MANILA -The saying that “age does not matter” fits well with former President Fidel V. Ramos, who at 90 still plays golf with vigor aside from doing push-ups and sit-ups from time to time to keep him in shape.
FVR, as he is popularly known, plays golf once a week at Camp Aguinaldo golf course in Quezon City with a retinue of golfing buddies, mostly retired military officers and former members of his cabinet.
His golf mates include National Security Adviser Hermogenes C. Esperon Jr., Defense Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana, Secretary Ernesto Pernia, former Police Gen. Sonny Razon, former Defense Secretary Eduardo Ermita, Deputy National Security Adviser Vic Agdamag, former Brig. Gen. Mitz Templo, for Gen. Bob Manlongat, former Gen. Rey Velasco, retired Gen. Agerico Kagaoan, Ms. Annette Ocampo, former Ambassador Acmad Omar, retired Maj. Gen. Charlie Taπega and former Interior Secretary Raffy Alunan, to name a few.
Mel Bergado, FVR’s close aide, said the former President always makes it a point to play a nine-hole golf game on weekends to relax and stay fit and healthy.
As a retired military officer and a paratrooper with 118 parachute jumps to his credit, FVR knows the value of regular exercise to keep a person in top shape.
Playing golf has been in his system for several decades now and continues to do so as long as his aging muscles would allow.
FVR celebrated his 90th birthday three days before the actual date jointly with his wife, former First Lady Ming Ramos on Thursday, March 15.
The joint celebration was tendered by the Board of Trustees of the Ramos Peace and Development Foundation at the Manila Polo Club in Makati City Thursday night.
FVR also took the occasion to launch his latest book “Challenges of Change.”
Despite his age, FVR is witty as ever with such a sharp memory that during the book launching he called his friends by their names.
In fact, when he saw former TV-4 reporter, Justine Letargo, he called her name to the surprise of the latter. Letargo is now working with the World Bank office in Manila.
During the program that followed, the audience was delighted when FVR and Mrs. Ramos performed an impromptu dance number.
An audio visual presentation entitled “FVR Service & Legacy to the Nation" was shown to the audience, followed by song numbers from singer-actress Carmen Soriano and Lemuel dela Cruz. A special ballet dance was performed by Macel Doritas.
The MSO Scholar Quartet with Damodar Das Castillo also rendered songs dedicated to FVR and his wife.
What delighted the audience was the song of former cabinet members, government officials, and ambassadors who attended the joint birthday celebration.
According to Bergado, FVR still does 20 push-ups despite his age. The former President also does sit-ups once in a while.
“The last time President Ramos did 20-push ups was on Jan. 13, 2018. But on Dec. 3 and 16, 2017, FVR also did push-ups,” Bergado said.
With regard to his diet, FVR eats vegetables, particularly his favorite ampalaya, salmon belly, a piece of fried chicken, a little rice, a bit of kamote and banana, and a small amount of ice cream, another favorite of his, especially when his golf buddy scores a birdie,” Bergado said laughing.
Looking back, FVR faithfully served his country for almost five decades, mostly in the military service after graduating from West Point in New York in 1950.
FVR volunteered for combat duty during the Korean War where he had his baptism of fire when he led his troops under the 20th Battalion Combat Team in the capture of Eerie Hill.
Upon returning home from Korea, FVR as a young lieutenant saw action against the Huks in the mid-1950s when he again proved his mettle in combat.
When the Vietnam War broke out, again FVR volunteered to go to Vietnam as a member of the Philippine Civic Action Group (PHILCAG).
PHILCAG became a byword among the Vietnamese when the Filipinos extended medical and dental services to the Vietnamese people, aside from constructing infrastructure projects in that war-torn country.
FVR was later designated as chief of the Philippine Constabulary (PC) and concurrent chief of the Integrated National Police (INP) by then President Ferdinand E. Marcos. At that time, the PC was part of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
The PC was deeply involved in the AFP’s counter-insurgency campaign against the communist New People’s Army (NPA), the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and its breakaway group the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in the ‘70s and ‘80s.
It was during the Mindanao War when Gen. Ramos led government forces in repelling the attack by Muslim rebels on the PC headquarters in Marawi City in 1973.
As PC/INP chief, FVR was made a point to visit his troops in far-flung areas in Mindanao, Samar, Leyte and in Northern Luzon to boost their morale in the government’s counter-insurgency war.
His defining moment in his military career was the EDSA People Power revolution in 1986 as one of the key players in toppling the authoritarian Marcos regime.
The other key players were then Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile, Jaime Cardinal Sin, Colonel and now Sen. Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan, and former Sen. Butz Aquino.
As an ordinary citizen, FVR continues his work to help boost the Philippine economy with his battle cry of “Unity, Solidarity and Teamwork.”
Another “secret” of FVR’s longevity is his bagful of jokes and lively conversation during a lull of their golf game and while eating together.
Once he said that the secret of living up to 100 years old is simple: “Make sure you reach 99 because there is a big possibility you reach the century mark!” (PNA)