By Francis Wakefield
This year’s class valedictorian of Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Mabalasik Class of 2019 Sunday said that she may not have achieved her dream of becoming either a doctor or a teacher, but having the chance to serve the country by becoming part of the military profession could also be considered a dream come true as well for her.
Cadet First Class Dionne Mae Umalla of Ilocos Sur made the remark following her valedictory address at this year’s PMA graduatiion ceremony held at Fort del Pilar, Baguio City.
“While I may not have achieved my dreams of becoming a doctor and a teacher, I realized today that when I was young and dreaming to become my dreams, I only wanted one thing…. to serve our country and people in those professions at all cost and in all circumstances,” Umalla said.
“I have achieved that dream today, we all have, and so I say handa na po kami, patuloy kaming mangangarap para sa bayan. patuloy kaming mangangarap para sa kapwa naming Pilipino [we are ready, we will continue to dream for our country, we will continue dreaming for our fellow Filipinos],” she added.
Citing a reading from the Holy Bible, Umalla said in Proverbs Chapter 19, Verse 21, it says “Many are the plans in the mind of a man but it is purpose of the Lord that will be established”.
“This biblical passage has been consistently been true to me since my youthful days when all I wanted was to become a doctor when I grow up. I remember in grade school when I happily shared this to the whole classs but that dream never happened,” Umalla said.
Umalla said when she finished high school, she was left with two choices: a Bachelor of Science in Medical Technology with one-year free tuition, and which could serve as a pre-medical course, and the other was a Bachelor of Secondary Education with a four-year free tuition, free board and lodging, and free travel expenses.
“I was trapped in a dilemma between my dream and the reality. The reality that my mother, a retired teacher who single handedly raised us may not be able to sustain my needs if I pursue my dreams of being a doctor. And so with a happy heart, I let go of my dream and pursued education instead,” Umalla said.
“Clearly it was not the one I wanted. Pero para mapagaang ang loob ko, sabi ko na lang sa sarili, magdo-doctor pa rin naman ako, PhD (Doctor of Philosophy) na, at hindi na MD [In order to lighten my heart, I just told myself, I will still be a doctor, with a phd, not md],” she added.
Umalla said as time passed by, she began to love the course and its promise of being part of the noblest profession.
She said her sadness soon vanished when she met new friends and instructors who were truly good at heart.
However, two years into her course, an expected opportunity came knocking at her door when her mother and brothers chanced upon the entrance exam of the PMA, and handed her the ticket to its hallowed grounds.
“I initially hesitated because of the new found love I had for teaching but then I loved my mother more than anything else and it was difficult for me to say no. And so I gave it a try. Pumasok ako [I entered] and my mother persisted on my cadetship, she said (speaking in Ilocano) which translates to “Just try dear, you have nothing to lose”,” she said.
“I was so frustrated because nothing seemed to come my way. Nothing seemed to go as planned. But I prayed earnestly to God, “Lord ano nga ba talaga ang gusto ninyo para sa akin? Ano ang dapat kong gawin? [Lord, what do you really want for me? What doI need to do?] Can you give me something that would guide me kung ano ang pipiliin ko [on what will I choose] and my mother prevailed,” she added.
Umalla said her dream to become a teacher might have ended, but she knows she is not alone.
“I may have totally gone astray from my dreams of becoming a doctor and from my passion to become a teacher. but I am not alone. Many of my mistas and perhaps many more of my underclass were just like me who were pushed and lured into entering the academy, into joining this profession,” Umalla said.
“But have we really failed in our dreams? My four years of stay here in PMA tells me otherwise. To say that we have the hardest training which is capable of breaking even the most indominable spirit is an understatement. Despite this, the academy became a dream maker. She turns aspirations into reality. Perhaps not exactly the way how we wanted it,” she said.
I certainly believe that everything that we have aspired and dreamed of outside of its walls, we have achieved them all here inside,” she added.
For topping the PMA class of 2019, President Duterte awarded Umalla with the Presidential Saber. The class valedictorian also received a certificate of ownership of house and lot from the President.
Umalla is the fifth woman to top the PMA graduating class since 1999.