Our third installment of Saturday Success Story is a very familiar face to me and to the Philippine Army. She was my former classmate in high school and also a former academic rival while we were in school. I had numerous memories of her, one being a great class mathematician, a cheerleader, loyal friend and also a very girly-girl teenager, who always kept a container of face powder in her backpack. So, the idea of her attending the Philippine Military Academy after high school was such an impossible thought! No one in our class ever imagined that a woman, our former classmate would then graduate from the most prestigious military academy from the Philippines and would later become the second woman in the history of the Philippines to graduate as the class valedictorian of the Philippine Military Academy!
In April 2003, she was the headline of all the major newspapers in the country. She was the talk of most local and national media – as well the celebrity in the province of Tarlac! She has brought honor and name to our town and to her family. But most of all, she is her own self – the same old Tara – bubbly (almost giggly at times), still carries her make-up kit and loyal.
Now, a mother of two lovely children, an officer in the Army with a successful career, she shares to us how she started in her career; she narrates to us the many challenges she has gone through in her life and tells us how she keeps success close to her.
This is MS. TARA JAIME VELAZCO-CAYTON, in her own words:
“In my kindergarten year, I’ve noticed that my classmates wanted to be doctors, dentists, nurses, accountants, lawyers, engineers, etc….So I thought of something unique… I do not want to be somebody else, I want to be unique! (Ayaw ko ng may katulad. )=) I want something different. I always want to travel the less travelled path…So I researched for other professions…until I decided to aspire to be a pilot. From then on I dreamt to be a pilot…
In my high school years, especially when we were in senior year, I started to worry about my ambition…How can I become pilot if my parents couldn’t send me to flying school due to financial constraints? I was hopeless that time until I read a post/advertisement about the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Entrance Examination. Highlighted on that post are the benefits that you can get from the PMA…among the enumerated benefits, only two caught my attention –
1) progressive military career as a regular officer in the Philippine Air Force
2) free college education (plus with allowance).
So without second thought I grabbed the opportunity. I took and successfully passed the PMA Entrance Examination in September 1998 (5 months after High School graduation). By the way, PMA proctors nearly rejected me to take the exam because of my height. =) They thought I was short. (Maliit daw kasi ako) I was only 5’1¾ “ that time, but now, I am 5’3” (Pero 5’3” na ako ngayon). The height requirement for PMA cadetship (female) is 5’2”.
But I insisted and very brave to approach the head of the proctor team…I told him, “Sir, I will still grow taller because I am not yet eighteen years old.” (“Sir, tatangkad pa naman ako kasi wala pa naman po ako 18 yrs di ba…”)
For whatever reason, I don’t know why I had a good luck that time. They allowed me to take the exam even if I lacked ¼ inch in height. =) So there started my journey to military world.
01 April 1999 when I first stepped down on the grounds of PMA. The first day was a major shock – Reception Rites (Initiation Rites). It aims to break the spirit of those who are not ready, much less fit, for the hard life in the military. I almost wanted to quit but thinking that PMA is the only key to fulfill my dream of becoming a pilot, I persevered. I didn’t let go of the opportunity (Hindi ko na pinakawalan yung opportunity), for if I quit, my will is broken down along with nostalgia, which would haunt me forever perhaps with remorse. Cadetship is an opportunity for greatness that knocks on one’s door only once in a lifetime. So there I trod the uncharted waters of my life to seek a piece of my destiny. I considered PMA as a great leap into the future.
My life in the academy was never easy. It was too regimented. I was plunged into a sea of the unknowns. That was the first time that I was away from home. Homesickness hit me hard however I was happy to the thought that on those days I passed one crossroad of my life and the future was dawning. Through courage and determination coupled with prayers I surpassed the challenges of cadet life. My motto then was – “A quitter never wins. And a winner never quits!”
My four years stay in the academy shaped my character. Then, the very reason why I entered PMA was just for personal interest – to avail of free college education and be a pilot. It is sort of more towards personal reasons (Medyo more on personal talaga).However, as time passed by while I was in PMA, my interests changed (nag-iba yung gusto ko). I enjoy leading men on the ground than just riding in a plane/chopper. I love challenging tasks. The more dangerous/risky the task is, the more I want to involve myself. I want to prove to myself that I am not a weakling. I think people during that time thought I was a weakling and fuzzy (Parang ang tingin din kasi sa akin ng lahat noon ay lampa and maarte). =)
In 2003, I left the halls of PMA not only as a professional soldier but as a leader of men. I was commissioned as a Regular Officer into the Armed Forces of the Philippines (Philippine Army).
Being in the Army is indeed the greatest journey of my life. It is really full of challenges. It exposes me to difficulties and risks posed by harsh operational and training environment, it tests my leadership abilities, and affirms my commitment and dedication to serve.
On the lighter side, being in the Army gives me a lot of opportunities such as:
-tour and appreciate the beauty and grandeur of the countryside
-know my countrymen with their rich and diverse culture
-live in the most indigenous and austere accommodation
-try the most lavish shuttle and ferry services such as plane, chopper and ship
-taste exotic dishes and dine in a natural ambiance
-experience the most festive form of camaraderie and
-work with other countries’ army in bilateral exercises
I greatly enjoy my stay in the Army. It is difficult yet happy. We laugh and smile on simple things. If we have a tree to give us shade, we’re already happy. If we get to eat some crackers and sardines while we are in the mountains, we are already satisfied. Because of the Army, I met a lot of people who reside in the outskirts of the boondocks, who live harder lives than what I have. Then I realized how lucky I really am! (Mahirap pero masaya. Mababaw lang kaligayahan sa buhay. May puno lang kaming masilungan, masaya na kami. Makakain lang ng sky flakes and sardinas sa bundok, very much satisfied na kami. Dahil sa Army madami ako nakilalang tao sa mga liblib na lugar na malayong mas mahirap ang naging buhay kaysa sa naging buhay ko. Narealize ko tuloy na napaswerte ko pa din pala.)
I know there are still rough roads along the way, tough challenges and disappointments. There will be a lot of tests in my character. But having been through different trying situations, I have learned the art of doing the more difficult tasks first so that I can do these more easily the next time around. This is a practical approach, for if you settle for doing the easier tasks first, it will take a longer time to accomplish the hard ones. Sacrifice is essential to getting the difficult job done.
I do not know where Army life will take me. But what keep me going?
- I always pray to God for guidance to be morally right and for gratitude for keeping me safe.
- Remember the smiles of the people I serve.
- Think of my men who feel proud for having me as a leader.
- And for my family especially my children to be proud of me.
I think my formula for success is to set goals and meet each challenge with enough courage and determination to overcome the many obstacles that you may encounter along the way. Success is not measured by how well you fulfill the expectations of others, but how you honestly live up to your own expectations. Success is not a place at which one arrives but rather the spirit with which one undertakes and continues the journey.”
Daily with you,
To read other inspiring Success Stories, click here.