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Monday, May 20, 2024

FVR: The man and his legacy

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Until his passing, FVR continued to inspire and stimulate, stir and enthuse, define and redefine, challenge and defy

March 18, yesterday, is the birthday of former President Fidel V. Ramos (1928-2022). He would have turned 96 yesterday.

To celebrate his natal day and a continuing tribute to the man and his legacy, two important events are being staged.

One is the 2nd FVR Golf at Mararayat Golf Course in Lipa, Batangas organized by his first Special Action Commander, Gen. Reynaldo V. Velasco, Gen. Avelino Razon, Col. Katigbak, Mel Bergado, among others.

The second event will be held today, 9 am, for the launch of the UP NCPAG-FVR LEAD4R Fellowship Program at the International Center for Public Administration, R.P. De Guzman St. at UP Diliman.

Coincidentally, today is the second anniversary of the Million Trees Nursery and Eco Learning in whose honor the 5-hectare area inside the La Mesa Watershed was dedicated.

A training center called Eddie’s Barn funded by San Miguel Corporation President and CEO Ramon S. Ang is also inside the premises of the eco learning center.

It’s a tribute to his legacy to environment and sustainable development having left behind to his countrymen 4Ms — MakaDiyos, Makabayan, Makatao at Makakalikasan.

On a personal note, not all are privileged to work with a former Philippine president.

But for over 20 years, I’ve had the blessing of serving alongside former President Fidel V. Ramos whose love for our country and heart for good governance remained firm until his death on July 31, 2022.

FVR, as fondly called by his peers and constituents, was known not just for his thumbs-up sign, “Kaya Natin Ito” slogan, his ears or his tobacco but also for his push-ups and crunches and the programs of his administration especially with Philippines 2000.

Even in his nonagenarian years, he never failed to carry on what he had started, always a good soldier who liked to say he would rather die serving his country with his boots on than sit idly to enjoy his retirement.

Until his passing, FVR continued to inspire and stimulate, stir and enthuse, define and redefine, challenge and defy.

Even after he finished his term as President, FVR or Eddie, the private citizen, refused to be “tired even while retired.” He continued to be “a reformer despite being a former President,” and “ex” but not excess and not yet expired.

Other former chiefs of state write their memoirs and then fade into the sunset.

He had written more than 30 books while in retirement and through keynote speeches, roundtable discussions, university convocations, etc., kept reminding his successors and other leaders of the urgent things that need to be done for our country and people to achieve a better future.

Our relationship can be described as a wonderful journey that transcends beyond the books we have done together.

Since 2000, FVR commissioned me to write on the biographies of his loved ones: “Enduring Legacy,” on his father Foreign Secretary Narciso Ramos; “ In A Class of Her Own,” on his mother Angela Valdez Ramos; “Mommy: The Pillar of Social Work” on his mother-in-law Josefa Jara Martinez; “Simply Ming,” on First Lady Amelita “Ming” M. Ramos; “Uncle Sim” on Simeon Marcos Valdez; and,  “Colors of Light” on his artist, poetess and ambassador’s spouse auntie Lucia Mangapit Valdez.

Among the best book projects we worked on and produced together are: Silver Linings, a story on the 25 Years of the 1986 Revolution with Raffy Alunan III and Gen Reynaldo V. Velasco; RPDEV @ 15: Our Continuing Voyage for Enduring Peace and Sustainable Development and the first volume, Teamwork for Enduring Peace and Sustainable Development chronicling 10 years of the Ramos Peace and Development Foundation, a non-profit, non-political, non-partisan non-government organization where he served as chair.

My last book published in 2021, co-authored with then PVAO Administrator Gen. Nesty Carolina and Gen. Pol Bataoil, former Congressional Chairman for Veterans Affairs and now Lingayen mayor, was launched on Aug. 31, 2021 in time for National Heroes Day at the height of COVID pandemic.

It is not only a singular honor and privilege writing books. I always consider it a gift and a blessing from the Almighty and from FVR himself who had served as a constant guide, inspiration, editor and prime mover of the book projects.

The past 24 years and the several book teams formed have been a great journey of rediscovering FVR and RPDEV.

Together, we now form part of a select group called Fidelistas, ardent students of FVR.

