SAN NARCISO, Zambales—For the first time in its 186-year history, the male-dominated Philippine Merchant Marine Academy has produced a woman cadet as its top graduate.
On Friday, Cadet First Class and magna cum laude Zulaika Mariano Calibjo led 184 other graduates in the academy’s 183rd commencement exercises, said Rear Adm. Fidel Dinoso, president of one of Asia’s oldest maritime schools.
A Spanish royal decree created the school as the Escuela Nautica de Manila in 1820, but it was closed during the Philippine Revolution and it skipped three school years before the Americans reopened it on Dec. 15, 1899, as the Nautical School of the Philippine Islands.
Calibjo, 23, almost lost the top honors to fellow magna cum laude Rex Rabara, but she held on to the lead in the final point system set by the school.
“I am very proud to be the first woman cadet to top the graduating class,” said Calibjo, a consistent honor student and the eldest of three children. Her parents, Rodolfo and Babel Calibjo, are public school teachers in Antique.
Calibjo also received the alumni association’s Academic Excellence Award, while Rabara received the school’s Line Cadet Award.
“The [academy]recognizes the value of satisfaction of end users in this competitive world of seafaring, and that can only be achieved with the supply of first-rate merchant marine officers possessing high-quality education and training,” Dinoso said.
Florito Bernal, Ryan Vicente, Paul Bulseco, Jocamell Gutierrez, and Brian Ventura were the other students who graduated with honors.