DECEMBER 10, 2008
(STAR) By Abac Cordero - Manny Pacquiao partied Sunday evening, paid a visit to the Wild Card gym the day after, then flew back home Monday night to face the grandest welcome ceremony his country has ever laid out for him.

Pacquiao stayed up late in his posh La Pallazo apartment upon his arrival from Las Vegas. Food and drinks flowed, as he enjoyed a couple of Buds, had fun playing darts with friends and welcomed some special visitors.

He had planned to visit the gym at noon, but all the partying took its toll, and boxing’s biggest superstar today arrived a little past 3 p.m.

He was met by his fans, and a big round of applause as he stepped in.

“Here’s the champ! Here’s the champ! The pound-for-pound champion – Manny Pacquiao!” one of his trainers, Eric Brown, shouted, announcing his arrival.

Pacquiao walked straight to his trainer, Freddie Roach, who was busy training mixed martial arts star Andre Arlovski of Belarus.

The two hugged and spoke very briefly, then Pacquiao asked Roach to get back to business.

A Wild Card security officer announced that Pacquiao, who came in dress jeans, leather shoes, white shirt and beige coat, was not to do any autograph signing because his right hand was still hurting and swollen two days after the fight.

But he had pictures taken with his fans.

Pacquiao stayed inside the gym for an hour, and then proceeded to his favorite Thai restaurant where his pregnant wife Jinkee and some more relatives and friends were waiting.

Pacquiao left for other appointment before heading for the airport, leaving behind Jinkee, who stayed behind to give birth to their fourth child later this month or in January.

Pacquiao, with his lawyer Franklin Gacal, adviser Wakee Salud, brothers Bobby and Roel, and a few others, then boarded the PAL flight to Manila.

A grand welcome is waiting for the boxing champ as soon as he steps onto the tarmac of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, with a full schedule already lined up for him.

A victory parade is set for tomorrow, even as he is expected to make a courtesy call on Department of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary (DENR) Lito Atienza and President Arroyo in Malacañang.

He is scheduled to fly home to General Santos City by Friday as he prepares for another victory party, and his 30th birthday on the 17th.

Top Rank top honcho Bob Arum, who has been invited to the birthday party, said he was coming.

It will be the fourth time Arum would visit General Santos City. Roach is flying in, too, and from General Santos might proceed to Boracay upon the invitation of West Cove owner Cris Aquino.

“I’m not going to Disneyland for Christmas. I’m going to Boracay,” said Roach.

Pacquiao is holding a golf tournament for friends on Dec. 12 and 13, a shootfest from Dec. 12 to 14, and a darts tournament from Dec. 12 to 15.

He said he plans to return to the US the week before Christmas, together with the three Pacquiao kids, Jimwell, Michael and Princess.

Hero’s welcome

“We have prepared a fitting reception for Manny, our world champion, who continuously brings honor to his country and his countrymen. The whole nation eagerly awaits his return as Manny is mutually excited to share his latest victory with his fellow Filipinos,” said Atienza, a long-time benefactor, who is like a second father to the boxer.

Atienza said aside from rolling out the red carpet for Pacquiao, the so-called people’s champ would be showered with red, white and blue confetti at the DENR.

A press conference at the DENR’s Social Hall will follow before the boxing champion leads a ticker-tape parade around Metro Manila.

According to Atienza, the victory parade will kick off at DENR grounds along Visayas Avenue, Quezon City; then will turn right at Elliptical Road; right at Quezon Ave.; left at Araneta Avenue; right at Ramon Magsaysay Blvd.; right at Lacson (Forbes); right at G. Tuazon; left at Blumentritt; left at Dapitan; right at Lacson (Forbes); left at Tayuman; left at Pritil (Nicolas Zamora); right at Moriones; left at R-10; left at Zaragosa; right at Del Pan; left at Kalaw; right at Taft; right at Pres. Quirino; left at Harrison; right at Buendia; right at Ayala Ave. and; left at Makati Ave. going to Pag-IBIG central office (Atrium Bldg.).

