“Being Batangueño is the best thing ever,” began Ronin Leviste, the uber passionate and ultra-proud yet humble recently elected 23-year-old Municipal Vice-Mayor of Lian, Batangas. “We have the most beautiful province in the whole country — beyond the instagrammable mountains and world-class beaches, it is our people [my fellow Batangueños] and their stories who are able to showcase all the best my province has to offer. We’re already so near [Manila] yet we still have a lot more infrastructure coming in soon, surely putting us in a sweet spot for rapid development.”
Batangas may very well be Ronin’s favorite topic. If you don’t stop him, he could probably talk about his hometown for hours. But how can you blame him? The Batangueño blood runs thick through his veins, and he’s not afraid to show it. As a newly minted public servant, Ronin has decided that he won’t put any time to waste. While most 20-somethings are still figuring out what they want to do in life, Leviste knows God has put him exactly where he’s supposed to be. This is his moment to show his fellow Batangueños that he’s ready to lead them into the future— and we can’t help but feel in awe and excited.
Politics was never an alien concept to Ronin. His father is Batangas Vice Governor Mark Leviste, whose flourishing career began over two decades ago. “I was 4 or 5 when I was first exposed to politics, campaigning, and the government,” he shared about his childhood. As soon as he could walk, Ronin was already accompanying his father to constituent consultations, sessions, meetings, and the campaign trails. “It was such a blessing at that age, even until today. I am so lucky to be exposed to an environment where I could learn about different industries simultaneously while finding my own identity.” Seeing his father work so closely with communities inspired the young man to follow in his footsteps. “[My father’s] hard work, direct-to-the-people approach, and determination is contagious, to say the least,” he says with an assured smile. “I [also love how] he’s always more than willing to lend a helping hand. A lot of people are often very shy about commenting or sharing their ideas to others, but I adore how he isn’t. He’s very collaborative, supportive, and loves to work with all Batangueños. He likes being on the ground together with everyone.”
While he spends all his summers at home in Batangas, Ronin began his studies in Manila. As a student at Xavier, he developed many outreach programs growing up, and played a large role in the social action arm of the school. He recalls a great memory, when he started a movement of solar light building beginning with his own barkada in the school’s science lab, and then installed them in underprivileged and dim communities in Batangas and Mindanao. This milestone played a major part in shaping his future career. “After that, I became even more passionate [about helping others], because I saw that there were many ways [to transform lives]. I saw that, in little ways, empowered leaders can empower other leaders.” he shares.
While in college at De La Salle University, Leviste flourished in his studies and as a student leader. He was given two of the highest honors a student can receive, the Br. Gabriel Connon Award and the Gawad Francisco Ortigas Jr. Most Outstanding Undergraduate Student Leader Award. The young man also worked as an intern in three companies while studying—P&G (where he served as a Brand Management Intern), NEDA (assisting in policy planning and legislative research), and J.P Morgan & Chase (as a Corporate Analyst Intern). On his final year at school, he served as Vice President for External Affairs of the University Student Government. To top it all off, he graduated as Magna Cum Laude in Development Studies with the Best Undergraduate Thesis Award.
During the university’s 192nd Commencement Exercise, Leviste gave a rousing valedictory speech to his fellow graduates, encouraging them to make a positive impact on the nation. “Everyone here has a different timeline, everyone here has a unique story, but the commonality that binds us together is that we all have talents, opportunities, and skills worth sharing that when put together, there is almost no limit to what the world has a right to expect from us,” he delivered to the crowd. “More importantly, we all have an equal role to play in the development of the Philippines that we call our home. So when our country needs us, we, as Lasallian leaders, must always respond with unconditional service to the nation because to build the nation is to love. Our people. Our past and future. The idea of us.” This was Leviste’s wakeup call to his peers.
It was an effort to instill in them the values he holds close to his heart: that no act is too small to make your country better. Ronin soon began building his political career, serving as Sangguniang Kabataan Kagawad in Makati and as the Youth Affairs Head of the office of the Vice Governor. He then ran as Municipal Vice-Mayor of Lian, Batangas, as an independent candidate, winning with overwhelming favor from the people. He is now the youngest in the entire province. For his current municipality, Ronin plans to apply his lifelong learnings to make Lian more livable—to turn it into the town of the future. While it’s currently a third class municipality, he strongly believes that going back to the core basics, while ingraining concepts such as sustainable development, inclusivity, and social justice, will most definitely help improve his constituent’s quality of life.
“What’s most important is ensuring that we consistently and effectively deliver on the provision of relevant services.” he passionately explains. “We need to ensure that no sitio will remain unreachable by building more access roads and community centers; no student will be left behind by working on improving access to education and improving student life; no family — no matter how far they live — will experience struggles in reaching for the health and social services they need at lowered costs, and work to becoming more resilient so that we are prepared to adapt to any hazard that may come our way. We need to make sure that what Lianeños need are accessible and available to them because that’s one of the things that will make life generally better for all. It helps you become more proud of your town—to happily call it yours. I’m going to work hard to deliver more opportunities to Lian. I’m going to do everything I can in the next three years because Batangueños deserve nothing less.”
While he is one of the youngest vice mayors in the entire country, Ronin never takes it for granted. Apart from what he learned from his father and other mentors, he humbly credits his success to his education too— learning loads both from school and the people around him. “I saw first-hand how a quality education can change a life— how it can make you come alive,” he shares. The Batangueño says that education is one of his main advocacies as Vice-Mayor. He intends to bring new innovations to decades-old schools and to introduce more extra-curricular programs for all students for them to develop passions at a young age. To him, learning new and different ideas sparks innovation, and he wants to ensure that every young Batangueño has a chance to make their dreams come true. “Education can uplift people from poverty and give them an extra sense of fulfillment. I’ve learned so much from it, but it also taught me that there is still so much more to learn, so much more to do, so much more to serve.” he muses.
“Everything starts with a vision,” he says. “And mine begins by building a Tomorrow Together. For me, this means we leave absolutely no one behind. I want a Philippines where everyone can wake up in the morning knowing they have food on their tables, that they have jobs sufficient to provide for the needs of their family, that their kids go to school not only because they have to but because they are excited to and now have the means to do so. All of this will help uplift families to a better future— giving everyone equal opportunity in life. It is definitely a daunting task ahead; but our generation has shown that if there’s anyone that can lead this change — it’s us. We’ve already made so much history together, but now it’s time for us to make more.”
Words and photos by Alike.