By Romy Macalisang
ALORAN, Misamis Occidental (MindaNews / 28 July) – For his family who did not abandon him, who continued believing in and never gave up on him during his pasaway days; and for the youngsters who – like his old self – lived a wayward and neglectful life.
This is to whom a former hardheaded apo and now well-disciplined officer of the Armed Forces of the Philippines dedicated his success in getting himself out of a useless life and in making it to the Top 10 of this year’s graduates of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA).
A product of a broken home, Cadet First Class Feljoy Ending’s family is his lola, 78-year-old Silveria Mutia Ending of barangay Tubod, Aloran, who once drove him away but ended up taking him back; and his two aunts – Janet Cuajotor and Silfe Malinao – who also gave up on him but later recoiled and steered his way towards where he is now.
“Sa akong lola ug mga iyaan nga wala moundang ug tuo nako ug wala ko pasagdi bisan sa akong kabuluyagon, ug sa mga batan-on nga parehas nakong badlongon (To my grandmother and aunts who did not stop believing in me, who did not abandon me despite my being a troublemaker, and to the youth who are as troublesome as I was),” the former palaboy, who now holds the rank of second lieutenant and who will join the Philippine Army, said when asked to whom he dedicates most his feat in the PMA.
The 24-year-old Feljoy, who is ranked sixth in the PMA Class Masaligan, is the eldest grandson of the late Datu Felipe Ending, a Subanen tribal chieftain and retired agricultural technician of the Department of Agriculture.
Proud of the achievement of one of its sons, the provincial government congratulated the young military officer for his achievement and for setting himself as “an example and inspiration to the youths in the Province of Misamis Occidental in this time of crisis.”
“Many young men and women tried their luck entering the academy but only a few were admitted and succeeded. Truly, Cadet 1CL Feljoy Bagabaldo Ending, with his intelligence, strength, sacrifices and perseverance, has proven himself as one of the best cadets of his class,” the Sangguniang Panlalawigan said in a resolution.
2Lt. Ending called on the youth who also live a neglectful and wasteful life to get lessons from his past, reminding them that there is and there will always be hope “if you get your life back to the right path and start aiming for a better life.”
“I hope they will read my story and be inspired by it. Kaya nga magbag-o ug mo-excel kung gusto nato. Sa pagsulod nako sa PMA, wala ko nag-aim nga ma-belong ko sa Top 10 (We can change and excel if we wanted to. When I entered the PMA, I did not aim to belong to the Top 10). If you do what is good and give your best, mosunod ra ang rewards ug recognitions (rewards and recognitions will follow),” he said when told that his success story will be published in the website of the province.
A valedictorian when he graduated at Aloran Central School in 2009, Ending started losing hopes and living a wayward life after his parents, who got married very early, separated when he was in high school. Spicing up his frustration was his father, Felix, who was arrested and jailed for possession of illegal drugs.
With his parents not around when he went home from school, he took comfort in his barkadas and later learned to smoke and drink. Picking up where his parents left off, Lola Silveria had him finished high school at Aloran Trade High School and, with the help of Janet and Silfe, sent him to Jose Rizal Memorial State University (JRMSU) in Dapitan City, where he took up Bachelor of Science in Marine Transportation.
He attended only a semester at JRMSU because he got sick and was hospitalized. Hardheaded as ever and still hooked to friends and vices after his recovery, it was his martyr lola, again, who managed to have him enrolled in Criminology at Misamis University in Oroquieta City.
“Pero tulo na ko ka tuig ineskwela sa MU second year irregular lang gihapon ko tungod gihapon sa barkada ug mga bisyo. Gisapot na pud sila nako. Ingon akong Auntie Silfe, ‘Makamao man unta kang bataa ka, nganong ingon ana man ka! Di na ko motabang nimo!’ (I studied for three years at MU but I was still on my second year because of the bad influence of friends and vices. They got mad at me. My Aunt Silfe said, ‘You know, you’re gifted, but why do you behave that way! I’m not going to help you anymore!’)” Ending recalled.
The twist of his life came in 2016, when the K-12 program was about to be implemented by the Department of Education. Under this program, colleges and universities will change their curriculum and students who have failing grades would be sent back to high school for additional two years, known as Senior High.
He was then a working student of Aunt Silfe, who took him back and gave him “another one last chance.” Terrified at the thought of returning to high school because he was sure he would have failing grades in Criminology, he decided to take the PMA entrance test in Cagayan de Oro City in August 2016.
Everything for Ending then was uncertain. He was worried because aside from the entrance test, he has to hurdle the physical examination which is so extensive and rigid “that even your balls would be weighed.” And, given his record, he also wondered if he could pass the background investigation to be conducted by the AFP on PMA aspirants.
He took and felt he would pass the PMA test. But still, he could hardly believe his eyes while reading a letter informing him that he made it and was ordered to report to V. Luna Medical Center in Quezon City for complete physical examinations.
Having hurdled all the obstacles, the then 20-year-old delinquent was among the 164 cadets – 26 of them women – for PMA “Masaligan” Class of 2021 who were transported to Baguio City on the night of March 31, 2017.
“Nakaingon ko nga Lord, salamat sa opportunity nga Imong gihatag. Dili gyud nako ni i-take for granted. (I’ve said, Lord, thank you for the opportunity You gave me. I won’t take this for granted.) I will not waste this opportunity Lord, and I will give my best into this,” he recalled telling God when asked how he felt after knowing that he made it to the country’s premier military academy.
While in prison, Ending’s father sent him a letter congratulating and telling him that he was so proud of him. He pitied his father and made another wish. God, again, granted his wish when, in 2018, Janet called up and informed him that his father was freed on probation.
Lt. Ending reminded the bullheaded youngsters that he too, aside from being irresponsible, was also immature during his old days. It was only when he entered the PMA that he started becoming mature and aimed for a productive life, and that it was only then that patriotism started building up in him.
“I also started realizing that our country has a problem. We have insurgency, dunay kontra ang gobyerno, ug sa PMA nako nakat-onan nga ang kabatan-onan nga wala panultoli ug walay plano sa kinabuhi, sama nako kaniadto, (the government has an enemy, and it was at the PMA that I learned that the youth who have no direction and no plans in life, like me in the past) are its most vulnerable victims,” he concluded.
(Romy Macalisang is a veteran community journalist, former chief editor of the Ozamiz City weekly, the Panguil Bay Monitor.)