Mascot of ‘trapos’ or guardian of the poor?
He has achieved the most spectacular rags-to-riches story in our country’s history. He has reached the pinnacle of wealth and fame, and he’s perched near the apex of power. No other Filipino has climbed out of utter poverty and reached the heights of success attained by Manny Pacquiao.
For wealth, Forbes has named him one of the wealthiest sports icons in the world, with earnings of P22 billion ($435 million) just for the past decade. He started from nothing, leaving home at age 14 because of extreme poverty. He worked doing heavy manual labor for sheer survival, but went on to earn billions of pesos by sweating volumes and shedding blood in 70 professional boxing fights.For fame, his name is now an international byword. He has established himself as the only eight-division world champion in the history of boxing. Boxing historians rate him as one of the greatest professional boxers of all time. He has also played professional basketball, starred in movies, and had his stint as a singer. For power, he has served two terms as a congressman, and is currently an elected senator of the republic. At one time, President Duterte egged him to run for the presidency, and Pacquiao’s body language conveys a strong yearning to become chief executive of this country someday.
Just over a year after becoming senator in 2017, Pacquiao spoke with candor in an interview, sparking a glimmer of hope that he could be a politician who would espouse the dreams of the masses from whose ranks he rose. He voiced out his utter mistrust of traditional politicians: “I discovered that in politics, you wouldn’t know what’s real or not. People have many faces.” And, “I feel dismayed, discouraged. I want to let go because I’m not used to politicking.”
He also articulated a precious nugget of wisdom uniquely possessed by someone who has experienced pangs of hunger and the scourge of hopelessness: “What’s important is someone who’s true and sincere and truly feels for the poor. The rich know the country’s problems but they can’t really feel the plight of the poor. It’s different if you really feel their problems.”
Two years after articulating those endearing words, however, we see no traces of action demonstrating Pacquiao’s remonstrations against the kind of politics he claimed to despise. Instead, Pacquiao has completely embraced the ways of old politics, reveling in the company of traditional politicians and oftentimes even defending their errant ways. To paraphrase his own words and applying it to him, Pacquiao has become part of the rich who know the country’s problems but who have forgotten the plight of the poor.
At a time when the Filipino people are desperate for leaders who personally know their deprivations and struggles, Pacquiao is fast unraveling as a lost hope for the masses.
Filipinos are getting high hopes on the emergence of new leaders like Vico Sotto and Isko Moreno, who practice a brand of politics rooted in the aspirations of the masses. The narratives of Sotto and Moreno should have been the natural narrative of Pacquiao, because he has the kind of sound instincts and grounded understanding inherently possessed by those who went through life’s hardships. But Pacquiao has chosen to surrender his birthright role to act as advocate and defender of the destitute.
By choosing to live under the shadow of traditional politicians, Pacquiao will be overshadowed by the likes of Sotto and Moreno, dimming his ambitions for higher office. Even if Pacquiao manages to capture the presidency by depending on traditional politics, he will end up continuing the loathsome legacies that have plagued our country.
It should not be a lost cause for Pacquiao. He only needs to summon memories of his days of penury, face the mirror, and ask himself: Do I want to be a mascot of trapos or a guardian of the poor?
[Comments to [email protected]]
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.