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3. Southern Cruise beckoned like a mist in the middle of a parade under the Manila sun. The respite was welcomed, more, it was heaven-sent. Datu Kalantiaw, BRP 76 was to be our home for about a month. The has-been guided missile destroyer of the US Navy would take us to where our people lived and the beautiful places they call home. They were places most of us had never been. Places we would always remember. Cebu. Dumaguete. Cagayan de Oro. Zamboanga. Leyte. Surigao. In each of these places, our Silent Drill Company always wowed the crowd. The oohs and aahs went from beginning to end. We wallowed in attention and praise. Especially from beautiful maidens whose knowledge of Cadets begun and ended with our uniforms. We admired from a distance knowing that our mission was to bring the Academy closer to the people. A mission most of us accomplished during hops. Yes, those were the times when we superficially embodied the shiny 34 buttons. That we became just like any guy whose intent was to make a maiden fall. A girl in every port, the sailors would mythically propagate. To some of us, such was not only the case, it was even surpassed. As Datu Kalantiaw sailed back to Manila, we stayed out late on the deck looking for shooting stars and enjoyed being lulled by the sea. The sound of splashing waves etched priceless memories in our minds, their significance fathomed only in the naked honesty of one’s thoughts. We wished we could have stayed longer or that the cruise was just a start. And as we sorted through names and faces, we marked that which was special. If only in memory, we would go back.
4. We always missed the Academy after each sojourn. There always was the guaranteed certainty of time and schedule, the undeniable peace and quiet. The mountain breeze always blew with the serenity and the scent of the pines. The kept gardens with all their flowers were always beautiful to behold. As we settled for what would turn out as the hardest Academic grind of our Cadethood, we paused looking at the flag waving in the wind. All of we would do, all of who we were and would be, were to make sure the Flag would always fly free. It would be our reason for being.
5. The harder the grind, the faster time flew. It was December before we knew it. Another break. Another exposure to the world we would live in, in a year and a half. The dictates of idealism, the uncompromising delineation of right and wrong, the purity of Integrity somehow repulsed the reality of day-to-day existence. We would live with poverty, hunger, deprivation, corruption, exploitation, despair. Somehow we questioned the rationale of a Utopian existence protected by walls of denial and pursuit of perfection. How could we live with the people while perched in our pedestals? To effect change, we must change first. In our search that started when we took the entrance exam, the prize must remain the ultimate. To deviate would just be an excuse if not an utter tragedy.
6. The Turn Over of Command ceremony from the Class of 1976 to us was a noble display of relinquishing power, a lesson each power wielder should learn. With a good luck and a salute, we were handed down the responsibility of running the Corps. There were no more upperclassmen to look up to. The helm belonged to us. The Corps would move to the direction we would lead it to. Did our shoulders stoop because of the weight? Was the challenge too great? Those before us wilted not, complained not and accepted what they were handed down without any reservation nor doubt. They were ready, they were prepared. And so they moved on to join the Long Grey Line. The one we always aspired to be a part of. The line that must not break. Damn, if we would fail our link.
Next: First Class and Foremost