FVR at 90: Caring, Sharing, Daring

Published March 15, 2018, 10:00 PM

by Mario Casayuran and Vanne Elaine Terrazola

 José Abeto  Zaide
José Abeto Zaide

By José Abeto Zaide

 

Gary Lising misread the title of this piece as “Caring, Saling, Darling” – thinking that this article is just about an ordinary mortal becoming DOM.

There are such times when an ordinary mortal probably wouldn’t Care…wouldn’t Share…and certainly would be more cautious about a Dare. But at 90, Fidel V. Ramos is just getting his second wind…

***

FLASHBACK. After the new Philippine President Fidel V. Ramos’ first visit in June 1992 to the Department of Foreign Affairs, he gave it the monicker “The Silent Department”  – because he was not accustomed to the respectful but protocolarly quiet reception he received at the DFA. (Unlike the other Philippine departments and agencies which habitually gave a resounding applause as the President arrived.)

But President Ramos and the DFA would find each other and would make the perfect match to bring the Philippines back in business. PFVR appreciated the dedication of professional men and women of DFA who would make possible the unimaginable. Without prejudice to our Sabah claim, PFVR had tandem cooperation with Malaysia’s Mahatir Mohammed (e.g., 1995 launching of Proton Wira in PH). We fret today over China’s incursions despite UN ruling on the Philippine Rise. But in his time, Ramos’ karaoke diplomacy engaged China’s President Jiang Zemin to duet “Love Me Tender.” (Prudence being the better part of valor, PFVR also sherpa-ed the Visiting Forces Agreement with USA and at the same time ensured the passage and implementation of AFP Modernization Act.)

***

Yesterday, on the eve of his turning nonagenarian, FVR, “Our Working President,” shared a table at the Manila Polo Club with the old fogeys of the DFA. The retired Ambassadors reminisced on how in the world they did it during, (and because of), the Ramos administration. (As you may expect of old fogeys, the stories got better in the retelling. Some of the accounts could inspire the Malacañang incumbent. PFVR was never pugnacious, but was always judicious to carry a big enough stick.)

***

The PFVR I knew worked even in transit; (his motorized office had a fax machine and a valise stuffed with papers needing immediate action). Like Napoleon who caught 40 winks astride his horse, PFVR recharged with catnaps. Despite long hours, he was up before dawn. Before Metro Manila had its morning cup of coffee, he had read the dailies (as well as some interesting tabloids), and texted his cabinet so that no time is wasted in his 6 years in office. The men and women in the Ramos administration were available on call. (When a newcomer in the team griped about the 24/7 shift, he was told “to be glad that there aren’t 25 hours in a day and 8 days in a week.”

Imagine Metro Manila’s gridlock if PFVR had not completed the C-5 and (a working) MRT? He dismantled the PLDT monopoly to relieve the communication system logjam… introduced open skies to allow Cebu Pacific and other foreign and domestic carriers…opened competition in domestic shipping industry. (Millennials cannot imagine tempo ante PFVR, when owning a telephone with a party line was a big deal; and before air travel became more available and more affordable.)

PFVR packed infrastructure projects (San Roque dam in Pangasinan, and several road networks in Mindanao). His TESDA trained and accredited professional services (bartenders, caregivers, housekeeping, food and beverage services, commercial cooking, masonry, carpenters, welders, auto mechanics, etc.) enabling thousands to find high-paying jobs here and abroad.

***

But we remember PFVR best for leading us out of darkness. When he assumed the Presidency, the country was bedeviled by brown-outs. (Before PFVR in Malacanang, the pundit Joe Guevara’s Point of Order column in the 31 May 1992 Manila Bulletin issue bannered, ‘Good news: 10-hour brown-outs!’) But as promised, PFVR switched on the Christmas lights by December 1992. ‘

FVR at 90 – still irrepressible and full of spunk. The Filipino people will long remember FVR’s Kaya natin iyan!’ mantra. Many still decry the missed opportunity when he was denied to serve a second term as President. Had those killjoys not intervened, we should have long ago achieved NIChood for the Philippine Growling Tiger.

Happy 90th birthday, Mr. President! And please do continue to surprise us some more!

 

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