Book Review - BROTHERS: The Untold Story of the Philippine Military Academy "Matatag" Class of 1971.


"BROTHERS: The Untold Story of the Philippine Military Academy 'Matatag' Class of 1971." (Author - Rolando Celestino Malinis)

[Author's Notes. Beyond what the title suggests, the book "BROTHERS" transcends storytelling of the journey of personalities belonging to PMA Class 1971. As Winston Arpon PMA '64, a book author, stated - "For the story of this class, individually and collectively, from the day they took their oath as members of the Cadet Corps Armed Forces of the Philippines in 1967 to this very day is, on several planes, the story of PMA, the AFP and the country [emphasis mine]."  "... Through this interesting and captivating book about his PMA class,"  Arpon added, "[the author] has contributed more than a page or two to Philippine history." 

Here is a list of other interesting historical facts subsumed in the '71 story:

1. Evolution of the Philippine Military Academy cadets' training from 1905 to 2013.
2. Communist Party of the Philippines founding in 1968; and its growth, failures, and strategies.
3. The roots of Muslim rebellion in Mindanao.
4. AFP operations to combat communist and Muslim insurgencies (1968  2006).
5. AFP (and NPA's) version of MV Karagatan arm cache landing in 1972.
6. Martial law years in early 1970s and mid-1980s.
7. 1972 Battle of Sibalo Hill, 1973-1974 Cotabato campaigns, and 1974 Jolo burning.
8. Integration of the PC and INP in 1975 and creation of the PNP in 1990.
9. Brief history of the beginning of the Philippine Marines in 1950.
10. How the military rebels of the 1986 Revolution, 1987 and 1989 coups were created.]


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1. BOOK REVIEW - by Gemma Nemenzo, managing editor of and editor of the book BROTHERS. (review from The Pile of 2015 by Gemma Nemenzo)

"I edited this book so I'm biased, but take my word for it, it offers a fascinating and comprehensive coverage of what it means to spend four years in the Philippine Military Academy (PMA). The Class of '71 is notorious or famous, depending on which side of history you're on. Some of its well-known members initiated the military rebellion that led to the EDSA People Power Revolt of 1986; many of them staged failed coups against the Cory Aquino administration. This checkered history doesn't take away from the outstanding service many of the class' quieter members have rendered to the country." - Gemma Nemenzo.

2. BOOK REVIEW - by Lee Quesada, a writer and contributor for the Philippine Headline News Online (Toronto, Canada).

"BROTHERS" is the story of the noteworthy, vis-à-vis, notorious PMA Class of 1971 (Matatag). A good and enjoyable book by a master storyteller after many years of diligent research, written especially for those who have finished and will enter military training in the PMA, those in the Philippine military and their families.

The book is a fateful and historic story of cadet's life in the Academy and of a soldier in the Philippine military. A factual narrative in the true nature and character of the author's classmates, as the brothers he lived with for four years in the Academy, soldiers who fought battles in the Philippine insurgency war and years thereafter.

At first, I wondered what the word "Matatag" meant. I googled and the first translation I got was "solid" . Being part of the word "solidarity" it inspired me instantly. The title "Brothers", I felt sure, came from the very core of the author's heart. Truly, the book is a fond memoir of his life with the "Mistahs [classmates]" along with the "Mas Matatags" (More Solid), the women behind the Mistahs.

In the book I was warmly re-acquainted with noted names (in the news only) of generals, senators, ambassadors, fighter pilots, lawyers, businessmen, University president and professors. They were the PMA plebes early in the book. Also, warmly recaptured were memories of the controversial "Reform the Armed Forces Movement" boys (RAM) who played a huge role in the mutiny that spurred the EDSA 1-People Power Revolution. The RAM boys were my heroes. They were big! What soldiers could ever try bombing the Palace to drive a powerful dictator away forever? The RAMs did! They raised Cory Aquino to presidency. A new constitution was drafted that granted this first woman president enormous power for lasting reforms, only she never used it. Lamenting, hearts burning with exasperation, craving for reforms for a clean government, the RAMs pursued, plotted several coup attempts against Cory Aquino's weak leadership, but failed.

