Back in 2018, long before anyone started campaigning and other national politicians didn’t think it was close enough to the National Elections to “care” about poor communities, Vice President Leni Robredo came to Zamboanga del Norte for another visit to Siayan, listed the country’s poorest municipality from 2003 to 2009, as part of her poverty alleviation project. 

It was a tiring trip to a far-flung municipality with a small voting population. With hardly any publicity, VP Leni again made time and took the trip without any of the fanfare that usually accompanied other politicians.  

Since her Angat Buhay initiative linked nationwide private companies with communities in need, this gave private companies a platform to provide assistance to women entrepreneurs in Siayan.  

The year before, the Office of the Vice President and its partners from the private sector also put up a toy library and microfinance facilities for the municipality’s livelihood program and initiated a feeding program for more than 800 children in the 22 communities of Siayan.  

Aside from these projects, VP Leni and Anton Mari H. Lim, president of Yellow Boat of Hope Foundation, an Angat Buhay partner, also inaugurated a dormitory for boys at the Siayan National High School because students had to endure hours of walking and trekking across mountains daily to go to school. VP Leni also handed over a dormitory for girls a year later, in 2019. The dormitories (among several that were subsequently built in the Zamboanga Peninsula) were free of charge and are now occupied by students from underprivileged families.  

Siayan’s location made it necessary for her to make a stop here in Dipolog City. Unlike other VIPs who would book the most expensive suite – along with several, if not all, rooms on the same floor for their escorts, aides, and PR personnel – VP Leni booked one Deluxe Room and shared it with her aide.  

The cynical anti-Leni observer would probably say this “simplicity” was all for show – but she didn’t even publicize it and if I hadn’t personally arranged her reservation with my staff, nobody else would even know about this.  

This is just a small anecdote but it says a lot about how she has always been content quietly working hard on different projects without media attention. Despite what so many of her bashers claim, if people would just look beyond the fake news and do their research they would find that, despite her limited resources, she has accomplished so much, more than what was expected of her as Vice President. 


VP Leni Robredo with the family of the author (extreme right),

About the Author

Mario Dandi Romano is a hotelier, photographer  and concert pianist. He is currently Executive Manager of D’Hotel & Suites in Dipolog City, Zamboanga del Norte. He is also the President of the Zamboanga del Norte Tourism Association (ZANTA) and a Board Director of the Provincial Tourism Council (PTC). As a hotelier, Romano won the Tourism Awards for Tourism Stakeholders from the Department of Tourism (DoT) in 2020 and 2021. As President of ZANTA, Romano also won the DOT’s Tourism Awards for Tourism Organizations in 2020 and 2021. He propelled the D’Hotel & Suites operations into becoming the only Hotel in Mindanao to win 2 consecutive TripAdvisor Hall of Fame Awards, with 6 consecutive Certificates of Excellence. He is also the president and co-founder of Caffeinated Photographers International, and editor-in-chief of Caffeinated Photographers Online Magazine Romano hails from a family of artists and musicians. His father, Didi Romano, is a photographer, and his mother, Marietta, is a pianist. His sister, Miracle, is a concert pianist while Misha, a younger brother, is a concert violinist and pianist. They have performed in concerts here and abroad. In 2012, the Romano Family was bestowed with the Governor’s Award for their contribution in the field of arts and music in Zamboanga del Norte.


Mario Dandi Romano


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