I wrote once, quasi-famously it turns out, about the empathy, grace, and humility of Manny Pacquiao. It was gratifying, even thrilling, to see the response — more than 200,000 read the article; 39,000 fowarded it to Facebook, and through it all what came through was a deep, heartfelt appreciation by everyone –myself and all the readers –for Manny Pacquiao and how he embodies what is good and unique about the Filipino; about how he is larger than just boxing; and about how he has helped the Philippines through his hard work and heart.
When Manny faced his “Kryptonita” in Juan Manuel Marquez, and won a controversial split decision, it was not too surprising that many of Manny’s fans felt Marquez had won the fight. Indeed, at the beginning, I found myself being proud of the sense of fair play that was embodied in these comments. But I thought that this larger sense of what Manny means was still in play; that regardless of the outcome of a single bout (especially one he won, even with controversy) there was an acknowledgment of the transformative nature of Manny Pacquiao’s contribution to the Philippines. That’s what I thought.
When I read –from 12,000 miles away — that Pacquiao’s return to the Philippines was without the fanfare that usually attends his returns from victorious bouts, I felt a certain unsettling quality descend. After all, did anyone doubt Pacquiao’s effort? Did anyone think he didn’t try to win the fight to the best of his ability? That he trained well? Indeed — for the first time in his three bouts with Marquez, he led in punches attempted, punches connected — and what more can you ask of a boxer than to launch the attack, and land the blows?
I’ve kept quiet about my concerns. I’m too far away to write meaningfully about “ground truth” in the Philippines. I can’t really feel the pulse — I can only comment from afar, and try to ask good questions. I won’t go to so far as to say “I know my place” …but it’s something like that.
But, I thought–what does this col reception mean? Is it deserved? What more could anyone ask of Manny Pacquiao? And how can one outcome really define him, after all he’s done?
Today, Manny Villar gave voice to many of the concerns I have been feeling. Because he’s a politician, there may be a tendency to dismiss his thoughts as being somehow partisan or self-serving, as not having the larger relevance I see in them. I’m not in any way part of the partisan political landscape in the Philippines — but when someone speaks truth, it needs to be heard. Thank you, Senator Villar, for writing this:
Manny Pacquiao’s Legacy
By SENATOR MANNY B. VILLAR
December 6, 2011, 10:58pm
MANILA, Philippines — It was becoming like a tradition. Whenever Manny Pacquiao arrived after a victory, he was welcomed like a hero, driven around Manila where thousands lined up to see him, along roads where tarpaulins with greetings and congratulatory messages were set up.
So, I was shocked and saddened when the world’s greatest pound-for-pound boxer came home last November 21, more than a week after winning his latest fight, without the usual frills and excitement that marked his previous returns – no motorcade, no parade.
He won the fight against Juan Manuel Marquez after the majority of the judges said so, and the computer said so.
Indeed, it was a tough fight and we saw how hard he fought, no dirty tricks, just clean boxing. There were no knockdowns as in his previous fights, but he won fair and square.
It saddened me deeply when many of our countrymen suddenly got cold toward our champion.
Why are we so quick to withdraw the esteem that we often give our achievers?
Nobody in the field of sports can match what Manny Pacquiao has done for his country in terms of world recognition. He is the first and only boxer who has won championship belts in eight different weight classes of boxing.
World leaders and international celebrities in and out of sports honor him and, in doing so, honor his country as well.
Then US President Bill Clinton visited Manny at Mandalay Bay Resort in Las Vegas on April 29, 2009, to wish the Filipino boxing superstar well in his fight with Ricky Hatton of England.
Famous people have visited Manny in the gym, watched his fights and publicly expressed their admiration of him, including Denzel Washington, Sylvester Stallone, Mark Wahlberg, Justin Timberlake, Justin Bieber, and Paris Hilton.
Last November 16, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who was in the Philippines for a two-day visit, described the win of Filipino boxing champion and Sarangani Rep Manny Pacquiao against Mexican fighter Juan Manuel Marquez as a “great victory.”
“We know that Pacman had another great victory. I am a major Pacman fan,” she said in a speech in Malacañang after signing a bilateral agreement.