Pacquiao will then attend a Thanksgiving Mass at the Basilica of the Black Nazarene (Quiapo Church) at 8:00 a.m.

At 9:30 a.m., Pacquiao will proceed to Malacañang to make a courtesy call on President Arroyo.

Ambassador of peace

Deputy Presidential Spokesman Lorelei Fajardo said Pacquiao will be appointed as Ambassador of Peace in an appropriate ceremony.

Fajardo noted that there were moves in the Senate, particularly from Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri, to honor him as a national sports hero.

Atienza told a news briefing at the Palace that with or without a formal appointment, Pacquiao is already an ambassador of goodwill.

He said Pacquiao is also expected to meet with leaders of the House of Representatives, the Senate and Vice President Noli de Castro.

Atienza and Fajardo, however, sent mixed messages on reports that Pacquiao would seek political office.

Quezon City Rep. Annie Rosa Susano revealed Monday that Pacquiao may replace her in the second district in the May 2010 elections, and that he will be making the announcement as soon as he arrives from the US.

Atienza, however, said Pacquiao has not mentioned to him any political plans.

“We have not discussed politics before and after the fight. I advised him to concentrate on his career as a boxer and continue giving glory and honor to the country,” he said.

Mixed reactions

The thought of Pacquiao running for Congress in the second district of Quezon City drew mixed reactions from lawmakers, some of whom advised him to stay out of the dirty world of politics.

“If it’s in (May) 2010, that’s the worst thing he can do. He should carefully plan his future fights that can last another few years, so he can bring more glory to his country and family,” suggested Northern Samar Rep. Paul Daza.

As for Buhay Rep. Irwin Tieng, whose family owns the Solar Sports channel that provides cable service, there is nothing wrong with seeking public office for as long as his intentions are noble.

“It’s okay because Manny only wants to help. He doesn’t need money because he is already rich. I think it’s up to the people of Quezon City to decide if he is deserving to be a congressman,” Tieng said in Filipino.

A senior member of the House of Representatives, Manila Rep. Bienvenido Abante, said the boxing champion is welcome to join their ranks, but is wondering why Pacquiao would choose Quezon City as his place of residence, when everyone knows he is from General Santos.

Manila Rep. Amado Bagatsing, on the other hand, wanted Pacquiao to concentrate on boxing.

“He is a boxing icon recognized worldwide, and should savor and continue to box for the next three to four years and be a role model to the youth and poor,” Bagatsing said.

But Atienza had other things in mind.

“Let the events take care of themselves… 2010 is still far away,” he said.

He cited Pacquiao’s message after the fight for Filipinos to set aside politics and unite.

Pirated videos

Meanwhile, the police seized thousands of pirated digital videodiscs of the Pacquiao-De la Hoya fight in an operation yesterday in Divisoria.

The tapes were being sold in DVD format at P50 per copy and reportedly came out in the streets just hours after the Dream Match was held in Las Vegas last Sunday.

Copies of the tapes flooded Quiapo, Carriedo, Sta. Cruz and Divisoria and were reportedly selling like hotcakes.

However, the tapes being sold also carried the commercials shown on television during the fight.

“Some enterprising Pinoys could have videotaped the fight right from their television and transferred the tapes to DVD format. This is a clear violation of the anti-piracy law,” said Meisic police station chief Superintendent Nelson Yabut, who led his men in the raid.

Police raided a number of stalls in Meisic Mall and 168 Mall, including sidewalk vendors in Divisoria, and seized thousands of copies of the “Dream Match” tapes being sold openly.

A woman vendor said a man delivered the tapes to them on consignment basis.

“We cannot resist the offer, P25 for every tape sold. Besides it is selling fast,” she said in Filipino. — Rudy Santos, Paolo Romero, Katherine Adraneda, Christina Mendez, Evelyn Macairan, Nestor Etolle

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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