Remembering Boogie


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Boogie Mendoza, one of the country’s top spies, dead at 64. (Rappler)

Rodolfo ‘Boogie’ Mendoza, a proud member of PMA Class 78, retired Police General, legendary anti-communist intelligence officer, and consummate psywar practitioner, died of a heart attack last March 28. He was 64.

As a cadet in the Philippine Military Academy (PMA), Boogie was easy to get along with. He was originally a member of PMA Batch 77, but notwithstanding the fact that he was a ‘turnback’ cadet, he never flaunted his connections on us, his classmates, during our plebe year. Always helpful, he strove to help our ‘mistahs’ (cadet lingo for classmate) who were slow to adjust to plebe life in the Academy.

Throughout our cadet days, he always took a low profile, choosing to stay on the sidelines, content on coasting along and taking the easy way. We were part of Bud-daho Company, which later reverted back to Delta Company, and we were gaining a distinct notoriety as the company which loved their wine much, much more than they did their women. And Boogie was right at home with that band of boisterous brothers.

We parted ways after graduation in 1978, as he joined the Philippine Constabulary with some of our other mistahs, while the rest of us would join the Army, the Navy or the Air Force. For a while, I lost track of him. But the next time our paths crossed, it was a totally different Boogie I encountered.

We would see each other once again when I was reassigned to Davao in the early 80s. Gone was the ‘drink-and-be-merry’ attitude. In its place was a passion for the work at hand, a consuming drive to uncover the Kommid (or the Mindanao Commission), which was the Communist Party’s top leadership in Mindanao.

He would burn the midnight oil pouring over sacks and sacks of captured documents, intent on filling up his wall of names, organizations and linkages. He endeavored to learn as much about the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed group, the New People’s Army (NPA). From the very top of the organization down to the smallest units known as the SLTs and SYPs. He became practically a walking encyclopedia of the Kommid, knowing even the dark little secrets within the organization.

His knowledge of the NPA organization in Southern Mindanao became legendary. At one time, there was a ‘salvaging’ incident in Agdao in Davao City where a Cafgu member was felled by NPA assassins. Our soldiers picked up a very suspicious looking character and brought him to Camp Catitipan for questioning, but we didn’t have anything on him. Boogie walked in, took one look at the guy, and spelled out his name and position in the insurgent organization. He even spiced it up by adding some private details about him. The guy immediately broke down and confessed. No lengthy interrogation, no third-degree, not even a single question. Boogie had him the moment he set eyes on him.

His reputation in the counter-insurgency campaign would grow. Even as a young lieutenant, he was already in the Kommid’s list of most wanted individuals, while the rest on the list were all generals. Among his noted early successes were the capture of Benjamin De Vera, then the highest ranking personality in the Kommid; plus many other top-ranking personalities. He was now making a name for himself in the police and military world as a topnotch intel operator.

As a planner, Boogie was a very unorthodox individual. Almost always, he would surprise everyone with a unique and audacious way to address a problem. He never took the conventional approach to a project. He was an expert in conversational gambit. He could get you to divulge important information without you realizing it. And he was a master strategist, always looking 3 to 5 moves ahead. Discussing the possible capture of a certain personality in the communist movement, he dismissed the thought. To him, capturing the guy would be easy, but dealing with that next guy in the hierarchy would become even more difficult.

His exploits would grow beyond the insurgency field. Among others, in 1995, Boogie would uncover a terrorist plot to kill Pope Paul II during his visit to the country. The ‘Bojinka Plot’ would highlight the use of planes to blow up urban centers and key landmarks. Years later, after the horrifying 9-11 terrorist attack that destroyed the Twin Towers in New York, Boogie’s revelations would haunt American intelligence officers who failed to heed his warning.

Then came Edsa 2. This is where I remember him at his best. Martin Luther King once said: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands in times of challenge and controversy.”

At the start of Edsa 2, there were very few people operating on the AFP and the PNP. Boogie took it upon himself to work on getting the support of the PNP. Despite facing a formidable foe in then PNP Chief and now Senator Ping Lacson, he never backed down. Nothing personal against the Senator, but Boogie was always ready to take on the world for a righteous cause. And taking down then President Erap was the right thing to do for him at that time.

