My ROTC and COQC Experience - A Lifetime of Lessons and Brotherhood

It was 0600H on the second Saturday of June when I first joined the PAF-ROTC corps in XU. I joined the COQC or Cadet Officer Qualifying Course because I wanted to become an officer. Although ROTC was not my first choice for the NSTP module, I felt that I made the right decision because it was a decision that changed my life for the better.


For our batch, we started out with 90 people and with each passing formation, the number dwindled down by 10. After the formal opening of the ROTC module, there were already 87 of us because of the new addition. I can still remember how many of us started out because I was appointed as the president of the batch. It was a truckload of responsibilities, something which I wasn't used to. Handling the fates of more than 80 people was too much, yet somehow, I managed through it all.

People asked me why I made such a big deal or amount of effort into joining the ROTC, being bathed in the sun for hours, doing physical exercises, and non-stop drills. I could have chosen LTS or CWTS and be stuck in a classroom doing nothing, but ROTC was my calling. I asked God to help me become a better person and a better leader, and He gave me the opportunity to become what I want to become through ROTC and COQC. The first few meetings were introductions and expectations from the upperclass. Sgt. Kate Dominique Egnar was the first person to orient us about the nightmares and terrible things to come while we were in the COQC and ROTC. SSGT. Carl Abecia, on our second meeting, made it a point to demoralize us. However, despite all of these, they both mentioned that once you were part of the ROTC, you couldn't separate from it. You become part of a brotherhood of men and women dedicated to serving the country.

Over the months, my ideals started to change and I started to see why ROTC was a close-knit family. Before the Civic Fiesta Parade, we were slowly seeing a glimpse of our future; early reporting time in the wee hours of the morning, grueling exercises and enhancements (what we call punishments) for mistakes, and demoralizing speeches from the upperclass. Even before our Reception, which is a formal and tradition of all military aspects in the Philippines, upperclass tried to destroy our morale and self-esteem. It worked, but we brushed it off. Our batch was united, despite its flaws and eccentricities.

But why did we, the 64 that remained after the Reception, held on? Why are we exerting so much effort into a class that doesn't even help boost our QPI? Why did we even bother joining the COQC in the first place?

Every one of us wanted to become somebody important, one that embodies the ideals of a true Atenean and a leader. In ROTC, you just don't blindly make commands or follow orders; you get to know the reasons why you're making the commands or following them. The ideals of blind leadership does not exist in the corps. Cdt. Col. Trimor and his staff, together with the GMA's, were always on my ass if something did not go as planned because I was responsible for my batch and their actions. Shit rolls downhill as they say, but in ROTC, it rolls downhill and it tries to smother you along the way. It did not faze me. I endured their punishments because I made a mistake, even though it wasn't my own. I learned about the different leadership principles and understood each principle with each passing formation. I can't change my mates, but I can be the change that they want to become.

Fast forward into late August, one fateful Saturday formation after the Reception and Parade. I felt a sharp pain in my chest and my heart started feeling funny. I was always out of breath and my vision was fading in and out. It wasn't the result of fatigue, but something else, and I already knew what it was.  Monday morning, I went to the doctor and sure enough, I had hypertension. Doctor told me I was a high-risk hypertensive patient because of my heredity (father was hypertensive and mother was diabetic), so right then and there, my fate as an officer was sealed. He signed a medical clearance stating that I was no longer fit to train because of my condition. Doctor thought that it was my MVP or Mythral Valve Prolapse acting out but the lab test proved that it was normal. I have MVP, but it wasn't the cause. It was heartbreaking and painful. I didn't want to leave the corps, or abandon my mates, but I had no choice. Over the past few days, I was on medications and took several lab tests to confirm the cause of my hypertension. I lost almost 5kgs in a matter of 2 weeks because I had to change my diet.

I told the MTIs, GMAs, and the upperclass about my condition and to my surprise, they were dismayed about me quitting, but they understood. People quit the COQC for financial or academic reasons, but rarely for medical reasons. I still make it a point to visit the office during my spare time because I actually miss the corps.

What did I learn from all of these?

Well, there's no such thing as personal vendettas or grudges in the corps. If you fuck up during formation, your upperclass will make you pay for it and not because they are doing it for the kicks. If you are terrible or lousy, you will be snapped to smithereens because of it and it alone. Your officers are your worst enemies in the corps, but they are damned good when it comes to teaching you how to become a better person and a good leader. The leadership principles which I was forced to memorize became my ideals and a guide to becoming an effective person.

Saturdays are strictly business because they are training days. You cannot afford to screw things up because you will pay for it, or at least when you're in the COQC. The loud yelling and harsh treatment are all part and parcel of being a COQC aspirant.

However, things are different during the weekdays and off-formation. Military discipline and courtesy are always observed in the office, but all of us, except the MTIs, are still students. While there are gaps between ranks and designations, I have noticed an innate form of bond and respect from every one in the corps, regardless if you're a COQC candidate or an officer. It's like one big family where the COQC are the younger siblings, the officers and GMAs are the older ones, and the MTIs are the parents.

The word BROTHERHOOD is something that gets thrown around a lot in ROTC, but it is observed to its fullest worth. I can quote from the famous TV show "Band of Brothers", THOSE THAT BLEED WITH ME ARE MY BROTHERS.  Race, sexual orientation, and religion do not exist when you're in ROTC. You can be gay, but you will not be judged for it. When you go through hell with a group of people, you form a bond that's stronger than anything else. When people give you hell, you don't learn to hate it; rather, it becomes something that makes you stronger as a person and as a unit. There is no better example of BROTHERHOOD than the ROTC PAF.

Believe it or not, I now see why the ROTC is worth going back to. It's not because of the snappy uniforms, the guns, and the harsh treatments, but rather it's the bond and brotherhood between the students enrolled in the corps.

My eternal gratitude goes out to my upperclass, who despite all the hard times, have given me the opportunity to become part of the ROTC family:

 The 1Cl officers
- CDT. COL Elijah Trimor
- CDT. LTC Philip Atienza
- CDT. LTC Peter James Dacoco
- CDT. LTC Marc Augustus Abella
- CDT. LTC Lloyd Joshua Quimzon
- CDT. LTC George Russell Estrada

The 2Cl officers
- CDT MAJ Efren Elmaga
- CDT MAJ Rajiv Dacudao
- CDT CPT Iree Grace Bince

The GMAs
- AW2C Alexis Yonson (Sorry Maam if I get your name wrong)
- SGT. Kate Dominique Egnar
- A2C Armando Mata
- SGT. Orlando Abuhon
- SGT. Gavin Montante

To the MTIs and Upperclass that were not listed here, it doesn't mean that I am not thankful to you. This is where the cliche line of TOO MANY TO MENTION comes in handy. I will always have the highest and utmost respect to every single one of you.
My new family

To my mates, KAMARAGTAS 2012, God knows what I would give to be a part of your HELL WEEK experience. I am thankful for every single one of you who've been with me through the good and bad, who still make it a point to call me PRES or FORMER PRES or even the sick LATE PRES (TENGENEH NAMAN OH!), or even consider me as part of the batch.