HERO'S WELCOME AWAITS PACQUIAO TONIGHT

MANILA, NOVEMBER 21, 2003  (STAR) By Dante Navarro - Manny Pacquiao arrives tonight to an adoring nation so overwhelmed by his conquest of Marco Antonio Barrera, whom he discarded last Sunday in convincing fashion that made the gifted Filipino pug the new toast of the boxing world.

Pacquiao and his entourage are scheduled to disembark from the Northwest Airlines flight from Los Angeles at 10:40 p.m. at the NAIA before an expected throng of well-wishers wanting to take a glimpse of the man who put the country on the world boxing stage with that spectacular 11th round TKO win over the Mexican legend.

In fact, First Gentleman Mike Arroyo and officials of the Philippine Sports Commission and Solar Sports Network have made arrangements with NAIA to give Pacquiao a hero’s welcome at the airport.

He will then head to the posh Manila Hotel’s MacArthur Suite where Pacquiao, being an adopted son of the city, will spend the weekend courtesy of Manila Mayor Lito Atienza and Solar Sports. Atienza will welcome him in elaborate rites befitting a boxing hero.

Monday will kick off a busy week for the 24-year-old southpaw, esaily the most talked-about boxer in the world today.

Pacquiao will be honored with a ticker-tape parade from Makati City to Malacañang, where President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will welcome him at the Ceremonial Hall and gift him with a surprise reward for his astounding feat.

On the way to the Palace, a motorcade for Pacquiao is scheduled in the morning starting at 8 a.m. at the Manila City Hall. It will pass through P. Burgos, Jones Bridge, Escolta, Sta. Cruz Church, Carlos Palanca, Quezon Blvd., C.M. Recto, P. Casal, Taft Ave., Quirino Ave., South Superhighway, Buendia Ave., Ayala Ave. and back to Manila Hotel.

At 2 p.m., Pacquiao will call on the President.

Meanwhile, Solar Sports, the TV coverors of the Pacquiao-Barrera fight, will be throwing a victory party later in the day for the Filipino champion at the Rajah Sulaiman Plaza on Roxas Blvd. (near Aristocrat). The bash, dubbed "Manny Pacquiao. Ang Bagong Pilipino. Kampeon ng Mundo," will be open to the public.

Pacquiao will be on hand to address his fans, who will also be treated to a free concert featuring Parokya ni Edgar, Geneva Cruz, Andrew E, Gee Girls, Masculados and hosts Willie Revillame and Pia Guanio.

Highlights of the Pacquiao-Barrera fight will also be shown on a giant TV screen.

In another development, a resolution congratulating and honoring the reigning IBF super-bantamweight champion with the Congressional Medal of Achievement was filed yesterday by Speaker Joe de Venecia and Bukidnon solon Juan Miguel Zubiri at the House of Representatives.

House Resolution No. 1385 extols Pacquiao for his world achievement in the sport of boxing and for successfully winning in the recent "Consensus People’s World Featherweight Boxing Championship held last Nov. 16 in San Antonio, Texas, USA.

"Manny Pacquiao has brought glory to our country in the field of sports by his world class achievement record, of accomplishing 38 wins in 41 bouts, 30 of them by knockouts, successfully defending time and again the prestigious International Boxing Federation title in the super-bantamweight category and most recently winning a spectacular match in Texas, USA over Barrera. The feat forever etched the Filipino pugilist in the annals of boxing greatness," the Speaker said.

Zubiri likewise said that the boxer is a good success story to inspire us all, "Pacquiao was once a humble bakery worker, who ventured into professional boxing and who worked himself up to the top of his chosen field through the Filipino virtues of patience, hard work, perseverance, and sacrifice, such act inspires our people especially our youth to dream and make their dreams come true, to achieve and do better in their life struggles," Zubiri said.

"Manny Pacquiao’s achievement in the sport of boxing giving him the title of ‘The People’s Champion’, has united our people under one flag, inspiring hope and national reconciliation, and pride in being a Filipino amidst the uncertainties, challenges and hardships we are currently facing," Zubiri added.

Zubiri, a boxing aficionado, hopes that our countrymen will emulate the boxer’s great patience and determination who trained under Spartan-like methods so as not to disappoint his millions of countrymen who look up to him as an idol and inspiration.

HR 1385, adopted by Congress, intends to accord the Filipino boxer with the Congressional Medal of Achievement at the House plenary rostrum scheduled tentatively on Nov. 24, 4 p.m.

"The Congressional Medal of Achievement is an honor bestowed to Filipinos who have made their nation proud because of their exceptional achievements, Manny Pacquiao will be the first sportsman to receive such an honor from Congress," Zubiri said. Now that Manny Pacquiao’s brain trust has openly declared that the Filipino ring idol would soon be vacating his IBF super-bantamweight throne, the opportunities to face bigger names and the chance to earn his first $million bucks are about to unfold.

Earlier, Pacquiao’s business manager Rod Nazario has informed some members of media that his prized ward will soon be leaving the 122lbs backyard to campaign solely as a featherweight following his earth-shaking conquest of Mexican idol Marco Antonio Barrera at the weekend.

Murad Muhammad, Pacquiao’s American agent, reportedly balked at the idea of Pacquiao defending the IBF super-bantamweight title against non-descript mandatory challenger Jose Luis Valbuena of Venezuela.

Former world champ Dodie Boy Peñalosa, in a separate interview, rationalized Muhammad’s move, saying that after his masterful performance against the biggest name in the featherweight class, there is no reason for Pacquiao to beat up a smaller and lesser known foe in Valbuena.

"Nazario and Muhammad are right. Manny should fight the big names at featherweight, let him give up his IBF title," explains Peñalosa, a 2-division world champ himself who watched Pacquiao’s fight on television last Sunday.

"That is true, it seems he does not want the super-bantamweight belt now. He wants to fight at featherweight from here on," opines Bobby Pacquiao, Manny’s younger brother who is also the Philippine’s junior lightweight champ, in a long-distance interview.

Among the names being considered as Pacquiao’s next opponent in March next year are WBA/IBF featherweight king Juan Manuel Marquez and Paulie Ayala, the super-bantam king who fight Erik Morales a year ago.

Morales, nicknamed "El Terrible," also expressed interest in banging with the Filipino hero in a catchweight between the 126-130lbs category. The Tijuana-based Morales isn’t interested in a 126lbs fight, but hinted that at 128lbs, he might be persuaded to sit down for negotiations.

Pacquiao is slated to arrive at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Friday evening on board a Northwest Airlines from Los Angeles, then head to the Manila Hotel where Manila Mayor Lito Atienza will welcome him.

On Monday, Pacquiao will be honored with a ticker-tape parade from Makati City to Malacañang Palace, where President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will welcome him.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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