On 2 occasions, Fr Archie Intengan of the Jesuit Order would call us, offering to help in case things got too hot for comfort. But hell, no, Boogie so loved the pressure and waded on. Others shied away, avoiding him lest they themselves be tainted. But Boogie charged right ahead, challenging Erap’s machinery to bring it on. The rest is history.

After Edsa 2, Boogie went back to his counter-terror work, as the world’s attention was now gripped by a global threat that posed a much bigger problem. But he never forgot to work on his counter-insurgency holdings from where he made his indelible mark.

He was sought for as a resource speaker on terrorism and the insurgency movement. He was revered by his peers, his juniors, and quite grudgingly, by many of his former protagonists. He toiled to become a mentor to many junior police officers, fearful that the police in the later years would have very little interest in pursuing what had been a passion for him.

Talking about current developments recently, he lamented what he felt was a lack of in-depth know-how on the CPP-NPA among the present crop of intel officers and units. He noted that intel operatives today were more intent on targetting personalities, and not on addressing the strategic environment. And he was fearful of the seeming lack of long-term planning among the present crop of officers doing intel work.

And so, he toiled on, despite his family’s plea for him to stand down after he retired in 2010. He was a strategic thinker, and he had a growing realization that he needed to pass on his know-how to the next generation of intel operatives.

But underneath the facade of serious business he displayed, there was the occasional outburst of mischief that Boogie was capable of. He could dish out the most ribald of jokes among close friends. He could be as naughty as the ordinary boy-next-door. He could get you mad with his silly pranks.

And yes, despite the countless overtimes, the lengthy periods away from home, he was fiercely loyal to his family. Having been listed in the NPA’s hit list, he learned early on to be overly zealous of his family’s security. Even among our social circles, he was cautious in bringing along his wife, Evelyn, and his 4 kids.

Boogie. The consummate intel officer. A fiercely loyal friend; and yet an equally calculating, methodical adversary. A silent, lonely operator; and yet, an eager mentor. A serious, deliberate worker, with a knack for raunchy jokes. An enigma, a controversial figure, with a smile. The father of Philippine counter-terror intelligence work. The Philippine James Bond with a paunch.

He will be remembered. With fondness. With love. With respect. And with the same passion he brought to a craft he so loved. Our snappy salute.

(For more stories, visit: cbholganzablog.wordpress.com)

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In winter’s warmth


In nature’s paradox and defiance,
man’s imposed Gregorian calendar
seemed worthless
As date and timetables are rendered useless
And man looks in awe and surrenders.

There is always beauty in the falling snow
Tickling the heart and making time
For wonders a day of isolation brings
And the cold ironically demanding warmth.

The flowers’ buds shrink like a guest too early
To a party long ago was announced
But is now suspended in crystal animation
And still the snow falls.

Hurry not to spring’s mating call
The birds and the bees can wait in patient slumber
While the roses bloom in heavenly white
Echoing the dreams of those yet to be born.

It is time for retrospection as the coffee brews
And songs echo the long ago of youth and promise
No words need to be said in silence fully understood
Desire will unveil what lies ahead.

So I retire in beauty only the eyes can appreciate
And I cuddle up to the warmth I am blessed
Disturb me not about tomorrow’s worries
Today in my world, time stops.

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These I Remember


Bae and I were planting seeds. She was digging the hole, I was dropping two seeds per hole. Once I dropped three seeds and tried to recover the extra one. Then came the hoe almost severing my middle finger. I never seen her cry so hard. I miss her.

It was one of the longest afternoons. I left Camambugan to study in the city. I would be staying with my paternal grandparents until my family got settled. The train ride took my father, my brother and I from the province’s sunlight to the city’s darkness. I was too young to leave home but old enough to pursue who I wanted to be. The wages of life.

It was my graduation from elementary school. I was an honor student. I should wear a tie, a long sleeved shirt with cuff links. My cuff links were not a pair. My father said, no one will notice. The emcee called my name, I went up the stage and my father pinned me my medal. All I could think of was that my cuff links did not match.

