Tomorrow’s new breed of nation builders need to start young

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NATION-building knows no age, race or economic strata. Builders of nations are known for their passion, dedication, loyalty and commitment to the upliftment of others’ lives ahead of their own.

Service to his fellow men is nothing new to the 23-year-old vice mayor of the town of Lian in Batangas province, Ronin Leviste, the uber-passionate and ultra-proud yet humble No. 2 guy in their town.

Being Batangueño is the best thing ever. We have the most beautiful province in the entire country — beyond the instagrammable mountains and world-class beaches, it is our people [my fellow Batangueños] and their stories who can showcase all the best my province has to offer. We’re already so near [Manila], but we still have a lot more infrastructure coming in soon, surely putting us in a sweet spot for rapid development,” declares Leviste.

To the young Ronin, a life in politics was never an alien concept since his father is Batangas Vice Governor Mark Leviste, whose flourishing career began over two decades ago. As soon as he could walk, Ronin was already accompanying his father to constituent consultations, sessions, and the campaign trails. Seeing his father work closely with communities inspired the young man to follow in his footsteps.

As a student at Xavier, Ronin developed outreach programs and played a role in the school’s social action arm. He recalled the time when he started a solar light building with his barkada in the school’s science lab and then installed them in underprivileged communities in Batangas and Mindanao.

While in college at the De La Salle University, he made his parents proud when Leviste received two of the school’s highest honors, the Br. Gabriel Connon Award and the Gawad Francisco Ortigas Jr. Most Outstanding Undergraduate Student Leader Award. Since the ability to lead runs in his DNA, 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 Magna Cum Laude in Development Studies with the Best Undergraduate Thesis Award.

During the university’s 192nd Commencement Exercises, Leviste gave a rousing valedictory speech to his fellow graduates, encouraging them to make a positive impact. “Everyone here has a different timeline, everyone here has a unique story, but the commonality that binds us is that we all have talents, opportunities, and skills worth sharing when put together, with almost no limit to what the world can expect from us. 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.” It was Leviste’s wake-up call to his peers: that no act is too small to make your country better.

As what was expected, Ronin entered the world of politics when he ran–and served–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, and the rest was history.

While he is one of the youngest vice mayors in the 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 — learning loads from school and the people around him. The Batangueño says that education is one of his main advocacies as Vice-Mayor. “Education can uplift people from poverty and give them an extra sense of fulfillment. I 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 the Philippines where everyone can wake up in the morning knowing they have food on their tables, that they have jobs sufficient to provide for their family, and that their kids go to school and now have the means to do so. All of this will help uplift families to a better future — giving everyone equal opportunities in life. It is a daunting task ahead, but our generation has shown that if anyone can lead this change — it’s us.”

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