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Friday, December 18, 2020

INSPIRING: How a Cordilleran Math Teacher Became a Military Pilot

Photo Courtesy || Lt. Visaya. Jr. & Glen Aguilar

Cordilllera - Lt. Leonardo G. Visaya Jr. was among the 8 Cordillerans who graduated the Military Pilot Training of the Philippine Armed Forces Most Elite Flying School. 

A proud Cordilleran who traces his roots from Pinukpuk, Kalinga, Visaya told how he transitioned from being a Math teacher of the Department of Education to a military pilot of the AFP.

"Everytime I look back to where I was before, I’m still in awe to what had become of me now. Imagine, a person who never dreamed to become a soldier had just graduated from the most elite schooling in the Philippine Air Force – the Military Pilot Training. Perhaps, what Jeremiah said in his book truly is a manifestation of the great power of the Lord for those who believe in Him – that God has plans for us, plans of prosperity and of a great future. (Jeremiah 29:11)

I was a high school Math teacher before my unplanned entry to the military service. A good math teacher loved by his students. Hehe. And in all honesty it never came to me the idea of leaving my beloved profession for the life of soldiery. Never. Not once. 

But change is inevitable and it has come. It was 2016. We attended the graduation of our high school batch mate in the Philippine National Police Academy – our batchmate was Top 3 of his class. When we had the time to exchange conversation, he encouraged me to enter the uniformed service through the Officer Candidate Course in the Philippine Air Force. First, I did not consider it because I was already in a stable job as a public school teacher in Tabuk City National High Shool. Yet when we went back to Kalinga I made a turnaround decision, accepted the challenge and took the qualifying test as a walk-in examinee at TOG 2, Cauayan City. Well, I am thrilled in the idea of taking examinations. Hehe. 

Later on May of 2016, the result was published and out the examinees in TOG 2, I was one of the 2 who passed the examinations. The next challenge was to hurdle the Physical Fitness Test – push ups, sit ups and a 3.2 Km run. Honestly, I cannot even do twenty repetitions of sit ups during those times but again I challenged myself. It was the 1st of June. While the school was having its Brigada Eskwela Program in preparation for the Class opening, I went to Clark Air Base to have my PFT. During D-day, I was already exhausted after tangent score in the push ups and sit ups and when we had the run, I almost surrendered seeing female runners ahead of me. Nonetheless, I finished the 3.2 Km run almost out of breath but within the passing time. Later that day, they announced the name of those who will continue to the next phase of selection. 

June 2016. A big crossroad. Huge dilemmas. The processing for the medical examination was scheduled at the beginning of classes in the school. It was the time I was really in deep thoughts whether to pursue what I started or stop it right there. Added to the challenge was that I had to report to Villamor Air Base in Pasay City for the medical in undetermined dates. I remember having my class in a Monday, board the bus in the evening and the next day in Air Force General Hospital for a laboratory test. Afterwards if there were no scheduled medical tests, I had to go back to Kalinga immediately so as not to neglect my classes in the school. I was very lucky and blessed I had a very understanding principal that time and will always remember what she told me that I’m still young and she will support my decision to enter the military adding that I can always go back to teaching anytime I want as being a teacher does not require age limit compared to the uniformed service. That’s how I processed my medical, “lagari” between Kalinga and Manila. I passed the medical with negative findings. Later in the middle of July 2016 I faced the board interview for the final phase of the selection and after interview had sealed the processing stage. Last week of July 2016, I received a text message that I made it to PAFOCS and immediately I filed my resignation letter. 

01 August 2016. I turned back from my civilian life and took oath as a military man in a reception ceremony I will never forget. I almost run to the gates of Fernando Air Base to escape from that unprecedented indescribable moment yet I was too exhausted to do it. Beast barracks was hell that I opted to resign from the training but the insistence of my upperclass was a key factor I was not able to leave. Civilian life was very different from the arduousness of training – uncomfortable, far from family and almost no freedom. Yet in the turn of events I managed to adopt to the difficult environment, survived the rigors of training and slowly adjusted to the military routine. On the 10th of November 2017 and after 15 months of training, I graduated from the Philippine Air Force Officer Candidate School (PAFOCS) as the Class Number 1. 

While inside PAFOCS, I already knew that I can no longer qualify to become a military pilot because of age limit. And honestly, I never knew beforehand that there’s a pilot career after PAFOCS. I just knew that I’ll be commissioned as a second lieutenant after the training. That’s why I aligned myself to other specialization in the Air Force and subsequently after a certain schooling was assigned as an intel officer in Cebu. 

Mid of year 2018 was turning point. My name was in a list of qualified officers to take the Military Pilot Aptitude Test. Later I found out that the age limit was adjusted and putting me into the roster of probable officers for pilot training. I passed the written exams, cleared in the medical and hurdled the board interview. In March 2019, the order for the composition of Military Pilot Training Class 2020 came out and in God’s another miracle, my name was on the list. We reported to the Philippine Air Force Flying School on the same month and started the most difficult training in the Philippine Air Force both physically and mentally. There were gargantuan challenges in this new journey especially on the soloing phase yet what God had planned and prepared will always be the best route to follow. Our class also had faced many ups and downs from Taal eruption, COVID pandemic to numerous typhoons yet we finished the race safe and victorious. And on this day, the 9th of November 2020, just a day before celebrating my third year as an officer in the Philippine Air Force, I am adding another achievement which is not my own but among the many plans God had prepared for me. Graduating as military pilot was already enough yet God put a twist and He made me the Class Number 1. Truly, God’s mysteries in my life are testimonies of how He turns impossibilities into great realities. His words in Jeremiah 29:11 for his ultimate plans in our lives, to give us hope and a future, are words that are proofs of His unquestionable promises for us. 

My military journey is an unexpected turn of events, unplanned and not in the schedule. I never dreamed to be a soldier, moreso to become a military pilot. However, God really works in mysterious ways and it was His ultimate plan to transform the simple Math Teacher into a Military Aviator. 

I dedicate this achievement to my family, the source of all inspiration in hurdling one of the most difficult trainings in the Air Force and perhaps the most fulfilling one. There is nothing more I could ask for but to be forever grateful to God Almighty for bringing me in this journey, a journey that I will fulfil for the country and for God’s greatest honor. THANKS G." - Lt. Leonardo G. Visaya Jr. - PAF PAFOCS CL 2017

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