating list of PMA Class 1994? I had a classmate in college who joined PMA and I think he was in your class.