How I Found Myself Working for a Presidential Campaign in 2022

Image of sunset
Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso’s Proclamation Rally at the Kartilya ng Katipunan, Manila in February 2022.

It’s been a few months now since the Philippine Election was held in May 2022 and it’s by far one of the most hectic elections in history in our country. Looking back in 2021 when I left my media job where I worked for almost five years, I was looking for my next job in media, NGO, marketing, or public relations. I had no plans to work in politics at all, knowing how toxic the environment can be and how different the playing field is in this sector, but God had other surprising plans for me in store.

Fast forward to 2022, I found myself working for my first political campaign and what more, a presidential campaign, for one of the most popular mayors in Manila, former Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso under the party list, Aksyon Demokratiko.

An unexpected blessing in disguise

I never really saw myself in politics, except for that time when I covered some political beats for the newspapers I worked for in the Philippines and abroad. As I said, it’s a different landscape. But you might be wondering if that’s the case, how did you get into this business? Last year, I was having a difficult time finding myself in a new career after leaving the foreign media I was with for years. Coincidentally, a simple catching up with a colleague of mine turned out to be a blessing in disguise that led to an opportunity when he mentioned they were looking for a writer for a presidential campaign.

At that time, there was merely a buzz on who was running but nothing definite yet because October was the month when the candidates can declare the positions they were running for. So I had no idea that the famous mayor of Manila, who was catapulted to the limelight in 2019 when he did a great job leading a COVID-19 contingency plan and fulfilled so many projects in such a short time, even more difficult, during a pandemic, was running for the presidential race.

Turns out Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso was building his media team at that time, and long story short, I was luckily offered a job to be part of his team as an Assistant Team Leader for News Monitoring at the right time when I needed a job – and it turned out to be one of the best and challenging jobs in my career.

When he announced his candidacy for the presidency, many were surprised and saw that he wasn’t fit yet to lead the highest post in the country, but he was determined to prove everyone wrong, especially with so many milestones under his belt, after working for more than 20 years as a politician.

Image of a Isko Moreno
The Author with Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso

Working in the Philippines again

Starting work under Yorme was a bit of a huge adjustment for me apart from working in a political climate since I was so used to working as a correspondent in Manila reporting to an international media company for so many years and my work at that time was mainly writing business news, not fully monitoring the news and also for so many years I haven’t done PR work. We also had to report to the headquarters for five days a week and on rotating weekend duty, at first in our original QC office and later in our Intramuros HQ in Manila, which was quite far from where I live and considering the high gas prices. But it’s true that when you love what you do, you can do any job despite its hurdles.

So how was it working for a presidential campaign? Many would think it’s very toxic, given the sector is mired with so many controversies, political issues, divisiveness, and such.

Yes, all these came with the job, especially since this election is one of the bloodiest and most competitive we’ve ever had since former VP Leni Robredo and now, President Bongbong Marcos, was running alongside now VP Sara Duterte.

I loved my experience working for a presidential campaign since I love what I do and was able to continue being a journalist; helping my team with monitoring the news; doing PR seeding to local fellow reporters, and organizing press conferences. It was quite an experience I won’t forget in my career, despite not winning the presidential race, it was still all worth it in the end because I believed in what Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso can do, which isn’t merely hearsay since he was able to show his capabilities in one of the most recent periods in our lifetime.

Yes, it was tiring, traveling to and from Manila daily with a new mid-shift work schedule to do news monitoring in the office in the afternoon, then continuing working at home to monitor evening news until midnight. Later on, my work schedule changed to 12nn until 8 pm to do the news monitoring entirely in the office. This was so different from my former work schedule in the foreign media company I worked for which followed an Australian time, starting at 6 am until 2:30 pm every day!

Another adjustment I dealt with was working again for a local company and with Filipino colleagues. I was so used to working already for several years for foreign companies and my organization, AIESEC, in a multicultural setting so this was something I had to get used to again being back in my homeland.

Despite all these adjustments, I enjoyed being in an office, talking to my colleagues in person every day, bonding over food and coffee during our break times, or when there was a birthday celebration, just like the old times before I went abroad and worked for foreign companies. We also had fun playing and destressing with the dogs at work owned by Yorme’s family, Frank, Georgie, and Lucky, who were mainstays in our HQ!

Dealing with the toxic presidential campaign

For several months, I learned a lot I must say from developing a thicker skin against gossip, issues, and controversies to catching the most important news and doing it fast to meet tight deadlines. Controversies about Mayor Isko Moreno particularly from social media were unavoidable to see and absorb – add to that the feedback you will hear from some friends who support a different political candidate. They were some people who were quite savage and from every day that we had to check both traditional and online media, we can’t avoid reading comments, though I tried hard to skim past them and just focused on the news we needed to gather. Yorme was quite a magnet to controversies.

Before joining the presidential campaign, I had a different politician I supported but Yorme was also one of the politicians I admired though like I said earlier, I was surprised he was running. When I began working for him, this is the only time I learned more about his character and how intelligent he is. Before the campaign, I merely knew him from what he was able to accomplish as a Mayor for three years and what was merely published in the news. This may sound biased but the truth is I knew him even more during the campaign.

I know I was rooting for a great candidate despite all the issues thrown at him because I saw that side of him that not everyone sees on TV or social media.

Who is Yorme behind the camera?

He was more than just a pretty face, a former celebrity, and the charming former Mayor of Manila. He has the heart of caring for Filipinos who go all out when there are calamities, wading through the flood waters, or being one of the first to respond to a fire in Baseco or Tondo. I saw and felt his sincere love for the Filipinos.

We also experienced his empathy firsthand while working at the headquarters, particularly when we had Covid-19 exposure at work in January 2022. He and his staff made sure those who were infected and were exposed had access to free medicines and swab testing. We were told to work from home temporarily until everyone is negative.

There are so many insider stories of course not everyone knew who the real Yorme is in real life. His passion for helping; determination to fulfill his projects to improve the Philippines; his love for his family, and all the other things make him who he is. I know I still don’t know him entirely being merely one of his staff on the media team but I saw his character in person.

He may be called a Duterte 2.0, a seller of Divisoria Market, a BBM supporter, whatever you may call him but I can attest to his integrity as a person; his empathy and love for Filipinos; and his intelligence – that’s why we all saw how capable he was as a former mayor of Manila.

So yes, despite the toxicity and flak I received during the time I worked for the campaign and we did not win the presidential race, I don’t regret being part of his candidacy and will always remember this experience in my career – hoping that it made me a better person and a journalist. I’m happy that as my first time working in politics, it was him I got to work with and I wouldn’t change it in any other way.

Just like what we always say during the campaign, PILIPINAS GOD FIRST!