A Day In The Life Of Manila Mayor Isko Moreno
It’s mid-morning on a Friday and Manila City Hall is abuzz with the excitement and eagerness to please of new hires on their first day of work. Everyone stands at attention: the Mayor is In. He has already started his day hours earlier, at half past eight in the morning, speaking before the graduating class of Adamson University at the Philippine International Convention Centre, and is about to continue his official schedule for the day. His mere presence is electrifying the place. Such is life around the country’s currently most popular mayor, Francisco Moreno Domagoso, familiarly Isko Moreno, or, more familiarly, Yorme.
Everyone seems more than happy to serve this chief executive of six months and 24 days (at the time of the pictorial/interview). For with a decisiveness shown early in his term, particularly in the way he cleaned the streets of Manila of illegal vendors and illegally parked cars (an impossibility in the days of his predecessors), Moreno has inspired not only his constituents but a nation hungry for heroes.
The next item on his agenda is the Command Conference with the city’s police commanders, led by Police District Director General Bernabe Balba. Moreno firmly reminds the more than 60 law enforcers about City Ordinance 55/55, which mainly prohibits the police and government officials from drinking in public. Once caught, the offender does not get a second chance because of the city’s one-strike policy. “Remember that when I say someone has violated 55/55, I already have a photograph to back me up,” he reminds the men in blue. “A rotten tomato must be taken out of the basket and once there is discipline, the work of the policeman will be easier.”
A few minutes into the Command Conference, Chief of Staff Cesar Chavez politely requests the media (Tatler Philippines and a television crew) to leave the room and give the Mayor a chance to discuss classified matters with the city police commanders.
Tatler Philippines was then ushered into the Mayor’s office, where Moreno holds his official meetings. His desk and chair are placed at the far short end of the rectangular room, with the seal of his office looming behind. A few chairs are lined up, face to face on both sides of the desk and more chairs arranged theatre style. A technical booth stands unobtrusively at the back of the room, which also serves as the Mayor’s studio for his weekly programme, The Capital Report, every Friday afternoon. With wooden walls and parquet floors, brown hues dominate. But today, three piggy banks, two blue and one yellow, disrupt the palette. Donations from the Mayor’s supporters, staff Josh Vera Cruz explains. The yellow piggy bank came from a seventh grader from Caloocan City and the two blues from OFWs (Overseas Filipino Workers). They learnt of Moreno’s InCity Vertical Housing project from his Facebook account and believe in his dream of providing homes for the homeless of the city.
Moreno emerges from a side door. He is holding a tall cup of Starbucks brewed coffee, one of four or five he regularly consumes in a day. “This is my pat on the back. Every cup reminds me to be grateful because now I can afford to spend 120 pesos for coffee when, once upon a time I could not,” he tells us.
This is my pat on the back. Every cup reminds me to be grateful that now I can afford 120 pesos for coffee when, once upon a time I could not
Asked to look out the window for a back shot, Moreno comments on the sight. “Oh dear. Such chaos and filth!” he remarks. The mental note to immediately address the eyesore is audible.
We ask what his favourite spots in Manila are and he quickly answers, the City Hall. “It has been my second home for 18 years straight [Moreno served Manila as vice-mayor for three terms and a city councillor for an- other three] plus six months and 24 days [as mayor] almost day in, day out,” he says. He mentions three more: Intramuros (“most precious jewel of the city”); the Chinese district Binondo; and Velazquez in Tondo district (“There you can find the best street food”). The boy who grew up in Tondo admitted usually indulging in a late snack in the latter, topping his all-time favourites with the iced delicacy halo-halo, before calling it a day.
Noon has struck but the hustle and bustle give a feeling that a whole day’s work has already transpired. Chavez and Veracruz take turns entering the room to remind the Mayor of his next appointment, the Dragon Dance to be presented by the Department of Tourism, Culture, and Arts of Manila at the City Hall quadrangle. It is, after all, the eve of Chinese New Year.
And yet, he seems unperturbed. Where is this cool dude coming from? So, we ask him how he de-stresses in the face of such a hectic schedule. He opens the side door he entered earlier from and invited us into his Me Room.
The less officious space is informally divided into two: a table for six for receiving visitors as well as for dining (we suppose); and a den-like corner with a sofa set, with a side table on which sits the book If Mayors Rule the World by Benjamin Barbers, and a record player. His albums? Mostly OPMs (Original Pilipino Music) of the ’80s. “I sit in this corner to relax, listen to my music, or look at my phone—of course with my cup of coffee,” Moreno says, adding that he has a knack for finding a quiet corner wherever he goes, whenever he feels the need to relax.
Here we meet another Yorme, a seven-month old female Caucasian who bears the moniker of her master. A huge dog, Yorme loves it when Moreno strokes her tummy, and even more when the Mayor massages her paw. Yorme has a scary bark, but not intended for everybody. Moreno takes this as his dog’s ability to discern who means harm to him and who doesn’t.
He finally goes out to the quadrangle to watch the Dragon Dance. Suddenly, people start coming from everywhere, from all the five floors of the city hall, pushing and jostling towards any window. Visitor or employee, everyone drops whatever they are doing to look outside, not so much to view the colourful pageantry unfolding as to get a glimpse of their beloved mayor.
Next on the agenda is a visit to the victims of the fire that broke out on Lico Street, district of Tondo, the previous night. Moreno allowed Tatler Philippines photographer Xyza Bacani to take photographs of him in the car as well. At the site, Bacani reports the scramble to hug, grab, and kiss the hometown boy of whom they are so proud.
I thank God and ask for forgiveness, guidance, strength
— Isko Moreno
From Lico Street, Moreno goes to the Manila Cathedral for the enthronement rites of Our Lady of La Naval, which visits Intramuros again, its original home, after an absence of more than 60 years. Again, his presence is palpably electric, causing a lot of jostling if only to get near him for a selfie. The Mayor is known to oblige every selfie with anybody, when possible. In fact, he will even get hold of the fan’s mobile phone and take the shot himself. He does a good job of this, too. Practice makes perfect indeed.
It is now late in the afternoon and Moreno rushes back to City Hall to start The Capital Report. A string of visitors has been waiting and he meets as many of them in his Me Room before his weekly recap starts.
Many of the staff have started clearing their desks, ready to go home. But today is one of those long days for Moreno. His last item on the agenda is to await the coming of the Chinese New Year at the newly rehabilitated Jones Bridge in Binondo. Happening near midnight, the late hour will not stop the crowd from showing up to be with their beloved Mayor, who makes them feel, every minute of the day, that he is simply one of them.
When midnight strikes and the new year comes around, Moreno may finally be ready to go home and end his day with a prayer. “I thank God and ask for forgiveness, guidance, strength,” he rattles off a nightly prayer that is turning into his mantra. “Then I will watch something, anything on the Internet. YouTube, Google are my schools. I watch everything from carpentry to governance to inspiring stories. Eventually, I will get tired naturally and fall asleep.”
According to Philippine Inquirer, Isko Moreno took his oath as Manila mayor on June 30, 2019.
Read also: Binondo Food Trip 2020: Where To Get The Best Chinese Delicacies In Manila’s Old Chinatown
- Photography Xyza Cruz Bacani
- Videography Angela Arcega