Once, concerned senior citizen Fidel V. Ramos, described himself as : “Retired, but not tired. Ex, but not excess.“ Indeed, the former President, at that time nearing 86, was very much around, taking advantage of every opportunity to exhort Filipinos to “Care, Dare and Share” and to be competitive as a nation through UST – “Unity, Solidarity and Team Work”. He did this through his “Sermons”, a multi-volume compilation of his speeches and writings, and through his speaking engagements, here and abroad.
PFVR has been acknowledged as an Eminent Person of Asia, if not of the world. But we, Muntinlupeños, would like to remember PFVR as Muntinlupa’s Favorite Son. A long-time resident of Muntinlupa, PFVR loved to recount how early in his military career, he patrolled the Muntinlupa-Cavite boundary area to catch cattle rustlers.
When Ayala developed Ayala Alabang in the early 80s, PFVR became one of its first residents. Many remember PFVR as the quiet next door neighbor. He moved around the village unobtrusively. If he had any close-in security at all, they were practically invisible.
When PFVR decided to join JPE at EDSA, concerned neighbors organized their own People Power to form a protective ring around Mrs. Ming Ramos and PFVR’s daughters. This event has come to be commemorated as “EDSA sa Alabang”.
A physical fitness buff, PFVR frequented the Alabang Country Club gym and its swimming pool. A strong swimmer, PFVR could swim backstroke the length of the pool, unlighted cigar in his mouth, without the cigar ever getting wet!
At the height of the nine coup attempts by Gringo Honasan against President Cory, Alabang resident Elo Javier could accurately predict whether we would have a quiet day or not, just by observing PFVR’s demeanor.
“There would be no coup attempt today,” Elo Javier would confidently say. “Look at FVR. He is so relaxed reading the newspapers by the pool side. Vintage Steady Eddie.” (Elo and his elder brother Ted Javier served as my volunteer security advisers when I was Mayor of Muntinlupa.)
Wearing his famous verrry short shorts, PFVR would wake up early to play a round of golf at the Alabang Country Club with his foursome. But it was not all golf. FVR would jog from one hole to another (instead of walking or using the golf cart).
Recently, I asked FVR about his golf handicap. He shooked his head: “Tumaas na, Toting.” Ask why, he replied: “When I was President, isang dipa pa ang bola sa butas, give na. Now, I always have to putt through.”
PFVR is rightly given credit for many reforms which took place during his Presidency. Let me just mention three of them which impacted me directly. His efforts to de-monopolize telecommunication are now benefitting every Juan and Maria who now have easy access to telephone land lines and cell phones. Compare that to the time when one had to wait years to get a line and hours to get a dial tone. For Muntinlupeños, FVR signed into law the Muntinlupa City Charter. For former BSPers like me, FVR signed into law the New Central Bank Act which refocused the central monetary authority’s mandate to that of keeping inflation low and stable.
During my last encounter with PFVR, he was already pushing 92. He had invited a small group from Lakas-NUCD-CMD for lunch at his RPDEV office. My former boss, former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (PGMA) was also present.
PFVR had already considerably slowed down. But he still impressed me when he greeted all his guests by their first names. Something which I can not always do. Asked his health secret, PFVR swore to the effectivity of virgin coconut oil (VCO) as an anti-oxidant. With a naughty wink, he even swore that VCO had “other” beneficial effects.
A very prolific writer, PFVR had written several volumes, copies of which were neatly stacked in shelves in his office. “Hey guys, if you see any title which you like, feel free to take it home, ” he told his guests.
I did not get to pick my title because PFVR’s late girl Friday, Mae Gaffud, had already prepared take-home packets for each and every guest by the time we were supposed to leave. Each packet contained a marble rendition of PFVR’s signature thumbs up sign (in metallic gold) with the inscription “Kaya natin ito!” The packet also contained one of PFVR’s latest books entitled “Prosper Thy Neighbor”.
On my way home, I immediately leafed thru PFVR’s book. What I read made my day. The book had a chapter entitled “Revisiting ‘Tiger’ Toting” which described our association which dated back to my early days as a news reporter in Camp Crame-Camp Aguinaldo and later about my tenure as Muntinlupa mayor. The account ended with PFVR’s recollection of how Muntinlupeños helped defend the Cory government during the 1987-1989 coup attempts.