by April B. Ventajar-Bigueja
MT II, Antipolo National High School
|The author, April B. Ventajar-Bigueja|
Kaye was not there but I felt grateful when the mother told me that she will send me a message as soon as Kaye arrives. To my surprise, Kaye reached home the following day, Friday. I was informed by my student that Kaye is willing for an interview on Sunday – also their scheduled thanksgiving celebration. I cannot suggest Saturday because I learned ahead that she has important appointment. Honestly, I did not want Sunday interview. I anticipated she would have many visitors, maybe a hundred or even more, whom she ought to pay courtesy. I did not want to cut off from that momentous event save the fact that I also want a level of exclusivity for our dialog. Consequently, I decided to visit her in the evening of Saturday. I knew it was stubborn but at times reasonable obstinacy brings advantage. That is persistence and it did work. After an hour, I saw a young, tough, smart military woman, void of overbearance. “How may I address you? Ma’am?” With a shy smile she said, “Kaye lang po Ma’am.” And I heard it all.
Kaye never envisioned herself to be one of the future commanding officers of the armed force. It was not in her mind for she wanted to become an engineer if not a lawyer. She was aware that her parents cannot afford it. Guilt feeling still visits Kaye’s mother recollecting the many times when she discouraged her daughter of her aspiration to have a college degree. Without subtlety she told Kaye that her dream is far more than they can provide even if she could obtain university scholarship. All those times, Kaye kept silent. Going to school without breakfast and boiled sweet potatoes for supper are circumstances not unknown to her. Nevertheless, when I asked her to describe her childhood happy is the clever honest answer she gave.
“Happy Ma’am. I know poverty but I was not looking at it. When I entered the academy I met cadets who may be tagged rich kids. I have heard their story and I may say that I consider myself blessed for going through the hardship. In general, my childhood was happy Ma’am. I used to fly my kite. Many of my classmates did not have that experience,” she said with smile and satisfaction.
It was August of 2012, more than 500 examinees assembled at the University of Nueva Caceres to vie a slot in the academy. All throughout the Philippines about 14 000 aspirants measured themselves against others. In October, the list of passers was published in a national newspaper. Out of that big number, only 284 stood out. Kaye was one of them. Few days passed and Kaye received a visitor sent by someone who was a graduate of PMA, also a native of Minalabac. He advised Kaye the preparation she has to make particularly in the physical training. Topping it all, he told Kaye never to let go of that very rare opportunity.
March 31 of 2013, the academy aspirants were convened at V. Luna Medical Center waiting for the clock to hit 11:00 PM – their departure for Philippine Military Academy. Families, relatives and friends swarmed to pour support to their hopefuls. Kaye’s family wanted to give her much but restrained by means. All she had that day was her unflagging mother. I felt the pain when Kaye’s mother with incipient tears told me how hurtful it was to see her daughter without father that moment to give an assuring tap and the rest of the aspirants had it. Travel was costly to them, so the couple agreed that only one will go – stark truth. I was saddened more when the mother recounted to me the time when she had to leave Kaye at 9:00 PM. She could not wait until the departure because she had to catch the 10:00 PM bus back to Bicol. Her money in the wallet then could not afford to miss that bus. Her pain was ineffable when she refused Kaye’s offer to accompany her to the main gate of V. Luna. She knew it would be harder if she let her. On her way out, she had the glimpse of the parked cars which seemed countless along with the academy buses. She was certain that those private vehicles would convoy the aspirants in transit – just one of the many things she wished she could have done for Kaye. Anxiety of parting was there made unfathomable by the reverberating words she could not consume: “Your child ceased to be your child. They are now children of the government.” Prayer was all her recourse.
April 1st came. Reception. It was the first day of her military career. All of the cadets formed at the Borromeo Field and took their oath of office as cadets of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. There at the Fajardo Memorial Grandstand, families and friends stood to witness the strenuous tradition with pride and fear, to give a boost, or to extend an arm in case of retreat. No one was there for Kaye yet her family was always her strongest drive. Many pulled back that very moment of reception rite and I asked Kaye if the thought occurred to her. Never was her answer because she knew that nothing awaits back there. April 1, 2013 is a date very significant to her. It was on that day she claimed with certainty and as a matter of right that she is for the academy and the academy for her. The four years in the academy had not been easy for Kaye. Circumstances tested her indomitability from being plebe to her last day of being first class cadet. When asked of the attributes she capitalized in this feat she plainly named two: Determination and faith. I was about to shoot my final query on her best learning in life. Before I did, Kaye already affirmed it: Poverty is not a hindrance to pursue one’s aspiration. I may say that life offers choices even when we thought it offers nothing. I heard it and felt it in my dialog with Kaye and her mother. 2nd Lt Kaye M. Robles is truly an ROI to her family, to her alma mater, to our country.