In fairness, it wasn’t entirely unsolicited. Manny Pacquiao was asked the question by a reporter probably with a view to provoking a controversial remark from him—boy, did he get one—and Pacquiao took the bait. It’s a lesson again on being wary or circumspect in answering provocative questions from reporters, whether local or foreign.
It has happened even to people who do not open their mouths as unthinkingly as Pacquiao. Yusuf Islam, formerly known as Cat Stevens, was asked by a reporter if he approved of Iran’s fatwa or death sentence on Salman Rushdie for writing “The Satanic Verses,” and Yusuf lengthily sifted through Islamic laws. That was interpreted as evasion and Yusuf was depicted to be a supporter of the fatwa. It took him more than a decade, much denunciation of the misreporting, and a more categorical condemnation of the fatwa to dispel the suggestion.
Did Pacquiao really quote that part of the Bible that said men who lie with other men should be put to death? I don’t know, though that is easily resolved by the reporter producing the recorded exchange. I myself suspect he did. Reporters in that part of the world are not naturally given to manufacturing quotes. The United States is a litigious country, lawyers waiting in the wings to pounce on mistakes like that. And Pacquiao himself has been spouting fiery verses from the Bible of late after his not very biblical behavior last year made him look like a resident of Sodom and Gomorrah in the eyes of his wife.
But whether he did or not, that was really stupid expressing his disapproval of Barack Obama’s gay marriage policy on religious grounds. How hard could it have been to say, “I will not comment on it, I have my beliefs, you have yours. I respect your beliefs, respect mine.” But that is expecting finesse from someone who has never exhibited it outside the ring. You drop to your knee and bow your head in prayer before a fight, the world will be impressed and call you devout. You drop Bible verses and bow to your desire to make pasikat about your devoutness, the better to make up for less than devout conduct for much of your waking hours, the world will be pissed off and call you a lout.
Imagine if a Muslim imam were to go to America and lecture Americans about the sinfulness of their ways, specifically expressed in their treating their women as equals. When in the eyes of Allah, as shown in the Koran, women are there to serve men for the greater glory of heaven. Or when in the eyes of the ummah, as shown by traditional practice, men may have many wives but women may show only absolute fidelity to their husbands on pain of stoning. How do you think he will be received? Well, look at Pacquiao—whom a famous mall in Hollywood has banned from its premises and who stands to lose his commercial endorsements, chief of them Nike—and weep. It’s an object lesson, if a painful one, in respecting other cultures.
Pacquiao himself says he has nothing against gays, he has a cousin who is one, but that his religious beliefs compel him to not accept gay marriage. Fine, but at the very least you don’t go around prescribing that for others, particularly others of a different culture. But far more than that, that doesn’t make things better, that makes things worse. It’s cringingly patronizing. It’s like saying, “I have nothing against women, it’s just that my religious beliefs compel me to not accept them as equals. To be given equal rights, equal freedoms, equal opportunities, under the law.”
It’s not likely that we ourselves are going to have gay marriage in this country in the near, or probably even far, future. Hell, we can’t even have divorce, the only country left in the world that doesn’t have it. It has made for a great deal of hypocrisy. The Church frowns on divorce only to turn a blind eye on the practice of mistress-keeping which it has spawned. And we do not lack for Bible-spouting religious fanatics like Pacquiao who regard gays as deviants, if not perverts, but who lap up the movies, telenovelas, and show biz programs they produce. Oh, yes, they’re the heart of the entertainment industry. Take them out and ABS-CBN, GMA 7, Channel 5 and the entertainment section of newspapers would collapse.
But that’s another story. The point is respect for other cultures and other beliefs. You do not go abroad thinking to inflict your own on another people, whether solicited or not, whether provoked or not. That is a fight you won’t win. It’s no small irony that in the end, Pacquiao fought his greatest fight not against Juan Manuel Marquez, whom he can’t seem to find a way to beat, or Floyd Mayweather, who keeps dodging him—and who just as ironically is fighting the fight of his life against his own demons in a jail cell—but against himself. And lost.
No, Pacquiao will never be the greatest. I already said that a couple of years ago at the height of his fame. Several boxing pundits were saying at the time he might even surpass Muhammad Ali, having already moved up several weight divisions, having won against much bigger opponents, having broken records. I said he might be the greatest boxer that ever lived but he would never surpass Ali. Ali fought a fight against the most awesome opponent of all, an opponent that had never lost before, an opponent that had crushed challengers along the way. That opponent wasn’t Sonny Liston or George Foreman or Joe Frazier. That opponent was government, that opponent was bigotry, that opponent was oppression. And he had brought it down. While Pacquiao had only propped up a fake president, while Pacquiao had only helped to sustain oppression, while Pacquiao had only endured the torments of karaoke.
And now this. The gay person who cuts my hair summed it up perfectly:
Si Pacquiao na-KO ng bading.