'Behind the Red Pen': Book offers peek into FVR's first public social engagement as president

Photo by Eric Nadurata

The wedding of Star for All Seasons and Batangas Rep. Vilma Santos to Senator Ralph Recto that happened three decades ago has just been immortalized in a new history book that delved into the presidency of Fidel V. Ramos (FVR) from 1992-1998.

According to the book “Behind the Red Pen,” which was launched last month to celebrate the 94th birthday of the former president, together with the unveiling of the virtual FVR Presidential Library which prides itself as the “first and only complete online presidential library in Philippine history,” the wedding of Ate Vi to then neophyte Batangas congressman Recto was the first public social engagement attended by FVR barely six months into his presidency.

In the book’s chapter six, author Jojo Terencio elaborately recalled what he described as the “Wedding of the Decade” that happened in Lipa City on December 11, 1992 where FVR stood as the couple’s “ninong” together with former Vice President Doy Laurel, and then House Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr., who is now a Manila Bulletin columnist.

Bigwigs from the world of politics and show business gathered to celebrate the union of one of the movie industry’s biggest stars and a scion of the illustrious Recto clan as witnessed by thousands of people from all walks of life, mostly fans of Ate Vi from Metro Manila and other parts of the country who trooped to Lipa on that day just to see their idol.

“It was the ‘Wedding of the Decade’ both in the world of politics and show business. The then 39-year-old Ate Vi, the reigning movie queen and box office royalty, tied the knot with a dashing 29-year-old legislator belonging to the socially and politically prominent Recto clan of Batangas. Now a senator, Ralph was then the country’s youngest congressman representing the province’s fourth district,” Terencio wrote.

Aside from the Recto-Santos nuptial, the only other wedding featured in the book was the Royal Wedding in Brunei Darussalam when the Sultan’s eldest child Princess Rashidah wed businessman Pengarin Anak Haji Abdul Rahim on August 18, 1996. FVR and former First Lady Amelita Ramos stood as the couple’s “ninong” and “ninang.”

The showbiz-society events were just the icing on the cake that await the readers of the more than 200-page book. For the meat of the book really was the behind the scenes account of Terencio, who was FVR’s close-in writer in Malacanang, on key political events that shaped the nation’s history such as the unforgettable visit of Pope John Paul II in January 1995 (and the failed assassination plot), the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) 1996 Leaders’ Summit in Subic, and the landmark peace accord with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) that ended the Muslim secessionist movement in Mindanao, among others.

In the book’s Foreword, Ramos said reading the book made him nostalgic about his stint at the Palace as it brought so many memories of events that happened almost three decades ago.

FVR engages the newly-wed couple movie queen Vilma Santos, also known as the Star for All Seasons to her legion of fans, and then Batangas Rep. Ralph Recto in a light conversation during a photo session at the San Sebastian Cathedral in Lipa City. Also in photo is then House Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. (Eric Nadurata)

“My administration had its ups and downs. But over all, it was a good six years. It was an era where we proved what unity, solidarity and teamwork can do for our country,” he said.

The book’s title “Behind the Red Pen” was inspired by FVR’s ubiquitous red pens, which he used since his military days to issue handwritten memoranda, marginal notes and directives to concerned government officials and staff.

Terencio said the book provides the readers the opportunity to know the 94-year-old statesman as a leader and as a boss. It also gives the public a glimpse of the private persona of the country’s 12th president.

“In times of fake news and historical revisionism to suit one’s political interest, I hope to be one of the voices — no matter how soft — on the side of factual and accurate reporting,” said Terencio when asked what prompted him to write the book.

“Behind the Red Pen” is available at Solidaridad Bookshop (Manila) and Popular Bookstore (Quezon City). For online orders and delivery, contact Serendipithings at 09202717323. #