2022 Philippine Elections

The indomitable Dynee Domagoso

Pia Ranada
The indomitable Dynee Domagoso

FIGHTING FOR HIM. Dynee Domagoso, wife of presidential candidate Manila City Mayor Isko Moreno, poses for a photo with her husband's supporters.

Jacqueline Hernandez/Rappler

The 46-year-old Dynee Domagoso has taken an active and public-facing role in her husband's presidential campaign. Here's what we know about her.

MANILA, Philippines – For many around her, it was the first time they saw Diana Lynn Domagoso cry.

She was speaking to a crowd of less than a hundred in a covered court in Samar, a month before the 2022 elections.

Sa totoo lang, noong sinabi niya sa akin na tatakbo siyang presidente, ang tanong ko sa kanya, ‘Why?’ Why? Kasi 22 years na kaming kasal pero pakiramdam ko, single pa rin ako,” she told her audience.

(Truth be told, when he told me he was running for president, my question to him was, “Why?” Why when after 22 years of marriage, I feel like I’m still single.)

When they laughed, she said she wasn’t joking.

‘Pag bumabagyo sa Maynila, wala siya. ‘Pag mayroong problema, wala siya. Ako nagpapalit ng bumbilya, ako nagpapalit ng gulong. Ako lahat. Parang sabi ko nga, nag-asawa ka pa? Napakalaking sakripisyo sa pamilya namin,” she continued, her voice breaking.

(When there’s a storm in Manila, he’s not home. Whenever there’s a problem, he’s not home. I’m the one who changes the lightbulbs, the tires. I do everything. I tell myself, why did you even get married? It’s a big sacrifice for our family.)

She told her audience that her main job as a mother is to ensure her children still feel close to their father, despite his absences.

Dynee, as Isko Moreno’s wife is known, laughed at herself for crying in public. Someone handed her a tissue. The crowd encouraged her with cheers. Some elderly women in the audience had teared up too.

Despite the truth in her statement, the difficulty of the life of a politician’s wife with children, Dynee is hard at work on the campaign trail helping her husband get to Malacañang.

Since accompanying him to file his candidacy for president in October 2021, she has been flying to different parts of the country – Southern Leyte, Cebu, Zamboanga City, Leyte, and more – to act as a surrogate to her husband.

She is seldom accompanied by media but brings with her a small communications team that includes pro-Isko bloggers. It was she who delivered aid from Manila to areas her husband could not reach. She held a rare press conference in Zamboanga City and grooved to “Dying Inside to Hold You” onstage with her son Joaquin in a Cebu campaign rally.

The indomitable Dynee Domagoso

Despite what six years of a Moreno presidency might mean for her and their five children, Dynee is doing her best to make those years happen.

What we know of Manila’s First Lady

It was only during Moreno’s presidential bid that the national spotlight found his wife, Manila’s First Lady. 

Before this, the 46-year-old Dynee never gave media interviews nor showed up at official Manila City Hall events. She was there for her husband’s local campaigns, visiting communities and working behind the scenes. But once Moreno was elected, Dynee retreated to private life, tending to her business (gas stations) and her children – Patrick (24 years old), Frances (21), Joaquin (20), Franco (16), and Drake (9).

The Ditans hail from Las Piñas. Her uncle on her mother’s side, Jimmy Martin, was once a barangay captain there. Her mother and aunts still live there.

The family managed to sell plots of land and once owned the city’s biggest supermarket, giving them affluence.

TEAM EFFORT. Isko Moreno, his wife Dynee, and four of his children are onstage at the ‘Isigaw Mo, Isko’ concert and rally on April 10, 2022. Photo from Isko Moreno Campaign Team

Entrepreneurship isn’t the only thing that runs in the family. Dynee comes from a line of athletes. She herself is a Taekwondo black belter and was even in the national team with her siblings. Her uncle, Jimmy the barangay captain, was a bemedaled member of the country’s first national team.