High school was a test. No, correct that. High school was an agony. Four years could not have gone quick enough. Zits covered my face prompting classmates to call me “buwan”. I had four friends. When everyone was steady dating, I was at the market helping out so I could continue to go to school. Graduation relegated me to the last honorable mention even if my grades proved otherwise. Leading a student walk out one afternoon did that. The only satisfaction was my being awarded the best writer in English and Pilipino. My shining achievement. The one I really cared about.

I just won the 2nd Prize in the Tula category of the Rector’s Literary Contest. One of my Engineering Course professors called me to her office and congratulated me. She also questioned if I am in the right course. I did not know. Never received the award, whatever it was. I reported to the Philippine Military Academy April 1st, 1973. Some awards, I was bound not to receive, deserving or not.

She was the most beautiful girl I ever saw. A refreshing sight in a sweltering afternoon. “Midnight Rainbows for Marilou” started the courtship I still enjoy up to now. A courtship, I will pursue to the very end.Thank you for looking my way.

That December day was for tears. She left with all the uncertainties of the future with a promise I cast to the wind. Only God knew. It was only God I could entrust my fate to. To suffer but not to forget. To long but never to give up. In the darkest of nights, there would be the lonely star to keep the hope. Until one day, she came back. I was alive again.

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A Bright New Day for Philippine Sports


Finally!

After an eternity of ineptitude and dismal performances, Philippine Sports is given a reprieve. For 13 years, Peping Cojuangco had ruled ruthlessly over Philippine Sports, tinkering with it the way he pleased, treating it the way a spoiled brat would abuse an unwanted personal toy. As President of the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC), he wielded the power to make or unmake athletes and sports associations. Sadly, his reign would be riddled with charges of corruption, favoritism, manipulation and incompetence. Last Friday, February 23, in an election forced on the POC by a Pasig court ruling, the amiable Boxing head, Ricky Vargas, finally ended Peping’s inglorious reign of terror. Athletes and sports lovers of the country are rejoicing. For today is the start of a new era for Philippine sports.

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A fresh new start for Philippine Sports!!! (Inquirer)

We were proud champions in the South East Asian (SEA) Games in 2005, the year Cojuangco took over the reins of the POC. From that much-acclaimed position, Peping would lead the Philippines to its darkest, most difficult, most disappointing times, freefalling to 6th place in the next Games in 2007. By 2013, we would garner the lowest position ever in the regional event, landing a pitiful 7th in Myanmar. The list of dismal performances goes on and on, but surprisingly, Peping would be able to survive these nightmares. Until yesterday.

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Let’s rally behind our new set of sports leaders and our athletes. (Inquirer)

Speaking for the first time as POC President, Ricky Vargas talked wisely about reconciliation and making changes for the athletes. During Peping’s time, sports had become very divisive and controversial. Many National Sports Associations (NSAs) had 2 organizations; one propped up by Peping and the other vehemently anti-Peping. Much energy was wasted on the negativity and the political struggles, as opposed to the actual action in the sporting arenas. Much of the resources were funneled to questionable activities administered by the ‘old boys club’ identified with Peping. Many athletes simply retired or migrated, in disgust over the clear mishandling of Philippine sports. Even the selection of the Philippine representative to the International Olympic Committee was mired in controversy with Peping’s daughter, Mikee, taking the post after the retirement of Frank Elizalde. Ricky’s present task then will be challenging, as he deals with a sports leadership that used to be nothing but Peping’s virtual rubber stamp.

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Going for Gold!!! (3 Golden Smiles)

But this fresh start is precisely what the country needs. The clamor is for a leadership change that will pave the way to the dismantling of Peping’s Mafia in Philippine Sports. The need is for a sports leadership that will be focused on the athletes’ development, and not on protecting turfs and on perpetuating the leaders’ stay in power. The demand of the times is for patriotic and dynamic action, youthful vigor and modern methodologies to replace our antiquated systems which were run by senior citizens with their senior moments.

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Carmaggedon at our Precious Destination


Carmaggeddon 2

The words “bumper to bumper traffic” and “road congestion” have developed an affinity to places in the Philippines from the infamous EDSA, to Escario Street and Mango Avenue in Cebu City and Pozzorubio in Pangasinan.

