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Friday, July 22, 2011

My PMA Cadet Years (Fourth Class)... Beast Barracks (1st Plebe Detail)

From my previous post “April Fools’ Reception Day”, I’ve imparted to you my first day as a cadet in PMA.  I will be sharing to you now my life inside the cadet general.  Some of my experiences, corps practices, traditions and teachings... more of the good stuff.

1st year – Plebe hood (4th Class)

This is the part of my cadet years I remembered the most... As cadets jokingly say “plebes are the lowest life form in the corps”.  I was a member of the PMA class of 1999 (we still didn’t have our class name “Masikhay” back then).  I was assigned to the 1st battalion of the “beast barracks” or summer camp, bearing the serial number C-10425.  The Navy and Air Force group of 2nd classmen were handling us, being the first plebe detail.

As a plebe, we were tasked to memorize plebe knowledge, mess hall (dining area) menus, guard details, upperclassmen details, especially our squad leader and yearling “3rd class” buddies and a lot more.  We were also taught by our upperclassmen to do the basic things and techniques in how to properly shine our shoes and metal parts, ironing our uniforms and clothing, washing our clothes, cleaning the hallway in simultaneous rhythm and a lot more.

The first few weeks were mostly about the “get to know” and “get the feel” period.  We were 7 plebes in our squad, with 2 yearlings and a squad leader.  A day after the “rotting” reception (April 01, 2005), we had our very first Sunday mass at St. Ignatius Church inside the PMA compound.  Even just for a moment we had again silence and peace... since after that, it’ll be one whole day of strenuous exercise or as we termed it “masi-masi”.  Many quitted on this day, as expected, due to the extreme pressure and sudden change of environment.  For me, after what I’ve been through and after losing all of my hair (just kidding), I told myself there’s no turning back.

Revelry Road Run.  On Day 3, we had our very first road run, 4 rounds around the Borromeo field.  This is usually done very early in the morning.  The Corps run by platoon and chanting was made to synchronize movement and pacing.  The distance progressed as the weeks passed by... to the gasoline station (about 3.2 km), then the PMA entrance gate or the “check point” (about 5 km), then the Loakan airport (about 5.7 km) and the whole stretch of the Loakan Airport (about 8.5 km).

Basic Information, Skills and Tasks.  The first week was allotted to teach and provide us the basic information we needed to know... History and Organization of CCAFP and PMA, the Honor Code and Cadet Pay and Allowances.  On Day 4, we were taught the basic drills and marches and on Day 5 we were already tasked to memorize basic plebe knowledge and the menu for the day. And on Day 6, we started our military classes.

Cadet’s Welfare.  It’s quite cold in Baguio City, so since we were still adapting to the climate.  After a few days of our stay, many of us suffered from cracked lips, so we received lip balms which we were hesitant to use since it resembled a woman’s lipstick.

Though it’s cold, noon time were also quite hot.  Maybe because in high altitudes, we were also nearer to the sun (lol).  Masi-masi was usually done in outside, in the asphalt area, but due to the growing cases of plebes having wounds in their palms, it was transferred inside barracks.

Saturday Inspection.  We were asked to prepare the night before this day... we shined our combat boots, ironed our uniforms and cleaned our room.  Day 8 came and as expected, we had gained a lot of demerits but it was from this “laxities” that we learned to improve and correct our previous mistakes.

Physical Fitness.  Aside from the “masi-masi” conducted by squad or platoon, we had our first “circuit training exercise” and “grass drill” (composed of different exercises) on Day 11. Onwards a series of road runs were also made in preparation for our very first foot march.

Our squad... taken during our stop at
Malboro Country: 1st Administrative Foot March
Administrative Foot March.  Day 15, our destination was Malboro Country, more or less 12 km from PMA.  Here we passed by different terrains such as hills, plantation fields and cliffs (in Apugan trail).  Actually, what we were looking forward to was the “boodles” or food our squad leader had prepared for us.  It had been days since we had our taste of softdrinks (soda) and other goodies .It may not be a feast but for an underprivileged plebe... it’s heaven. (LOL).  We also returned that day, we were all very glad that we completed our very first foot march.

Athletics and Sports.  Not always did we have serious stuff... simultaneous with the other activities, we had our fun and recreation.  We had sports competition which started in Day 16.  It was between the 4 battalions and whoever won that time got a reward through merits or additional dessert in the mess hall... and we did have our share of victories as well as defeats.

Birthday.  Day 21, I celebrated my 18th birthday in PMA.  They said it would be a relaxing day for me.  No usual “head-up and chin-ins”.  I was also given the “load and load” (eat everything in your plate) privilege... I’m just not sure if it’s really a privilege or a punishment.  But still, I was able to eat without fixing my plate and following the proper decorum... if you’re lucky, sometimes your squad leader would allow you to stoop down and tell you not to attend to any of their needs for the mean time.  But that’s their prerogative and should never be assumed.

M14 A-1 US Rifle.  I received my rifle in Day 25.  Good thing its serial number was easy to recall C-494967 since we were told to memorize it.  It’s not that hard though, since we would be with our rifle for almost our whole cadet life in PMA as it’ll be part of most activities we will be having in the cadet corps... that’s the primary reason why this rifle was termed as our wife or girlfriend... we took good care of it, always by its company and we never left it out of our sight... not until we’re sure that it’s safe.

Resignation and Confinement.  On day 27, a squad mate resigned due to family call and another was confined in the hospital due to muscle weakness.  No one’s really sure of their stay in the academy.  There were a lot of possible things and twist of events that change the path we’re going to.  Today you’re there... the following day, you’re gone.

Boodle Fight.  A military tradition where the viand and rice are served together in a long table, using banana leaves as table mat, as everyone eat side by side using their bare hands.  In the academy, it was “Day 28” when our company had a boodle fight.  We usually did it on special occasions.  That time, it was for the birthday of an upperclassman and a farewell present from the 1st plebe detail (navy and airforce group).  The presentation had slight modification, instead of banana leaves and tables, food is served in the hallway at the top of old newspapers... nevertheless, it just taste the same for a plebe.

Letters and Thoughts.  I never expected to receive any letters since I thought it’s never a plebe’s privilege.  Yet, when an officer asked me to do some push-ups, then I knew something good was about to come. It was also in Day 28 when I received my first letter in PMA.  It was from my parents and brothers for my birthday.  Pictures and thoughts along with it, this simple things means a lot for someone so far from home... it gave me strength and encouragement to go on with what I started.

Turned-over.  Day 29, the last Saturday inspection with the first plebe detail, at the same time, we were turned-over to the 2nd plebe detail... the 2nd classmen army group.  New squad leader and yearlings... another adjustments and new expectations.  They told us that the army group would give us tougher and rougher trainings... we just crossed our fingers and hoped for the best.  I guess it’s just the way it was and always will be... create fear and gain instant control.

Yahweh bless...


  1. Great post sir. I'm 21 years old, hard-pressed choosing between serving the country and getting buried in the bottom rung of the corporate ladder. Somehow, this post made me realize the self-actualization only the former could offer. Big thanks!

  2. Thats fucking shit ace mate, i was there until i was discharged due to leg injury...but yeah good luck