The late former President Fidel V. Ramos was an avid golfer known for his tennis-style shorts and belly putter, and his penchant for challenging fellow golfers to 100 pushups while waiting for their turn to tee off.
FVR, as he was fondly called, played regularly at the Navy golf course assisted by his regular caddie of more than three decades — Ricardo “Teroy” Peraren who hails from Bacolod City.
Peraren recalled his first meeting with FVR in 1987.
“I was on deck and I had the fortune of getting his golf bag. It didn’t take long before we got used to each other. Since then, I became his regular caddie,” Peraren said in the vernacular.
On Wednesday, Peraren was at his usual post at Navy waiting for his regular player.
His voice was cracking while reminiscing his decades-old friendship with FVR, a police general who rose to become the country’s 12th president.
“Everything I had I owe it to Sir FVR. He was very kind, humble and generous,” said Peraren who last saw the former Chief Executive two years ago in chance meeting in a Makati hotel.
“I was in the vicinity because I was trying to redeem my confiscated driver’s license,” said Peraren who moonlighted as a Grab driver.
“I couldn’t get near him, but one of his bodyguards saw me and signaled the security guard to let me pass,” the 62-year-old caddie said.
FVR asked him what he was doing in Makati and told him about his predicament.
“He just shook his head, dug deep into his pocket and gave me a few thousands to pay for the penalty,” Peraren said.
The next time he got wind of FVR was through a phone call from Col. Alex Sembrano, his son-in-law, just minutes after the former president passed away on Sunday at the age of 94.
“I cried a river,” he admitted.
FVR, the golfer
The man loved sports in general, but golf was his life.
Until three years ago, FVR would always make it a point to play at least once a week at Navy.
“When he became president, he played frequently because he entertained a lot of foreign guests,” he recalled.
Peraren said FVR was a decent golfer. His handicap ranged from 16 to 26.
“Until he got older, we would jog from the first to the 18th hole,” he chuckled.
FVR, like any other golfer, would wait for his turn at the tee box.
“However, when he finds out that there are young officers also waiting at the tee mound. He would call them and do 100 pushups with him,” Peraren recalled.
Although he played golf for fun, FVR was competitive, according to Peraren.
He introduced a game within a game which he called “Bingo, Bango, Bongo.”
The first player to reach the green, the first to putt and the first to hole out gets 1 point. An extra point is given to anyone who makes birdie.
Peraren said FVR was generous in giving gimmie putts.
“He would always ask, ‘Kaya mo na ba yan?,’ before giving the putt,” he recalled.
His favorite hole at Navy is at No. 13, a straightforward par-5 with a small creek in front of the green whose back slopes toward the water.
Every time he hits his rescue from 100 yards, FVR would ask Peraren: “Flag attack or aftershock?”
Flag attack meant that he would go for the pin while aftershock meant going over it and letting the ball drop back.
FVR always played with a partner and had friendly wagers.
“Each player bet P310. Why? Because the P10 goes to me, their scorer,” he said.
Peraren said FVR played the game of his life when he shot his age when he was 79 years old.
“He was so happy, he had the scorecard displayed at the Navy clubhouse,” he added.
If there’s one thing that FVR regretted before he died, it was not scoring a hole-in-one.
“He promised to bring me and my family to a month-long vacation to Hong Kong if he made the ace,” Peraren said.
After more than 60 years of playing, Peraren said FVR stuck to one set of clubs — a cross between irons and woods.
“It was an old Honma. The only thing that changed was the bag which was also an old model,” Peraren.
There were times when FVR asked Peraren to drop by his house at Ayala Alabang to look for clubs that would suit him.
“There’s a sort of museum in their house where FVR collects all his memorabilia, including golf sets given to him. We would try some, but eventually, he would go back to his old clubs,” he said.
During later years, Peraren said FVR changed his driver to Callaway Hawkeye, a model from the nineties.
FVR played his last round in 2019, telling Peraren he’s already weak and could no longer hit the ball like he used to.
FVR, a friend
In 1997, Peraren lost Arjay, his three-year-old son, to a tragic accident.
With father out on the course, mother at the market and his other siblings still asleep, Arjay managed to get out of their rented house by the rail and was crushed by a speeding train.
It took 12 years before Peraren asked FVR to help him get a unit in a government relocation site in Trece Martires, Cavite.
Peraren said houses along the Philippine National Railway (PNR) were being demolished to give way for widening.
“I sought FVR’s help and he did not hesitate. He took out his pen and wrote Mike Defensor, who then was in charge of housing,” he said.
Peraren said he went to Quezon City, showed the letter to the guard and was summoned by Defensor to his office.
In two weeks, he received the letter of approval. Another two weeks, he got to see his 36-square meter unit in the relocation side.
Six months later, they were living in their new home.
FVR’s generosity was legendary.
In the eighties, Peraren said FVR was giving him P600 at a time when caddie’s fee was P60.
In later years, Peraren said he was receiving P5,000, sometimes P10,000 whenever FVR did not show up a week before.
The former president gave his personal number to Peraren so he could call him anytime he needed him.
“FVR helped my daughter land a job in a bank when she graduated. She also helped my second daughter pay her tuition in college,” he said.
Peraren said FVR regularly provided him shirts, shorts and socks and was happy to see him wearing them.
“He would give me additional P1,000 if he sees me wearing the clothes he gave me,” he said.
FVR treated the Perarens as family and would regularly invite them to his house during gatherings. He served as wedding godfather to Renalyn and Rechelle.
Throughout their friendship, Peraren said he could not get recall any instance that FVR scolded him.
“His bodyguards called me as FVR’s favorite,” he said.
Peraren said FVR wore lens-less eyeglasses and loved telling people about it.
“The only time he wore conventional eyeglasses was when he’s reading,” he said.
FVR also did not have a wallet with him, according to Peraren.
“His bills were bonded together by rubber bands,” he disclosed.
FVR had calm demeanor on the course and always had fun playing the game he loved.
“He’s a bad bunker player. He would use a putter to get off it, sometimes away from the green just to make sure he gets out,” he narrated.
It has been two years since their last meeting, but the memories still linger for Peraren.
He comes home only on weekends, his 30-year-old son Jouric keeping his wife Journalyn company in Trece Martires.
He said he misses FVR and hopes to see his long-time friend for the last time on Sunday, the day his wake is open for the public at the Heritage Park in Taguig.