MANILA - Manila Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso is starting to accentuate his Visayan roots after years of being the poster boy of Tondo as he prepares to leave the comforts of his bailiwick to woo more voters in his 2022 presidential bid.
Domagoso was born and raised in Tondo, a dank district of the Philippine capital, on October 24,1974 to parents Joaquin and Chayong, who both hail from the Visayas.
The mayor is the lone child of stevedore Joaquin Domagoso from Antique and Chayong Moreno from Northern Samar, who washed clothes for a living.
"Maraming salamat kay nanay at tatay ko, kay Joaquin at kay Chayong isang Antikenyo, isang Waray-waray na nagpunta sa Maynila, tumusok ng bahay ng may bahay sa lupa ng may lupa at ako ang naging bunga," Domagoso said during the filing of his certificate of candidacy for president.
(Thanks to my mother and father, Joaquin and Chayong, and Antiqueño and a Waray-Waray who traveled to Manila, built a house in a land that is not theirs and brought me to life.)
Domagoso has been repeating this line over the years, in various speeches he delivered as Manila Mayor, but his campaign team admitted that this connection to the Visayas needs to be further underscored in the run up to the 2022 national elections.
"You know how regionalistic Filipinos can be [during elections]," Aksyon Demokratiko chairperson Ernest Ramel Jr. told ABS-CBN News.
"Not a lot of people know that he came from the Visayas," he said.
In a Pulse Asia survey conducted from September 6 to 11, only 15 percent of respondents from the Visayas said they would vote for Domagoso for president. The mayor's numbers in Mindanao was lower at 3 percent.
"Ang roots niya talaga ay Visayan siya (His roots are really Visayan) and a lot of people from Mindanao are from these areas as well," Ramel said.
"When people realize this, I think they would gravitate towards Mayor Isko," he said.
REGIONALISM IN PHILIPPINE ELECTIONS
Regionalism plays a "big role" in Philippine elections because several voters from provinces are looking for candidates who have an affinity with their respective hometowns, said Dennis Coronacion, head of the University of Sto. Tomas' Political Science program.
"The moment a person is born, he or she is already connected to a place. You get attached to it," he said.
"When choosing a candidate, especially in the national elections, voters will be thinking of someone who is connected to your place, hoping that someone will do something good not just for the entire country but to your place as well," he said.
It would be difficult for the Manila mayor to corner votes in the Visayas if he would rely merely on his late parents, Coronacion said
"You should be able to speak the language of that place. Candidates should be able to establish that kind of connection to the voters," he said.
People from the Visayas speak either Cebuano, Ilonggo or Waray, and other languages which Domagoso is not fluent in, he said.
The Manila mayor also did not frequently visit his parents' hometowns when he was younger or years before he decided to run for president.
"Puwede niyang i-rekindle yung ties niya (He can rekindle his ties) with the relatives of his mom and dad... but there is a good chance that it might hurt him, rather than help him," he said.
"It depends on how he is going to reach out to these people," he said.
Coronacion said the Manila mayor has a better chance of cornering more votes from the Visayas and Mindanao if he sticks to his "stronger connections" with voters: his rags to riches story.
"Ang strength niya (His strength) is based on his personal circumstances," the political analyst said.
"Lumaki siya sa kahirapan, so in a way, baka maka-connect siya sa Visayan voters na nasa D and E classes," he said.
(He was poor while he was growing up, so in a way, maybe he can connect with Visayan voters from the D and E classes.)
Domagoso, however, is not the lone 2022 presidential candidate with a rags to riches narrative.
Sen. Manny Pacquiao, who is also eyeing the presidency next year, also hailed from a poor family in General Santos City in Mindanaoan before he worked his way up the boxing ladder to win world titles and eventually enter politics.
While Pacquiao may have more regional and international connections, Ramel noted that their party's standard bearer has the edge when it comes to achievements as a public servant and politician.
"Not to belittle our boxing icon or champion, but if you compare the performance of track record of Mayor Isko and Manny Pacquiao, I think way ahead naman si Mayor Isko because of his executive background," the Aksyon Demokratiko chairman said.
"Way ahead din naman si Mayor Isko with his educational background," he said.
Domagoso began his political career as Manila city councilor in 1998, while Pacquiao entered the political arena in 2010 as Saranggani province representative.
With prodding from former Manila Vice Mayor Danny Lacuna, Domagoso earned his public administration degree from the University of the City of Manila, and enrolled in non-degree programs at the Harvard Kennedy School, and Oxford University in the United Kingdom.
"People resonate with his aspirations and the achievements of Mayor Isko. They aspire for what Mayor Isko has already achieved," Ramel said.
Aksyon Demokratiko said that it has also secured several alliances with local politicians in different provinces to help push the presidential bid of the mayor of "imperial Manila".
"You'd be surprised. There are a lot of supporters from influential clans from those areas as we speak," Ramel said.
"We surmise that it will continue to grow as the campaign continues... but at this point, I cannot divulge who are they," he said.
Domagoso earlier secured the support of Sen. Ralph Recto and his wife Batangas Rep. Vilma Santos-Recto, influential figures in vote-rich Batangas.
Maguindanao Rep. Esmael "Toto" Mangudadatu also pledged to back Domagoso's presidential bid despite his ties with the Duterte administration.
Despite these regional links, most incumbent officials are still aligned with ruling PDP-Laban and the Duterte family.
In the succeeding months, voters will see if Domagoso's strategy of playing up his Visayan roots stands a chance against other presidential candidates who were actually born and raised provinces away from Manila, Coronacion said.
"It's anybody's game at this point. They have enough time to address their deficiencies," he said.
"A smart candidate is someone who is going to talk to all sectors, all regions, and all voters regardless of where they came from," he said.
"He must not waste a single vote."