By Mortz C. Ortigoza
When a young Army First Lieutenant learned that I came from M’lang, Cotabato Province, he told his fellow officers who worked at the Tactics Office of the Philippine Military Academy in Baguio City in the late 1980s that the people there were dazzled by a four digits military name tag sewed on the left breast part of their fatigue or khaki uniform.
For example: Regla, JC
(Note: "O" stands for Officer then the four digits)
“Iba doon bok, big deal sa kanila ang four-digit (Its different there classmate, four-digit was a big deal for them),” he quipped to fellow officers who are now mostly retired generals.
“Many Muslim mayors there would doff their hat when they saw a four digits battle weary Army Captain and his battle scarred soldiers who entered his village while chasing the rebels,” one of them retorted.
What’s the magic of the four digits that the knowledgeable, the machos, and the wide-eyed made a big fuss in Mindanao?
The four digits showed primorldially that the officer is a frigging graduate of the elite Philippine Military Academy and not some graduates of FEU or Faaralang Elementarya ng Ulongapo and PAMMA or Pangasinan Merchant Marine Academy who took an ROTC (Reserve Officers' Training Corps) course under the tutelage of inferior reserve military instructors and became a military official.
The four digits whose members were and are mostly graduates (some are non-PMYers but members of the regular force they derisively called “Sundalong Kanin (Rice Soldiers) like doctors) from the Long Gray Line in Barangay Kias, Fort del Pilar in Baguio City means not only being an officer and a gentleman but epitomize youth, vitality, and wisdom.
When a son of a poor farmer, a businessman, a public school teacher, or a sergeant passed the tough PMA entrance examination that emphasized on mathematics, hurdled the three months beast barracks training at Camp Aquino in then Tarlac town (where I worked as a clerk there when it folded in 1989) and Fort del Pilar, and survived the almost four years (more if the cadet became a turn-back or repeater because of academics deficiency) rigorous academics and regimental trainings, folks in our town, overawed son of a gun, would talk highly about the cadet or the officer.
|HAILED - U.S Army 2Lt. EliEichenberger, center, poses with the members of the Philippines National Police based in M'lang, Cotabato Province.|