Manila Mayor Isko Moreno takes a ‘groufie’ at PeopleAsia magazine’s ‘Men Who Matter’ awards night at New World Makati Hotel.
Photo by GEREMY PINTOLO
Solid as a rock (star)
PEOPLE - Joanne Rae M. Ramirez (The Philippine Star) - July 12, 2019 - 12:00am

Newly elected Manila Mayor Isko Moreno was treated not just like a rock star, but also like a President-elect who just won the elections by a landslide at PeopleAsia’s “Men Who Matter” awards night at the New World Makati Hotel. (The other extraordinary “men who matter” honored by PeopleAsia included Paulo Avelino, Jarius Bondoc, Victor Consunji, Brian Cu, RS Francisco, Dr. Hayden Kho, Richie Lerma, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, Ferdie Ong, Dr. Eugene Ramos, Raymond Rodriguez, Anthony Taberna, Jake Tesoro, Sam Verzosa, Paolo Villar and Tim Yap.)

And Mayor Isko’s response to the adulation — well-heeled and high-heeled guests ascending the stage after the show to have a selfie with him — was shocking.

Shocking because he gave in to each and every request for a photo, selfie, or groufie. There were no menacing bodyguards or arrogant aides forming a cordon sanitaire around him, or pushing fans away or pointing to their watches to signal it was time to move on.

That night, Isko Moreno made time for each and every one in the room who queued up for a photo with him — queued, I kid thee not — and gave an enthusiastic reaction whenever someone dropped a name, a common friend, a memory, to him. He acted like he remembered you from Adam or Eve, and maybe he just did.

Manila Mayor Isko Moreno. Photo by GEREMY PINTOLO

Am I gushing? I guess you could say I am because I’ve seen rock stars and I’ve seen rock-star politicians here and abroad. Isko seemed to be the most willing to walk a meter in 30 minutes just to accommodate photos.

I asked him where he got his strength (“hugot”) and he said, “Dasal.” He also takes three kinds of vitamins a day (he lost 30 pounds during the campaign).

“Kailangan may pinanghuhugutan ako, kailangan. Because there is much to be done,” said the handsome mayor, a former scavenger, actor, and vice mayor of Manila.

* * *

Here are some unpublished excerpts from PeopleAsia’s interview with Mayor Isko, conducted by Alex Vergara.

On how he faces up to challenges:

“It’s just that kasi lagi akong may hugot sa buhay, dati nga tira lang ng ibang tao ang kinakain ko, bakit pa ako matatakot dito (I’ve always had a well of experiences to draw from. I used to eat other people’s leftovers  so what more should I be scared of)?

Isko with Sara Soliven de Guzman.

Mas nakakatakot yung hepa, mas nakakatakot yung dumi (Hepatitis is more scary). Ewan ko. Ang sinasabi ko nga sa ‘yo, I have nothing without God. What are the chances that day in and day out, you eat chicken na galing sa basurahan… Sabi ng teacher ko noon, pag pinirito mo yan, walang nabubuhay na mikrobio sa kumukulong mantika (My teacher used to say, if the leftovers are fried in boiling oil, the microbes will be killed).

On why he thinks the people elected him despite his formidable opponents:

We were just honest and we gave an anchor of hope to the people, here I am, ito po ang pangarap ko para sa inyo, ito po ang pangarap ko para sa inyo (these are my dreams for you). We tried to address every sector with regards to their clamor and demands. Needs to be addressed. That’s what we did.

Now, Taguig has BGC. It (once) was nothing. You see Parañaque, you see Pasay (progressive). They surround Manila. And yet, we call ourselves the capital of the country, the window of the world to the country.

You see Manila deteriorating, garbage is everywhere. There is a saying,  “For evil to succeed is for good men to do nothing.” So that is the reason (I ran). “Sige, Manila, I will give you an option.”

I’ve always said, I’m no Superman, but I will be different.

We will be more vibrant and energetic. We will revive that kind of Manila that makes everybody want to go to Manila again.

With the author and Tina Cuevas.

On his limitations:

The only limitation is you. Nandiyan ka na, pangarapin mo na, at unti-unti mo nang gampanan (You are already there, so dream and little by little, fulfill your dreams). So, pag medyo nag dilly-dally, then you’re just a passive leader. Kasi natulog kayo, naka-idlip ang Maynila, walang gumising (Because Manila was once in a slumber and no one roused it from its slumber). I have to stimulate it, (to jump start it) parang ganoon.

The people have decided.  At the end of the day, tayo-tayo pa rin ang magkikita sa finals. Walang magmamalasakit sa ating mga Batang Maynila, kundi tayo ring mga Batang Maynila (No one will care about and commiserate with Manilans except Manilans). Tayo-tayo rin, kami-kami rin (it will be just us). At the end of the day, tayo-tayo ang magkikita-kita sa eskinita, calle, sa Avenida (At the end of the day, it will be also just us who will bump into each other in the alleys, on the streets, on Avenida).

His promises:

I made a very bold statement during the (campaign). Dadalhin ko ang Makati sa Maynila (I will bring Makati to Manila). I will duplicate what Makati citizens are receiving from their Makati city government.

The eager crowd takes photos of the ‘Men Who Matter’ awardees. Photo from Chris Badiola’s Facebook page

I can be criticized on Day 1. But I’m not going to give them the opportunity because I’m going to do my job. That’s what I promise I’m going to do, move heaven and earth in my own little way. Make a difference. It’s a challenge, and tanging guarantee ko lang sa mga tao, ang araw, gagawin kong araw, ang gabi, gagawin ko pa ring araw (My only guarantee to the people is that I will turn day into day and night into day).

* * *

The Philippine STAR editor-in-chief Ana Marie Pamintuan in her column Sketches published July 8 wrote: “Mayor Isko has started delivering on his promise. The dramatic improvement in what has to be the most congested and polluted city in Metro Manila, starting with the commercial districts, is showing what political will can do, and how much local government executives can accomplish if they put their hearts into the implementation of reforms.”

Having once been dependent on other people’s leftovers for his daily sustenance, the former scavenger-turned-mayor ain’t going to make the country’s capital city stay in the dumps no more. *

* * *

(You may e-mail me at joanneraeramirez@yahoo.com. Follow me on Instagram @joanneraeramirez.)

ISKO MORENO PEOPLEASIA
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