The passing of former President Fidel V. Ramos this week came as a shock to many, including his closest associates during his time as chief executive of the Republic of the Philippines.
He did live to the ripe old age of 94, but being a lifetime health buff (and avid golfer, we must add), he was in excellent shape until the time he disappeared from the public scene a few months ago.
His cause of death was listed as complications due to COVID-19 and when the sad news spread, countless government officials, business leaders, retired and active military officers, mediamen who covered him, and ordinary citizens were lavish in their tributes for the man affectionately known as ‘Tabako.’
He did love his cigars, although he rarely lit them.
In death, FVR was remembered for his numerous accomplishments, and he earned the tag of Steady Eddie, for his huge role in stabilizing both the political and financial state of the Philippines when he assumed the presidency.
World leaders recalled the time that he lifted the Philippines to tiger cub economy status, and he might have brought the country to full developed world status had he been allowed to serve longer.
But even in retirement he continued to sell the Philippines to the outside world. He was one of the best salesmen the country could have as he continuously told any foreign investor who would listen that the land he once ruled as president for six progressive years was an excellent place to park their funds.
Taking over from the late President Cory Aquino, FVR had the tough task of facing the myriad of problems the Philippines had to face, not the least of which was the serious power crisis, an unstable political system battered by a series of coup attempts against Madame Aquino, and an economy that was going nowhere fast.
As an engineer by training and a military man by profession, FVR took the steps that few Philippine leaders had the capacity to do.
Along the way, he committed some errors, not the least of which was allowing the return of the Marcoses who never willingly returned their stolen wealth.
But whatever mistakes he may have committed certainly paled in comparison to the massive changes – for the better, we must add – he was able to push through, including setting the stage for peace talks with the Moro National Liberation Front, breaking down the long-standing business monopolies, and setting the example as one of the hardest working presidents of all.
Sadly, his preferred candidate to succeed him failed to win, and he must have been extremely disappointed when his successor proved to be a lazy leader of questionable moral values.
Perhaps his biggest tragedy was a personal one, the passing of one of his daughters at a fairly young age a little more than a decade ago.
That unbearable pain he kept from the public, and soon enough he was back accepting invitations from all over the globe, always speaking well of his beloved Philippines. He continued to play golf and crack corny jokes, and he was as beloved as ever by his people.
We could go on and on extolling the greatness of the man whose legacy is already assured. So we will just say, job well done, sir. You’ve earned your place in history.
Rest in peace, President Fidel V. Ramos, a Filipino statesman for the ages.