The Internet has been erupting in excitement ever since the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) released its list of graduates for the year 2019 on Monday, May 20.
This is because the male-dominated academy––with its stringent process and tedious academic system––is getting its fifth female valedictorian this year.
Dionne Mae Umalla, 21, is a native from the province of locos Sur. The youngest and the only daughter among four children, Dionne was raised by her mother Dionisia, who is now a retired high school teacher.
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According to Dionne, it was her mother who encouraged her to join the military academy. Initially wanting to pursue a degree in education (majoring in Mathematics), Dionne was prodded by her mother to enter the PMA instead.
“Because I love her so much, I cannot say no. She was the reason I reached this far,” Dionne said in an interview.
It was her mother’s perseverance and hard work that inspired Dionne to keep going despite the tough times in the academy. She says it was also Dionisia who pushed her to continue striving for excellence.
According to Dionne, her now 65-year-old mother also gave the same kind of love and support to her three brothers. Benjie, the eldest among her siblings, is now a police major. While her two other brothers, Reuben Jr. and Philmar, are now also working professionally as a head nurse and a chemical engineer, respectively.
Raised in a family composed of mostly men and now graduating as a topnotcher in a male-dominated academy, Umalla believes that a person’s gender does not determine his or her capabilities.
“It’s not about whether you’re a male or a female. It’s how you contribute to the betterment of PMA and how you strive for excellence kaya for me wala namang balance-balance, it’s just how you perform,” she said.
Umalla is joined by four other women and four fellow natives from Northern Luzon on the list of top ten graduates. On May 26, she will lead the 263-strong Class of 2019, dubbed “Mabalasik,” (which stands for Mandirigma ng Bayan, Iaalay ang Sarili, Lakas at Tapang, Para sa Kapayapaan) in their graduation rites.
The top ten graduates of the PMA class of 2019 are as follows:
- Dionne Mae Umalla (Alilem, Ilocos Sur)
- Jonathan Mendoza (Cavite City)
- Jahziel Tandoc (La Trinidad Benguet)
- Daniel Heinz Lucas (Barlig Mt. Province)
- Aldren Altamero (Kidapawan City, North Cotabato)
- Richard Lanogan (Sagada, Mt. Province)
- Marnel Fundales (Leganes, Iloilo)
- Glyn Elinor Marapao (Buguias, Benguet)
- Angelique Pasos (Pasig City)
- Daryl James Ligutan (Sta Mesa, Manila)