MANILA (UPDATE) — Supporters of the late President Fidel V. Ramos, regarded as one of the country's most effective leaders, patiently waited under sweltering heat to pay their final respects during his funeral procession on Tuesday.
Mourners outside the Heritage Park in Taguig City held an umbrella on one hand and on the other, a small white flag with the phrase, “Paalam at salamat (thank you and goodbye) FVR”.
Mostly clad in white and some wearing black armbands, the supporters of the 12th Philippine President waited for around 2 hours, standing a few feet apart, as they lined the funeral cortege route at Bayani Road.
They waved their flags and black ribbons as a wagon bearing the flag-draped coffin containing the urn with Ramos' ashes passed by.
“Nakipagluksa kami kay Sir Fidel Ramos. Nakikiramay kami… Ginawa niya ang duty niya bilang presidente dito sa Pilipinas,” supporter Dolores Mendoza said.
(We mourn the death of sir Fidel Ramos. We offer our condolences. He did his duty as a Philippine President.)
Sixty-year-old Lorenzo Lorono remembered Ramos for his role in the 1986 People Power revolution that overthrew Ferdinand Marcos Sr. and installed Corazon Aquino to the presidency.
“Magiting po siya (Ramos) na sundalo… Nakiisa po siya para matapos ang tinatawag na martial law,” Lorono said.
(He was a good soldier and he was among those who helped end martial law.)
“Paalam, salamat, sa iyong mga nagawang tulong at demokrasya, pagmamalasakit sa kapwa Pilipino,” he added.
(Goodbye and thank you for what you did in our democracy and for caring for our fellow Filipinos.)
Also among those who queued outside the Libingan ng mga Bayani early Tuesday morning was 64-year-old Raymundo Marcelo, Jr., who is part of the Boy Scouts of the Philippines (BSP) Taguig City Associate Council.
Together with around 200 boy scouts, Marcelo led the group to pay their respects for the late president by rendering their trademark salute.
“Dati siyang chief scout executive, at during his term, he intensified the Boy Scouts of the Philippines — the program and activities and all. Everything about scouting, inintensify niya. Maraming jamborees ang naganap during his tenure,” Marcelo said.
“Kaya napakahalaga…nalulungkot kami sa kanyang pagpanaw,” he added.
(He intensified everything about scouting. There were many jamborees during his tenure. That's why it was so important. We are saddened by his passing.)
Most of the boy scouts who lined up Tuesday were around the age of 17 while there were also 10-12-year-olds — all of whom were not yet around when Ramos finished his term in 1998.
Not all of them have heard about Ramos’ much vaunted economic policies nor his success in the peace talks with the Moro National Liberation Front and how he dealt with a power crisis at the beginning of his term.
But Marcelo, a 50-year boy scout veteran, made sure his boy scouts knew the significance of why they had to line up so early in the morning.
“Natutuwa sila kasi kahit papaano, makikita nila ang huling pagpupugay na igagawad sa dating pangulo,” he said.
“Kailangan natin ipakita yung huling paggalang dahil wala na siya,” he continued.
(They are happy because they will see the last respects we pay to a former president. We need to show respect because he's gone.)
A block away from the Libingan ng mga Bayani, housewife Myrna Andrade also lined up as early as 8 a.m.
Dressed in white and waving a flaglet, Andrade said she had to walk all the way from her house in another part of Taguig just so she could catch a glimpse of the late president’s funeral cortege.
“Ok naman po pamamalakad niya…Sa 6 na taon na pagsilbi, parang wala namang pangit na nagawa siya,” she said.
“Karangalan din po namin makita siya.”
(His tenure was okay. During his 6 years in service, it seems he did not do anything bad. It's an honor to see him.)
A graduate of the prestigious West Point military academy in the United States, Ramos was a career soldier who saw combat against communist rebels and overseas deployment in the Korean War and the Vietnam War.
He was later commander of the paramilitary Philippine Constabulary until he broke from Marcos Sr.
Ramos then served as military chief and then defense secretary under Corazon Aquino. Her endorsement helped him win the presidency in 1992.
As president, Ramos oversaw a rare period of economic growth as he solved a power crisis caused by years of under-investment in energy, and broke up cartels in telecommunications, aviation and shipping.
He also signed peace deals with Muslim separatists and military coup-plotters, but communist rebels rejected his overtures.
Fifteen-year-old Robelyn Carpio said she only knew Ramos through history books and stories from her parents, but said she was grateful for the late president’s contributions to the country.
“Pagkakilala ko po sa kanya, isa po siyang matapang na dating pangulo. Marami po siyang natulungan sa ating mamamayan,” she said.
(I knew him as a strong and brave former President. He helped a lot of our compatriots.)
Some supporters came from as far as Cavite province to bid farewell to Ramos.
“Naging maganda ‘yung pamamalakad niya noon… kaya ginusto namin makiisa sa araw ng kanyang libing. Marami siyang ginawang programa na naging maayos naman… ekonomiya, mga trabaho… para hindi mapag-iwanan ang Pilipinas," said supporter Cecille Olaes.
“Nakakalungkot, syempre, kasi isa rin siya sa mga naging pundasyon ng Pilipinas.”
(He ran the country well that was why we wanted to witness his burial. He implemented a lot of programs that helped our economy, created jobs. We were sad about his passing because he was a pillar of the Philippines.)
Mourner Marifi Anthony added, “Dating pangulo ‘yun eh. Edi natural na maiyak ka. May ginawa naman siyang maganda eh… sa ekonomiya.”
(He was a former president so it was just natural for a person to cry. He did a lot of things right for our economy.)
The leader's widow Amelita "Ming" Ramos thanked Filipinos for their support, reiterating her husband's iconic slogan, "Kaya natin ito."
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. joined the ex-leader's widow and relatives as the silver urn with the cremated remains was lowered into the ground after a military parade and a 21-gun salute.
Ramos died late last month aged 94. The cause of death was not specified.
— With reports from Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News; Agence France-Presse