March 18 marks the 92nd birthday of Fidel Valdes Ramos, the 12th president of the Philippines, who served from 1992 to 1998. “He is arguably among the best-educated Filipino leaders ever,” wrote academic and political analyst Richard Heydarian in his 2018 column for the Philippine Daily Inquirer. “He is also among the most globally renowned regional leaders, with a stellar record of hyperactive diplomacy and prolific writing. In fact, during his time, the Philippines was a key driver within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.”
We look back at the life and achievements of the man whose presidency was best remembered for having brought political and economic stability to the country.
He comes from a family of achievers.
His father is lawyer, journalist, five-time congressman, secretary of foreign affairs, and Liberal Party founding member Narciso Ramos, while his mother is Angela Valdez, an educator and advocate of women’s suffrage. The only son and eldest of three children, President Ramos is the brother of the late senator Leticia Ramos Shahani.
He and his wife, former first lady Amelita “Ming” Ramos, have five children—all daughters that include Cristina Ramos-Jalasco (the first female president of the Philippine Olympic Committee) and the late Josephine Ramos-Samartino (a singer and drummer of the band Power Player).
He has an impressive military career.
Though he finished a degree in civil engineering from the National University (and landed eighth in the board exams), he pursued a career in the military after completing studies at the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1950. He served in the Korean War and the Vietnam War (the latter as a civil military engineer) then founded the Philippine Army Special Forces.
His distinguished military service is capped with numerous awards that include the Philippine Legion of Honor (twice, in 1988 and 1991), the United States Legion of Honor, and the French Legion of Honor, among other accolades.
He was one of the key personalities of the Edsa Revolution.
In the days leading up to the People Power Revolution in 1986, the then Armed Forces of the Philippines Vice Chief of Staff and Philippine Constabulary Chief resigned from the administration of then president Ferdinand Marcos. Along with then defense minister Juan Ponce Enrile, he showed his support for Corazon Aquino, widow of slain senator and vocal Marcos critic Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr.
News of Marcos and his family leaving Malacañang Palace during the peaceful rally saw Fidel Ramos jump for joy before a huge gathering of Filipinos along Edsa. Since then, he has repeated the jump annually in every Edsa Revolution anniversary, until 2019, when gout and other health concerns forced him to skip the event.
He accomplished a lot in his presidency.
Though not without criticism and controversy, President Ramos’ administration led the Philippines to economic growth, earning it the nickname Tiger Cub Economy in Asia. His frequent trips abroad (making him the most-traveled president of the Philippines) generated foreign investments of $20 billion for the country. And at a time of power shortages resulting in frequent blackouts in the metro, he used his emergency powers to grant licenses to independent power producers to build power plants within two years, which the government would eventually purchase in US dollars.