FVR: Sketches

Published August 4, 2022, 12:02 AM

by Jullie Y. Daza


Jullie Y. Daza

The last time I saw FVR he was in casual clothes coming out of the Grand Hyatt hotel in BGC. In the next instant, he was wriggling himself, body and beret and soul, into the passenger window of his SUV. The contortionist’s act caught everyone by surprise as they stood waiting to be picked up by their drivers.

Did he hear his audience’s gasps? He was busy being playful at age 90.

FVR, military man, veteran of the Korean war, public servant all the way from DND to President, was not always playful. At a Malacañang breakfast conference where I was seated beside him, I was awed by a display of another emotion. A question from one of the guys must have so irked him that he broke the Mongol pencil he held in his hands by snapping it in two. Such a powerful sight it drove away any memory in my mind of both the question and his answer (if any).

Months before the presidential elections in 1992, our Group 40 – a misnomer, there being only six of us – invited him to lunch for a chit-chat. When the “jumping shrimps” arrived at our table, I asked why he was not getting any for his plate. He said it was too much work to peel them, so I offered to do it for him. “You’re the only man I’m ever doing this for,” I told him. No comment.

“Tabako” had a personal advocacy of his own. Being a handsome man who turned heads especially when he was in uniform, President Fidel V. Ramos knew the value of self-confidence and the pricelessness of a big smile. This must be why he gave away dentures to the toothless and elderly who could not afford to smile without covering their mouth.

FVR’s term was made more colorful by his first lady, Ming, the green thumb who christened the palace’s oldest tree “Mr. Brown” and gave potted red poinsettias as her signature Christmas gift. After FM’s Imeldific first lady, the piano-playing Ming was our one and only full-term first lady of the land. Loi Estrada lasted two years, and for the next three presidencies, or 22 years, we were without an FL until the return of FM Jr. to Malacañang.