From 'Pagpag' Boy to Manila Mayor: Isko Moreno's rise to power

MANILA, Philippines – Manila Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso is currently winning the praise of many as he makes waves of changes in the country's capital city.
From "Pagpag" Boy to Manila Mayor: Isko Moreno's rise to power

But before he occupied Manila's highest seat of power, Isko Moreno had once been part of the city's face of poverty.

Moreno's rise to power is more than that of a "Cinderella man." For his was a story of resilience, determination, love for learning and reaching for one's ambitions.

Baby Isko Moreno
Baby Isko Moreno | Photo Courtesy: ABS-CBN

Moreno was born on October 24,1974 in the impoverished slums of Tondo, Manila. His father, Joaquin, worked as a stevedore and his mother, Rosario, took care of the family's needs.

Moreno shared he was 10-year old when he realized that they were poor. He said, "Kasi wala kaming Atari, wala kaming Game & Watch, yung kapitbahay namin may Betamax na."

Life wasn't easy for the family and his father didn't always have a job. At a young age, Moreno learned to find odd ways to find food on the table or they would starve. It was at that time when he discovered "pagpag" or discarded food left in the garbage.

"Sa araw araw na ginawa ng Diyos, mamimili ka lang: yung mamatay na dilat ang mata o mamatay na may hepa," Moreno recalled.

Moreno would scavenge the garbage of restaurants to find "pagpag." His mother would cook it for the family and even sometimes sell it to neighbors for a small amount.

When the boy grew up, Moreno learned to hustle on the streets by collecting old newspapers and bottles and sold them to junk shops. Moreno was determined not to be a wayward as he had a goal to fulfill: finish high school.

Moreno wanted to be a ship captain
Moreno wanted to be a ship captain | Photo Courtesy: ABS-CBN

Moreno's father only finished grade 4 but his son was determined to achieve more. College seemed like an impossible dream for the young man but he had big plans. Moreno wanted to be a captain of a ship.

Being a trash collector, Moreno was bullied in school. He recalled how relentless his classmates would tease him and said, "Naiiyak lang minsan." He remain undeterred for he had a dream to accomplish.

But like always, fate has a funny way of changing our plans.

While attending a wake, Moreno was approached by talent manager and producer, Wowie Roxas who offered him a job in front of a camera. It was the beginning of Moreno's showbiz career.

Moreno got in the 7th batch of the popular variety show, "That's Entertainment." He went on to fulfill his job as a charming actor to make movies and various projects.

Eventually, the actor had another dream set in mind. He wanted to be a public servant.

Moreno's first taste of politics was when he ran as councilor in 1998. He found himself in the middle of dirty trash talks, as his opponents lambasted his lack of education. "Artista ka lang, high school graduate ka lang," was what he heard from critics.

But instead of putting him down, Moreno used these to become best arsenal. During one of his campaign speeches, had a rousing speech saying, "Walang sino man ang makakapagsabi dito na alam nila ang pakiramdam niyo kapag kumakalam ang sikmura ninyo. Ako alam ko ’yon.”

Moreno won his first election at age 23 years old. He served as councilor for three more terms. After, Moreno went on to serve as vice mayor for three terms too. He ran as a senator in 2016 but lost.

Isko From the slums to Manila's highest seat
From the slums to Manila's highest seat | Photo Courtesy: Facebook/Isko Moreno

The self-made man also didn't stop learning. In 2003, Moreno earned his business administration degree from International Academy of Management and Economics. He also took an Executive Leadership Program at the University of the Philippines. Moreno also took up some law units at Arellano University.

He was later sent to Harvard University for an Executive Leadership Program and Oxford University for a Strategic Leadership Program.

From a "pagpag" boy in Tondo, Moreno is now making sweeping changes in Manila as he hopes to bring back the city's glory days.

"I'm no Superman," Moreno admitted but also promised, "But, it will be different."

— Sally, The Summit Express

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