Had Manny Pacquiao’s latest victory against Mexican-American Jessie Vargas happened in another time, in another landscape, in another context, the Filipino people would be rejoicing in amazing proportions right now.
But Manny Pacquiao’s latest victory happened during a time when the best of his physical strength and mental resolve have been used to snatch a seat in basketball courts, in Congress, and in the Senate. Manny Pacquiao’s latest victory happened after a series of losses, after announcing time and again of his imminent but postponed retirement.
Times have been difficult for the people’s champ lately. In his dream to conquer different universes at the same time — sports, politics, religion — you see his undying spirit to become a better basketball player, a better senator, a better pastor (and briefly, a better singer). Yet, the public knows the odds better than he does. Like in any sport, it is not enough that you have the desire and the burning passion to succeed. It is important that you have the talent and the skill set to standout. It is important that you focus yourself to one specific goal. It is important that you have the heart to sacrifice. That is how you become a great statesman, and how you become a world-class pound-for-pound king.
Perhaps, Pacquiao has forgotten. He has given the public more than enough reason to deride him. His comments on homophobia significantly affected his popularity, and his casual disregard for human rights by saying that death penalty should be reinstated (adding that we need only someone to kick the chair to proceed with death by hanging) only confused us more on what issues he really stands for. To invest one’s hopes into a limited senator seems to be stupid, and anyone who says otherwise online will surely be smart-shamed. Pacquiao, the government servant, doesn’t know where his priorities stand, and that is troubling.
But what about the athlete in Pacquiao? I cannot help but feel sympathy towards such an amazing fighter for not receiving the support he deserves from his countrymen. Timothy Bradley, to whom he lost but gained respect, called him one of the greatest fighters of all time during his fight with Vargas. All around the world, Pacquiao is still and will be regarded as one of the greatest athletes of all time. Win or lose, he has already proven himself to the boxing world. His latest victory is just another feather in his cap, or perhaps, just another means to fill his pockets. But what about in his own country? Is his legacy that quick to be diluted by decisions he makes outside the ring?
As far as I can remember, he was the same athlete who rose from poverty and brought inspiration to every Filipino distraught by poverty or typhoon. If my memory serves me right, we were with him to celebrate every victory against Barrera, Marquez, dela Hoya, Hatton, and Cotto. He let us embrace his honor and bask in the glory of being a Filipino. He dreamed big, and we dreamed with him. He showed us the true meaning of Filipino pride.
But for too long, since his losses to Bradley, Algieri, and Mayweather, comments about our “Pambansang Kamao” on social media have ceased to become substantial, and had become idiotic and venomous rants. Most people bring neither support nor indifference, but quick to bring insult and hatred. Pacquiao, even as a renowned athlete, has been downplayed repeatedly by Filipinos, in so much as saying that they wish him to lose.
But Manny, with all his deficiencies as a senator, was a good man and a great boxer.
How quickly have we forgotten that this man brought hope when there was none. How quickly have we forgotten that this man paved the way for aspiring Filipino boxers like him, and gave Filipino athletes the spotlight to prove their sportsmanship. How easy were our judgments clouded by his mistakes inside and outside the ring, like his victories never mattered.
Isn’t it sad that in all places, it is in the Philippines that Pacquiao’s legacy needs to be reinstated to be remembered?
Is that Filipino pride?