top of page



According to Mayor Rainier Acero Leopando of Siniloan, Laguna, the key to successful and sustainable development is going back to the basics—building better social services, instilling values, and listening to the people.




Every person has a guidance system—a moral code that they abide by and which serves as their compass in all actions. Politicians, public servants, and government workers have the same set of rules that guides their governance; and that is the law in all forms (international, national, and local). While priorities and values may slightly differ from person to person, for the most part, their principles are universal. And when it comes to serving the people, they believe in doing what is just and right.

Siniloan Mayor Rainier Leopando, however, is unlike most politicians. While he holds the law and public service in high regard because of their importance, there is a higher cause that directs him. “[The Lord] is my guide in how I conduct myself. I follow His will so that others could follow and do the same,” he shares. “In the current political scenario, here [in Siniloan], our rivals became our allies because of love and respect.”

A devout Roman Catholic, the 63-year-old first-time politician admits that he shouldn’t be entering politics at this age. But for Leopando, divine intervention was what pushed him to follow this path. “Trust God and do what we perceive are His plans for us. He brought me here and I have to do what needs to be done for Siniloan and its people,” he says with conviction. “Whatever decision you make, it must come from the heart. That’s what He taught us.”

But running was not something that he thought of doing. With persistence and persuasion from the people of Siniloan, Leopando followed the vox populi. “Luckily, I won,” he recalls, smiling. Leopando knew, however, that winning the mayoral race was just the first step in a very arduous journey. Despite being a newcomer, he was not afraid of anything. “Fear is normal. But when you have God in your heart, you have nothing to fear. Come what may,” he says without hesitation.


When people hear the word “development,” they often think of advancements in technology, employing modern methods, and fancy technical equipment. Almost always, leaders call for “moving forward,” saying that this is the only way to go. While there is truth in the call to look ahead, Mayor Leopando has a different idea—moving forward entails also looking back. More specifically, referring back to our traditional ways and elders when it comes to value development.

“Running Siniloan is everyone’s job,” Leopando stresses. “When I am done being its Mayor, I will entrust Siniloan to its youth. As [Jose Rizal] said, ‘The youth are the future of the country.’ But right now, while I’m here, I want to ensure that the youth are taught the right values. We need to guide them through the right way, while they’re young because it has a ripple effect.”

Hopefully, the Mayor believes, the effect will be a better Siniloan—whether it’s an empowered populace, an active, values-driven youth, improved social services and infrastructure, or all of the above. With this goal in mind, Leopando appears to have the undisturbed optimism of every neophyte politician and, at the same time, the seasoned wisdom of a grandfather. This hopeful and positive mindset shone brightest during the pandemic.

While most people focused on the worst of COVID-19, the ever-so-optimistic Mayor managed to find a silver lining. “The pandemic caused fear and it disrupted a lot of lives. But I have to look at the brighter side. Maybe this pandemic happened in order to straighten out the people,” he explains. “It’s a sign for us to go back to the old way of living—respecting elders, loving everyone as you would yourself, and offering yourself in service of your country.”

It’s a thought that has crossed many minds. Because of this pandemic, people from all over the world have come home to live with their families, some for the first time in decades. It’s a chance to reconnect with family. By sheltering in place, it seems there is no other choice but to rely on each other and form a stronger bond in the face of the unknown. Through this crisis, the people of Siniloan have learned to band together and work towards coming through this pandemic stronger and wiser.

For Leopando, they have been able to successfully mitigate the crisis thanks to the fact that they are a relatively small town, in size and population. Everyone, he explains, is family—even if not by blood but by bond. Everyone knows everyone in some way, as is the norm in small towns no matter the country. It is, therefore, no surprise that they had wholeheartedly accepted Mayor Leopando’s vision and leadership style. Because the people of Siniloan are, themselves, optimistic and positive despite hardships.

This, the Mayor humbly explains, is the reason why they are not difficult to lead and guide. “Siniloanons are good people. Although I didn’t grow up here, I’ve always felt the kindness and love the people have for one another. In Metro Manila, when people have disagreements, it often ends up in a brawl. But here, we intervene and console one another. Even in politics, I’ve never heard anything go wrong here,” he shares.

Siniloan Vice Mayor Patrick Ellis Go echoes these sentiments. “Mayor Leopando and I are from different parties. But when we were both elected as Vice Mayor and Mayor, we spoke and understood immediately that the focus should be on our work— helping the people of Siniloan. With that, our relationship grew better and now we’re friends,” Go shares.


The COVID-19 pandemic affected nearly every single town and city in the Philippines and Siniloan, Laguna was not spared. Leopando explains that their first case was confirmed on July 15, 2020. “At that point, the first wave was about to end. We were obliged to take in the OFWs and had them quarantined. Eventually, they were cleared. However, when they were about to leave the country again, they went to Manila to follow up on their applications. They were exposed to the virus along the way and when they came back to Siniloan, that’s when we got the the first confirmed COVID-19 case.”

Fortunately, Siniloan managed to recover and started the new year well. As of January 5, 2021, they’ve recorded zero active COVID-19 cases. It was a record they maintained well, with but a slight increase of cases the following month. As of February 15, there were only two active cases.

Siniloan is not completely COVID-free again, however, the low single-digit figure is impressive enough to warrant the question, “How did they do it?”