At Beast Barracks camp, I met young Greg Honasan, Ping Lacson, Egay Aglipay, Dick de Leon, Ed Fiñones, Romy Dominguez, Vic Batac, Wency Cruz, to name a few. Greg took the name "Gringo" from his "Yearling [sophomore cadet]" who insisted every time he would summon him to reply ala Clint Eastwood. I imagined the good senator, just 19 years old doing the Clint poise minus the gun, of course, with such obeyance each time his Yearling yelled "Hey Gringo".

There were these plebes, passionate singers in the class who could have been a hit in their era of like today's TV's American idol.  A singing sensation the legendary Franklin Brawner was idolized by the classes he had handled in PMA. The story of how he delivered the song "Shadow of Your Smile" over the bow of a Philippine Navy ship became a classic to be told and retold beyond his tour as tactical officer at PMA. Of course, there was that plebe singing "El Paso" as the cadet corps hiked Mount Santo Tomas. The homesick human being was Danny Francia, the class '71s music guru, who turned fighter pilot in the PAF. An innovator in the aviation community.

Curiosity was inevitable meeting Ping, a serious plebe who obeyed as skillfully as he would, to catch a " female fish" to give companion to a lonely one in a lake before midnight that day. As if always destined to succeed, "dumbguard" Ping not only caught one female but populated the lake with a few before the midnight deadline. Ping as we all know is former Senator Panfilo Lacson who became the controversial chief of PNP (Erap cabinet),  who went into hiding after he was accused of masterminding a failed siege of Malacañang by Erap's supporters. After a while he simply returned as himself and became a Senator. The rest is still in the making of history, maybe even to be a President of the country.

Also, there was Dick, an anemic and anxious plebe, determined, positive-minded totally undaunted at Beast Barracks. He became no other than Retired Police Deputy Director General Ricardo de Leon, the popular and most-loved "Daddy President" of MSU (Mindanao State University). Today, Mindanao State University (commonly referred to as MSU Main) is a public coeducational institution of higher education and research located in the Islamic City of Marawi, founded in 1961 it is the flagship and the largest campus of the Mindanao State University System. (Philstar- January 2007)

I also met Aris, one of the class' walking encyclopedias and class salutatorian who as we know became Vice Admiral Ariston V. Delos Reyes of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, a once high-ranked executive in Gloria Arroyo's Department of National Defense.

There was Egay, known today as Police Director General Edgar Aglipay, former PNP Chief (Arroyo cabinet). Egay after running "up and down a slope, chin erect, as commanded, until wrinkles were visible" to the eyes of his squad leader, lived and slept in a row of makeshift bunk beds with 15 other "beasts" in the summer camp barracks. In the same barrack 46 members of Class of '71 were to become generals by mid-1990s to early 2000s.

At the end of the book, the author wrote: The Class of '71, "solid lines of gray" . The Matatags' hallmark-is to clean and seek reforms in the military and the nation. Political corruption in our government nowadays is so institutionalized, perhaps, still impossible to cure. There is a famous line in corruption literature: "You can take away corruption from politics but you cannot take away politics from corruption."  Go figure! Not fading away, the class anyway can continue the dream and the mission. There is still time left. Of course, everything will depend on who will be the next President of the Philippines in 2016. "Abangan (stay tuned)" for a Malinis' "Brothers" Part 2? 

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 3. BOOK REVIEWby Manuel V. Celestino, playwright

Congratulations. That was quite a bit of work you did there; the research, the writing, the editing, the factual checks, the composition segueing. I'm not surprised it took you years to write the book.

Non-fiction is hard to write. Of course, your genius showed in your style, but there could be no messing with the facts.

When you began the opening chapter with the first person, I thought you would be telling the story of your life. Later on, I caught on that you were writing about your PMA class batch.

