It is no secret to my family that I’ve always wanted to be a cadet that in my first year in college, I even tried to sneak in my application form to send to the Office of Admissions– but to no avail, my Mom had such a strong radar that she was able to withhold my entry form.
Being an only girl in a family of five, it is no surprise that my parents do not want me to enter the military life. But not being there only made me much, much more curious on what lies inside those hallowed walls.
A common area I would like to discuss here is the Borromeo Field located at the Philippine Military Academy in Baguio City. PMA, though a military school, is also a famous tourist spot where visitors, from 7 am to 5 pm, can come and have a glimpse of cadets marching in line preparing for mess; take pictures on the academy’s landmarks; and, at 10 am on Sundays, watch the infamous Silent Drill Exhibition of selected cadets.
The Borromeo Field is used for many cadet activities, mainly to mark special occasions in a cadet’s life. From Incorporation Day where they are formally recognized as PMA plebes; to Recognition Day where they receive their laurels for being Third Class officers; and to their much-awaited Graduation Day which makes them official members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Though Borromeo Field is a witness to these most memorable events, it also is to the worst ones: from summer camp where qualified applicants undergo the much-dreaded “Beast Barracks” (McCoy 1999); and to the 45-90-90 (45 Demerits, 90-Hour Punishment Touring, 90-Day Confinement) which is the worst punishment given to a cadet before considered for dismissal.
Throughout their military life, PMAyers get back together every year on the 3rd Sunday of February to celebrate their Alumni Homecoming. They march by batch (from the oldest surviving class to the present) on this same field as what they did in their cadet life. Full honors are also given here to outstanding graduates who are about to retire from the service.
Cadets also use the Field for their sports activities, from soccer to golf to football. It is the home of the well-known Silent Drill Exhibition, which never fails to draw so many visitors every Sunday, may they be relatives or non-relatives of cadets. Though the exhibition starts at 10 am, the grandstand is already filled up as early as 9:30 am.
Civilians are welcome to use the Field, too, especially for sports activities. During Marcos’ time, Borromeo Field was used to hold practices and tournaments for “Gintong Alay.” Using it is free of charge, but for big events, one should coordinate with the officer-in-charge, so as to make sure no special event is held on that day (i.e. Graduation Day).
|Cadets performing the Silent Drill
For PMAyers, there is an unwritten rule that no one should be allowed to cross the Field from end (athletics building) to end (grandstand), unless for athletics or parades. Although it’s much more convenient to cross the Field to get from the athletics room and the barracks to one’s classes and to the mess hall, cadets do not cross it and instead, walk the entire radius to get to the other side. “There’s a lot of blood and sweat na nabuhos dun. Every cadet that went to PMA gave that much, that’s why there’s a lot of respect for Borromeo,” says my Dad, a graduate of PMA Class 1984.
This is also the reason why civilians should ask for permission during big events, because the officer-in-charge is given the task to emphasize this unwritten rule. A non-compliance of this would mean probation from letting a certain group use the Field again. As far as my Dad remembers, in his four years of being in the academy, he never saw visitors cross the Field. “Parang natatakot silang mag-cross dun,” he says.
Although there were a lot of visitors who took photos with the cadets during the Silent Drill Exhibition last Sunday, many they said they wouldn’t even think of crossing it. “Baka mabugbog ako,” one adds. This goes to show that though a field free of use for everyone, its location in the academy makes a lot of difference. There’s the sense of authority and the regimented cadet life seen everywhere that the environment itself gives a sense of fear to the visitors—even in truth or in jest.
The Field, though used for different activities, is home to a great roster of sunflowers, rosal and suntan. It is also filled with “No Picking of Flowers” and “No Littering” signs. This, apart from a reflection of the academy’s strict and regimented life where they put so much value on discipline, orderliness and cleanliness, is also in theory a form of management. “When everything’s clean, you would feel very much ashamed to throw anywhere you want to,” says my Dad.
A common comment by alumni and alumnae, said in jest of course, is that when the grass in the Field is brown, “snappy ang mga kadete,” owing to the fact that they’ve just been through yet another routine of endless drills and practices. When the grass gets literally greener all depends on the next set of activities that’ll done there. It was the first time in 1983 that the Silent Drill moved from a Company to a more ambitious Battalion exhibition. Double the time, double the effort: that was how they did their practice. And then the “Gintong Alay” practices and tournaments were also scheduled that year. My Dad shares that the once lush green field was literally turned into a barren ground almost overnight. But almost overnight, too, the management did everything they can to put it into its best shape, just in time for the Class ‘84’s graduation.
The annual alumni homecoming is especially notorious when it comes to the Field’s vulnerability to the “tragedy of the commons.” To think that one would have to squeeze in graduates from 1940 (this year, the last two surviving members attended) to 2010, along with their relatives, friends, friends of friends, relatives of friends, other guests, media people, and distinguished guests and their “battalion” of securities! With the program running for four hours, there’s just so many people walking and running on the field trying to take a picture of and with their relatives and friends; and lots of media people doing coverage, interviewing alumni and alumnae.
With everything bare when the program’s through, one couldn’t help but feel rather surprised and saddened: lots and lots of trash everywhere, on the Field and on the Grandstand, and the case of missing flowers. One could just imagine the look of the maintenance team who’ve done a good job all year, but, after just a single day, is now left with so much work.
Although there’s an insistence on maintenance and orderliness in the academy, I don’t think enclosure may happen. This is also the sentiment of my Dad, since it would be such a preposterous idea to close the Field when the academy is home to scholars of the government and to future leaders of the country. Aside for a way to build rapport with the visitors, opening the Field to see the cadets’ exhibitions promotes the academy which now faces a dwindling number of applicants year after year. Enclosing it would be like closing the doors of the military to the people whom they owe the most for their education and training. “Besides, galing naman sa mga Pilipino ang pagpapagawa and maintenance ng Borromeo. They have every right to use it,” my Dad says.
The Borromeo Field with the academy’s motto as backdrop.
A dramatic backdrop of the Field is the big signage of the academy’s motto: “Courage, Integrity, Loyalty.” A great part of the cadets’ life is spent on these grounds, which marks the beginning and the end of every step in their academy life. It also becomes a source of pride for the cadets, as they recount their hardships starting with “Beast Barracks;” and also for the parents, who shall always carry with them the badge of being a parent of a PMAyer. For visitors, many feel that Borromeo Field equals Silent Drill.
For cadets, there is a strong concern to maintain it as commons since “it is owned by the Filipino people.” But then, at the same time, there also is a strong desire to protect it. “We just hope that civilians do not step on it like it’s any other field,” says my Dad. Informing the people of what the Field means to the cadets would surely make others understand their sentiments. “But in the long history of PMA, no report yet of bastardization of this Field. But we’ll see,” he adds.
In theory, the State owns Borromeo Field. It has a big hand on its implementing rules and regulations. Although it has a big say on how the Field should be used, it has to take caution and reach a compromise with the academy and its alumni and alumnae, since history tells us that though the military is the State’s defense, it can also be the cause of its destabilization.
Albano, Richard (personal communication, February 24, 2011) shared his experiences in the academy.
McCoy, Alfred. 1999. Closer than Brothers: Manhood at the Philippine Military
Academy. Manila: Anvil Publishing Inc.