ON EMPOWERING THE FILIPINO PEOPLE
By FIDEL V. RAMOS
FORMER PHILIPPINE PRESIDENT
(Fourth of ? Parts)
FOR THIS SUNDAY’S INSTALLMENT, FORMER FIRST LADY MING RAMOS CONTINUES TO RECALL HER INTERTWINED PROGRAMS (ALL OF WHICH SHE CHOSE PRIMARILY BECAUSE THESE “…NOT ONLY COMPLEMENTED EDDIE’S OWN GOVERNMENT PROGRAMS BUT GAVE ME FULFILLMENT AND SATISFACTION AS WELL” ON ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION (CLEAN AND GREEN, PASIG RIVER REHABILITATION, PISO PARA SA PASIG, ETC.); SOCIO-CIVIC PROJECTS (HELPING FOUNDATION’S LIVELIHOOD TRAINING CENTERS); CULTURAL PRESERVATION (KATUTUBONG FILIPINO FOUNDATION); GRASSROOTS SPORTS DEVELOPMENT AND PROMOTION (BADMINTON, SWIMMING, ETC.) – AMONG OTHERS.
MUSIC AND CONCERTS
ACCORDINGLY, MING SPEAKS NOW WITH GREATER SELF-CONFIDENCE THAN BEFORE:
I never considered my music background as exceptional so I never thought I would be using it personally upon becoming First Lady. I would be exceptional if you consider that I am a better musician than someone who does not play any musical instrument at all.
How did it happen? Well, in 1993, during our official visit to Malaysia, Prime Minister Mahathir gave an informal dinner at his home. After dinner, there was an impromptu program accompanied by Filipino musicians who had a combo. General Jose Magno (retired) was the master of ceremonies. In the course of the program, he called on Raul Manglapus, then secretary of foreign affairs, to play the piano. Then I guess General Magno remembered that I played the organ and piano so he also asked me to play.
I had not touched any of these two instruments in years. To General Magno, therefore, I give the credit of having unceremoniously started my unofficial musical career, or at least giving Raul Manglapus the idea of having me join his Executive Band. Incidentally, for that occasion, I played the song “Dahil Sa Iyo” because that was a tune familiar in Asian countries. I sounded all right because the other musicians covered up my mistakes.
I first refused Mr. Manglapus’ invitation to join the Executive Band, telling him I’m not that good at music. In the next months to follow though, I kept getting calls from the various band members asking me to join them. I finally consented.
I’ve had many memorable moments with this band. Eddie fondly calls them the Geriatric Band. We had a clarinet player who was 82 years old.
We did a concert at the PICC to raise money for charitable organizations. I had never performed on stage and I was so nervous at that time. While I was playing, I could hear Eddie saying from the front row where he was seated: “Smile, smile, smile!” Who can smile when one was concentrating on not missing a note?
We did fund-raining concerts for various charitable organizations in Roxas City, Cebu, Davao, Baguio, Tagaytay, and in the US President Clinton played the saxophone with the Executive Band in Malacañang during his short visit to the Philippines in 1995.
Later on, I joined a smaller band, a six-member band referred to as session musicians. They are young, professional, and talented. Also, most of them are graduates of the UP Conservatory of Music. Now, here is a really good group of musicians. They can cover my mistakes without missing a beat!
This group and I did our first concert together with my second daughter Jo (the professional artist in the family) to raise funds for other charity projects. Later on, we did fund raising concerts in other parts of the Philippines, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the US.
I GUESS YOU CAN SAY THAT NEXT TO EARNING A SALARY WHICH I SOMETIMES USED TO GIVE AS A DONATION TO WORTHY PROJECTS, FUND RAISING CONCERTS AND ACTIVITIES LIKE PLAYING GOLF WERE OTHER WAYS BY WHICH I COULD RAISE FUNDS TO HELP A FOUNDATION OR ORGANIZATION PUT UP A GOOD PROJECT. THIS IS ANOTHER TIP FOR FUTURE FIRST LADIES: WHEN YOU ARE A FIRST LADY AND YOU HAVE NO BUDGET, YOU HAVE TO BE OPEN TO THE IDEA OF DOING ALL SORTS OF THINGS TO RAISE MONEY!
I DID NOT EXPECT TO BE PART OF SO MANY ORGANIZATIONS AND FOUNDATIONS WITHIN THE NEXT SIX YEARS. I CHOSE THE FOUNDATIONS AND ORGANIZATIONS I WOULD BE INVOLVED IN WITH GREAT CARE AND NEVER ACCEPTED THE CHAIRMANSHIP OF THOSE THAT I KNEW I COULD NEVER FIND TIME TO BE ACTIVELY INVOLVED.
