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Francisco “Isko” Moreno Domagoso: An Inspiration


The Little Scavenger

Francisco Domagoso, born on October 24, 1974, is the only child of Joaquin Domagoso, a stevedore at the North Harbor and Rosario Moreno, a housewife.

He has half-siblings from his father’s side with whom he is in good terms.

Back then, his father did not earn much so he and his mother suffered so much poverty but he did go to school. At the age of 10, when he was in Grade 4, he wondered how their neighbors and his pals in Tondo could afford stuff that he and his mother could not afford, until he discovered that the kids were scavenging in the dumps of Tondo and Manila.

In his desire to earn, he joined the scavenger kids. His mother was against it but he could not be stopped. At first, he tagged along to see how it was done. It did not take him long to learn the ropes and be on his own. With a cart, he would roam the streets of Manila to find any useful stuff he could collect and sell.

He would collect leftovers they call “batsoy” from fast food chains. He filled his plastic bag with all kinds of leftovers, such as spaghetti, hamburgers, and fried chicken, plus soda cans, plastic spoons and forks, plastic cups, Styrofoam, etc.

He and his buddies would segregate the leftover foods in their bags. If they are lucky, they find fried chicken parts with more meat on them. That would be from kids who would take one bite and discard the food.

The leftovers were segregated into “kaning-baboy” (for the pigs) and “kaning-tao” (for human consumption).

The “kaning-tao” would be washed thoroughly to remove the impurities and fried in very hot oil to kill whatever bacteria were in them. That was what they call batsoy, but people now call these food pagpag.

Thus, he was able to help his mother by bringing food to the table and handing over his income from scavenging.

Though he grew in deprivation and poverty, he did not begrudge his situation. In one interview, he claimed he had a somewhat happy childhood, though he admitted there were times when he would be so frustrated for being so poor. While his scavenging buddies were into solvents, he never even considered it. He knew “sniffing solvents” could damage his brain. And besides, why would he spend his hard-earned money on solvents? He would rather buy food.

When he graduated from Rosauro Almario Elementary School, he thought that it was time to advance himself so he said goodbye to scavenging and got into pedicab driving, selling cigarettes, newspapers, bananas. Name it and he sold it. When he graduated from Tondo High School, he had dreams of being a seaman to eventually become a “ship captain” because he believed that when he is a captain of a ship, he could be rich. He enrolled at Philippine Maritime Institute (PMI). He would work one semester and enroll the next. From April to September, he would work and earn enough money to enroll by October. That’s how he financed his dream, but fate had other plans for him.


From Garbage to Glitz and Glamour

The young Francisco frequented wakes for free food. When the dead is from a poor family, only black coffee and some cheap biscuits were served, but for the rich families, you get soup, juices, and sandwiches. It was in one of those “richer” wakes that he was approached by a talent manager and asked if he wanted to be in showbiz. He was handed the talent manager’s calling card.

That was in 1993 and he was only 18. It was an offer he readily accepted. The talent manager, Wowie Roxas, brought the young Francisco to the GMA show called That’s Entertainment, hosted by German “Kuya Germs” Moreno. Kuya Germs had been building up talents through his show. The young Francisco then was given a chance to be one of the mainstays of the show and he became popular as Isko Moreno.

He started as a matinee idol but later transitioned into more mature roles.

He could not forget his first stint in showbiz. His call time was 9am but his scene was not shot until the next morning. He, however, had no complaints. He was in an air conditioned room doing nothing, with free food for morning snack, lunch, afternoon snack, dinner, and midnight snack. His scene was shot at 4am, and all he had to do was push a doorbell. For that, he was paid Php1,500.

Isko Moreno could not believe he was paid the same amount he could only earn in 30 days driving a pedicab, and all he had to do was eat the whole day and push a doorbell and deliver a line. Needless to say, he loved being in showbiz and stayed for 5 years until public service caught his eye.

Despite his blooming showbiz career, Isko Moreno did not leave Tondo where he saw an opportunity to help by representing the community.

From Showbiz Into Politics

Moreno started his political career by running and winning as councilor for Manila’s first congressional district in 1998. He was reelected in 2001 and in 2004. He became the Vice-Mayor of Manila in 2007 and serve for 2 terms.

There were those who looked down on him because he was “artista lang” (just an actor) and just a high school graduate. He took the snobbery as a challenge so he sought to advance himself.

While he was councilor, with the help and support of then Manila Vice Mayor, he took a crash course in Local Legislation and Local Finance at the University of the Philippines.

Then he studied Public Administration in Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila and got his degree. He also took law units at Arellano University.

The YORME (Mayor)

The little scavenger boy called the Cinderella Man now holds office at the Manila City Hall as its 27th Mayor.

After 3 terms as councilor, 2 terms as Vice Mayor of Manila, he set his eyes on the mayoralty post but when mayor Erap Estrada broke his promise not to run for a second term, Moreno severed ties with him and ran for a national post in 2016. He unfortunately lost the race.

He was appointed by President Rodrigo Duterte on July 2017 as Chairman of the Board of North Luzon Railways Corporation but he resigned in October 2017. He was again appointed by the President in May 2018 as Undersecretary for Luzon Affairs at the Department of Social Welfare and Development. He once again resigned from the post in October 2018 to run for Mayor of Manila in 2019.

He came back to Manila City Hall with a vengeance.

On May 13, 2019, Isko Moreno won the mayoralty race of Manila.

Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso has become the most popular mayor in the Philippines within a month of his sitting in City Hall. His hands-on approach in governance has endeared him, not only to his constituents, but to many Filipinos all over the country.

The US Ambassador to the Philippines has called Manila Mayor Isko Moreno a “total rock star” and his fans could not agree more. He is swamped with requests for “selfies” whenever he steps out of City Hall.


Personal Life

His personal life has taken a back seat to his public servant persona. His wife is not visible as the first lady of Manila. That is how both of them wanted it to be. He married his non-showbiz girlfriend Diana Lynn Ditan in 2000. They are blessed with 5 children: Vincent Patrick, Frances Diane (the only girl), Joaquin Andre, Franco Dylan, and Drake Marcus.


The 27th mayor of Manila has popularized a street lingo that he learned from growing up in Tondo and the streets of Manila.

  1. yorme – mayor
  2. etneb – bente (twenty)
  3. pusam – sampo (ten)
  4. nanka – kanan (right)
  5. wakali – kaliwa (left)
  6. nyangga – ganyan (loose English translation: like that)
  7. yadba – bayad (payment)
  8. oblo – loob (inside)
  9. netmai – mainit (hot)
  10. takuwarents – kuwarenta (forty)
  11. lespu – pulis (police)
  12. tolongges – loko (foolish, foolishness)
  13. ledgi – gilid (beside)
  14. gayla – lagay (bribe)
  15. toits – ito (this one)

At the moment, the residents of Manila love their Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso, especially the poor because they think of their YORME as one of them.

The story of the Cinderella Man has become an inspiration to so many especially to poor kids who dream of getting out of poverty someday and achieving their dreams. “Libre ang mangarap (It is free to dream),” the mayor quips.

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