His dad carried him on his shoulders, now he carries his children and an entire city on his
“I know [what it means] to have nothing,” recalls the 46-year-old mayor of Manila. To a great extent, this sums up the motivations behind what Francisco Domagoso, more popularly known as Isko Moreno or these days simply as Yorme, does for his family and for his city.
FATHER OF MANILA. Isko Moreno understands the needs of his constituents, like a father who knows what his children need
As a father of five, Isko knows that there is a responsibility and obligation that comes with being a parent. For the most part, he learned it from his own father, Joaquin. “My dad? We worked together, kahit na mahirap kami noong araw (even when we were poor back then),” he tells Manila Bulletin Lifestyle. “Isang sa natutunan ko sa tatay ko eh sabi niya lagi sa akin, ‘Alam mo, kapag humilata ka diyan sa bahay, ‘pag gising mo, apat na sulok pa rin ang bahay natin, walang nagbago’ (One of the lessons I learned from him was this: If you just stay at home doing nothing, when you wake up, you’d still be in the same four corners of your house, nothing would change).”
It was this clear sense of the importance of hardwork that Isko never forgot from his dad, and he has endeavored to live by this code in order to provide for his own family, which now includes his wife Diana and children Vincent, Frances, Franco, Joaquin Andre, and Drake.
This thought was clear in his mind even during that moment when he first became a father. “Nakaka-tense, exciting but of course it worries you also: What would be the future and the challenges ahead,” Isko says. “Because the day [a child] is born, on top of the nine months inside my wife’s womb, there’s an additional reality check. It will all start to sink in: gatas, diaper, gatas, diaper,” he adds, laughing.
“You always think about the future because I’ve seen the worst of life, ‘yung wala kang makain dahil sa hirap ng buhay (when you have nothing to eat because of poverty),” Isko continues. “And because you’ve seen the worst, you don’t want that thing to happen. It haunts you every single day, kaya pa-doble ng pa-doble ang pagsisikap (you double your effort).”
Despite this, or perhaps rather because of it, Isko admits that he’s all for having a huge family. “I want to have many children, in all honesty. While nakakatakot, while may kaba, eh kasi nga only child ako, gusto ko ng basketball team,” he says with a laugh.
As an only child, Isko had the attention of his parents, especially his father. Apart from the times he spent working with his father on the ports, with him as a garbage man and his dad as a stevedore, he remembers a particularly memorable moment he had with his father when he was younger.
“Dati, may palabas na sine sa Luneta. Batang-bata ako noon, kalong-kalong ako ng tatay ko sa balikat from Tondo to Luneta, dala dala niya ako kasi manonood kami ng sine (There used to be an outdoor cinema at Luneta. I was still very young, my dad would carry me on his shoulders from Tondo to Luneta to watch a film at the outdoor theater),” he says, with an obvious sparkle in his eyes.
Years later, now as a father of five and a father to millions of Manileños, Isko has not lost this sense of responsibility to provide his family and his constituents with a better life.
“Thank God, my children have a shelter, they’re able to eat every day, they go to school. I am able to provide for them,” he says. “But can you imagine in Manila, with more or less two million people during nighttime and three million in daytime, if not most at least a big chunk of them live below the poverty line that needs roofing, better healthcare, and more opportunities. I look at it as part of my obligation to provide. That’s why I have a lot of sleepless nights, because of worrying how I can improve the quality of life in Manila, even if I won’t be able to make every one of my constituents rich. And improving the quality of their lives means a lot of things: their environment, the services, the opportunity, their dignity.”
For his part, he has been constantly trying to provide Manileños with as much opportunity to better their lives as possible. Among the efforts under his term as mayor are the vertical and horizontal housing projects throughout the city.
“If I can give the same opportunity to others, especially being the father of the city, that is something—mapagbago mo ang buhay ng isang tao, isang pamilya (you can improve the life of one person, of one family),” Isko says.
He wishes that every other Filipino father would not forget this basic duty, the obligation to provide for their families, for their children. “I know it is tough being a parent, being a father. We all have our problems, our duties. But there’s one commong thing: Our families depend on us,” he says. “This pandemic adds up to this challenge. But, you know, may awa lagi ang Diyos. God will provide. So, patuloy lang tayo manalig at mag-pursigi, magsikap (let’s continue believing and persevering). And, in some way, we will be victorious. Kaya walang bibitaw.”