There’s something about an esteemed ancestor that makes you want to level up. Masbate Vice Governor Jo Kristine “Kaye” Celera-Revil didn’t get to meet her paternal grandfather, Adolfo Celera Sr., a lawyer- politician who worked as a Provincial Board Member and Land Transportation Office Chief. Unfortunately, he was assassinated in their home province a year before Revil, his first grandchild, was born.
Revil, who’d rather be called VG (which stands for “Very Good,” how she wants people to see her), grew up hearing stories about how well-loved her grandfather was. In order to live up to his honor, she tries her best to lead as he would have led had he been alive.
Revil followed in the footsteps of her lolo and continued his legacy. She took up Law from Ateneo de Manila University and passed the Bar. Like her grandfather, she’s determined to make life better for her countrymen.
It’s been an uphill climb. But she chose to continue down this path as she sees it her duty to inspire greater good as a public servant. “I’m a Masbateña, raised and studied in Masbate from pre-school to high school, I love my province. I know of its many issues and I feel it’s my calling to help come up with solutions, and work for its peace, progress, and development,” she declares.
Masbate’s previous reputation as a province, which lacked clean water, paved roads, and jobs due to corruption didn’t help. Almost 10 years ago, it ranked eighth on the list of the country’s poorest provinces.
Given this condition, Vice Governor Revil immediately set out to take on the herculean task in front of her. “I put a lot of effort toward instilling in the people’s minds that we’re not less than the others, that we’re neither pathetic nor poor. I tried to reverse the image (of Masbate) as a violent place,” says Revil.
She did her best to change this victim- mentality into something positive by telling Masbateños that they have three Ks— Karapatan (right), Kagandahan (beauty), and Kabutihan (goodness).
Revil, also a BS Tourism graduate from the University of the Philippines, knows how important tourism is to her work as Masbate’s chief ambassador of goodwill. She’s made it a point to join all expos, and create a lot of videos to promote Masbate.
When Cebu Pacific introduced a new plane and asked the public where they wanted to fly, Revil seized the moment. She mobilized the youth and asked them to post beautiful pictures of Masbate on their social media accounts. Thanks to the youth’s frequent posts, Masbate trended on Twitter, and Cebu Pacific noticed.
Revil then pitched the idea of introducing Cebu Pacific flights to Masbate to the Gokongweis. “I showed all my efforts to promote Masbate, while Cebu Pacific did its own market research,” recalls Revil. The result: the airline company launched two flights a day to Masbate. Needless to say, it was a big boost for local tourism, with new resorts opening and bringing job opportunities for the people.
Revil again tapped the power of social media when she gathered Masbateños for a makeover and asked them to pose for photos with the province’s tourist destinations as backdrop. The Masbateños were only too glad to post photos of their new look on their social media accounts.
Revil repeated this technique of hitting two birds with one stone by holding volleyball tournaments in various Masbate tourist spots, and asking people to upload the photos on social media. She reached out to print and online media and showed them the beauty of Masbate. “Good publicity erased the province’s negative image. It boosted the people’s morale and sense of pride and belonging,” says Revil.
More jobs stimulated the economy and fueled the engine of progress. So Revil tied up with the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and held a job fair for her constituents. She also tapped her wide network to launch capacity-building projects that gave livelihood training to the people. Revil’s office partnered with TESDA (The Technical Education and Skills Authority), which offered courses in plumbing, weaving, and others.
She also launched the Kusog Masbate Province Card that gives discounts and privileges to Masbateño taxpayers, encouraging many business establishments to warm up to the idea.
Revil’s Climate Smart project is an offshoot of her wide network and negotiating skills. “You can’t separate environment from tourism,” she points out. So this Harvard alumna tapped technocrats from the Harvard Club of the Philippines to talk about disaster resilience and other allied topics before officers and staff of Masbate’s local government units (LGUs).