The book flows easily and clearly. Transitioning is smooth. The italicized background sketches are effective, and help compound and retain the ideas in the main compositions.

What I got from your book:

Nostalgia. Nostalgia galore, which made me pause, think, and say, "yes, those were the days." Your bits about UP did me in; the JD buses, Highway 54, Little Quiapo, the student protests. If you did this to one reader, can you imagine how your book would affect your other readers (specifically your '71 classmates and those with military backgrounds)? Another instance: The Miss Universe Pageant where Gloria Diaz won. I was in Minneapolis at the time; your Ate Minyang, Belen, and I were watching the pageant on TV. We shouted and thumped. We were almost thrown out of the apartment because of the raucous we made.

How it was during some eventful times in recent Philippine history. Martial Law in 1972. Tatang and Inang were visiting me in Minneapolis at the time. I remember Inang wanted to fly home right away. And during the people revolution, I've moved to St. Louis by then, I would clean up my desk at 5 p.m (I usually stayed at work through 7 p.m.) to watch Cory and the nuns and the soldiers on PBS News. That really floored my office-mates, who always taunted me about "donating time," remarking that it took a Philippine revolution to get me home early and "not make us look bad." Then, on one occasion, during Cory's presidency, I flew home on a Northwest Airlines. Mid-flight, the pilot announced we were being diverted to Alaska. Coup in the Philippines. So, there I was in frigid Alaska, in my short pants, fighting for a flight back to the US. Those are just three examples where I paused to reminisce; there were many more instances, where I stopped reading and reconstructed where I was, how it was. Talking about the military affecting civilian life.

High pedigree at the PMA. From your account, several of your classmates were sons of generals, colonels, chiefs of staff. But why should that surprise me? Isn't that everywhere, in all undertakings? After all, we have Arthur and Douglas MacArthur, George H. and George W. Bush, Diosdado and Gloria Macapagal, Judy Garland and Lisa Minelli, and if we're lucky, maybe, we'll have a Bill and Hillary Clinton.

Structure of and bureaucracy in the the military. Again, why would I expect that the military would be any different from other organized undertakings? Oral and written histories are replete with war stories. Surely, protagonists and antagonists must develop structure and war strategies to win. I guess, as a civilian, I am too far removed from the military that I take the discipline and art of soldiery for granted. One function that I never even thought of: Being a "mess officer" (I'm not sure if I remember the terminology correctly). I said to myself, yes, those hundreds, even thousands, of soldiers have to eat. What extensive administrative planning would that entail!

Observation on hazing. How does hazing help in forming the cadet plebe's character, in developing his leadership skills? I know it's done at West Point, or probably in most military schools the world over. I understand this is only one facet in promoting brotherhood. The concept is sound, but, to my mind, abuses (and there are quite a few) make the practice questionable. I guess one will never understand until one's been there, and since I haven't been there, I'll never know.

I like the way you closed the book. I'd say it's open-ended. You wrote about over 100 different personalities. The thread that wove the class as one was "brotherhood," and you ably showed that. I like to think of "Brothers" as a "foreshadowing" of another book about Lando [Malinis]. You have the pen and the genius. You'll make it.

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 4. BOOK REVIEW -  by Rogelio H. Torralba, lawyer 

Congratulations on this nice, well-written, and well-researched book. You really captured the life, essence and purpose of the military in this book along with the travails, experiences and exploits that go along with it. Your attentions to details and specifics are quite remarkable. Nothing, it seems, escaped your meticulous eye. It helped very much also that you have a fine literary style that was able to make the book an interesting read. I am reminded of the book "Longest Day" by Cornelius Ryan and the Autobiography of King Abdullah of Jordan as I was reading your beautiful book.

Since I have no doubt that you can write a good book, perhaps a sequel to this one would make sense because, in reality, you have a mother lode of materials available. As Ping Lacson puts it, his own military career and life story would be a "blockbuster" for another book. Ditto with that of Aglipay and Honasan. You can have a book for each of these characters. I believe that it could be easily adapted into a movie or television. How about titling it "Bugles and Drums."

