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Manila: Scrubbing Clean the Monument to our Pride

“I’ll move heaven and earth to clean up the city. Dugyot kami. Papaliguan ko lang naman.” These were the famous words of Francisco “Isko” Moreno Domagoso during his first week as Manila mayor.

For the first time in recent memory, a mayor actually acknowledged the sordid state of the nation’s capital. No sugar coating, just stating the facts. Isko just said what most of us have been thinking all these years – Manila is filthy, and it needs a thorough scrubbing.

And scrub he did. The Manila clean-up that this new yorme has been pushing for has become well-known to most Filipinos. He’s utilized social media frequently, oftentimes calling out behaviors that need to be changed.

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The seemingly simple changes that Yorme Isko has been championing has been impactful on the city, and is a hopeful indication of better things to come. What exactly is Isko’s Bagong Maynila, and why should we be excited about it?

The Yorme from the slums of Tondo

Although he adjusts his manner of speaking during official press conferences and speeches, Isko Moreno reverts to street-slang for his social media updates. This has endeared him with people, making it easy for them to rally behind his causes.

His history is no secret, most especially to his constituents, as he has projected that image even as he was Vice Mayor. Everyone knows he’s from the slums of Tondo. Articles on his humble beginnings explain that his family was so poor, he collected pagpag (leftover food in the trash) just so that they could have something to eat. His greatest ambition during those years was to graduate from high school. Money was so tight that they could barely pay for the almost free education that he was receiving.

Isko was discovered by a talent manager during a neighbor’s wake. Soon after, his speedy entry into the world of show business really turned his life around. In 1998, he ran for councilor purely on a whim, and this break into the bigger stage of public service kept him in the limelight.

He served three terms as councilor, and he really pushed himself to be well-equipped for public service. He took courses on legislation, governance, and leadership from the University of the Philippines, Harvard University, and the University of Oxford.

In 2007, he was elected vice mayor of Manila, and served for another three consecutive terms. That was when it was imprinted into the minds of Manilenyos that Isko was a competent public servant. The rest is recent history.

Scrubbing the city clean

Yorme Isko is serious when he said that he will give his city a much needed bath. His first order of business was to literally scrub the city clean.

In his first 100 days, a total of 3,373 roads all over Manila was cleared of illegal structures, vendors, and obstructions. It was so effective that even President Duterte called a nationwide clearing of public roads, echoing the instructions of the yorme.

The Isko Administration was persistent as they cleaned and cleared public spaces, and people were taking notice. It’s as if they were using a pressure washer to rid Manila of its decades-old grime, and the results are apparent.

The clean parts provide a stark contrast to the dirty spots, showing how beautiful Manila could be.

Isko’s Bagong Maynila

An early and much-publicized achievement of Mayor Isko was the  Bonifacio Monument cleanup job. Located literally outside the Manila City hall, it drew the ire of Yorme Isko after he stepped on human feces while he was inspecting it.

It was once a grimy monument, and people didn’t think much of it. Isko called it “the biggest toilet in Manila”, as informal settlers defecated on the premises.

But with the actions of the Manila City Government, the transformation, both physical and symbolic, has been complete. This monument is now clean, its colors vibrant. It is a befitting testament to the bravery of one of our heroes, and is again a source of pride for Filipinos – exactly how it was intended to be.

The “re-launching” of the monument was done during a flag ceremony for the office of the mayor. Yorme Isko reminded the public that the monument is a symbol of what bravery could achieve. He stated that Manileños should help out each other, because who else will help us if we don’t help ourselves?

This is Isko’s Bagong Maynila – the bottom line is that we all need a reminder that our capital is, and should be, a source of pride for every single Filipino.

Every clean and shiny thing, an accomplishment

Of course, there’s more to turning the capital around than just cleaning up a few streets and monuments. Yorme has also been treading the slippery slope of displacing people who really have no other means to support themselves. One can argue that he’s just implementing the law. It’s simple – no littering, clean up your own mess, respect public space and property.

His accomplishments, one can argue, seem only concerned for the surface level. But for a capital that’s been plagued with dirt and grime for years, every clean and shiny surface is still a huge accomplishment.

These basics – cleanliness and following the rule of law – has such a huge impact in any city. Precisely because deep-seated problems are being slowly brought into light. The corruption that’s allowed these problems to proliferate, the interests in play. None of this is easy to reveal, but Isko has opted to take the road less traveled.

Into the next golden age

We may not admit it, but our sense of pride for our capital may have slowly waned through the years. What’s great about what Isko is doing is that it could strike as a reminder that Manila is still something we can and should be proud of.

Every new development in our capital affects our collective consciousness. Look at how beautiful it can be, how rich our culture is, and how much more pleasant it is to walk wide, clean streets. The underpasses can have shiny tiles, bridges and old buildings can be Instagrammable. Perhaps it can finally be the Maynila we’ll know and love and bring our friends to.

Only time will tell if Isko’s political will can actually bring us into the next golden age for our capital. Whatever happens, let’s not forget what he’s already done. And if a yorme from Tondo can get the ball rolling, why can’t we help him? Let’s join him in turning Manila into an immense source of pride for all Filipinos.

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