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Born in Pangasinan province in 1928 and graduated from th eUnited States Military Academy in 1950. He later earned his master's degreein civil engineering from the University of Illinois and saw military service in Korea and Vietnam.

His service to the state continued through the Marcos years, during which he headed the Philippine Constabulary (now the Philippine National Police) and served as Vice-Chief of Staff of the armed forces for five years. Ramos was also identified as one of the "Rolex Twelve", the group of close associates of the president.However, he switched sides in the struggle for power in February in 1986, aligning himself with Corazon Aquino and the "People Power" movement against Marcos. He and Juan Ponce Enrile led the resistance to Marcos centered on two military camps. He was rewarded with promotion to Chief Staff and then, in January 1988, with the post of Defense Minister in Aquino's government. He increased his popularity during these years by helping to defeat series of coup attempts against Aquino.

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