By Jim Bea Sampaga
Cadet First Class Gemalyn Deocares Sugui was supposed to join the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) in 2015 after passing its entrance examinations. She decided to postpone her PMA enrollment to finish her degree in BS Management Economics from the University of the Philippines-Baguio (UP Baguio).
“I decided to finish my bachelor’s degree before entering the PMA since my parents already sacrificed a lot for me to graduate and I don’t want to waste their sacrifices,” said Sugui, who’s from Isabela province.
In 2016, she finally joined PMA where she graduated as a topnotcher of its Masidlawin Class of 2020. Sugui is the sixth female cadet topnotcher in PMA history. Four more female cadets also place in the top 10 of their class.
“I feel pressured to be the topnotcher of my class because I did not aim to be the class valedictorian,” said the 25-year-old Sugui. “My only goal is to graduate from the Academy, I did not expect to be the class valedictorian.”
Sugui is the second UP Baguio alumna to become a PMA topnotcher. Navy Lieutenant Arlene dela Cruz was the first female PMA topnotcher when she graduated in 1999. Dela Cruz also received her degree in BS Mathematics from UP Baguio. She sadly passed away in 2008 due to a road accident.
As one of the 23 women in her class with 196 members, Sugui admits it’s difficult to keep up with their male counterparts especially when it comes to PMA’s physical training. But that didn’t discourage her.
When it comes to their other training such as Character Development, Military Training and academics, Sugui and her female classmates can definitely keep with their male classmates.
“The hardest thing I faced with while I’m in the Academy was when I first stepped into the hallowed grounds of Borromeo Field and changed my civilian antiques to military ways during the New Cadet Battalion,” said Sugui.
Although being at the top of her class was a surprise for her, she excelled in her classes because of her love for her family and country. “I was motivated by my family and my dream of serving the country. I want to improve our way of life since my father is a farmer and my mother is a public school teacher,” Sugui said. “I want to give back for their sacrifices.”
The PMA Class of 2020 wasn’t able to celebrate their graduation ceremony alongside family members and loved ones as the event will be closed to the public in accordance with the physical distancing rules to limit the spread of COVID-19.
“The graduation ceremony was bittersweet. It’s heartbreaking to not have my family during our graduation because they have looked forward to attending this momentous event,” said Sugui. “But the PMA authorities managed to provide us a simple graduation while observing social distancing and other health protocols to avoid COVID-19.”
Sugui graduated with multiple awards such as the Presidential Saber, the Achievement Award for Academic Excellence, the JUSMAG Award, the Philippine Army Saber, the Spanish Armed Forces Award, the Social Sciences Plaque, the Management Plaque, and the Rule of Law Award.
Sugui will be joining the Philippine Army after graduation. “I look forward that the Army will produce high standards and well-disciplined soldiers to protect the people and secure the sovereignty of the Philippines,” she said.
When asked about her message to current and future PMA students, Sugui encourages everyone to always do the right thing.
“It is never easy to live your life in the Academy but always remember that in reality, there is no such thing as easy life to live,” she said. “The future lies in your hands. Remember that you will reap what you sow.”