How quickly we forget
Had Manny Pacquiao’s latest victory, against Mexican-American Jessie Vargas, happened in another time, another landscape, another context, Filipinos would still be rejoicing in amazing proportions.
But his latest victory happened at a time when the best of his physical strength and mental resolve had been spent to snatch a seat in the House of Representatives, in pro basketball, and in the Senate. His latest victory happened after a series of losses, and after announcing time and again his imminent, but always postponed, retirement from boxing.
The 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 good basketball player, a good senator, a good pastor (and, briefly, a good singer). Yet the public knows the odds better than he does. As 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 skills to stand out, that you focus on one specific goal, that you have the heart to sacrifice. That is how you become a great statesman, or a world-class, pound-for-pound king.
Perhaps Pacquiao has forgotten. He has given the public more than enough reason to deride him. His homophobic remarks significantly dented his popularity, and his casual disregard for human life—expressed by saying that the death penalty should be reinstated, and adding that someone only needs to kick the chair to proceed with death by hanging—confused the public as to where he really stands. To invest one’s hopes in a limited senator seems to be stupid, and anyone who says otherwise online will surely be smart-shamed.
Pacquiao the public servant doesn’t know his priorities, doesn’t know where he stands—and it’s troubling.
But what about Pacquiao the athlete? I can’t help but feel sympathy for this amazing fighter, for not receiving the support he deserves from his countrymen. Timothy Bradley, to whom he lost but in whose eyes he gained respect, called him one of the greatest fighters of all time during his fight with Vargas. Around the world, he is still and will be regarded as one of the world’s greatest athletes. Win or lose, he has proven himself in 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 see, he is the same athlete who rose from poverty and inspired every Filipino rendered distraught by impoverishment or a 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 Filipino. He dreamed big, and we dreamed with him. He showed us the meaning of Filipino pride.
But since his losses to Bradley, Algieri and Mayweather, online comments about our “National Fist” have ceased to be substantial, and become venomous rants. Many people offer neither support nor indifference, but are quick to be insulting and hateful. Pacquiao the boxer is downplayed repeatedly by many Filipinos, who even say that they wish him to lose.
But despite his deficiencies as a lawmaker, Pacquiao is a good man and a great boxer.
How quickly we forget that this man brought hope when there was none. How quickly we forget that he paved the way for aspiring Filipino boxers, and gave Filipino athletes the spotlight to prove their worth. How easily is our judgment clouded by his mistakes in and out of the ring, as though his victories never mattered.
Isn’t it sad that it is in the Philippines that Pacquiao’s legacy needs to be reinstated, to be remembered? Is that Filipino pride?
Karl Angelica R. Ocampo, 22, is a social media specialist at the Inquirer.
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