Class 71 is one of the most heralded class in the history of the PMA. The achievements of the class are nothing short of phenomenal.  Future classes may not reach the glory and pinnacle of Class 71. 

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5. BOOK REVIEW -  by Jesus B. Duller, PMA '69 

I really enjoyed reading " Brothers".  Over the years, I have become very close with many of Matatags, not only to my fellow Alfans like Ernie Fernandez, Ed Marañon, Gringo Honasan, Dick De Leon, Pop Ocampo, Totoy Rivera, Ping Lacson, Jerry Albano, Rolly Degracia, Jun Fabros, Bob Laciste, Rey Alcasid, Edwin Abello, but also non-Alfans like Dan Perico, Ariel Domingo, Jun Paynor, Ted Runes, Bob Sacramento, Stan David, Boy Castellano, Art Balmaceda, Raffy Galvez and you (just to mention a few) so I felt like an involved witness of the stories about your class.  Besides, some of the Matatags are my close classmates, being members of original 69ers, like Atot Paredes, Bert Sillona (my bunkmates during our plebe years), Efren Q. Fernandez, Moises Millena, Huouy Tabanda, JB Ramos, and Ambeth Costales.  Your classmates in Los Angeles area have often referred to me during bugobugo gatherings as an "extended" member of the Matatags

No wonder that when the book, "Brothers" , mentions them, I get so curious to know more the details about them and what circumstances they have been involved with even though most of their stories I had already heard about many times before.  Your story of the Matatag's close involvement in the 1986 People's Revolution and the unfolding coups and struggles after that historical event was a significant collective revelations unique only to your class and will surely go down in generations to come to have a defining, profound effect onto what the country has and will become.  Its national effect and influence is still continuing with the unfolding roles of Ping, Gringo, Jess Paredes and hopefully many others in the fields of current national politics, Jun Paynor and Rex Piad in the field of foreign service and diplomacy not to mention the rest of the Matatags who are still active directly or indirectly in business, legal and entrepreneurial efforts.  More emphatically, I will not underestimate the profound value and significant contribution of this book towards the psyche and awareness of the youth in the future - be it in the military or civilian.

The book should be a required read to members of the Cadet Corps of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (CCAFP) who through the collective and individual adventures of the Matatags could derive inspirations from not only in terms of military value but, more importantly, of life itself& all for the benefits of their career, family and country.  

Lastly, I would like to believe that this book on Matatags wouldn't be the last.  I would like to see editions more focused on individual struggles and victories against the backdrop of the country's military and political chaotic past of the 70's and 80's in which the Matatags, serendipitously or not, have found themselves to be deeply involved.  It would be more inspirational to coming generations, especially future graduates of the PMA, if strength of characters, leadership, morals and values of the players mentioned in the book were portrayed in more detail and more vivid circumstances.  For example, to me at least, the Mindanao State University (MSU) success story of Dick de Leon, despite his unfortunate past associations and assignments during the Marcos era, not only has military value but has likewise provided profound inspirations and lessons in government, leadership, management and human relations worthy of emulation not only by PMA graduates but by all youths of today and of the future.  

Rolly, congratulations on this fine work of art in "Brothers".  I hope to read more books like this in the future.  You certainly have demonstrated here a heart in storytelling.  It will be selfish on your part not to share this gift and talent to the minds of the future.

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6. BOOK REVIEW -  by Cesar Cecilio Ibo, PMA '71

Someone said, "In the end, it is not the triumph but rather the struggle that matters."

Rolly's book depicts the individual struggles and challenges faced by the "Matatags" and how they played out their roles.

"BROTHERS" , aptly presents numerous instances of duty, brotherhood and camaraderie, especially in times of adversity, among "Matatags" and among comrades-in-arms in the AFP Major Services - a brotherhood which only "those who went through it" can understand.

