Honoring Our Departed Mistahs on Remembrance Day

We, the members of Philippine Military Academy ‘Makatarungan’ Class of 1978 (PMA ’78), celebrated Remembrance Day last April 11, 2022 to honor the memory of our ‘Makatarungan’ classmates who have passed away. A total of 38 of our beloved classmates have left ahead of us, out of the 139 who graduated from the hallowed halls of our beloved Academy; plus the 10 others who were invited to join as honorary or associate members for their genuine friendship and warmth. In all, we have a total of 149 classmates or ‘mistahs’, as we call each other fondly.

The date, April 11, was chosen as it was on that fateful day of April 11, 1978 when our class suffered our first casualty, 2Lt Manolito ‘Lito’ Herrero of the Philippine Constabulary (PC). Having just graduated in Febuary of that year, our class had been given a 1-month vacation leave, before being required to report to our designated branches of service: the Army, the PC, the Air Force and the Navy. Barely days after reporting to his first field assignment in Jolo, Lito would succumb to loss of blood after being wounded in an extended firefight against MNLF elements.

Months later, on October 17, we would suffer our second casualty. Army 2Lt Dante Grafil would be felled by friendly fire in Jolo, as a mentally-troubled soldier gunned him down as Dante tried to pacify him. The following year, Army 2LT Tito ‘Toti’ Abat would expire after a brief night encounter with NPA rebels in Samar in Feb 2, 1979. He was part of a Scout Ranger test mission in the area. PC 2Lt Sulpicio ‘Bernie’ Bernardo IV’s isolated patrol base in Samar was overrun in Aug 29, 1979. Bernie was our 2nd casualty for the year, and the 2nd in Samar. Marine 2Lt Brian Pacheco was our first Navy casualty. He died in a sea ambush in Tawi-Tawi on Mar 9, 1980. Brian was visiting and helping orient our Ranger mistahs who had just been deployed in the area. Ensign Albert Majini died in Oct 7, 1980 in a sea encounter with sea pirates in Tawi-Tawi. He was manning the patrol boat’s machine gun when he was hit square in the head, killing him instantly. For the 3rd time, we would have 2 casualties in a year. On Oct 18, 1981, we would suffer yet another loss. 2Lt Danilo ‘Danny’ de la Cerna was waylaid by NPA terrorist elements in a vehicular ambush in the hinterlands of Samar. For 4 years, the blood of our mistahs had consecrated the grounds of troubled Jolo and Samar alternately. Danny would be the last of the Class’ casualties in those fateful first 4 years in the military service. Henceforth, the members of the class would start to find assignments in less-risky fields. In 1985 however, Air Force Capt Renato ‘Rene’ Yap‘s chopper would mysteriously vanish while flying from Tacloban to Mactan. Rene was our first Air Force casualty. In Feb 4, 1988, PC Capt Rosello ‘Boying’ Radovan was killed in an unfortunate misencounter with fellow police operatives in Quezon City. Air Force Maj Robert ‘Bobby’ Jugao would die in a C-130 crash in the hinterlands of Bicol while bringing in relief goods for typhoon victims on Dec 14, 1993. In Apr 4, 1995, Army Maj David Sabido was in Ipil, Zambo Sur when MILF rebels torched the town. Dave would be our last field casualty. Police Chief Inspector Cesar Maneclang expired in Dec 18, 1995 due to a heart attack. He would be the class’ first casualty on account of health reasons.  In Jun 2, 1998, Navy Commander Nestor Fernando died after being in a coma for a week, shot by an errant soldier at the AFP CGSC. Retired Army Capt Leodegario ‘Leo’ Adalem was felled by a NPA assassin’s bullets in his home in Tarlac in Apr 11, 2000. Leo would be the last in the class to die a violent death. He was also our first casualty from the ranks of the retired. Police C/Insp Dionisio ‘Dionie’ Disonglo died in Jun 5, 2001 due to a lingering kidney illness. Police S/Supt Voltaire ‘Voltz’ Calzado followed in Nov 11, 2005, dead due to a sudden heart attack. Ignacio ‘Anto’ Antonio died 4 days later in Australia, in Nov 15, of a lingering illness. Army Lt Col  Herbert Avinante died in Sep 21, 2006 of kidney failure. Police S/Supt Sales Zaragosa died in July 25, 2007 of heart failure. He would be followed by Daniel ‘Danny’ Costales in Feb 14, 2010 of cancer. Army MGen Rudival ‘Odee’ Cabading was the the AFP Chief of Engineers when he suffered a heart attack in July 18, 2011. Odee was the last in our class to die while in active service. From hereon, health issues would be our bigger concern. Army Ret BGen Florante ‘Flor’ Martinez died of heart failure in Mar 30, 2012. Air Force Ret Col Zamiel Carlos died in Jun 14, 2012. Army Ret BGen Francisco ‘Francis’ Lanuza died in Jul 1, 2012. Our Chief of Staff, Ret Gen Delfin ‘Del’ Bangit succumbed in Dec 13, 2013 to a lingering cancer. He would be followed by Ret Col Demetrio ‘Demy’Andrada, our first honorary mistah in the list. Others who would follow from a variety of health complications were: Ret PNP C/Sup Marcos ‘Mark’ Badilla, Ret PC/Sup Benedict ‘Ben’ Fokno, ex- Mayor Leovic Dioneda, Ret PC/Sup Florencio ‘Flor’ Caccam Jr, Ret PDir Rodolfo ‘Boogie’ Mendoza, Ret Col Evaristo ‘Resty’ Rio, Ret Navy LCdr Orencio De Asis Jr, Ret Navy RAdm Cornelio dela Cruz, Ret Air Force MGen Celedonio ‘Odette’ Boquiren, then MMDA Chief Danilo ‘Danny’ Lim, Ret Air Force Col Andres ‘Andy’ Laurilla, and ‘Butch’ Calayo. In summary, the Makatarungan Class of 78 has had 38 casualties through the years, broken down as follows: Army – 14; PC/PNP  – 14; Navy -5; Air Force – 4; and from the civilian sector – 1. Eight (8) of our mistahs are classified as Killed In Action (KIA). It has been 44 years since we left the Academy, and we honor them each year with a simple ceremony to celebrate their lives and the positive contributions they have blessed us with – collectively and individually. Our mistahs may have departed this earth, but we know of the many beautiful memories, the countless small, poignant episodes of kindness and of love, that they have left us. They have us – their mistahs – as well as their families, and their children, all of whom will surely remember their indelible mark of Courage, Integrity and Loyalty to our country and people. From the words of our alma mater song:

When bells for us are rung; And our last taps is sung

Let generations see our country free!

Oh, lead to righteous way; Those solid ranks of gray

Thy virtues to display; Academy, Oh hail to thee.

To our dearly departed mistahs, our sincerest gratitude, and our snappy salute!!!

2 comments

  1. Charles, what a wonderful tribute to your classmates from the Military Academy. The research is commendable.

    I had the privilege of “attending” a ZOOM meeting of my late brother’s company as they were preparing for the 50th reunion of the US Military Academy at West Point. The reunion took place earlier this month at the Academy on the Hudson in New York.

    The graduates of both of these institutions reflect the rich legacy of duty, honor and country which will long be remembered. Thanks for the post.

    Liked by 2 people

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