DEMI Moore did it in G.I. Jane. Then it was Denise Richards in Starship Troopers. But despite the apparent realism of movies, women are still perceived to be unprepared or unfit to join the military. And because of the perception that women are the weaker sex, they are not exactly candidates to lead the Reserved Officer Training Corps (ROTC).

However, the UST Golden Corps of Cadets is out to expose the ROTC myth.

After undergoing rigid military training last May, freshmen Anna Corrina Pizarro and Ma. Theresa Cecilia Altamirano from the College of Commerce and College of Architecture, respectively, proved that there is no such thing as the weaker sex.

Pizarro and Altamirano were officially declared as 4th class officers of the UST Golden Corps of Cadets last June 11.

“They say that ROTC is basically for the boys. Kung babae ka, tapos nag-basic ROTC ka, kakaiba ka na. What more kung nag-officer ka?” says Pizarro.

In 1985, the UST Golden Corps of Cadets commissioned three 1st class female officers. After more than a decade, Pizarro and Altamirano are on the verge of repeating that.

Both claims that it was a personal decision to apply as an ROTC officer.

“Walang nag-influence. Elementary pa lang ako, I already wanted to join the military. I knew there was a calling for me,” Pizarro says, citing that she even applied for the Philippine Military Academy.

While enrolling as freshmen, Pizarro and Altamirano considered the idea of rigid military training after inquiring about the UST Golden Corps of Cadets. Due to their keen interest, they immediately signed up for the Charlie batch (summer batch) of trainees.

Life before ROTC

Pizarro, a resident of Balanga, Bataan, was a Corps staff for military operations back in high school. Meanwhile, Altamirano held the positions of Ex-O and Adjutant during her stint as a CAT Officer.

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Altamirano wants to be an architect. On the other hand, Pizarro says she’s taking up Commerce as a prelude to law. But even before, both women had fantasized of becoming part of the military. They consider being previous CAT Officers as a partial fulfillment of that dream. This inspired them to apply for the UST Golden Corps of Cadets.

Outside of the ROTC, Altamirano dabbles in basketball, volleyball, dancing, writing and drawing. Meanwhile, Pizarro enjoys listening to rock music and playing chess.

The summer training was composed of an orientation, lectures, and rigid physical exercises. Pizarro and Altamirano say that the training was not easy.

“May schedule kami na sinusunod. Sa umaga, inspection ng mga paraphernalia. Mayroon din kaming lectures,” says Altamirano.

“If ever na palpak iyong mga materials namin, demerits panigurado. Ang punishment namin, hindi iyong binubugbog kami. Binibigyan kami ng exercises like 100 push-ups or 100 squat thrusts,” Pizarro says.

“Kailangan din ang physical training para lumakas ang katawan. Nakakahiya naman kung nandoon kayo sa formation tapos nauna ka pang nahilo sa kadete mo.”

Altamirano admits there were even times when she was close to giving up. But she persevered.

“Noong una, nakakainis talaga iyong physical exercises pero habang tumatagal, nasasanay na din iyong katawan namin. Natutunan kasi namin sa training na lahat ng ginagawa namin, may purpose.”

Altamirano confesses that she could only do 50 push-ups before. But now, she can do a hundred.

On the other hand, Pizarro is more confident with herself. She found inspiration in the poems, Don’t Quit and Desiderata.

“Once nabasa mo iyong dalawang poems na iyon, panghahawakan mo talaga iyong nakasulat doon.”

Learning experiences

Altamirano and PiCadet officers Anna Corrina Pizarro and Ma.Theresa Cecilia Altamiranozarro agree that the hardships during their military training taught them a lot and triggered numerous physical changes.

“Marami kaming natutunan, kahit sa lectures. Hindi ka lang matututong humawak ng rifle, magkalas o magbasa ng mapa. Dito, pagaganahin mo talaga iyong utak mo and you will learn to control your emotions,” says Altamirano.

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“Itinuturo sa amin iyong ‘mind over matter’ para kahit gaano kahirap, basta isipin mo lang na hindi ka nahihirapan, magagawa mo,” Pizarro adds.

The summer experience also built strong ties and close friendships among applicants and officers. They say that they owe their closeness to the training.

“Ang maganda sa training namin, nagkaroon kami ng camaraderie. Hindi lang siya simpleng brotherhood na walang iwanan. Nagtutulungan talaga kami. Mahal na mahal kami dito. Hindi kami nababastos at inaalagaan kami. Ang mga nambabastos, iyong mga hindi officers, iyong mga taga-labas,” Pizarro explains.

Although they treat each other like brothers, no special treatment was accorded them during their application. They all underwent the same training. Both believe that in order to produce quality soldiers, the country needs quality cadet officers, minus the double standards and special treatment.

Making sacrifices

There were a lot of sacrifices for both officers. Altamirano gives up a lot of her free time because she resides in Pasig. On the other hand, Pizarro gave up her boyfriend of three years in order to devote her time to her studies and her obligations to the Corps.

Both say that due to their summer experience, they made little adjustments as freshmen. They felt that they were not new students because they already spent most of their summer in the University. Instead of participating in the events, they even acted as honor guards during the “Freshman Rite of Passage.”

Aside from the precious learning, they were also able to prove that women can excel in a man’s world, especially when it comes to leadership and rigid physical training.

“Nakakatawa nga kasi mas maraming lalaki ang nag-quit. Nagtataka nga kaming dalawa kasi pare-pareho naman kami ng ginawa at lahat kami nahirapan. Bakit nauna pa silang mag-quit sa mga babae?” says Pizarro.

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Now part of the UST Golden Corps of Cadets, the two are wisely juggling their academics and their duties as officers. The training taught them how to handle pressure and how to manage their time between studies and other commitments. They are also required to submit their test papers for evaluation.

“Bawal dito iyong bumabagsak. Dapat i-maintain namin iyong grades namin,” says Pizarro.

Altamirano adds that two of the most important values that they observe are discipline and punctuality.

Although being an ROTC officer is a tough task, there are benefits to make the stint worthwhile. Members of the UST Golden Corps of Cadets are provided scholarship privileges after an academic evaluation by the senior officers and approval by the commandant. Aside from getting free ROTC uniforms from the Corps, they are also exempted from their P.E. classes.

The entrance of Pizarro and Altamirano into the Corps poses no problem for the other male officers.

“Wala akong objection about women in the ROTC. Stated na sa Republic Act 9163 that all able-bodied men, kasama na pati mga babae, must render service to the country,” says Bryan Fill, a Faculty of Arts and Letters sophomore and the Corps’ G1 and Adjutant.

Donald Kwan, another 4th class officer has nothing but praises for his batchmates.

“I am proud of them because they have done their best and they survived the training,” he says.

“Women are welcome. Everyone is welcome in the ROTC. As long as they are willing to serve, they can join the Corps because men and women have equal rights,” says Stephan Earl Chow, a Pharmacy junior and former CAT Corps Commander from the UST High School Department.

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