Indeed, it is a comprehensive account of PMA Class '71, well written, and quite engrossing to the reader. It makes one wonder how so much was made to fit into its 451 pages.

Inevitably, however, much remains untold, on purpose perhaps by the author or by the actors themselves. Nevertheless, this does not diminish in any way the triumph of its completion.

The book's publication and distribution ends Rolly's 16 years of struggle spent in research and in writing it in pursuit of his vision to write a book about our Class. For him, it mattered greatly to finish it.

It is a masterpiece! It is Rolly's personal triumph!

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7. BOOK REVIEW - by Fred Cagayat, Editor of Paete Memorabilia 2004

Eleven years ago when we requested Rolando Malinis, the author of "Brothers", to create a website and be the webmaster for our hometown book project , I only knew that he was a retired colonel, a computer expert and married to a pretty lady from our hometown Paete.  Little did I know that he was also a pilot, a scholar, a man of many talents, and writer/editor as well. Malinis was recommended to me because he also created the website of "Alay Computer" project for Paete.  For almost two years we worked together while he maintained the Memorabilia book website. We became close friends (on-line) though we have not seen each other in person. Thanks partly to him, we successfully published in 2006 our 400-page Paete Memorabilia book.

When the author asked me to write a review of the book he was writing, (then titled "Villains or Heroes?" with 341 pages), I felt gratified that I could somehow reciprocate the favor he gave us.  After reading the manuscript, I felt extremely honored and privileged to know that Malinis is a member of an elite group of PMA graduates ever assembled.  I am glad that he has finally published his book, now with 451 pages, and changed the title to "Brothers".  I like this new book title because it truly describes the strong bond of PMA Class 1971, like a close-knit fraternity molded into a military brotherhood which has survived the test of time.

From the standpoint of a layman or a non-military person, I found the book "Brothers" very interesting and informative. I feel privileged to know the historic details included in the book which I would never discover by myself.  Our migration to U.S. in 1975 was somewhat influenced by the uncertainty in our country due to martial law.  So although we were in a foreign land, we always wanted to know what was going on back home. The news about the New People's Army (NPA), Moro insurgency, several coups, changing of the Presidents, and destructive typhoons worried us too much.  But now with his book I was able to put together pieces of history which his PMA Class 1971 coincidentally got involved. I salute class '71 for their involvement in the government and its role in shaping our country's destiny. It changed also the media's perception about Greg Honasan as just a renegade and ambitious rebel who was against the government.  After reading the book I began to understand his actions and good intentions, same thing with the many unsuccessful attempts to smear Ping Lacson's reputation and good deeds.

I congratulate the author for the good job of gathering all those data including the year of graduation of the different personalities mentioned. How the author accumulated those pieces of information and arranged them in orderly sequence was unbelievable.    I like the narration of anecdotes which added specks of humor and witty remarks to drive the points. For example, his mistah called Hercules for "hair ko less", and the wives called "mas matatags" in line with Philippine culture (wherein wives are also referred to as "commander"). The authorss wife, Cora, must be beaming with pride upon reading that. Another example was the thing about Romy Dominguez being accused of payoff, was like accusing Mother Teresa of prostitution!

Having visited West Point several times and seeing their artifacts in the museum and the visual presentation of the cadets life, I could relate to the PMA training principles which I am sure were patterned from U.S. standards. I know that President Fidel Ramos was a West Point graduate and most probably some of the top military personnel at PMA and the Armed Forces of the Philippines who have had West Point connection.

Based on the number of Generals and Colonels from his class '71 and the top responsible positions in the government and even in private sectors,  the "Matatags" lived up to that name. With strong foundation of training and discipline his batch showed "class" overall. Those who branched out to the Air Force and Navy or diplomatic field all did well. With two well-known senators and elected/appointed government officials, future PMA graduates can look up to those role models.

I will cherish the book the author gave me. This book is bound to be a collectors' item and a precious keepsake.

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