It has been extended now to include Kennon Road and Loakan, as was experienced recently during the Homecoming week in Fort del Pilar. Minimum travel time from Manila to our precious destination was at least six hours extending up to ten for some, eliciting curses and bringing out the worst in a great many among us that could not wait and “counterflowed” to get up there faster.

With the alumni Corps strength estimated to be around 7,000, not counting former cadets and associate members – all being able to afford vehicles and bring them to Baguio for this annual event, it is anticipated that this will be the dreaded nightmare tradition annually, causing concerned alumni to begin thinking of alternatives to how to reconfigure Homecoming Week.

Social media was rife with postings on what to do and how it could be done, however a great many miss the entire point – the frustration can be mitigated if considerations can be made for alumni over cars going inside and outside of Fort del Pilar.

As my good friend, Cavalier Buddy Resurreccion 78 accurately pointed out several years ago, it’s all about “moving people, not vehicles”.

It’s likened to a huge volume of water that has to be pumped out of a large reservoir, using a 1/4 inch hose and expecting the reservoir to be empty in less than an hour. It’s unrealistic.

If we followed this guideline, we would have less frustration on the roads and more of the good memories to share with fellow Cavaliers both on and off the Borromeo Field during that yearly event.

Brilliant suggestions ranging from a managed pool of buses packaged for Loakan bound passengers coming from Manila for several days emerged – thus eliminating a good number of vehicles carrying only two to three passengers, and freeing some more road space.

Scheduling a bus transfer system from pickup points in Baguio to Fort del Pilar and back, and prohibiting individual vehicles – except for the guest of honor and entourage as well as organic PMA personnel will further free more road and parking space in Academy grounds.

The great ideas were discussed freely and quite a few made very good points, specially another good friend – Cavalier Proscoro “Bruce” Mundo 98, formerly of the Navy and now a consultant urban planner with excellent academic credentials – suggesting sound methods and resulting in getting dragged into the PMAAAI planning board for the Homecoming week by Cavalier Resty Aguilar 78.

Unless we are willing to make it happen, this is what we’re going to have to face every year and we’re going to continue to gripe endlessly about it. It reminds me of what my mistah, recently retired Cavalier Augusto “Jun” Marquez, Jr 84 said – if, the Baron gave the command “Pasa Masid” and I, as squad leader of the first squad, first platoon, Alfa Coy, gave a command to my squad saying “walang kilos!”, hindi maka parada ang Corps!”

That’s exactly what’s going to happen.

So let the Corps march. And not ride for hours on end, wasting fuel, generating frustration levels to the point of being dangerous.

(Photos courtesy of Cavalier Bob Yap 82, whose patience was mitigated by taking these pictures while waiting on the roads.)

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E-INTERVIEW: REX ROBLES


E-INTERVIEW: REX ROBLES

32 years have passed. Memories have dimmed, characters have disappeared, causes have blurred, even doubts have surfaced. EDSA not only changed the Philippines. It changed the world. But perspectives are as permanent as the shifting sand, always at the mercy of the waves, the wind and the currents.

Rex Robles was RAM’S spokesman and media conduit. From beginning until the end, he was in the thick of it all. Here are eleven questions, snippets if you will, of once upon a time.

Edsa Memories

1. Thirty two years after People Power 1, what memory stands out the most, what memory you will like to remember the most and what memory you really will like to forget?

The civilians standing up to the tanks. I have an account in Bulletin Today (probably out by feb 21 or thereabouts).

I will remember the most our meeting with PFM (read BT article).

Everything is good to remember. Part of my life’s tapestry..

2. What is your role in EDSA? Greg Honasan? Boy Turingan? Red Kapunan?

Mainly as spokesman. Propagandist if you will. I tried to give RAM a unique face. I coordinated with diverse groups in media and study groups (Asia Society) and think tanks (Hudson Institute). Military attaches (Singapore, Indonesia, Japan, Korea). Met with bipartisan committee from US Congress. National Public Radio, who gave me a number to call in case I needed to broadcast anything about our reform efforts.