She went to high school in De La Salle Zobel in Muntinlupa then to college at De La Salle University in Manila. It was as a kolehiyala that Dynee met and married a maverick first-term councilor named Isko Moreno, who is just a year older than her.

Unang kita pa lang niya, kahit siya tanungin ‘nyo, na-in love na siya sa akin,” Dynee told Las Piñas residents in November. (The first time he saw me, you can even ask him, he was in love with me.)

They met and were introduced by a common friend in an establishment on Nakpil Street in Malate on August 27, 1999. She was at the time already caring for one-year-old Patrick, her son with her boyfriend at the time.

She tried to fend Moreno off but he seemed undaunted. A week later, as Dynee told Boy Abunda in a rare sit-down interview, they saw each other again in a club in Manila where the then-councilor declared his love. The scene is fit for a romantic comedy.

Karma ba kita (Are you my karma)?” asked an apparently drunk Moreno.

Alam mo kasi ang dami namang ibang babae diyan eh. Bakit ikaw pa? Alam mo, I hate you! I hate you! I hate you! Because I love you!” he told a shocked Dynee and the club’s other patrons.

(You know there are so many other women out there. Why you? You know, I hate you! I hate you! I hate you! Because I love you!)

Just a little over four months later, on January 10, 2000, the two were wed near the iconic Cafe Adriatico.

Role in campaign

Two sources in the campaign team said it’s Dynee who holds the purse. She is its finance head, and supposedly a strict one at that. The team’s auditor is even her sister who closely monitors expenses during sorties. There was one media relations person who was let go because of unliquidated expenses.

As purse-holder, she was also involved in the controversial decision to keep her husband’s P50 million in leftover senatorial campaign funds in 2016. Like her husband, she stands by it, saying the move was legal and aboveboard because they paid the appropriate tax.

Alam mo naman, ang babae magaling humawak ng pera (You know that a woman is good at handling money),” she told reporters last April 8 in Cebu when asked about her involvement in the campaign.

The indomitable Dynee Domagoso

It is Dynee who meets with donors who wish to contribute to the mayor’s campaign, said one source.

It was she who found the team its spacious headquarters in ECJ Building, across the historic San Agustin Church in Intramuros. 

Campaign manager Lito Banayo said Dynee also takes care of producing tarpaulins, flyers, and other promotional materials.

If she would have her way, Dynee would not be onstage with her husband during sorties, but would rather be backstage, observing people’s reactions and listening to their commentary.

But the role of surrogate could not be escaped in such cut-throat a setting as a presidential campaign.

“I was one of those suggesting to her that she needs to go down [to the field]. She said, ‘ha?’ You could see she was a bit scared because she is mostly in the background, part of the support team,” Manila councilor Princess Abante, one of the campaign team’s spokespersons, told Rappler.

Dynee’s campaign events are usually separate from that of her husband, in a bid to cover more ground. They usually involve small town hall meetings or “sinecaravan” events where volunteers go around towns and cities playing videos and jingles explaining Moreno’s background and platform.

On April 10, a month before elections, she and four of their children joined Moreno onstage for his biggest Manila concert-rally, the first time the mayor put his family in public view.

People who listen to her speak have given positive feedback, Abante told Rappler.

Most of them describe Dynee as fun and laidback. On the campaign trail, Dynee is not flashy. Sporting a practical bob and hardly wearing make-up, she is usually in pants, a campaign shirt, and rubber shoes. 

Dynee is not the stiff and formal type of political wife. She cracks jokes onstage and dances.

In Samar, she was asked in a radio show what her reasons to vote for Moreno would be if she were not his wife. 

Guwapo siya, isang factor ‘yon. ‘Yung tipong, ‘pag bukas mo ng TV mo, haaaay,” she said, resting her face on her hand like a school girl looking at her crush. (He’s handsome, that’s one factor. The type that when you open your TV and see him, aaaaaah.)

The audience she was recalling her answer to laughed and cheered.

When she and Moreno took their kids and brown poodle to Manila Zoo (where there is an area called “Diana’s Corner”) in mid-April, she saw a large red ball hanging from the ceiling in the room and rode it, while singing a short line from the song, “Wrecking Ball.”