When the outbreak started in January, Mayor Leopando immediately talked to private and public partners to determine isolation facilities. Disinfection was performed daily in public areas, and entry and exit points were closely monitored.

“We’re one of the trade centers of Laguna and trade is our bread and butter. We couldn’t completely lock our borders. But we had to be strict and careful to avoid infection,” he explains.

One of their main concerns ever since the start of the pandemic was food supply. The priority, he explains, has shifted back to basic needs. “The price of meat and vegetables was skyrocketing, that’s why we are focusing now on food production. By focusing on this, we generate more jobs and instill discipline in the people, because they are encouraged to grow their own food supply.”

Together with the town agriculturist, the local government has led talks with private landowners who have undeveloped lands and has invited them to enter a JointVenture Agreement (JVA). Under this partnership, select crops will be planted on the land and when harvest time comes, the local government will purchase the produce. “We also process the crops so that we can generate jobs for people. The produce not only helps supply Siniloan’s needs, but also the nearby towns,” he shares.

Apart from these urgent concerns, Mayor Leopando shares that the local government is also investing heavily in infrastructure. Last November 3, they started constructing the tourism center. The Mayor shared that they are also building an overlooking deck and bike lane. He is also looking to further promote Siniloan’s 22 waterfalls, including caves.

Beyond tourism, they are also constructing a Class AA slaughterhouse to help the local market and a P25- million isolation facility in partnership with Red Cross. There is also another municipal hospital in the works, and the local government is also working on a landfill in Brgy. Laguio.

With so many projects and developments underway, local and international investors are starting to notice the small town. In one of the barangays, investors are set to construct an extraction site for local lemons and calamansi fruits. The extract will then be exported abroad and this project is expected to boost Siniloan’s name in the national and global market.

“Investors are starting to notice Siniloan. Someone is offering to produce milk here. He is planning on bringing 500 cows from New Zealand to our upland. The wide area there can be maximized as a grazeland. We have various projects from investors coming from Metro Manila, but they’re still being finalized,” he shares.

Leopando admits he doesn’t actively seek out these investors; they just come to Siniloan for initial inspection and interest. “Honestly, it raises my confidence in our work. It lets us know that we’re on the right track. I believe that if we stay on course and work by His side, we’ll be okay,” he shares, displaying, once again, his brave optimism.

He also shares that some people have offered their help to the small town. And for that, Leopando shares that they are extremely grateful. “I believe these projects will be successful because they will help their fellowmen,” he nods.

Apart from projects, the local government is also busy with other forms of output. “We passed 900 resolutions in our first year,” Vice Mayor Go reveals. “This is because of the attitude of [Mayor Leopando]; he’s always pushing for output and he wants the Sangguniang Bayan to be completely involved.”

The steady commitment of the entire local government and the constant encouragement from their leaders inspire people to contribute ideas. “I tell him my ideas because not everyone is given the chance to be a Mayor,” the UST Engineering professor shares. “If I’m selfish and keep my ideas to myself, then it’ll be a waste. When he agrees with my ideas, we put it to use.”

Beyond the leaders, they also push each department to lead and be proactive. “We encourage them to develop their own projects, solutions, and ideas. From health, agriculture, finance, engineering, and more, they’re running their own departments,” the Vice Mayor proudly reveals. “We just guide them. When they’re empowered, the municipality becomes better.”


With everything that is happening in the small town, the Mayor admits that his day becomes quite busy. In the morning, he regularly inspects the projects and then the rest of the day consists of meetings with potential investors, business owners, and Siniloanons with their personal concerns. No matter who it is, he stresses, his doors are always open.

“As Mayor, their problems are your problems. You have to talk to them, console, praise, or enlighten them,” Mayor Leopando explains. “At night, supposedly your workload is light and you can relax. But when you are a public servant, the opposite is true. People still come to you with their problems and you have to patch things up, no matter the time.”

Leopando likens being a mayor to being a guidance counselor. Instead of guiding students, you are offering solutions for fellow politicians, neighbors, and families. But he is not troubled in the very least. “Every problem can be solved with proper communication and understanding, as long as everyone is open. As the Bible says, ‘Harden not your heart.’”

Vice Mayor Go agrees. “Everything can be fixed or straightened out if you talk about it. Forget politics; just do your work as a public servant,” he shares.

When asked if he has plans to run for higher office in the near future, it seems that the Mayor is content on focusing on the small town of Siniloan. Leopando simply shakes his head, smiling. “Running for higher office is not for me. That’s for the youth,” he stresses. “Once I see that the projects we’ve started are up and running, then I’m ready to be with my grandchildren.”

He reveals that he is not as close to his grandchildren as he would like. Initially, he planned on retiring early to do exactly that, but was called into politics. Leopando believes it is his obligation, a calling. But he also believes that he will be given enough time to spend with his family when he ultimately decides to retire for good.

Whatever he manages to achieve as Mayor, for Leopando, he has already attained success. “Everyone’s ultimate objective should be to respect and love one another. We may not survive as long as we wish to, but if you follow the Lord, even if you go at a young age, you will still have fulfilled your role here on earth,” he explains.

True to himself until the very end of the interview, when asked about his advice or message for the people of Siniloan, Mayor Leopando only has three words to say: “Love one another.”

bottom of page