A close look and a chat with FVR

Twenty seven years after the 1986 People Power Revolution, former Philippine President Fidel V. Ramos’ drawing power and energy have not diminished one bit. And it was evident in his two-day visit to Los Angeles.

I should know. In those two days in June, I was able to cover the former President on three separate occasions.

On the first day, we had dinner at the official residence of Consul General Hellen Barber – Dela Vega in Hancock Park.

On the second day, we had a hearty lunch at the AnaheimmWhite House Restaurant in Orange County, hosted by Asian Journal and Balikbayan Magazine publisher Roger L. Oriel. That evening, I was the emcee at the Pilipinas Roadshow and Forum hosted by the Pangasinan Brotherhood-USA, led by its President Eddie C. Ferrer. The roadshow was included a book signing, and a video documentary screening, and an interactive dialogue with Ramos.

The book Silver Linings presents the untold stories of the People Power Revolt in ‘86 as seen from the perspective of the military and police personnel who played key roles in the historic event.

Charismatic candor

A host of Filipinos gathered on June 6 at the Marriot Courtyard Hotel in Cypress to meet the illustrious 12th President of the Philippines. Filipinos from far and wide took photos and briefly conversed with Ramos at the book signing event for Silver Lining. The book was written by Melandrew T. Velasco and co-authored by Ret. Police Director Reynaldo Velasco and former Secretary Alunan.

At the ripe old age of 85 years, Ramos is still as sharp as ever with his mental acumen, candid humor, and physical prowess. The former military man even challenged us, his kababayans and two young waiters of the Anaheim White House, to a sit-up and push up challenge after our sumptuous lunch of Italian cuisine.

Ramos, revealing his photographic creativity, even initiated the artistic direction when our group took our photos at the spiral staircase of ConGen Dela Vega’s home.

“I was also a photographer at one time,” Ramos joked.

At the intimate dinner in ConGen Dela Vega’s residence, pleasantries and business cards were exchanged, as well as FVR’s gesture of goodwill, a box of cigars with a Malacañang Palace inscription on the lid. The gift was given to PB-USA’s President Ferrer, to be auctioned off for future fund-raising events.

As Ramos and I exchanged business cards, I saw his walletsized collection of philosophical jokes to live by, jokes which he often whips out when opportunity strikes.

On the flipside of his business card were the list of the numerous Philippine and international memberships of Ramos to various organizations, political parties, and foundations. He held numerous titles like chairman, adviser, director, member, honorary president, and other such honors. You would think that FVR is busier now than when he was still sitting in Malacañang.

Equipped with his arsenal of punchlines, the mood at his reception in ConGen Dela Vega’s home instantly lightened when he announced in a joke in Filipino.

“Kayong mga taga-Pangasinan, hindi na Triple AAA ang rating ngayon ng Pangasinan. Triple BBB na. It’s Bagoong, Bucayo at Bangus. Mayroong pang-apat. It’s Braganza,” Ramos quipped, referring to former Pangasinan gubernatorial candidate Hernani Bragaza,.

Stately matters

An astute statesman, Ramos is always ready with his opinions on matters of the state.

He discussed a wide range of topics and equally dished out his insights on all of these issues. During his two-day visit to LA, Ramos talked about a diverse array of topics including poverty, Philippine politics, and the Scarborough Shoal and Spratlys Islands brouhaha.

On poverty, Ramos pushed for countries to prioritize funding on food and social services, instead of arms development. On the mid-term elections, Ramos noted that the results sent an alarmingly mixed message from the electorate when perennial political dynasties were involved in numerous debacles and rejections.

“Nanie served well as mayor of Alaminos City, as a congressman, as secretary of Agrarian Reform and briefly as press secretary. However, incumbent Governor Amadeo Espino, Jr. is well-entrenched and is well-known in the entire province as a former PNP Chief and former congressman,” FVR said of Braganza.

FVR said that Braganza is coping well with the electoral loss and quoted Nanie’s wife, who said, “I guess, it’s now time for him to earn a living for the family.”

On poverty alleviation, the Philippine’s reported economic growth of 7.8 percent has not yet been felt in by the ordinary Filipinos in the grassroots, Ramos explained.

Ramos even weighed in on the Scarborough Shoal and Spratlys Islands issue, saying that the Philippines should seriously pursue arbitration with the United Nations Convention On The Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and promote freedom of navigation and maritime safety at sea.

Weighing in on the Future

Ever the enigmatic figure in Philippine politics, Ramos also made a bold prediction on an impending clash for the presidency. Between current Vice President Jejomar Binay and current Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas, Ramos believes that the former Makati mayor has the upper hand and would eventually win Malacañang come 2016.

Ramos cited Binay’s myriad of political alliances as well as his active participation in socio-civic engagements as his key tools in gaining many supporters en route to 2016. Binay’s other roles in public and private offices also make him a formidable candidate, Ramos said.

Ramos recalled that Roxas had already consulted with him in the past regarding his chances on securing the presidency. Then a Trade and Industry Secretary, Roxas intimated to Ramos that he would rather run again as a congressman in Capiz. After all, his father Sen. Gerardo Roxas had lost in his bid for the vice presidency when he ran alongside Diosdado Macapagal, who was seeking reelection anew.

According to Ramos, he advised Roxas to go ahead and run for senator. Roxas eventually won as topnotcher with more 19 million votes.

In 2009, Mar Roxas was poised to make a bid for the presidency. However, People Power hero and former president Cory C. Aquino had unexpectedly passed away.

The upsurge of sympathy among Filipinos for the passing of Cory made Roxas reconsider his candidacy. He eventually gave way and gave up the Liberal Party nomination in favor of Cory’s only son, Noynoy Aquino. Aquino won an overwhelming victory, while Roxas lost to Binay in a decisive fashion.

If the 2010 showdown between Binay and Roxas is any indication, it is likely that Ramos will again be proven correct come May 2016.

(For comments, please contact Dan E. Nino, Tel. No. 562- 921-5116 or E-mail: denino1951@gmail.com ) 

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