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Newsmakers

Here comes the bride

PEOPLE - Joanne Rae M. Ramirez - The Philippine Star
Here comes the bride

Former President Fidel “Eddie” Valdez Ramos and the First Lady of his life Amelita “Ming” Martinez Ramos celebrated recently their 66th wedding anniversary in the most fun way. They put on costumes upon the prodding of their millennial grandchildren why, even Ming wore a headband that read “Bride.”

Eddie and Ming’s wedding on Oct. 21, 1953 at the Central Church, now known as Central United Methodist Church in Manila. Reception followed at the Philippine Navy Officers Club.

The couple were married at the Central Church, now known as Central United Methodist Church in Manila. The groom was a young army officer. He was elected to the highest post of the land in 1992, but FVR, according to his grandson Sam Ramos Jones, never forgot for a minute who was the real commander-in-chief of his home.

The secret to their longevity and the longevity of their marriage?

“They’ve balanced who will be the leader in their respective roles. And have deep mutual respect. So my lolo has his military and political career. And my lola was never one to want to be in that limelight. But when it comes to the home and family matters, my lola is the commanding officer and my lolo has never tried to dispute that,” says Sam, a Yale-educated technocrat.

As FVR was conferred the Lifetime Contributor award of the Asia CEO Awards 2019, Ming was being honored for the longest, continuing record of service to International School Manila (ISM).

As the ISM marked its 100th anniversary, it also paid tribute to the life and service of Mrs. Ramos.

Mrs. Ramos first joined the American school in May 1955 as assistant registrar and part-time PE instructor. Since then, she has held a variety of roles, including in testing and admissions, and has been the high school registrar since 1984. The AMR hall, one of the most widely used rooms in the school, is named in her honor.

The year 2020 will usher in Mrs. Ramos’ 65th year at ISM. The longevity of Mrs. Ramos’ tenure is a testament to her untiring and hardworking spirit, and life-long love of education.

Former President Ramos with grandchildren Leanna and CJ Sembrano, Patrick Jalasco and Sergio Ramos-Samartino.

Mrs. Ramos’ life outside of ISM is just as accomplished.She has raised five daughters Angel, Jo, Chula, Cristy and Margie, and eight grandchildren with incredible love, generosity and patience. Two of those daughters and a grandson are graduates of ISM.

Originally from La Paz, Iloilo, Ming’s parents were both national innovators in their respective fields, as well as strong advocates of the Protestant work ethic. Her father, Rufino Martinez, was the country’s first US-trained naval architect, and her mother, Josefa Jara Martinez, was the country’s pioneer social worker.

Before settling down in Manila, Ming earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Physical Education from Boston University and went on to earn a Master of Science in Physical Education and Recreation from the University of California, Los Angeles. She became a national champion swimmer and badminton player and later in life served as president of the Philippine Badminton Association.

In 1953, two years before she began working at ISM, she married Fidel V. Ramos — then a young officer in the Philippine Army. The life of an army wife was never easy, and Mrs. Ramos was often left on her own to raise her children during her husband’s months-long deployments. She did so in a quiet dignity all the while supplementing her family’s finances through her work at ISM. She learned to drive, change light bulbs and even fix the pipes when the sink was clogged, she once told me in an interview.

From 1992 to 1998, Mrs. Ramos was the First Lady. Though despite her husband’s presidency, Mrs. Ramos chose to continue her professional career at ISM. She brokered a deal with her husband: from Mondays to Wednesdays she would continue to work at ISM, while Thursday onwards she would carry out official public duties as First Lady. In doing so, she broke with historical precedent, becoming the first First Lady in Philippine history to hold a job.

And despite Mrs. Ramos’ continued commitments at ISM, she was extremely active as First Lady — championing the arts, sports, Filipino culture, livelihood and the environment.

At home in the official presidential residence in Arlegui, to which she invited me once, Mrs. Ramos had a washing machine installed in her bathroom. Having lived in the US, she learned to do her basic laundry and she was not about to change that habit.

She toured me around the presidential mansion and every time we left a room that was not in use, I remember she would switch off the lights like a budget-conscious housewife.

Having grown up in a family that loved music, Ming is also a gifted pianist.

Mrs. Ramos’ love of the environment and nature has seen her cultivate a life-long love of gardening and plant collecting and is well known in that community as well — particularly among bromeliad and orchid enthusiasts. In 1994, she led the development of the Orchidarium in Luneta Park and the Ascocenda Amelita Ramos orchid is named after her.

In Silang, Cavite, Mrs. Ramos established “Ming’s Garden,” a sprawling plant nursery, which also has a Filipino restaurant and serves as a venue for private events.

According to her grandson Sam, his lola still sticks to a regimen: Monday to Wednesday she’s at work at ISM;  Thursday is her salon day; Friday she visits Ming’s Garden in Cavite; Saturday is supermarket day; and the whole Sunday is family day in the orchid-filled Alabang home.

Like a precious Ming jar, she’s a rare find. *

FIDEL RAMOS
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