Aside from those I had already mentioned, a few more notable ones are: FILVETS which help our veterans, the Museo Pambata Foundation which built the first hands-on children’s museum in the country, the Heart Foundation of the Philippines, the Diabetes Education Foundation, the Bigay Puso Foundation, the Ballet Philippines Foundation, the Kagitingan Ng Mga Sundalo Foundation, and the WUFI or Workshops Unlimited Foundation, Inc. composed of military wives who are now involved with providing livelihood training workshops for patients at the AFP Medical Center.
A VERY RECENT ADDITION, ONE IN WHICH I AM ALSO VERY MUCH ACTIVELY INVOLVED, IS THE ASOSASYON NG MUSIKO PILIPINO FOUNDATION.
THE LOW POINTS
WHAT I NEVER UNDERSTAND ABOUT POLITICS IS HOW YOU TRY TO DO SOMETHING GOOD AND IT’S NEVER GOOD ENOUGH. THERE WERE MANY DIFFICULT MOMENTS FOR ME DURING THE TERM BUT THE MOST DIFFICULT ONES REMAIN TWO INCIDENTS WHICH I HOPE NEVER TO ENCOUNTER AGAIN.
One was during the Flor Contemplacion incident in 1995. We had just arrived from a trip and made an overnight stopover in Cebu. The next day, we flew to Iloilo. On board the plane on the way to Iloilo, Eddie decided that I should meet the remains of Flor Contemplacion in Manila upon its arrival from Singapore. After dropping off Eddie in Iloilo, I proceeded to Manila.
I have never encountered so much anger and hatred in all my life and at that time, I felt the feeling of the people were also deliberately inflamed by the opposition. Then there were my own personal feelings regarding Miss Contemplacion’s tragic demise.
The flowers I gave were seized and torn to pieces by the angry crowd. What hurt the most was the incident regarding the P100,000 donation which Eddie instructed me to give to Mr. Contemplacion. I gave it to him. He opened the envelope and saw what was inside. Yet, the next day, the papers announced that he said the envelope was empty.
Flor’s husband later retracted his statement but the damage had been done. The newspapers, instead of printing this story, simply let it die a natural death. This was truly disappointing to me.
Many people accused Eddie of not having done anything. Eddie is not the type of man who would turn his back on people who needed his help, much less on a woman who was sentenced to death in another country. While we were on the trip, Eddie worked ceaselessly on the case of Flor Contemplacion, doing everything he could in his power as president to postpone, if not have the severity of Flor’s punishment reduced. Well, we should understand that countries have their own laws and ways of doing things. I would always remember this event as having been a very, very trying moment for me.
The other incident was the “Anti-Charter” and later on, what I perceived to be the “Anti-Ramos” campaign, which resurfaced time and time again in 1997 and 1998. After seeing Eddie working so hard for the country, often missing sleep and food, having no time for the family or himself, I was quite downhearted and disappointed. At the heart of this campaign was the message that Eddie did not want to relinquish the presidency.
WELL, THAT’S NOT TRUE AND ALL OF YOU KNOW THAT NOW.
AN EYE-OPENING EXPERIENCE
I HAD ALWAYS STAYED AWAY FROM POLITICS. I DELIBERATELY MAINTAINED A LOW-KEY PROFILE AND SO DID MY DAUGHTERS AND THEIR FAMILIES. EXCEPT FOR EDDIE, THE REST OF US IN THE FAMILY KEPT TO THE BACKGROUND WHENEVER WE COULD.
I AM SURE I MADE MANY FRIENDS IN THE LAST SIX YEARS AS WELL AS (THOUGH NOT DELIBERATELY) MANY ENEMIES WITH MY STRAIGHTFORWARD WAYS.
MY LAST FEW DAYS IN MALACAÑANG IN JUNE, 1998, HAVE PROVEN TO BE AN INTERESTING EYE OPENING EXPERIENCE. WITH BARELY THREE WEEKS TO GO BEFORE EDDIE AND I LEAVE MALACAÑANG, I AM BEGINNING TO SEE WHO MY REAL FRIENDS ARE. LIKEWISE WITH EDDIE’S FRIENDS AND SUPPORTERS. INDEED, THE MEASURE OF SINCERITY AND FRIENDSHIP IS DONE AT THE MOST CRUCIAL MOMENTS. I GUESS THAT’S ANOTHER WARNING FOR FUTURE FIRST LADIES: YOUR REAL FRIENDS ARE THOSE WHO WILL NOT ABANDON YOU WHEN YOU ARE NO LONGER OF USE TO THEM.
LET ME SAY, HOWEVER, THIS IS NOT WHAT MATTER MOST. WHAT IS IMPORTANT IS THAT THE RAMOS FAMILY HAS GROWN CLOSER BECAUSE OF THE UNIQUE NATURE OF THE PRESIDENCY AND ITS MANY CHALLENGES BROUGHT ABOUT BY THE FILIPINO PEOPLE WHOM WE MUST SERVE.
KAYA NATIN ITO!!!
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