by Donna Amis Davis

President Fidel Ramos on our flight

Former President Fidel Ramos of the Philippines

On a recent flight from Manila to the U.S., my husband Bill, seated on the aisle, nudged me. “Look! That’s President Ramos!”

Sure enough, President Fidel Ramos was making his way down the crowded airplane aisle, greeting passengers and good-naturedly posing for countless photos.

During our 30+ years of living in the Philippines – from 1981 to 2012 – Ramos was my favorite Philippine president. I really enjoyed seeing him in person, in this informal setting. I was impressed by his friendliness. And by his agility! At one point he hopped up on an airplane seat to pose next to a tall American man. We couldn’t believe how easily he did that. We had to look up his age as soon as we could. Ramos was born in 1928, making him 86 years old! Wow.

President Ramos greets fellow passengers

Fidel V. Ramos was president of the Philippines from 1992 to 1998. He is widely regarded as one of the country’s most effective presidents.

We lived in Manila the year he was elected. At that time, the Philippines was suffering from a power crisis. 10 to 12 hour blackouts occured daily. That was pretty miserable for us, but even more terrible for those running businesses.

During those years political and peace and order situations divided the nation. However, Ramos’ economic, political, and peace programs resulted in the Philippines’ political stability and modest growth during his presidency. Ramos is also credited for the relatively low impact of the 1997 Asian financial crisis on the Philippine economy.

Ramos Peace and Development Foundation

We were catching President Ramos on a flight as he embarked on a 15-day trip in the U.S. to meet with members of Filipino communities, particularly veterans and business leaders, to help extend the ties between the two countries. Accompanied by his wife, Amelita, he was visiting five cities – Atlanta, Georgia; New Haven, Connecticut; West Point, New York; and Los Angeles and San Diego, California. He is still tirelessly working to promote the welfare of the Philippines.

Our Ramos Connection

When we disembarked in Portland for our connecting flight, former President Ramos, along with his wife and traveling companions had to stand in line at the security checkpoint. We were really surprised that he wasn’t whisked off to a VIP line. Instead he patiently stood, inching forward with the rest of us, and removed his shoes just like the rest of us non-former-presidents. My husband Bill caught up with him as he was collecting his belongings after the security check.

Bill thanked him for his service to the Philippines, our adopted country of so many years.

And Bill shared our Ramos Connection story. When our daughter was in high school in Manila, in 1995, she and some of her high school friends were invited to help hostess at the grand opening of the Eastridge Golf Resort. President Ramos was the honored guest. As he breezed into the club, smoking one of his famous cigars, he greeted the girls at the reception desk, including our daughter. After the luncheon the girls got to drive golf carts for the VIP guests. As Bill recounted this memory, Ramos seemed to remember the occasion, too. He smiled and said, “Eastridge is still 5 stars. You should go back there.” He still loves to play golf, just one of the many ways he keeps himself so physically fit at his age.

And I’m smiling right now at my memory of this gracious elder statesman of the Philippines.