PMA: A tale of two cavaliers

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As I See It

By Elpidio R. Estioko

Last month, the prestigious Philippine Military Academy (PMA), equivalent to the United States’ West Point, held its homecoming of graduates. It was a well-celebrated alumni homecoming attended by successful and decorated graduates who made good in all aspects of Philippine society.

I would like to recognize two cavaliers who both hail from the obscure barrio/barangay of San Vicente West, City of Urdaneta, and Pangasinan:

Gen. (Ret.) Isidro Lapena and Col. (Ret.) Lino F. Caringal. Jr. The former is making waves locally while the latter is gaining accolades abroad, i.e. in the US.

Gen. Lapeña, Sid as he is fondly called, is a member of the Philippine Military Academy “Maagap” Class of 1973 and was a graduate of the Urdaneta Community High School (UCHS), now the Pangasinan National High School (PNHS) and was a junior officer in the defunct Philippine Constabulary after graduation from the PMA. He was chief of the 456th Police Constabulary Company (1979), Chief of the Cotabato Police Office (1992) and Chief of the Davao City Police Office (1997). He also served as Davao City’s public safety command center chief and was part of Duterte’s security team during the presidential campaign.

With his 34-year stint as a police officer, he earned the trust and confidence of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte who thought he could be a big help in his administration. The President saw in Gen. Lapeña a firm and truthful quality of a man with a sense of responsibility that could help him solve the problem of drugs at the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), drug busting being the center stage of Duterte’s administration.

Gen. Lapeña was seen as a young, responsible country-lad in the province of Pangasinan and was admired by many. He was humble, dignified, and strong in character, which traits he employed throughout the duration of his government service.

When Duterte was elected president, Gen. Lapena was tapped to head the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) as its Director General making him the drug czar of the government. While in office, he organized several anti-illegal drug seminars, local and international conferences, discussions, and activities that led to a well-orchestrated approach to solving the country’s drug problem.

Gen. Lapeña also emphasized the need to work with communities in the barangay level—a small step to eradicate the proliferation of illegal drugs. In 2017, he enforced barangay drug-clearing programs and set up anti-drug abuse councils nationwide.

After a year of serving as PDEA chief, he was again tapped by President Duterte to head the Bureau of Customs (BOC) as its Bureau Commissioner, taking over from Ret. Gen. Nicanor Faeldon. At BOC, he instituted reforms and policies which aimed at cleansing the graft-laden bureau.

Again, he was tapped by president Duterte as its Secretary of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), a position he currently hold. He has instituted reforms likewise in the newly elevated cabinet department and utilizing all resources to help our kababayans gain technical and vocational skills training preparing them to be self-sufficient and become contributing members of society.

Lately, he was very instrumental in the success of the first ever The Global Urdanetanians (TGU) – sponsored multi high school homecoming in Urdaneta city held on February 1-2, 2019 at the Urdaneta City Cultural Center as part of the organizing committee and in his capacity as TGU adviser. TGU is a Southern California-based non-profit organization led by its president Yvonne San Juan-Sera who is based in So. California.

The other mistah doing great in the United States is also from San Vicente West, Urdaneta City – Col. (Ret.) Lino F. Caringal, Jr. who retired from the Philippine Navy (PN) now residing in Southern California, USA.

He was also a graduate of UCHS ’66 (now PNHS) and a graduate of PMA’s “Masigasig” Class ’72 and then joined and retired from the Philippine Navy (PN). Lino is a dedicated and responsible professional with over 20 years of public contact experience and community service.

Lino was recently awarded by the Los Angeles-based Philippine Children’s Charities, Inc. as an Outstanding Filipino American in the USA 2018 due to his outstanding leadership working with underprivileged, abandoned and sick children of the Philippines and USA. The ceremonies were held at Hilton Hotel Los Angeles International Airport and the award was given by the association’s executive officers and board of directors of said non-profit organization based in Los Angeles, California.

He was the founding president of So. California-based non-profit organization The Global Urdanetanians (TGU) who spearheaded the association’s very successful scholarship program for young and poor but deserving high school students from Urdaneta earn their college degrees.

The worthy project is now being continued successfully by his predecessor Yvonne San Juan Sera with its present 23 scholars with the first scholar Marcelino Ordanza, RN, who was jointly sponsored by TGU and PB-USA, and now gainfully employed in a hospital in Europe.

His other involvement in community service in California includes being the past president, Pangasinan Brotherhood – USA; Editor and Publisher, Palaris, an online publication of PB-USA and The Urdaneta Voice (TUV), online newsletter of TGU; past vice president, Filipino Chamber of Commerce of Orange County; past president, Fil-Am Kiwanis Glendale Club; past president, The Original Urdanetanians (TOU); and past Board of Director, Global Kalinga e-Rotary Club in Orange County.

He is also the vice President of the Media and Business Club of Los Angeles; Member, Knights of Rizal, Greater Los Angeles; and member, PMA Alumni Association of Southern California.

After earning his Bachelor’s Degree in PMA, he earned his Bachelor of Science in Engineering (BSEE), University of the Philippines; Master’s Degree in Management Engineering, completed academics, St. Louis University in Baguio City; and Juris Doctor (JD) from American College of Law, Anaheim, California, USA.

I‘m so proud of my fellow barrio mates in San Vicente who are still at the thick of their success both locally and abroad.

Kudos to both Sid and Lino! You are the men!

(For feedbacks, comments… please email the author @ estiokoelpidio@gmail.com).

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