Randomly, Mayor Isko Moreno

The author gets a piece of Mayor Isko’s time.

By Angelito Cabigao

Esquire Magazine’s “Man at His Best” was filled with Filipino men and women who push the limits to being the best. It was an event filled with industry leaders from film, art, fashion, business, sports, music, and politics.

One of the awardees is the very popular Manila Mayor Francisco ‘Isko’ Moreno Domagoso. Whether you watch Philippine television or browse through Facebook, there’s a good chance you may have heard of him.  Mayor Isko is known for his inspections around Manila to clean up the city and speaking engagements inviting the businesses to help in the rebuilding of the capital.  

It was my second time being at an event with a politician. The first was in 2008 when Barack Obama  was campaigning for president in Jersey City. The things I remember the most during the Obama campaign were the random moments, such as the pictures he took with students before entering the building despite the security rushing him, and the fist bump he gave to a local security officer after he delivered his speech.

The experience I had meeting with Mayor Isko was similar.

Mayor Isko (wearing a Barong) with fellow Esquire awardees, among them composer Ryan Cayabyab and artist BenCab. Esquire Photo       

I first glimpsed Mayor Isko while walking to the venue at The Fifth at Rockwell. An Italian gentleman ran past me and snuck in a selfie with the mayor who was putting on his mic for an interview. I looked around and noticed there were groups waiting to get a piece of his time. I had to decide quickly whether I should follow the crowd for a chance to talk to him or go to the other side where alcohol and food were readily available.

I must admit that I was not too familiar with the mayor, but his Facebook feeds always catch my attention. Posts such as the mayor taking time to discuss sustainable projects with environmentalists, personally confronting individuals who are lighting up in no-smoking areas, and doing major street cleanups. Is this mayor for real? I believe it takes more than just a political title to act upon these bigger initiatives. I decided to take the chance of following the crowd to clear this curiosity.

I followed him around for about 30 minutes along with others, but could not seem to catch a break for a bit of his time. Therefore, I decided to try to catch him after his award acceptance.  I was by myself pigging out on some Nachos when I caught him eating alone in the back of the stage.  I had to make sure this was not a mayor stunt double.   It did not take long before the waiters took notice and approached him for selfies.

Within days of his election, the mayor hits the ground running.

Afterwards, I got my unexpected first opportunity to meet him, and asked him my question. “Can you sum up your definition of leadership in one sentence?” 

He replied, “Leadership is about staying focused and excelling despite the odds.”

It was indeed a definition that matched up with the actions he was doing as the 27th mayor of Manila. For example, it was hard to believe certain streets in Manila could be cleaned rather quickly, that his eco-friendly initiatives would apply to Manila Bay, that a  no-smoking ban can be implemented in parts of the city.  However, despite the odds, he pushed through with actions.

My second encounter with Mayor Isko was when my Filipino American buddy from California and I were talking and we saw him by the Foosball table next to us.  We didn’t really have an idea of what we were going to talk about with him, so it ended up being a Tagalog lesson kind of chat. I put on my Facebook Live and had him wave to the viewers. But he went the extra step of greeting “Magandang gabi sa lahat” in English.  

‘If not for Manilans, I won’t have this award. I owe it to them.’ Photo by Angelito Cabigao

Like myself, I’m sure many of the attendees did not think they would get time to have a picture with the mayor or talk to him, but they did.  The selfies people took with him, the selfies he took with people’s cameras, the extra minutes he took to get to the elevator to get selfies with the cleaners and security guards, and the moments he made himself available for people to approach him and ask him questions – these were moments many didn’t expect he would do at the event.  

Mayor Isko showcased the quality that people look for in their leaders – those with people first’ mindsets.  In his award speech he said something that resonated, “If not for Manilans, I won’t have this award. I owe it to them.” 

© The FilAm 2019

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