She also taught them how to make project proposals. This way, the LGU can ask the Climate Change Commission for a portion of the People’s Survival Fund to bankroll some of its environment-friendly projects. Revil is happy to report that representatives from other provinces visited Masbate to study Climate Smart and replicate the program in their own areas.
In addition, this one-time global ambassador for the International Young Leaders Assembly installed solar lanterns in a barangay with no electricity at all. The model of renewable energy impressed judges of the nationwide Brigada Eskwela campaign (it aims to do repairs, maintenance, and cleanup of government-run grade school and secondary schools), Revil says they chose the barangay as one of last year’s awardees. Revil is just as proud of supporting three Masbate high schools that also won Brigada Eskwela awards.
EMPOWERING THE YOUTH
Revil has high hopes for the youth of Masbate. It is for them that she launched the Outstanding Young Leaders Awards, where each high school chooses one exemplary young woman from among the graduating batch as representative.
I put a lot of effort toward instilling in the people’s minds that we’re not less than the others, that we’re neither pathetic nor poor. I tried to reverse the image (of Masbate) that it is a violent place.
The winner gets a cash award, a medal, and the privilege of attending a leadership training workshop led by US-based mentors. In so doing, Revil is passing on her knowledge as a fellow of the Young Southeast Asian Leadership Initiative (a US-government project), where she met these mentors who are only willing to help her out.
As education is also an advocacy she believes in, Revil has initiated numerous initiatives, donating supplies to Brigada Eskwela. She also regularly donates library books to schools like the Amatog National High School in Aroroy, Masbate, via the Teacher’s Gallery sponsorship.
Three secondary schools in Masbate which Revil supported have won national awards.
FREEDOM OF INFORMATION
Transparency is of utmost importance to Revil. It lets the people know what their government is doing for them.
“It will help government get the people’s cooperation, because they trust their officials,” explains Revil.
So she passed the Freedom of Information (FOI) ordinance in Masbate, at a time it was not yet enacted into law.
As a result, Masbate is the first province in the Bicol region and the third in Philippines (after Ilocos Norte and Bohol) to pass the FOI measure.
In the name of woman empowerment, Revil came up with a series of modules for women vice governors, board members, vice mayors, councilors, barangay captains and Kagawad officials. The UP National College of Public Adminstration (NCPAG) experts taught them how to become more effective leaders and create more laws that matter.
These local officials realized they can go out of the box and push for legislation on their own. They need not rely on the dictates of their superiors and push for changes themselves.
Pregnant women got free check-ups and much-needed advice on nutrition through the Buntis Congress last November, when Revil herself was also eight months pregnant. The event was supervised by health officers who volunteered their services.
CLOSER TO THE PEOPLE
Revil brought government closer to the people by holding job fairs that reduced unemployment. Her staff distributed wheelchairs to persons with disabilities and senior citizens in provincial and district hospitals, where they also gave away vitamins.
A tie-up with the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) provided mobile passport services. Teachers taking their licensure examinations no longer had to leave Masbate. Revil’s office launched a mobile PRC (Professional Regulation Commission) that helped them with their papers.
WIFE AND MOTHER
On top of all these, Revil finds time for family. The vice governor and her husband, Atty. Vince Revil, former Masbate governor and a three-termer vice governor, have four children, ages 16, 11, 10 and 9. As of this writing, she’s expecting another child in December.
Revil is not ashamed to admit she got married at 19, when she was in third year college. But she’s proud of the fact that she never stopped schooling and graduated on time.
She only took a two-year leave of absence from law school when she campaigned for her husband.
Revil is definitely not resting on her laurels. In 2019, she plans to level up by running for Congress in the second district of Masbate, the biggest in the province.
She continues to learn, taking up further studies and capacity enhancement sessions. She passes on the knowledge she gains to her constitutents through public forums and events that promote meaningful discussions.
That’s because Revil wants to be known simply as VG — or “Very Good.” That’s a goal her mom instilled in her while she was growing up. That’s also her pledge to the Masbatenos she vows to keep on serving. — MARIDOL RANOA-BISMARK