Top PMA grad wanted to be doctor, teacher

Top PMA grad wanted to be doctor, teacher

BAGUIO CITY — Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Mabalasik Class 2019 top graduate, Dionne Mae Apolog Umalla, of Alilem, Ilocos Sur never thought that she would embrace the profession of arms, but entering the country’s premier military academy made her realize how PMA is making her dreams come true.

“We had the hardest training in the academy that is capable of breaking us, even the most indomitable experience is an understatement. Despite this, the academy is a dream-maker, it turned our aspirations into reality, perhaps not exactly the way we wanted, but what we needed,” Umalla said in her valedictory address during the PMA graduation on Sunday.

“We became what not we wanted but what we needed to be, to serve the country and the Filipino people,” she added.

Umalla said she really wanted to be a medical doctor but due to financial constraints, she was trapped in a dilemma between her dream and reality.

In her speech, she recalled that after finishing high school, she was given two choices — one is to take up Bachelor of Science in Medical Technology where she will get a one year free tuition, or take up Bachelor of Secondary Education with free board, lodging and travel from her hometown for the entire duration of her college education.

“I thought of my mother who single-handedly raised us that she may not be able to afford the finances if I pursue my dream of becoming a doctor. That is why even with a heavy heart I pursued education,” she said.

“To relieve myself from sulking, I always tell myself that I will be a doctor someday perhaps not a medical doctor attached to my name, but doctor of philosophy,” she added.

While in college, she tried to enjoy her course and was on her second year when another challenge came.

Umalla shared that she was close to reaching her dreams of becoming a teacher but another unexpected opportunity came in.

“It was my mother’s persistence who pushed me in entering the Academy. I was told by my mother that it’s okay if I’ll just try my luck to apply in the Academy since I have nothing to lose,” she shared.

The valedictorian recalled that she was frustrated because nothing seemed to go as she planned.

During her early year in the Academy, she thought of being swept away from her dreams from becoming a doctor and from her passion in becoming a teacher.

“I came to realize that a lot of my underclass are just like me who is pushed and lured to enter the Academy and joining the [military] profession,” she said.

On Sunday, while delivering her valedictory speech as top graduate, she talked about realizing her dreams — as a doctor, because she and other cadets help mend the pains of being away from their families, and as a teacher, when she helps other cadets in their lessons to cope with the demand of academics.

Aside from being the valedictorian, Umalla received 14 awards which include the Presidential Saber for finishing at the top of her class.

She also received the Philippine Navy Saber, the Distinguished cadet award (Starman), the Academic group award, the Humanities plaque, the Management plaque, the Social Sciences plaque, the Natural Sciences plaque, the Computing and Information Sciences plaque, the Department of Leadership plaque, the Joint United States Military Assistance Group award, the Australian Defense best overall performance, the Spanish Armed Forces award, and the Association of Generals and Flag Officers award.

President Rodrigo Duterte also awarded to Umalla a house and lot, a reward for topping her class.

Duterte on Sunday conferred to 260 cadets aside from Umalla the rank of 2nd Lieutenant for those joining the Philippine Army and Philippine Air Force and Ensign to those joining the Philippine Navy.  Pamela Mariz Geminiano / PNA –