Born in 1928 in Lingayen, Pangasinan, the son of a United Nations ambassador and a cousin to Ferdinand Marcos, Ramos pursued a career in the military and in engineering. His long association with the United States started when he graduated from West Point Military Academy in 1950, culminating with a graduate degree in civil engineering at the University of Illinois the following year. He fought alongside U.S. forces in the Korean War and later commanded a Filipino contingency in the Vietnam War.
His ascent to office of President was a brilliant and shrewd display of political calculation, a testament to his avowed intelligence and integrity. But it was not without its controversy. Although committed to democracy, he served the Marcos regime for more than 20 years -- in the military, as head of the Philippine Constabulary, the country's national police force, and as a trusted advisor. However, in 1986, Ramos sided with Aquino. The military followed his lead and swung the pendulum in her favor.
After Aquino assumed the presidency, she appointed Ramos Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces, and later Secretary of Defense, foiling seven coup attempts against the Aquino administration. In December 1991, Ramos declared his candidacy.