MANILA (UPDATE) - Aksyon Demokratiko standard bearer Isko Moreno Domagoso ended his campaign for the presidency in Tondo, the place where he began his career as a scavenger, actor, and later as a politician.
But unlike the sullied streets Domagoso grew up in, a portion of Moriones was spruced up on Saturday to welcome back one of its sons who has ascended to become Manila mayor, and is now vying for the Philippine presidency.
"Napakalikot ng tadhana. Sino ba ang mag-aakala?" Domagoso said in his miting de avance speech, his last chance to publicly woo voters to choose him as the country's next chief executive.
"Gusto kong kunin ang pagkakataon na ito [para sabihin na] nang dahil sa inyo nandito kami," he said.
"Parang kailan lang, ang mga pangarap ko parang kay hirap abutin. Dahil sa inyo, napunta ako sa nais kong marating," he said.
After taking his time to thank his classmates who treated him to meals as boy, he reminisced about his neighbors and teachers in Tondo, and the numerous times they were chased out of rented homes for failing to settle their dues.
"Maraming salamat sa lahat ng tumulong sa akin. Maraming salamat, Tondo. Kung wala kayo, wala din ako sa kinalalagyan ko ngayong gabi," the presidential aspirant said.
"Totoo na paminsan-minsan magaspang kami, akala niyo pala-away kami... Hindi ninyo lang kami nakilala ng lubos. Makukuha mo kami ng laway lang. Hindi ho kami kailangan bilhin. Sasamahan ka namin hanggang dulo," he said.
Domagoso paused for a while, taking in the sight, the smell, and most certainly the sound of his supporters' response to his statement: "Walang iwanan! Walang iwanan."
This was not the first time the Manila Mayor paid tribute to his poor beginnings as a scavenger in Tondo.
Part of Domagoso's campaign narrative is about how he can implement more practical policies since he has a first-hand experience of how a poor family survives from day to day.
Even in his sorties across the country, Domagoso always brings up Tondo, telling voters and provincial leaders how the area mirrors the "real life" of Filipinos.
"Itong mga nakikita mo, yung mga nakikita mong bata diyan, parang ako lang yan. Hindi naiiba itsura ko diyan noong araw. Libagin, banilin, uhugin, alipungahin," he said in a sortie in Mambaling, Cebu.
"You can see yourself [in them]. Ang bilis ng panahon na nakikita mo sarili mo," he said.
JV EJERCITO, SON OF ISKO'S EX-RIVAL APPEARS
Domagoso's poor roots is one of his assets as a presidential candidate, said senatorial aspirant JV Ejercito, whose appearance in the Tondo miting de avance came as a surprise to many.
Ejercito is the son of former president and former Manila Mayor Joseph "Erap" Estrada, who was deposed from power in 2019 after Domagoso won the mayoralty race with 51 percent of votes.
"Napakalaking bagay na si Yorme Isko ay galing sa mahirap, naiintindihan niya ang kalam ng sikmura," Ejercito said.
"Noong panahon ng pandemya, siya po ay nanatili sa Maynila para labanan ang Covid sa gitna ng pandemiya," he said, referring to the 3 months Domagoso spent cooped inside the Manila City Hall working at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
While Domagoso had traded barbs with the Ejercito's father in the past, the senatorial aspirant clarified that there is no bad blood between him and the incumbent Manila Mayor.
"Hindi kami nagkaroon [ni Isko] ng kahit anong animosity dahil kami ay nagkakaintindihan," he said.
Domagoso backed Ejercito's statement, saying the presence of his former rival's son in his miting de avance proves that he does not hold grudges against anyone.
"Nandiyan si JV Ejercito. Kayo mismo makapaghusga na hindi ako naghihiganti. Wala akong pait sa buhay," he said.
"Ang paghihiganti walang buting idudulot," he said.
ISKO TAKES A SWIPE AT MARCOS, ROBREDO
Domagoso then urged voters not to vote for warring factions and personalities involved in the EDSA People Power revolution that deposed late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr., the father of current presidential race frontrunner former Sen. Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr.
"Nagrebolusyon ang tao, hindi sila... Ang tao pumunta sa EDSA, biglang dumating ang mga super friends. Sila na daw ang simbolo ng demokrasya," he said, without mentioning names.
"Nangako sa atin noong 1986 ng pagbabago pero bakit ngayon ang pinaguusapan pa din natin ay pagbabago?" he said.
Domagoso also questioned where his rivals for the presidency were at the height of the COVID-19 crisis.
