Manila Mayor Isko Moreno when he received PeopleAsia’s ‘Men Who Matter’ award last July.
Photo by Geremy Pintolo
Why Isko Moreno drinks Starbucks coffee every day
PEOPLE - Joanne Rae M. Ramirez (The Philippine Star) - September 20, 2019 - 12:00am

Manila Mayor Isko Moreno faced one of his toughest audiences recently — hard-nosed businessmen who like to put their money where their faith (and I don’t mean spiritual) is.

Presidential Adviser on Entrepreneurship and Go Negosyo founder Joey Concepcion invited Moreno to the forum, as part of his office’s efforts to interact with local government units. Concepcion believes that by empowering the country’s entrepreneurs, 99 percent of whom “are in the bottom of the pyramid,” the Filipino people will prosper.

At first, Moreno wondered why he, out of the country’s 1,600 mayors, was singled out by the businessmen. He said that when he took over Manila, the capital city, it was No. 16 in the list of Metro Manila’s 17 cities and one municipality.

Presidential Adviser on Entrepreneurship and Go Negosyo founder Joey Concepcion and Mayor Isko Moreno.

But he countered that though Manila may not have the infrastructure of Taguig, Makati or Pasig, Manila has “character.”

“Character — that cannot be taken away. We have Fort Santiago, Binondo, Malate. Payabungin lang natin ang negosyo galing sa turismo (Let us make tourism-based enterprises grow).”

Paraphrasing a quote attributed to Albert Einstein, he says he won the Manila elections because, “If you want different results than what you’re getting, you have to try different approaches.”

He says he, so far, is the only candidate elected by the people of Manila without a strongman image. He says Manila’s past mayors include a former boxer, a police general and an action star.

And here he is, a pretty boy, a former matinee idol, slim-built and with no hint of toughness in his demeanor. At first glance.

Joey Concepcion speaking at the Go Negosyo forum at the Manila Polo Club in Makati City.

If winning against a well-entrenched political figure and ridding a two-kilometer, eight-lane stretch of road with 15,000 illegal structures that had stood there for 20 years — in 48 hours — is not tough, then I don’t know what tough is.

“Pag dating sa kalye, we follow the rules. Walang mayaman, walang mahirap. Pantay-pantay ang pagtingin ng pamahalaang ito. Eh, kaya hindi ako natutulog. ‘Wag niyong intindihin ‘yung walang tulog, ang intindihin ang walang gising. Because I cannot rest. Naghahabol ako ng oras. We were deprived of the most expensive commodity in this world, time. We were deprived of time — deprived in such a way that we have lost so many opportunities because of hibernation, passive leadership.

“I think we need to be aggressive enough within the rules.”

Clark Quay, Boat Quay

Moreno is proud of the restoration of the old HSBC building in Binondo. www.facebook.com/Grand-Cafe-1919

He exhorted the businessmen to invest in Manila, especially in the Escolta area and turn it into Manila’s version of Singapore’s Clark Quay or Boat Quay and Sydney’s Darling Harbour. He wants Escolta’s decrepit buildings restored and is particularly proud of the restoration of the old HSBC building in Binondo as an example of a successful marriage between business and heritage. In fact, he says his wife wants him to take her to dinner there.

“If you give us your business, we will protect it. In fact, the President already gave a statement with regard to the issue and said, ‘Oh kailangan, simple transaction three days lang yan.’ Now you come to Manila, pag hindi mo nakuha ng isang araw… let me know. In the past, it took 11 steps, eight windows. Today in Manila, three steps and one window, from five to 10 days application of business permit, now it only takes one day. Someone shared on Facebook that he got it in 45 minutes. Why would I give you problems, you’re going to pay Manila taxes?”

*   *   *

At the end of the day, Moreno says it is his knowledge of where he came from that is his armor against temptation.

“Sa awa ng Diyos, hindi pa ako nalalagyan. Because more than anything else, alam ninyo ako may mga buto rin sa cabinet, may mga kasalanan din ako sa Diyos. Ako naman, hindi tumatanggi na mayroon rin akong mga pagkakamali sa buhay. Pero ito kasi ang panahon na wala na akong hahanapin pa. Akalain niyo basurero lang ako tapos naging Mayor ako ng Maynila na? What are the chances? Napakaliit ng pagkakataon, kaya ako naman sa maliit kong kaparaan ay talaga naman pinipilit kong pagbutihin na, para naman sa ganoon yung bias sa aming mga artista, yung bias sa aming mga mahihirap na nagsumikap at nagsigasig ay mawala na. I want to show that it is possible. Pwede pala, kaya ayun ang mahabang istorya ng dalawang buwan at labing-tatlong araw (as of Sept. 13) kong paglilingkod. But it seems it has been years.”

Isko allows himself a daily luxury: Starbucks coffee in the morning.

“Kasi noong araw pag may P50 ako, fiesta na ako. Ngayon makakabili na ako ng syento dyes na kape, Starbucks, without hurting my pocket. I can sip 3-in-1 coffee, but drinking Starbucks is my motivation. To make myself happy, by holding it. To remind me ‘Hoy, steady ka lang, you don’t complain, nakapag-Starbucks ka na.’ That’s why  I’m always appreciative.”

And it seems more and more are becoming appreciative of Isko Moreno, too.

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

BINONDO GO NEGOSYO FORUM HSBC BUILDING ISKO MORENO JOEY CONCEPCION
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