Working with him has allowed the various book teams, notably the millennials,  to experience some of FVR’s core values and best practices such as CSW (Completed Staff Work), CSD (Caring, Sharing and Daring), and UST (Unity, Solidarity and Teamwork).

FVR also became my loving mentor and my second father, after I lost my own when he succumbed to cancer in 1994.

He scolded  me when he needed to especially when coming in late for our appointed meetings; reprimanded me when I was not up to his high and excellent standards; and, he patted my back in times of appreciation and satisfaction on good works done.

During regular visits to his office, he personally saw to it that my team was served with his “coffee royale” laced with virgin coconut oil because, according to him, it does well for one’s health and vitality.

After coffee, he always treated us either to a glass of red wine or his special “FVR cocktail drink”

invariably laced with soda, rum, cognac, whiskey or brandy while watching some documentaries or FVR taped interviews showcasing his milestone presidency and continuing work as senior statesman.

As for his many sorties overseas wherein I was privileged to join, he was always admired, respected and adulated as former President and head of state.

But there’s one unforgettable experience I had with him that showed the stuff he was really made of.

I remember one incident in June 2013 when we staged the Pilipinas Roadshow with my co-book authors former DILG Secretary Rafael M. Alunan III and Gen. Reynaldo V. Velasco, featuring our book “Silver Linings: 25 Years of the 1986 People Power Revolution,” and “Tagaligtas: A Documentary on the Spercial Action Force” (long before the Mamasapano massacre happened) in eight key cities in the United States to promote Filipino values and instill patriotism in the Fil-Ams in time for the Independence Day celebration.

In spite of the debilitating pain on his back and leg when he injured himself in San Diego, California while doing his usual crunch with some Fil-Ams, FVR, very well beyond his years, withstood the pain and committed to continue the 8-city tour to Atlanta, Georgia, Washington D.C., Virginia, New Jersey and New York without any complaints.

Beyond the pain, the show must go on.

Such a kindred and brave soul and he taught the Pilipinas Roadshow Team a lesson or two  on pain management, mind over matter, professionalism and honoring one’s commitment.

Through the years that I’d known him, the many young and not so old writers involved with the book projects also saw the other human side of FVR -– comical, witty and a tad bit serious when needed.

I recall when he shook the hands of one lady writer and FVR feigned sickness to the lady writer’s great concern.

Obviously, he was just joking. Such incidents would make most of them wonder how at his age, he still continues to work and contribute to nation building with his wealth of ideas, wisdom and experience.

I believe FVR was one of the greatest Philippine Presidents – the 12th from 1992 to 1998 — being a historian and eyewitness to Philippine history over the last 50 years.

FVR is best remembered for promoting the principles of people empowerment, a culture of excellence, and global competitiveness, focusing on programs to alleviate poverty and improve the lives of ordinary Filipinos.

This is evident in the 229 structural/reform laws enacted by the 9th and 10th Congress during his term, achieved principally by building unity, solidarity and teamwork among government and civil society leaders.

As a soldier who served for 42 years, including stints in Korea, Vietnam and in the counter-insurgency campaign, FVR retired as a 4-star General and Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces.

He served as Defense Secretary from 1988 to 1991.

As President and former president, he is better known as a peace builder with the forging of the peace agreements with the rebel-soldiers in 1995 and with the Moro National Liberation Front in 1996.

He had been in public service since beginning his career as a cadet in the US Military Academy in 1946, continued to practice his distinct brand of public service through the non-government RPDEV Foundation which he and key members of his former Presidential family organized only months after they left office.

His legacy of public service before, during and after his six-year presidency are unmatched: West Point honor graduate, Korea and Vietnam War veteran, AFP Vice Chief of Staff, PC-INP Chief, EDSA 1 hero, AFP Chief, Defense Secretary, Philippine President, RPDEV and Boao Forum Chairman, EDSA 2 hero and Senior Statesman.

Truly, FVR has left an endearing legacy to our nation and he continues to give his indelible imprints on patriotism that celebrate a milestone of life, love, learning for his people and service to our beloved Philippines.

Happy birthday in heaven Mr. President!

(The author is president and executive director of the Million Trees Foundation Inc., a non-profit group advocating tree planting and watershed protection. He is also a book writer and publisher of biographical and coffee table books.)

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