In depth background with regional Bureau Chiefs: Time (Sandra Burton, Bob Stewart} Newsweek (Melinda Liu}, Far Eastern Economic Review (Rodney |Tasker, who developed an escape plan for me from my detention cell at the Phil Navy HQS Roxas Blvd). Connections with Pentagon desk (Mary Tai), Col William”Bill” White, of East Asian Affairs and low level desk people who were contacted in person by Ltjg Alex Pama. (We used a conference in Argentina to mask a detour to Washington.} These “low level” deskmen were key to presenting a clear image of the RAM to US top brass all the way up to Reagan.

Local news editors, Letty Magsanoc (Inquirer), Max Soliven (Star), Ninez Olivares,(Tribune). Young fledgling reporters (Jessica Soho, Jarius Bondoc, a gaggle of woman writers (Shielah Coronel, Glenda Gloria….}Makati Business Club; Opus Dei,

For my role in Edsa, read my BT account.

The acknowledged leader of RAM was Col Tirso Gador {‘66} until he died in a training exercise a few months after.

Greg and Red were a team. Greg was tactical commander and Red handled intelligence. Tthey planned to breach the palace together. Red monitored radio transmissions about vote manipulation to the Comelec computer managers at the PICC which led to the famous walk-out by operators led by Red’s wife, Linda.

Greg and Boy Turingan (overall Chief of Staff) were the organizers with Boy T doing a yeoman’s job keeping things in order, to include finance and logistics. We were getting high powered firearms and other weaponry from Israel, Singapore and UK (————————-). Friends from Hongkong provided us with scramblers for our radios.

3. Who hatched the idea of a military take over against Marcos?

The plan was not for a military take over. It was to enter the palace, take custody of the President, and announce the takeover by a Transition Committee preparatory to an election. Members of the Committee would not be allowed to run for any public office. This was explained to Peping Cojouangco and Ramon Mitra in a meeting a few says before Edsa.

4. What is your opinion of Enrile’s memoirs?

JPE’s Memoirs was controversial in the part where he describes the ambush of his convoy. I was out of the country when this happened. I was an advanced Mechanical Engineering student at the US Naval Postgraduate School, graduating in mid 1974. I asked Tirso about it since he was duty adc when the ambush occurred. The portion of the vehicle where Enrile was supposed to be sitting was peppered with bullets. Tirso was sitting in front and the driver described themselves as deathly scared. (Putlang putla daw si Tirso, who sustained minor scratches}.As security precaution, Enrile was that day riding in another vehicle in the convoy.

I think what happened was SND’s men were anticipating an attack. Because days before, DND security led by Greg and Tirso staged a commando raid on the lair of an assassination squad earlier identified by AFP intelligence. The whole team was wiped out. Before that, there had been a bitter exchange beween Imelda and JPE at a palace meeting. Afterward, PFM called Enrile aside and warned him to be careful because “some groups” were out to get him.

My take is that during the press con at DND where Enrile and Ramos declared their withdrawal of loyalty to the president, Enrile decided to throw in the story of a staged assassination to bolster his case, but this version later worked against him.

But that’s only me.

The rest of the memoirs makes for fascinating reading. Nelson Navarro, who spent months cloistered in Menado, Indonesia to edit the book told me that he must have taken out at least 30% of what the author actually wrote.

5. In the aftermath of RAM, what went right, what went wrong?

RAM did not agree that the site of Cory’s swearing in would be club Filipino. They preferred the DND ceremonial hall where the withdrawal by JPE and Ramos was announced. Enrile himself vetoed this suggestion, saying that Cory would sooner or later need their help, anyway. But pursuing their own plans, Cory’s advisers had her ignoring the pledge of power sharing with Doy Laurel and the prior agreement to form a transition council. The blunder was to allow Cory and her clever minions to have their way.

6. Considering everything that has transpired from the day Marcos was toppled to the election of Duterte, will you do it again?

#6 is a leading question. The takeover of the yellow horde caused the country to march back into a marcos era without marcos but with the new elite gradually consolidating power without regard for the country’s welfare. From hind sight the military should just have allowed the country to learn its bitter lessons. If I had to do it again, it is to do it with people who would go right ahead and execute a takeover. Then if we fail, even after initial successes, then we really have only ourselves to blame.

But I always was an advocate of non-intervention. I agreed to join RAM on naïve notion that if we can force Marcos to step down, that would facilitate the entry of legitimate civilian groups and restore a democratic regime.

