In ceremonies October 21 in New York, Maria Ronson received the Oliver S. Gramling Achievement Award for "professional excellence" in propagating AP stories and images in the largest continent.
Ronson shared the Gramling with AP Middle East Extra. The honor comes with a $10,000 prize.
The awards are named for the news executive who led AP to broadcast news. Team and individual awardees were named in eight categories.
"Ronson’s passion for AP, her background in news and her keen sense of market trends and ability to turn them into business opportunities have made her the heart of AP’s presence in Asia," the organization praised its Filipina asset.
As vice president of sales for Asia, Ronson oversees distribution of material to all media outlets. She is credited with generating over $250 million in sales since coming on board 30 years ago.
"This award is the icing on a life made full by the privilege of working with journalists -- brave men and women -- who are at the top of their game telling their stories about unfolding life- changing events in the world in all formats -- text, photo and video," Ronson told Positively Filipino.
Success follows the former Nimfa Fallarme, who earned her Communication Arts degree in Maryknoll College after graduating high school in St. Theresa's College in Quezon City.
Getting her byline across headlines all over the world might have grazed Ronson’s mind in school, but journalism was hardly her dream career.
"I loved to write when I was young but never really thought of doing anything about it then," she confided. "I never was one for planning my career path. I just wanted to be in an industry that encouraged out-of- box thinking and where free spirits flourished. I also wanted to travel, be exposed to different business cultures and be challenged negotiating with different and difficult environments."
Life offered multiple options to the wide-eyed fresh graduate who dabbled in singing with a pop group, modeling for haute couture designers and promoting events as public relations manager for a hotel -- her first job.
The neophyte executive vented her secret passion, composing press releases, little realizing that her interlude at the Manila Hilton and Tower Hotel before that was just another station to her ultimate destination.
There she met her future husband, Terence Ronson, head of Food and Beverage. When a job opportunity opened for him later in his native England, he returned home with his Filipino bride.
By the time the new Mrs. Ronson halted her promising career in Manila, her resume already boasted achievements in communications, advertising and sales.
Worldwide Television News in London was first to invest in the newcomer's mass media experience. The network recognized her talent and tapped her as Eurovision editor and editor of the day, overseeing newsfeed from all over the world.
Her seat propped Ronson on the front row to historic events in the decades ending the 20th century.
"As senior editor, Ronson produced the first pictures of the U.S. Embassy bombing in Nairobi, produced Gulf War coverage in 1990 and coordinated coverage of the disintegration of the former Soviet Union and the fall of the Berlin Wall, " AP touted the Gramling honoree's scoops.
Ronson counts herself fortunate to have witnessed People's Power in the Philippines, the siege at Tiananmen Square, the intifada in the Occupied Territories, the "unraveling" of apartheid in South Africa and Nelson Mandela's eventual release from prison, the Bosnian War and the first Gulf War -- each as part of her day's work.
"My experience during this time helped me when I oversaw AP's commercial activities in Asia for 10 years," she looked back.
In 1997, sovereignty of Hong Kong reverted to China, ending 156 years of British rule. Ronson was first eyes on the event known as the "handover" of the colony.
AP acquired WTN the following year, carving new adventures for its now-seasoned editor.
Ronson wore the Deputy Regional Editor /Asia badge for two years before switching to the business side of the industry.
Hong Kong became her base, conveniently bringing her a nap away from most state capitals, most importantly Manila, where her widowed mother lived.
The Ronsons eventually replanted roots in the Philippines, building a home in Santa Rosa, Laguna, fast becoming an enclave for traffic and pollution-weary Manilans.
In 2013, she was named Vice President - Sales/Asia, a first for a Filipino in AP. The promotion caused celebration at a time of grief over the passing of her mother.
Colleagues and former classmates across the Pacific applauded the milestone.
"Imagine, a Filipina, at the top of AP, what an honor," San Miguel Corporation executive Menchu Genato-Henson, Ronson's fellow Communication Arts major at Maryknoll, shared her glee at a reunion the former hosted in her home in Alabang that year.
Ronson credits her impeccable timing and cosmopolitan exposure for her climactic career.
"Naturally, I have evolved personally and professionally through the years as a result of having had the joy of being in tough negotiations in different cultures," she acknowledged. "My high school classmates would be shocked to see the change as I once was shy and an introvert. That flew out of the window when I went through college and started work. But the most dramatic change took place in London when I worked at WTN" and its absorption into AP.
Shy? She sure fooled everyone. Confidence? Brimming of it today, she is. Success can do that, but what it has untouched is Ronson's sense of wonder and gratitude.
"Never in my wildest dreams when I was growing up in Manila did I ever imagine that a well respected global news agency as the Associated Press will one day recognize what I have done," the laureate told this author while waiting at JFK International for her flight back to Asia after the awards ceremony. "It's an incredible honor and a proud moment. I think Filipinos who hear of this should take pride. My life at the AP is an illustration of living a dream or living the reality of the possible."
First to reciprocate is her husband, who is happy to live in the Philippines and focus on his tech projects while his wife breaks professional barriers and track records. For him, Maria Ronson is seriously contemplating putting a period after all the exclamation points that have marked her journey.
"I am in a good place. Couldn't be happier, in the company of a loving husband and surrounded by a group of loving friends who will keep me company as I segue into my next act," she said somewhat cryptically.
Ronson's looks forward to slowing down.
"I have no grand plans for the future at the moment," she said. "The most important task at hand is to catch up on sleep, take a deep breath and mull over what life will be after calling it a day at the AP at the end of this year. And when the time is right, then think how best I can help make this world a better place."
After New Year's Eve, Ronson may return to her beginnings.
"My time as a journalist has always been rooted in videobut I would love to write a book one day about my experiences as an Asian and as a woman traveling and negotiating commercial contracts at a time when my industry colleagues where mostly men and westerners," she hinted. "I would like it to be a lighthearted look at the challenges I have had to overcome. But it too would have a serious message."
The plan may change, but not her credo: "Always aspire to be the best, be determined and most of all never lose your sense of fun."
Cherie M. Querol Moreno founded and directs ALLICE Alliance for Community Empowerment, an all-volunteer nonprofit dedicated to preventing family abuse through education. Visit www.allicekumares.com. For crisis intervention or information in the U.S., call National DV Hotline: 1-800-799-7233.
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