Former president Fidel Ramos, a soldier regarded as one of the country’s most effective leaders, was interred at the National Heroes Cemetery on Tuesday in a somber state burial.
A low-flying military helicopter dropped flowers as a wagon bearing the flag-draped coffin containing an urn with his ashes rolled through the leafy cemetery grounds, lined with white crosses marking the tombs of dead soldiers also buried at the site.
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. joined the ex-leader’s widow, Amelita, and relatives as the silver urn with the cremated remains was lowered into the ground after a military parade and a 21-gun salute.
A career soldier who oversaw a rare period of steady growth and peace in the turbulent years that followed the dictatorship of Marcos Jr’s father and namesake, Ramos died late last month aged 94. The cause of death was not specified.
Known as “Steady Eddie” for his unflappable demeanor during the country’s regular moments of upheaval, he was frequently pictured chewing unlit cigars as he guided the Philippines with a sure hand from 1992-1998.
His widow Amelita Ramos thanked Filipinos in a brief address at the end of the state burial, saying soldiers like him lived a “hard life.”
“It entailed difficult adjustments. He would be at home for two years and in the province two years after that,” she said, apart from overseas deployments in the Korean War and the Vietnam War.
Mrs. Ramos said that despite his busy life in the military, her husband was able to help raise a family.
“He was able to raise five daughters, eight grandsons, and five granddaughters.” she said.
A graduate of the prestigious West Point military academy in the United States, Ramos also saw combat against communist guerrillas back at home.
He was later commander of the paramilitary Philippine Constabulary—the key institution that enforced the brutal repression of dissent after Marcos Sr declared martial law in 1972.
Ramos broke from Marcos Sr in February 1986, throwing his support behind a group of young military officers who holed up in a Manila military camp after their plot to topple the leader in a coup was discovered.
Coming amid popular outrage over the 1983 murder of opposition leader Benigno Aquino and massive regime cheating in a snap election, the events led to a peaceful “People Power” revolt that sent the dictator into exile.
An endorsement from Corazon Aquino, the assassinated politician’s widow, and the first post-Marcos president, helped Ramos score a narrow presidential victory in 1992.
As president, he solved a crippling power crisis caused by years of under-investment in energy and broke up cartels in telecommunications, aviation and shipping—boosting a moribund economy that reaped a period of renewed growth.
He also signed peace deals with Muslim separatists and military coup-plotters, but communist guerrillas rejected his overtures.
Ramos was also a key, early supporter of Rodrigo Duterte, who won the presidency in 2016.
The relationship swiftly soured as Ramos criticized Duterte’s expletive-laden speeches, his moves away from the US alliance, and his anti-drug campaign that claimed thousands of lives.
The last former president to be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani was Marcos Sr in 2016, courtesy of Duterte who brushed off popular outrage at his plan.
Marcos Jr won a landslide election victory last May, completing the rehabilitation of the family name.
Ramos, the country’s 12th president, and the President’s distant uncle, was accorded a state funeral with full military honors for his military service and his term as chief executive.
A private Mass was held at the Heritage Park in Taguig City before Ramos’ inurnment.
Ramos was laid to rest at Section A of LNMB where presidents are buried.
The area, formally known as Section A: Presidents of the Republic of the Philippines, measures 5,000 square meters. Presidents are allotted 100 square meters each.
There was a 21-gun salute, followed by the turnover of the Philippine flag to the Ramos family, lowering of the urn, and flower offering.
The former president’s urn was placed inside his tomb around 11:43 a.m. and sealed around 11:45 a.m. concluding the ceremony.
President Marcos., through Proclamation 33, declared July 31 to Aug. 9 as national days of mourning for Ramos.
In the proclamation, Marcos said Ramos’ death “is a great loss to our country and the Filipino people.”
Pope Francis expressed his deepest sympathies to the country and the family of the late president.
In a letter to Marcos, the Pope acknowledged the contributions of the former chief executive in promoting values of peace in the nation.
“Upon learning of the death of former President Fidel V. Ramos, I extend to You and to the People of the Philippines heartfelt condolences and assurance of my prayers,” the pontiff said in the letter dated Aug. 8.
The letter, which was released only on Tuesday morning, was forwarded to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.
As a result of the showering of petals during the funeral procession, Cebu Pacific said it moved or cancelled 31 flights.
Spokesperson Carmina Romero said a notice to airmen (NOTAM) restricting the movement from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. was issued for the planned showering of petals.
An advisory posted on its Facebook page showed the carrier canceled 28 domestic flights and moved three international flights—one to Hong Kong and two to Seoul—because of the activity.
“We cannot reschedule all (the flights). We can only consolidate so much,” Romero said.