7. The opposition is pushing for another EDSA to get Duterte out of office, do the circumstances warrant such? Having participated in the successful overthrow of Marcos, what will you say to those who desire so?

The push for another Edsa is a pipe dream, pursued by those who enjoyed their halcyon years of unbridled stealing. Edsa was unique in its circumstances (please read the BT article).

8. What do you think of Marcos’ burial at LNMB and how the people’s perception of his presidency has moved from despicable to admirable?

The burial was just and proper for an erstwhile commander in chief. The swing in attitude for some is caused by the total mishandling of the issue by the yellow horde. They overplayed their hand and are consequently forced to defend a weak position.

9. How will history remember Rex Robles? How does Rex Robles want to be remembered?

History has eyes that can only see the past, but at the right distance. There comes a time when the focus becomes clear. Even only 60, 70 years from now, I don’t expect or hope to be remembered. I am not big at leaving footprints in the sand. Only to live life as best as I can, being of help to some, maybe, and a joy or inspiration(?} to my grandchildren whom I totally adore.

10. Who of the characters of EDSA will you still stand with after all these years? And who will stand with you still?

I have weekly breakfast meetings with Ram old guards, Felix Turingan, Jake Malajacan, and other septuagenarians. I look forward to those meetings and relish the time with them like an old fogey should. I stand by them.

11. What advice do you have for those who will like to change the world?

There is a saying, If you always aspire to do a lot, you may end up doing nothing. Be satisfied with the small successes and don’t forget about love. It is a blessing that we should all share.

If you plan to post this, please use discretion. I try not to talk too much about certain things, but sometimes that cannot be helped because of the need to make people understand. The relationship with the US is a sensitive area for me. Especially after Stanley Karnow made Edsa look like a brilliant US success in his book “in Our Image”. He spent several hours interviewing me and a dozen U-matic tapes. But he largely downplayed the role of the military (read his summary of events at the end of the book).

Rex’s narrative in Manila Bulletin :

https://news.mb.com.ph/…/i-was-an-eyewitness-to-this-dramat…

https://news.mb.com.ph/…/ram-leaders-meet-president-marcos…/

 

We are now practically a generation away from that uniquely Filipino event known as the EDSA Revolution, and yet invariably, memories come flooding back as naturally as the ocean tide on a warm summer evening.
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The Cadet Corps Online


Porma!

This week is Homecoming Week at Loakan.

Sir Dan Jimenez 77 sounded off an appeal to members of the Corps to change their profile photo to one of themselves as cadets.

The response was quick and viral. And very heartwarming. It was as if the Cadet Corps started appearing from all over and I was hearing the “attention call” faintly in the background. It was good to see my classmates, upperclassmen and underclassmen post images of themselves when their hair was shorter, their midsections trim and their uniforms immaculately pressed and shining where applicable.

All over social media, photos of the Corps in formation or otherwise started appearing, along with anecdotes of incidents that would not have been recalled had they not been recounted online.

Yet it was the old photos that rekindled the fires inside, bringing out a nostalgia that we had thought had been buried deep already.

Once again, I felt the need to brace up properly and conduct myself accordingly.

It had that effect on me as well as many of my other friends online who did so.

Where we are now is largely due to choices we made then, circumstances that influenced them and perhaps, destiny. While a great many lived out their careers in uniform, many others as well either left Loakan in civvies or hung up their uniforms much earlier.

Yet we are all the better for it.

This week in Fort Del Pilar, a great many of her sons and daughters will be riding vehicles across the plains of Luzon, hurdling the mountains of Baguio to reach their precious destination, the Philippine Military Academy. There,they will inhale the scent of fresh pine needles, walk through familiar pavement, visit old haunts, lament the destruction of the old barracks and look forward to the parades and seeing the other members of the Corps during their respective “times”.

And come back down to reality, refreshed, infused with another dose of what it felt like to be a cadet once more – when the environment was more ideal and it was possible to harbor idealistic goals.

Happy Homecoming to all the Cavaliers setting foot once again on Borromeo Field.

Academy, O hail to thee!

(Photo courtesy of Dado Enrique 83, the Class First Captain and Regimental Commander)

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