Early life and education
Former Philippine President Fidel Ramos was born on March 18, 1928 in Lingayen, Pangasinan. His father, Narciso Ramos (1900-1986), was a lawyer, crusading journalist and 5-term legislator of the House of Representatives, who eventually rose to the position of Secretary of Foreign Affairs. As such, Narciso Ramos was the Philippine signatory to the ASEAN declaration forged in Bangkok in 1967 and was one of the founding fathers of the Liberal Party. His mother, Angela Valdez-Ramos (1905-1977), was an educator, woman suffragette and daughter of the respected Valdez clan of Batac, Ilocos Norte making him a second degree cousin to Ferdinand Marcos. He took his elementary education in Lingayen and secondary education at the University of the Philippines Integrated School and Centro Escolar University Integrated School.
In 1946, Ramos, barely months after enrolling in the Philippines’ National University, joined the Philippine Military Academy as cadet and won a government scholarship to the United States Military Academy in West Point. He pursued further studies in engineering following his graduation from West Point in 1950, obtaining a Masters Degree in Civil Engineering at the University of Illinois, where he was also a government scholar in 1951. He is a licensed civil engineer in the Philippines, passing the board exams in 1953 and finishing in the top 10. In 1960, he topped Special Forces-Psy Operations-Airborne course at the United States Army Infantry School at Fort Benning.
Ramos also holds a Master’s Degree in National Security Administration from the National Defense College of the Philippines and a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) from the Ateneo de Manila University.
In his military career, Ramos rose from 2nd Lieutenant infantry platoon leader in the Philippine Expeditionary Force to Korea (PEFTOK) in 1952 during the Korean War to Chief of Staff of the Philippine Civil Action Group to Vietnam from 1966 to 1968.
Ramos, along with the Philippines‘ 20th Battalion Combat Team and his fellow West Point graduates of the 1950s, fought in the Korean War. Ramos was one of the heroes of the Battle of Hill Eerie, where he led his platoon to sabotage the enemy in Hill Eerie. He was also present in the Vietnam War as a non-combat civil military engineer.
Ramos has received several military awards including the Philippine Legion of Honor, the Gold Cross, Philippine Military Merit Medal, the United States Legion of Merit, the French Legion of Honor and the U.S. Military Academy Distinguished Award.
Ramos served the Marcos regime for more than 20 years. He was head of the Philippine Constabulary, the country’s national police force, and was one of Marcos’ trusted advisers. He was a member of the infamous Rolex 12, an elite group of conspirators loyal to Marcos himself.
When it became apparent that Marcos rigged the 1986 snap Presidential Elections, Ramos, together with Marcos’ Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile, changed allegiance and sided with opposition leader Corazon Aquino This marked the beginning of the People Power Revolution, and their move became the living symbol of military defiance against Marcos. The military followed his lead and swung the pendulum in Aquino’s favor.
After Aquino assumed the Presidency, she appointed Ramos Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and later Secretary of National Defense. During this time, Ramos personally handled the military operations that crushed seven coup attempts against the Aquino government. After the coup, the National Unification Commission was created, and its chairman Haydee Yorac, together with Ramos, recommended to President Aquino the granting of amnesty to the rebel military officers of the Reform the Armed forces Movement (RAM) led by Col. Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan. After the amnesty was accepted, Ramos ordered the rebel soldiers to make 50 push ups as punishment.
When belittled by the press regarding his combat record, Ramos responded with trademark sarcasm:
I fought the communists as part of the BCT’s (Battalion Combat Team). I was battalion staff officer, company commander, task force commander, special forces group commander. I was in the Huk campaign, Korea, Vietnam. I led the advance party of the Phil-CAG and went to war zone Z–the so called Alligator’s jaw where Max Solve said “The Viet-Cong will eat you up.” We were there as non-combat troops. Try to be a non-combat troop in a forward combat area. That is the toughest assignment.
In Korea, I was a platoon leader. Recon leader. Our job? To recon the front line–the no man’s land. What did we do? We assaulted the Communist Chinese and wiped them all out! This Special Forces group we commanded in the Army in 1962 to 1965? That was the only combat unit remaining in the country. The rest were training as a Division set-up. We were in Luzon, Sulu, Marawi. Who was sent? Ramos. We raided the camp besieged by 400 rebels.
I was commander here and abroad. I never had an assignment abroad that was not combat. For thirty seven years, no soft jobs for Ramos. I went to West Point, Fort Benning, Fort Bragg. I was airborne, I was one of the first four Filipinos sent to the U.S. for special forces training. I was top constable and helped established the SAF (Special Action Force). I was Chief of Staff of the AFP and then President. So next time look at the a man’s record. Huwag kayong sulat ng sulat (don’t just write and write). You say I have no combat experience? I bet now, you are all sorry you asked.