Grit in Integrity - Assistant Secretary Atty. Liavel Badillo-Crisostomo

July 18, 2023 – Redge

An ‘abogodess’ with a passion for compassion, believes the promise in compromise, and knows that honest integrity requires true grit.   

Immaculate. Lustrous. Tough. These words apply to both pearls and Atty. Liavel Badillo-Crisostomo. But the two are also similar in a more fundamental way.   

That is, both were formed from grit.   

Location: Lima Technology Center

“I looked liked Hagrid in school,” shares the ‘abogodess,’ “I was 240 pounds, 5’10— people physically and emotionally abused me. My brother got into fights because of it.”   

Drawing strength in part from her tough-as-nails, street-wise Tondo-born mother, Lia weathered the mistreatment and channeled her experiences into writing. Among her published works include “In Pursuit of Pretty,” “Why Bullies Bully,” and “An Open Letter to the Man Who Made Me Sapiosexual.” The latter piece, about local celebrity Atom Araullo, would attract his attention. “I was so kilig when he replied on Twitter,” Liavel says, gushing at the memory. Though beyond early fame, Lia’s formative years helped her realize her worth, see beyond looks, and gifted her with an ability to empathize with people on the very margins of society.

Location: Lima Technology Center


A Passion for Compassion      

An inherent public servant who takes after her father’s example, Lia would get a call while waiting for her BAR results.“A good friend asked if I wanted to travel to Palawan for work.” Lia recalls, “An internship in paradise? Who would turn down a paid vacation?” But what she thought was a short stint in 2017 turned out to be six of the most memorable and fulfilling years of her life.       

Lia’s time at Lionheart Farms, an ethical “soil-to-shelf” company based in Rizal, Palawan, wasn’t the idyllic lazying about in beaches after slow, 2-hour work days which most imagine. Instead it saw the young lawyer trekking up mountains (sometimes in high heels), to negotiate with tribal elders and local officials. “I’m very proud of what we accomplished,” she beams, “we agreed on solutions for sustainable and equitable growth. I felt so torn when I left.”      

Feeling the call to national service, she struggled to let go of over a half decade of meaningful private work. To inform her decision, she took to heart the words of her beloved mentor— a venerable titan in Philippine politics. “He advised that I should look like a lady, but think like a man,” Lia reveals, “not that this prejudiced women, but acknowledged the reality that men are generally able to think less emotionally.”       

Heeding his his words, she took up her first steps to true public service.


Grit and Integrity      

Attorney Lia’s first labors in government were rockier than the roadless paths she first took at Lionheart. For while she was used to negotiating in large sums, dealing with huge egos were a different thing entirely.       

“I was told to ‘be a team player,’” she discloses not without feeling, “but I just cannot be plastic. My emotions show on my face. I cannot have (my son) Alonzo growing up in that culture.” Despite her tempestuous time in that agency, Lia admits her brief tenure there allowed her to better believe the promise in compromise. “There is nothing that can’t be fixed with the proper dialogue,” she says in Filipino, “there are situations where severance is justified, but at least try to talk things out.”      

Offered a role at the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA), Attorney Lia agreed to a more modest job title but with larger impact.       

“PEZA isn’t that well known, though we help not just the top 1% who invest billions but especially the micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs)— who contribute roughly 16% of the Philippines’ GDP, 51% of our country’s exports, and 9 million jobs!” She says precisely from memory, “Even then, PEZA is all about sustainability in everything.”       

Yet while pondering on metrics of how to improve equality through quality of life, Lia would receive yet another offer which spoke closer to her heart. For while she knew that the economy was integral in nation-building, a person’s true wealth was found in their well-being.

Location: Lima Technology Center


Health of Nation       

As “forever” as diamonds are, are posts on social media. Perhaps more valuable than gems however are the acts of kindness portrayed in posts tagged by the Department of Health’s newly-minted associate.       

Attorney Lia’s viral stories include: a pandemic-stuck individual she brought attention to, and granted passage by warmhearted netizens. There is another of relief given to a bleeding child used by his mother as a prop for alms. Yet for all these, one public story is most personal— that of her own son’s, Alonzo.       

“It was during the pandemic,” Lia recalls, “we were at home, he had a 41 degree fever, had difficulty breathing, I called the doctor and was advised not to bring him to the hospital.” She remembers the panic, but more so the advice her family pediatrician, Doctor Teresita, told her that day. “Lia, it’s just the flu. You have to be ok because you can take care of Alonzo. He cannot take care of you.”       

Now entrusted with a role in safeguarding the health of nation, Attorney Lia brings to the table her experiences in overcoming childhood trauma and obesity, practicing professional politics, and as an ambassador for mental wellness.     

“Somedays I wake up and the demons are there,” Lia confesses, “I have to put them away to do my job and be a mom…but when I get home, by myself, I know what lonely feels like.”       

Location: Lima Technology Center

Entering her early 30s, this multi-hyphenate also mentions that she’s still at times unbelieving of her professional success. To combat this ‘imposter syndrome’ - by posting. Much of Attorney Liavel’s social media is strewn with her musings on personal development, reflections on self-love, and motivational re-shares from other wellness advocates. “There are many different kinds of love,” Lia states, “I understand the need for it.”       

Old enough and knowing better while young enough to weather the worst, Lia strides into rooms with a vigor of youth and the wisdom of age. Her dreams of eliminating poverty, streamlining trade, and initiating social reform remained undimmed by bureaucracy. “Where your next meal should come from should never be a problem,” she asserts, “hunger should never be a reason for crime - far from reality, but I’m hopeful.”       

It is an echo of what India’s only female prime minister, Indira Gandhi mentions when saying: “The purpose of life is to believe, to hope, and to strive.” As someone who practices all three as best she can, Atty. Liavel Badillo-Crisostomo inspires that so too, can everyone.

Get in touch with Atty. Liavel Badillo-Crisostomo thru Instagram, Facebook and email at


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