MAY 5, 2009
(STAR) TAKIN' CARE OF BUSINESS By Babe Romualdez - Manny Pacquiao has just become a living legend, unquestionably the most famous Filipino whose prowess in the ring has, according to boxing experts, placed him among the ranks of boxing greats like Muhammad Ali, Joe Louis, and Alexis Arguello, among others. His spectacular win against the Hitman Ricky Hatton has even prompted analysts to comment that Pacquiao has revived the era of Henry Jackson Jr. – more popularly known in the boxing world as Henry Armstrong – an American boxer in the 1930s who belonged to an elite group who could move from one weight division to another.

I’m not a very ardent boxing fan, but for the first time, I watched the Pacquiao-Hatton fight live at the Manila Polo Club. It was stunning, to say the least, for what was touted to be a slugfest was all over in less than six minutes. The vaunted physical strength of Hatton was no match for Pacquiao’s speed. That Manny is a very smart fighter became apparent when he changed his tactic in the middle of the first round (even without consulting his corner), while Hatton’s style remained predictable.

The result gave Pacquiao one of the biggest per minute earnings so far at $2 million (the guaranteed purse was $12 million) – and that doesn’t even include the take from pay-per-view sales from the millions who watched all over the world. No one will argue if we say that Manny earned every penny of that money, because he certainly worked hard for it. Insiders said he trained like he never did before, getting up early without fail for his regular runs, enduring punishing rounds sparring with bigger men, doing more than a thousand crunches even when his trainer has already told him to rest.

For many Filipinos, the rags-to-riches story of Pacquiao is both inspirational and aspirational, with kids hoping they too could become famous and of course, be rich like their idol who is the first Filipino boxer to ever become a billionaire. But success did not come easy for Pacquiao. At an early age, he had to fend for his family because they were very poor and their father left them – a topic that Pacquiao is still sensitive about.

In fact, much has been written about the hardships of Pacquiao, how he grew up in poverty in GenSan, went to Manila with only the shirt on his back, and tried all kinds of jobs to earn money. He sold pan de sal, was a construction worker and a cigarette vendor. It’s even said that his lethal left hand was the result of pounding dough when he worked as a panadero (baker).

And while he has been made a Philippine Army reservist with the rank of master sergeant, the story going around among enlisted personnel is that Pacman had wanted to be a soldier but was rejected because he was not a high school graduate. According to sources, a sergeant made Manny believe he could still get into the service, and turned the young man into a striker (a term for transients hoping to get into the army) doing all sorts of menial jobs like carrying water, cooking, washing dishes.

Yet you have to hand it to the man because he never allowed all these frustrations and disappointments to get the better of him. He persisted and worked hard – and look where he is now. In a way, Pacquiao’s story does not really differ from those of Filipino overseas workers who endure all kinds of sacrifices and hardships to provide for their families and put food on the table. This is one of the reasons why OFWs look up to Manny as a symbol of what hard work and determination can do.

Manny Pacquiao is the best example of what a true Filipino should be and could be. In this world where instant gratification seems to be the norm especially among the youth, his work ethic stands out. Despite reaching the pinnacle of success, he continues to be disciplined, focused and hardworking. Perhaps one clear proof of his discipline and determination is the fact that a couple of years ago, Pacman could hardly speak English. He went out of his way to learn the language, and I’m told he hired a tutor to help him. And now, he has become more confident in answering interviews in English.

That he is very religious is apparent, giving thanks to God first before rattling off the names of his supporters and patrons. Everyone has become familiar with the rosary that adorns his neck as he makes his way to the ring, how he makes the sign of the cross before a fight, and the manner by which he goes down on his knees in abject gratitude to God whenever he wins. This kind of faith is very Filipino.

Pacquiao has already carved an enviable niche for himself in the annals of history, not only in the Philippines but in the world because of his boxing ability. Manny Pacquiao is an icon who can help many Filipinos simply by inspiring them with his story, and giving promising young pugs a start in life through a foundation dedicated to the sport of boxing.

We just hope people around him will not lure Manny into playing a favorite Filipino “sport” – politics. This is a very dangerous that could destroy him and drain him physically and financially. Manny may be sincere in his desire to help others by being a congressman – but there will be those who will try to take advantage of this dream and use it for their own personal agenda. Just by being who he is, Manny Pacquiao has already immortalized himself in the eyes of fellow Filipinos who look upon him as their all-time hero. He should remain where he is – a symbol of the indomitable Filipino spirit – and should not allow politics to destroy it.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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