When a number of politicians pushed for the reimposition of military training in schools at the guise of nationalism, I could only chuckle. I was expecting netizens to raise a ruckus about it. There were all sorts of complaints, from creeping militarization to corruption.

I lived through three years of military training in my youth — one year in high school under the Citizens Advancement Training, and two years in college as Citizens Military Training. It was in the ’80s. Kids today won’t believe it if I say I had fun during those three years.

Here are the cons. It ate Saturday mornings in high school and Saturday afternoons in college. It wasn’t fun to be standing under the blazing sun, sweating under your heavy and scratchy uniform. And yes, you smelled stinky at the end of the day. Standing still in attention was a pain; you can’t make me do it now. There were no breaks for snacks, so I was always ravenous afterwards.

The pros? Yes, it instilled discipline. I always looked at it as a collective effort; we all suffered under our officers, who almost always were also our high school classmates, and in college, our seniors.

Of course, I need to qualify “suffer.” It wasn’t any kind of physical abuse. UP Vanguard made sure of that. Believe me, doing pushups and squats gave me a hard body, never mind that I was a few pounds overweight. I had thighs of steel from all that effort. And yes, during field exercises, we would stand there, waiting for instructions from our platoon commander as we executed a set of written commands from HQ. We had a laugh afterwards because we often came out last — oops, make that ninth place out of nine groups.

I made friends in CMT, although in those years before social media, there was no way of keeping in touch afterwards. My buddies would tell me about their class projects. One chum from Fine Arts brought a magazine mockup that introduced them as members of a New Wave band. The English senior on my left side would school us on verbs that we so carelessly tossed out. We would give a nod when we bumped into each other at AS. By the time the years passed, we lost touch; it was something I had already expected.

In high school, we went on a bivouac in Cavite. The site where we camped for the night was called Sitio Kamandag; apparently, the place was infested with snakes, but we didn’t see one the time we were there.

After doing some formations, we were given free time. Actually, the real point of the trip happened that night. As we were sound asleep, older cadets picked our boots. When a siren went out at midnight, many were caught barefooted. I had kept my boots on because they were a pain to take off. I’m glad I passed that test with flying colors. I would never lose my boots in case of an encounter.

After three years of wearing the same uniform that my mother laundered, starched and ironed the right way, after polishing my boots and garrison belt buckle to a blinding shine, I was just thrilled to finally be done with military training.

That night on my way home, my boots finally gave out. For a few weeks, the nails on the sole had started sticking out and pricking my feet. When I took them off, I was just glad I would never wear them. And yes, I rarely wear boots nowadays. I find them so uncomfortable, Give me trainers anytime.

PS. A few months after I completed my two-year CMT training, a received a deputation from the Armed Forces of the Philippines. I was then officially a military reservist.

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