JCI’s Ryan Ravanzo – a journeyman of self(less) discovery

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RYAN Cariño Ravanzo, who until last week headed the Philippine Junior Chamber International (JCI), had the confidence to sketch an ambitious future for a six-and-a-half-decade-old organization that had seen better days. He demonstrated the competence that makes every Filipino JCI member hopeful in their own capabilities. JCI history will have his name as a galvanizing leader.

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An exceptional student, he completed his pre-med course at the Dr. Francisco Duque Memorial Medical Foundation with flying colors, in part, to fulfill with his father’s long-standing wish to have a physician in the family. However, after his dad’s passing, he realized that his passion lay in legislation. So he later pursued his post-baccalaureate degree in Law at the University of Pangasinan in 2000. A gifted speaker and an engaging leader, he became an outstanding president of his school’s supreme student council and editor-in-chief of the student in succession. He finished as runner-up in the prestigious Jose P. Laurel National Oratorical Contest mounted at the Cultural Center of the Philippines in 1993.

His network of organizations offered enormous influence in his diverse training. He had been a Rotary International Group Study Scholar to the United States in 2005, Philippine scholar to the Governance Course on Disaster Risk Reduction Strategy conducted by the Asian Disaster Preparedness Center in Thailand in 2007, an Asean-China Youth Exchange Institute delegate to China in 2010 and the 25th JCI Academy in Sapporo, Japan last July.

But it was his experience in the Junior Chamber movement that largely defined his legacy as a leader.

Turning point
Ryan’s actual turning point to genuine renown arrived when he joined the movement called Junior Chamber International, a global network of young active citizens. His first auspicious brush with the JCI movement came when he was selected as a finalist in a region-wide oratorical contest among high-school students in 1987 organized by the Junior Jaycees in Dagupan City. Against much-seasoned seniors, he won first place honors among the region’s best student-declaimers.

Impressed by the great work that JCI members did at that time, he signed up for a New Members’ Orientation course in JCI Dagupan on November 16, 1991—when he was just eighteen and a college freshman.

Since then, Ryan has never looked back. While initially being content with just playing a supporting role in his organization for years—mostly acting as his chapter’s most eminent ghost writer, perennial editor, and souvenir program chairman—senior contemporaries saw great promise in this young man and goaded him to set his sights higher in climbing the political ladder in the JCI organization. Thus, throughout his more than twenty years with the movement, he practically assumed all leadership positions of his chapter until his election as Local President of JCI Dagupan in 2008.

Eventually, he became JCI Philippines Area Vice President for Area 1 in 2009; was later appointed as National Secretary-General in 2010; National Awards Commission Chairman in 2011; and subsequently, was elected anew as National Treasurer in 2012.

Ryan’s proven track record as an efficient administrator and an enlivening speaker made him a front-runner for the post of National President of JCI Philippines. And despite being allied with a minority party at that time, his deft negotiating skills carried him to the organization’s highest post when he ran unopposed during the JCI’s 64th National Convention in Naga City in 2012.

His leadership as National President of JCI Philippines was one laden with great milestones. Fueled by his theme, “Inspire the Nation,” his term was marked with a series of chapter visitations all over the country. Braving stormy seas, rugged dirt roads, exhausting mountain treks, and hilly hikes on foot, Ryan often travelled alone and without fanfare, eschewing grandiose welcoming delegations and insisting on joining members from the far reaches of the archipelago in projects, training, and induction ceremonies. In just six months since he began his term, Ryan had called on more than ninety percent of JCI Philippines’ 187 local organizations, representing 5,800 members nationwide, scattered all across the country.

Socially relevant programs
Under his leadership, JCI Philippines has organized more socially relevant programs than those in the years past. Among these: “Boto Ko Sagrado,” a nationwide information campaign on the 2013 national and local elections. Junior Chamber International’s “Nothing but Nets” campaign, a global effort in eradicating Malaria. “Oplan Kaagapay,” a sustained relief effort to assist victims of natural calamities. The revival of “The Outstanding Farmers” (ToFarm) Awards. These, on top of the national organization’s flagship programs—The Outstanding Young Men (TOYM) Awards and the “Alay Lakad” Walk-for-A-Cause projects— have largely redefined JCI Philippines’ image as a dynamic and effective organization of young Active Citizens.

His term as National President was capped by a modest celebration of the 65th Anniversary of JCI Philippines on December 11 at the National Headquarters in Don Alejandro Roces Avenue in Quezon City.

True to form, Ryan had requested that the festivities be deliberately made austere and simple (from the venue, arrangements, program, and food), so that the national organization could have more savings to donate to the victims of Typhoon Yolanda.

“I have always stated that our success or failure will not depend upon the machinery of JCI or its physical growth,” he stated in his valedictory address, “but upon the extent to which our mission and vision are translated into positive, tangible results in personal, business, community, and international life. We shall be known by our works.”

Indeed, to the community at large, Ryan has given his best to what many “leaders” of his time could not provide: a sense of pride to the individual JCI member.

Reginaldo Yu is a senator of the Junior Chamber International (JCI).

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