Two great Filipino leaders

COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva - The Philippine Star

A fellowship program that aims to cultivate and inculcate the enduring legacy of the late president Fidel V. Ramos (FVR) was launched yesterday at the University of the Philippines (UP) in Diliman in Quezon City. Named after him, the UP-National College of Public Administration and Governance (UP-NCPAG), the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) and The FVR Legacy Initiative officially unveiled FIDEL V. RAMOS LEAD4R Fellowship Program on Advanced Governance and Leadership for Public Sector Reform.

In simple ceremonies, the fellowship program was launched to mark the 96th birth anniversary of the late president. Born on March 18, 1928, FVR died on July 31, 2022 at age 94. His wife, former first lady Amelita “Ming” Ramos, received the plaque of appreciation on behalf of the rest of the family.

The State University is very close to the heart of FVR, who studied at the UP High School in Manila, which is now the UP Integrated School in Diliman. Ramos received 28 honorary doctorate degrees in his lifetime, including a Doctor of Laws degree, honoris causa, from the UP.

A soldier who became a statesman through various leadership roles he played for his beloved country, the newly launched fellowship program cited FVR for having “solidly affixed democratic principles to economic development, and in succeeding, gave his nation, the region and the world a leadership model worthy of emulation.”

“He undertook these roles by systematically attending to both political and economic empowerment. The economic growth that he thought to be the true foundation for democratic reform defined his presidency, both in his home country and internationally,” the fellowship program further cited.

The fellowship program is a public-private sector partnership that advances the FVR Legacy of Leadership, Governance and Reform. The UP-NCPAG will implement it, through its Center for Leadership Citizenship and Democracy (CLCD) in collaboration with the MAP and The FVR Legacy Initiative co-chaired by FVR’s daughter Angel Ramos and former finance secretary Roberto de Ocampo.

The program consists of an advanced governance and leadership course for continuing professional education. It is open to current and emerging leaders from the government, civil society and the private sector who believe in the power of collaboration, transparency, accountability and inclusion to advance public sector reform and achieve sustainable and resilient development.

Through the “experiential learning” component of the course, LEAD4R Fellows will also be exposed to good practices and innovations in the Philippines and abroad in pursuing meaningful changes in the organization, the community and at the national level. Upon completion of the program – an equivalent of six units of a masteral program – LEAD4R Fellows will join the wide network of fellows, alumni and graduate students of UP-NCPAG to further advance their ideas and ideals.

It is a ten-month, non-degree executive program that, at the end of the course, “will equip participants with results-oriented leadership tools, holistic and critical thinking skills, a collaborative mindset for problem-solving and a ‘bibingka’ approach to policy and program implementation.”

The “bibingka,” or rice cake, brought back memories of covering FVR from 1992-1998 in and out of Malacañang Palace. Even if speaking abroad in his state and official visits abroad, FVR always punctuated them with extemporaneous spiels on how “bibingka” is being cooked to impart his constant message to the Filipino people.

FVR likened achieving economic growth to cooking the popular Filipino rice cake, bibingka.

For the country’s progress or economic development, FVR called upon the Filipinos look at “bibingka” being cooked from both the top and the bottom. The “top fire” (or coals) represented the government efforts while the “bottom fire” represented the private sector’s cooperation and initiatives.

It encapsulized FVR’s unending call for unity, solidarity and teamwork, or UST acronym as we reporters dubbed it.

Another former president of the Philippines, the late Ramon Magsaysay, was remembered on his 67th death anniversary through commemorative rites held last Monday. The University Santo Tomas (UST) Miguel de Benavides Library hosted the commemoration of Magsaysay’s tragic plane crash on March 17, 1957 with a launching of a new edition of a book written about that fateful day.

This plane crash claimed the life of president Magsaysay and 25 others on board. Except for one lucky passenger, a journalist who was covering Magsaysay on this flight and was caught inside the plane’s lavatory that saved his life. Found inside the lavatory of the crashed aircraft was Nestor Mata, a Philippines Herald reporter. Mata lived to tell his harrowing experience through a book he wrote, a firsthand account of the fateful incident as the only living witness.

Co-authored by Mata and Vicente Villafranca, the new edition of the book was aptly entitled “One Came Back: The Magsaysay Tragedy.” The UST Library, in collaboration with Mata’s family, organized the book launch celebrating a poignant tribute to president Magsaysay and a commemoration of the lives lost in the Magsaysay plane crash.

The presidential plane, a C-47 airplane, crashed into Mt. Manunggal in Barangay Sunog, Balamban town. The Army aircraft, ironically was named “Mt. Pinatubo,” then an inactive volcano, located in Magsaysay’s home province of Zambales.

Designated as the official presidential plane, “Mt. Pinatubo” was a refurbished twin-engine C-47.

Despite late engagements in Cebu City, Magsaysay refused offers to stay overnight, citing an early meeting at Malacañang the next day. Mata noticed the absence of air conditioning of the ill-fated plane, not knowing it was the president who had it removed to avoid criticisms. At 1:15 a.m. on that day, the plane took off, but the smooth flight quickly turned into a horrifying incident. In his book, Mata described a sudden, jolting fall, likened to “a thousand lights blinking out at the same time.”

An alumnus of the UST, Mata captured through his literary and prose the final moments of President Magsaysay. Mata was honored at the launching of the new edition of his book for his contributions as an educator in political science, journalism and foreign relations. Mata died at 92 years old on April 12, 2018.

History has been kind to Magsaysay and FVR, and both are recognized as two great leaders of the Filipino nation.

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