“Another thing that I learned about FVR was he hated husbands who physically abuse their wives”
Judging from the tributes that the passing of FVR has been generating not only locally but internationally, he is finally cementing his legacy that he most certainly deserves.
When I got the news of his passing, a lot of fond memories flooded my mind.
This was because I once served as his military aide during his record breaking tenure as Chief of the Philippine Constabulary. This included my being called upon to do some chores for him up to the end of his Presidency.
When I first got into the military as a 21-year-old 2nd Lieutenant, FVR was already a towering figure in our Armed Forces.
He was the first Filipino postwar graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1950 and the founder of the Philippine Army Special Forces.
His exploits during the Korean and Vietnam Wars were also then well known.
To top it all, he was one of the youngest officers to be promoted to General rank at 43 years of age.
He was the kind of officer that every young AFP officer would like to be.
Becoming his senior military aide and being closely associated with him for a long time, however, never entered my mind but, nonetheless, it was an honor and experience which I will cherish for the remainder of my life.
The country by now knows all about FVR’s extraordinary work habits.
He worked more than 16 hours a day and brought with him to Malacanang the military practice of completed staff work which seemed to have challenged many civilian bureaucrats together with his frequent marginal notes written in bold red ink.
Less known to the public perhaps was how he was as a private person, superior and human being.
Was he so different from his official persona?
Firstly, he was an officer and a gentleman in every sense of the word.
In the office, everything was formal and businesslike as it should be.
After office hours, however, it was entirely different.
He would become quite informal and would talk like an equal even to underlings.
One of the things that he enjoyed doing was for us to sometimes drive to the Army-Navy Club around Luneta during summer to swim and have cheeseburger for lunch while in the pool.
Cheeseburger was the standard lunch during my entire tour with him.
It was during such times when I would ask him questions like why he did not simply join the US Army when he graduated from West Point considering that he reported to that school prior to Philippine independence.
His answer was “I did not relish the idea of having to ride at the back of a bus.” This was obviously in reference to the overt racism in the US during those times.
I also remember asking him why he stayed and persevered in the military considering that, with his qualifications, he could have gotten into a much higher paying job.
He said that although that thought crossed his mind, he never really seriously considered leaving the service. Although he did not use the word love of the service and country, I understood his reasons to be exactly that.
Another thing that I learned about him was he hated husbands who physically abuse their wives.
I once referred to him about a wife of a senior officer who complained about her abusive husband.
Once we verified the veracity of the complaint, FVR saw to it that the officer concerned who was due for promotion was not promoted which apparently forced him to take early retirement.
Since FVR liked to travel around the country, we spent long hours in vintage Air Force planes like the C-47s and the Vietnam Huey helicopters traveling around the country.
It was in one of these trips that I found out how cool a customer FVR was under pressure.
In one of our return trips from Mindanao and about to land in Villamor Air Base, the pilot had to suddenly abort the landing due to heavy rain and very poor visibility.
The pilot apparently almost hit a structure. While everyone was so agitated, FVR did not even bother to wake up from his nap until we landed.
When I asked him how he could remain calm with what happened, he simply smiled and was totally nonchalant about the whole episode.
When I related the incident to Mrs. Ming Ramos afterwards, I learned that as a young officer, he also crashlanded in a small plane in Laguna during the Hukbalahap Campaign in the 1950s.
Another incident that has stayed with me all these years was when a Manila policeman saluted FVR with a huge diamond ring on his ring finger that left him shaking his head.
Still another was when I was made to return a Rolex gold watch sent as a birthday present by a Provincial Governor who was reputed to be a smuggler.
It is unfortunate that in the last three years of his life, he was unable to interact with his friends, golf buddies, political allies and those with whom he served with in the military due to the pandemic.
But he lived a long, fruitful and fulfilled life.
No one among our recent Presidents has served the country as long as he did.
He journeyed on, content that he did his country proud and the nation owes him a huge debt of gratitude.
My sincere condolences to his family especially to Mrs. Ming Ramos who lost her beloved steady Eddie.