Farewell to FVR: Ming thanks nation for the love
MANILA, Philippines — Former President Fidel V. Ramos was accorded a state burial with full military honors at Libingan ng mga Bayani in Taguig City on Tuesday, a somber ending to five days of tributes for the late war veteran, commander in chief, and statesman.
In his home province of Pangasinan, the local government offered to help preserve Ramos’ ancestral home in Lingayen town and turn it into a museum showcasing memorabilia and other personal items that belonged to the country’s 12th president.
“But [the decision] is still up to the family of the late president,” Gov. Ramon Guico III said.
Ramos, who died of COVID-19 on July 31 at the age of 94, was the fourth leader to be buried at the cemetery for the country’s heroes and presidents, six years after the controversial 2016 private funeral for the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr., whose government he had helped topple during the 1986 Edsa People Power Revolution.
Marcos Sr.’s namesake son, now the president, attended Tuesday’s rites, lending a note of irony over the ceremony as Ramos was laid to rest beside another former president, Elpidio Quirino.
On Tuesday, Marcos stood beside Ramos’ widow, former first lady Amelita “Ming” Ramos, both watching solemnly as the urn was lowered before noon, in accordance with tradition.
President Marcos; the Armed Forces chief, Lt. Gen. Bartolome Bacarro; and other military officers saluted Ramos as 21 guns were fired in his honor and the band played the ballad “Maalaala Mo Kaya,” one of the late president’s favorite songs.
His casket had been carried by a caisson, or a hearse pulled by a white military jeep, while a low-flying Air Force helicopter dropped flowers during the funeral march to his grave.
It was Ramos himself who had worked on his funeral arrangements, having personally inspected and identified the place that would become his grave at Libingan.
Toward the end of the ceremony, Marcos handed Amelita the Philippine flag that had been draped over the bronze casket. Along with the other attendees, the president dropped a white rose into the grave before it was sealed. The tomb was marked with a white cross inscribed with Ramos’ name.
Addressing the mourners, Amelita expressed her gratitude for the love shown by the Filipino people to her husband, saying soldiers like him lived a “difficult life.”
“Thank you for your help. Life in the military was difficult but we were able to get through it. President Ramos helped. He did it and he was able to raise five daughters, eight grandsons, and five granddaughters,” she said.
“It was hard to adjust. He would be at home for two years, and in the province two years after that. He also volunteered in Vietnam for two years,” Amelita recalled.
“Thank you for your help. Just like what he said, ‘we can do this.’ Can we do this?” she said, capping her speech with her husband’s famous battle cry, as the crowd applauded.
After the funeral, Marcos stopped by his father’s nearby tomb to pray and pay his respects.
Marcos Sr. was the last former president to be buried at Libingan in November 2016, courtesy of then President Rodrigo Duterte, who brushed off public outrage at his plan.
Ramos served most of his life in the military before he became president from 1992 to 1998, a period now remembered by many as a time of stability and economic growth.
A graduate of the prestigious West Point Academy in the United States, Ramos also saw combat against communist guerrillas back at home. He was later commander of the Philippine Constabulary — the key institution that enforced the brutal repression of dissent after Marcos Sr. declared martial law in 1972.
Ramos broke from Marcos Sr. in February 1986, throwing his support behind a group of young military officers who holed up in a Manila military camp after their plot to topple the leader in a coup was discovered.
The events led to a peaceful uprising that sent the dictator and his family into exile before they were allowed to return to the country in the early 1990s to face multiple cases against them.
An endorsement from Corazon Aquino, the first post-Marcos president, helped Ramos score a narrow presidential victory in 1992.
As president, Ramos solved a crippling power crisis caused by years of under-investment in energy and broke up cartels in telecommunications, aviation, and shipping — boosting a moribund economy that reaped a period of renewed growth.
He also signed peace deals with Muslim separatists and military coup plotters, but communist guerrillas rejected his overtures.
In Pangasinan, the provincial board passed a resolution honoring him and expressing the “greatest sense of grief, sympathy, and condolences” over his death.
Ramos, the first president from the province, was born in Pangasinan’s capital town of Lingayen on March 18, 1928, but grew up in Asingan town. His house on Primicias Street was rebuilt in 1995 based on the family’s original ancestral home, which was destroyed during World War II.
—WITH A REPORT FROM AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
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