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When Lani Mercado-Revilla, then a mayoralty candidate, experienced defeat in the 2001 elections in Bacoor, Cavite, it prompted her to reflect on whether public service was truly her calling. “I felt it’s for the male sector. It’s not for me,” she recalls to LEAGUE. Being the optimistic person that she is, the actress and mother of seven looked at her loss as a blessing in disguise, and instead focused on her showbiz career and family life.

But then the call for public service knocked again towards the end of that decade when her brother-in-law, Strike Revilla, won as mayor of Bacoor in 2007. “It was one of the dreams of our constituents in Bacoor to transform the municipality into a city because it will bring progress,” Mercado-Revilla says. Mayor Strike and the barangay chairpersons convinced her to run as congresswoman of the district of Bacoor in the 2010 elections to push this agenda.

So when Mercado-Revilla won the 2010 congressional race, she made the passage of House Bill No. (HB) 521, which sought to convert the Municipality of Bacoor into a city, as her top priority. Her husband, Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla, Jr., authored the Senate version of the bill, which was signed into law as Republic Act No. 10160. This act created the City of Bacoor and was ratified in a plebiscite on June 23, 2012.

Those were exciting times for the neophyte lawmaker because while performing her duties as congresswoman, she also decided to go back to school and finish her college education through ETEEAP, or the Commission on Higher Education’s (CHED) Expanded Tertiary Education Equivalency and Accreditation Program. This alternative learning program is geared towards working professionals who have not enrolled for or completed their bachelor’s degree.

“Hindi ko natapos ang college education ko (I wasn’t able to finish college). But it was my dream to finish college because it’s an unfinished business for me. It was the dream of my parents for me to graduate college, but then I got married early, entered show business,” she says.

In 2016, she became the first lady mayor of the City of Bacoor, a post she held until 2022.

BACK IN CONGRESS Today, Mercado-Revilla has returned to Congress, picking up where she left off, after her victory as congresswoman of the Second District of Cavite in the 2022 elections. “I know I have some unfinished business as mayor, and the former congressman, Strike Revilla, who’s now mayor, also has unfinished business in our district. So whatever his unfunded and as such, unfinished projects were, I am now pushing for,” she says.

Mercado-Revilla cites the delivery of health services as one of her key priorities as a lawmaker. Which is why she, together with her sons Rep. Bryan Revilla and Rep. Jolo Revilla III, filed HB 02534, increasing the bed capacity of Southern Tagalog Regional Hospital in the City of Bacoor. It started out as a district hospital, where the land it was built on was donated by her late father-in-law, Ramon Revilla, Sr.

Recently, Senator Revilla, together with the Department of Health (DOH), provided funding for the construction of another building, named after her fatherin-law. “This expansion aims to increase the hospital’s capacity by adding more beds. We are gradually expanding both the number of beds and the range of services offered because this facility serves not only the entire Region IV-A, but sometimes even patients from Manila. It is crucial to secure adequate funding for the continued development of the hospital, along with the enhancement of its workforce,” says Mercado-Revilla.

She has also filed a bill aimed at establishing nutrition departments across the Philippines. She believes that malnutrition is a pressing issue that we must address. And while we have the National Nutrition Council (NNC) in place, she believes that further support is needed to effectively implement its projects at the grassroots level. “We need to focus on this effort, work hand in hand with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the Department of Agriculture (DA),” she says.

Education is also a paramount focus in her legislative agenda. A project that holds a special place in her heart is the establishment of the Bacoor National Science High School, a commitment she made when she first took office in 2010. “I’m delighted to share that we have already signed a memorandum of agreement with the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) for the piece of land that they own. “They will collaborate closely with Department of Education (DepEd)-Bacoor, and adjacent to it, there will be Cavite State University (CvSU) Bacoor, an extension of CvSU specializing in science and engineering subjects,” she adds.

The lady legislator is happy to share that upon her return to Congress, her office pushed for the conversion of Bacoor National High School - Tabing Dagat into an independent high school, bearing the name Mariano Gomes National High School. She co-authored the said bill with Rep. Bryan, Rep. Romulo Roman, and Rep. Rizaldy Co. Establishing schools within the Bacoor district posed a huge challenge, given the number of prerequisites involved, including securing the deed of donation for the land, enacting local ordinances by the local government and local school board, and ensuring proper budget allocations. So she’s pleased that this goal has finally been realized.

Years of experience in public service have taught Revilla-Mercado that being a public servant is “a very selfless profession” and popularity alone doesn’t secure election victories. “You have to immerse yourself in the everyday life of your district, of your constituents,” she says. “We have two residences—one in Alabang and one in Bacoor—and when I was mayor, I really stayed in Bacoor, so dama ko ang traffic, dama ko ang baha, dama ko lahat. So ‘pag may sunog nandiyan kaagad ako. Dapat talaga ramdam mo ang problema ng constituents mo (I know the traffic situation, I know the concerns regarding flooding, I know their experiences. So when there is a fire incident, I make it a point to show up. A public official should really know the concerns of her constituents).”

From her late father-in-law, Revilla, Sr., she learned to “Never settle for good, always aim for the best.” This principle continues to drive her actions, pushing her to give her best in everything she does.

Serving as a legislator and formerly as mayor of the city of Bacoor, MercadoRevilla realized that collaboration between the congressional representative and the local government is crucial. “It is a major factor that we are in one team—the mayor of the city of Bacoor, myself, together with extra help from the Senate through Senator Bong Revilla, we are able to work hand in hand in terms of development and progress in our district and not only in our district, but also the whole province,” she says.

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