"'Yung isa nandoon sa Forbes Park pa-vlog vlog. anak pinagpala. Good for him. Yung isa, picture picture. Nauna pa tweet bago pagkilos," he said.
Domagoso did not mention names but Marcos Jr. put up his own YouTube channel, while Vice President Leni Robredo has partnered with various private companies to deliver pandemic supplies and transportation services to various sectors as early as 2020.
"Isinuka na natin sila dati. Huwag niyo nang ibalik sa palad ng mga tao o lahi ng pamilyang bumulok sa Maynila," he said.
"I get things done. Ginagawa ko ang dapat kong gawin at gagawin ko ang lahat, hawiin lahat ng bundok maibigay lang ang patag na kalsada para sa ordinaryong Pilipino," he said.
Domagoso then lamented how affluent candidates and voters allegedly look down on poor Filipinos, noting how supporters of other presidential bets called him "rude" for simply stating his opinion on several issues.
"Kitang kita natin: kapag sila, laging tama. Kapag sila, laging banal. Pag tayo, bastos. Wow, wagas. Pang-Ayala Avenue," he said, pertaining to the location of Robredo's miting de avance.
"Ang sakit isipin na ang nagsasalita ng masakit sa atin kapwa natin Pilipino... Ang tawag pa sa atin dito sa Pilipinas lalo sa Tondo, laylayan? Makaimbento kayo ng salita, palpak pa," he said.
"Ang krisis hindi mareresolba ng lugaw," he added.
Robredo's critics often taunt her with the phrase "Leni Lugaw," a slang used to refer to people who do not have much substance.
AKSYON DEMOKRATIKO SLATE
Before Domagoso's hour-long speech, various musicians opened his miting the avance at around 4 p.m. to set up the festive mood ahead of the arrival of the Aksyon Demokratiko president, his vice presidential candidate Willie Ong, and senatorial bets Carl Balita, John Castriciones, Samira Gutoc, and Jopet Sison.
Castriciones, a guest candidate, acknowledged that his party mates from ruling party PDP-Laban are rallying behind Marcos Jr.
"Ako ay miyembro ng PDP-Laban. Ang mga kasamahan ko nagsisiksikan sa pulahan pero nakita ko na kung may karapadapat na maging susunod na presidente ng Pilipinas, yan ay ang asul," he said.
"'Yan ay si Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso."
Gutoc mentioned that leaders of the Bangsamoro endorsed another presidential candidate instead of Domagoso.
“Hindi ako nagtatampo sa Bangsamoro dahil may karapatan kayo mag-endorso,” she said.
“Pero ang totoong survey ay ang tao,” she said.
Balita urged voters to elect new names to the Senate, while Ong thanked Domagoso for letting him join his campaign.
“Ito ang mas masayang yugto ng buhay ko," the cardiologist, who is running for vice president, said.
"Ang dami naming natutunan. Ito lahat utang namin kay Mayor Isko Moreno.”
Sison, on the other hand, thanked Tondo for helping mold and raise Domagoso when the actor-turned-politician barely had clothes on his back.
"Maraming salamat dahil pinalaki ninyo ang isang Isko. Taas noo kaming humaharap sa kanila dahil may kasama kaming Isko Moreno," Sison said.
"Kahit saang lugar sa Pilipinas nirerespeto kami dahil sa mga nagawa ng isang Isko Moreno," he said.
Domagoso's first door out of poverty happened in Tondo after he was scouted to join show business while attending his neighbor's funeral.
After several years singing, dancing and starring in movies, Domagoso ran for councilor in the first district of Manila, and eventually rose to become vice mayor, and now the capital city's local chief executive.
This struggle from the alleys of Tondo to the Office of the Mayor is something Domagoso clings on to in his quest to occupy the halls of Malacañang, especially as he lags behind in pre-election surveys.
In Pulse Asia's April last pre-election survey, only 4 percent of respondents said that they would vote for the Aksyon Demokratiko standard bearer if the presidential election was held at the time when the survey was conducted.
"Remember, wala akong magaang na buhay," Domagoso would say when asked how he feels about being behind 3 other presidential candidates in the final stretch of the campaign.
"Buong buhay ko hirap. Parang every step of the way, every ladder, dumadaan ka sa buhay ng karayom kaya sanay naman ako doon," he said.
That is the same message he brought back to Tondo, both to urge voters to shade the oval beside his name on the ballot, and to inspire those who have yet to lift themselves up from poverty.