“Miley Cyrus, wala ka sa akin (Miley Cyrus, you’re nothing compared to me)!” she said.

Forgives, but never forgets

Though she has a fun side, Dynee can get deadly serious. Abante said the mayor’s wife is “straightforward” when giving her opinion and her disapproval or irritation at a person or occurrence is written all over her face.

While she does not speak up much in meetings about campaign strategy or communications, she has provided input about planning for events, said two sources.

Dynee told Abunda that she criticizes her husband too, at times, even when it makes him feel like she’s not on his side.

Prangka ako. Papakita ko sa ‘yo ‘pag galit ako, papakita ko sa ‘yo ‘pag gusto kita. Ayaw ko ng plastic…Yeah, I forgive. I never forget,” she said.

(I’m frank. I will really show you when I am angry, when I like you, I don’t like pretense…Yeah, I forgive. I never forget.)

Dynee drew the ire of kakampinks when she appeared to twit Vice President Leni Robredo for her bad internet connection during the KBP presidential forum in February.

Internet nga hindi maayos, bansa pa kaya? Kumbaga sa class reporting, preparedness is the key para 100 ang grade,” she posted on her Facebook.

(If she couldn’t fix her internet, how much more the country? Like in class reporting, preparedness is key to getting a grade of 100.)

She shrugged off the backlash in an interview with ABS-CBN News, “I am entitled to my own opinion.” 

Couple dynamics

By all accounts, Isko and Dynee have a good relationship. 

Even behind the scenes, the two are warm to each other.

PARTNER. Dynee Domagoso accompanies Manila Mayor Isko Moreno in filing his candidacy for president in October 2021. Angie de SIlva/Rappler

Para silang tropa. [Same] wave-length, humor, ‘pag nagsisitahan nang pabiro. Tropang mag-asawa. Maalaga,” said Abante, who has known Dynee since 2014, when Isko was still vice mayor.

(They are like friends, same wave-length, humor, when they take swipes at each other jokingly. A couple who are also friends. They care for one another.)

In the middle of a long meeting, Dynee would bring her husband food, knowing all too well how he forgets to eat. In the first months of the pandemic, when Moreno camped out in City Hall, Dynee would remind the councilors (who had taken it upon themselves to buy Moreno his meals) of his favorite dishes (sinigang and bistek) and to make sure he ate vegetables.

Isko calls Dynee “mommy.” She calls him “papa.” 

When Abunda asked her how Isko is as a lover, Dynee’s cheeky response was: “Baka maraming mainggit eh (Many people might get envious.)”

In many respects, the two are complementary opposites. 

In an interview with Rappler, Moreno said it’s Dynee who packs their luggage when the family travels.

Mommy niya, OC ‘yon. Kahit anong repacking. Kami (he and Joaquin), pareho kami ng ugali sa pag-eempake. Tsak, tsak, tsak! Basta masasara, okay na ‘yon. Away ‘yon,” said Moreno.

(His mom is OC with any kind of repacking. He and I, we are the same when it comes to packing. Tsak, tsak, tsak! As long as the bag can be zipped, it’s fine. That leads to a fight.)

While Isko gets carried away with enthusiasm for something (a project, an idea, a war documentary), it’s Dynee who does the number-crunching reality check but indulges him anyway.

She calls herself his biggest fan – the one he comes home to when all the troubles weigh on his shoulders and the cheering crowds fade away.

It’s the harsh reality of being a politician’s wife.

If Moreno’s presidential bid ends in defeat, he will be “all hers” at last. If he wins, she is ready to lend him to the country for another six years before he retires from politics, a promise he made to her.

Magbabawi na ako (It’s time to make up for things)… With all honesty, I think I owe it to them, I owe it to my family,” Moreno told Rappler.

Like many politicians’ spouses before her, Dynee Domagoso is a survivor holding the fort, trying to keep her husband and family grounded, no matter what political turbulence comes their way. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.