[PHOTO AT LEFT - Boxing champion Manny Pacquiao makes a toast with San Miguel Corp. (SMC) president and chief operating officer Ramon S. Ang during last Friday’s press conference tendered by San Miguel Brewery Inc. at the SMC head office. Boy Santos MANILA, Philippines]

MANILA, MAY 10, 2009 (STAR)  The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is all set to give Pacquiao a hero’s welcome on Monday.

DENR Secretary Lito Atienza said Pacquiao is expected to be at the DENR Central Office along Visayas Avenue in Quezon City at 8 a.m.

According to Atienza, whom Pacquiao considers as his “adopted father,” the DENR reception will be immediately followed by a grand motorcade that will take the following route: Visayas Ave.; left, Road 1; right, Mindanao Ave.; U-turn to North Ave.; right, North Ave.; U-turn at EDSA to West Ave.; right, West Ave.; right, Quezon Ave.; left, Araneta Ave.; right, Magsaysay Ave.; right, Lacson (formerly Forbes) straight to Tayuman; left at Pritil Market; right, Moriones; left, Road 10; left, Zaragosa; right, Delpan; left at Delpan Bridge; straight to Bonifacio Drive; left, Kalaw; right, Taft Ave.; left, P. Gil; right, Tejeron; right, A. Francisco; left, Onyx; right, Dagonoy; left, Amatista; right, P. Ocampo; right, Arellano; left, Estrada; right, Taft Ave.; left, Quirino Ave.; left, Adriatico; right, P. Ocampo; left, Harrison; right, Buendia; U-turn to Makati; right, Ayala Ave.; left, Makati Ave.; ending at the Pag-ibig Building. – Ramil Bajo

Mom's faith in God inspires Pacman By Joaquin Henson Updated May 10, 2009 12:00 AM

[PHOTO AT LEFT - Mommy Dionisia Dapidran]

MANILA, Philippines – It seems like a long, long time ago when the world’s No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter Manny Pacquiao was mired in poverty. Now that he enjoys fame and fortune, the despair of yesterday is just a faint fragment of a distant past, overshadowed by the adulation of the moment.

But Manny will never forget his humble beginnings.

Even as he has evolved into one of the greatest fighters ever, Manny’s feet are firmly planted on the ground and his head screwed in place. His recognition of where he came from is what drives him to succeed beyond his wildest dreams and what propels him is an absolute faith in God.

Manny’s mother Dionisia Dapidran was his first teacher. She taught him to trust in the Lord, to work hard and to reach for the stars.

Life wasn’t easy for Mommy Dionisia growing up. Her father abandoned his family and left Dionisia to care for her eight siblings.

Then, Mommy Dionisia’s first husband took off with another woman in 1970, leaving her to fend for their two children Lisa and Domingo. She later married Rosalio Pacquiao with whom she had four children – Isidra, Manny, Bobby and Rogel.

When Manny was in sixth grade, Rosalio left his family in General Santos City to work on a farm in Tampakan, South Cotabato. He never went back and instead started another family.

With her husband gone, Mommy Dionisia was left with six mouths to feed and shelter. She sold fish crackers and did odd jobs to put food on the table. As the oldest boy, Manny went out into the streets to do his share, selling cigarettes, bread, iced water and doughnuts and doing laundry. If he could bring home P150 a day, it was a big deal.

Humble beginnings

Mommy Dionisia and her children were so poor that they slept on cardboard boxes in their shanty. She was deeply religious and prayed for God’s mercy to give her children a life better than hers. She wanted Manny to become a priest but had no money to pay for his education.

Manny never went to high school and saw in boxing a way out of poverty. As a kid, he used to stuff cardboard boxes – which he slept on – with clothes and turned them into some kind of punching bag.

Conjuring visions of Mike Tyson and Muhammad Ali, Manny was determined to conquer the world with his fists.

For sure, Mommy Dionisia prepared Manny well for a life of discipline. When he was naughty, she would make him kneel on corn kernels in front of the altar. It was her way of reminding Manny that there were consequences for not doing good. Those early lessons toughened Manny for the struggles that he would later face in his career as a prizefighter.

Today, Manny acknowledges that the secret of his boxing success is the discipline he learned from Mommy Dionisia.

In 1994, Manny left General Santos City on a slow boat to Manila with a bunch of young and promising fighters.

Malabon businessman Polding Correa had phoned a local talent scout, Yolanda Parcon, whose two sons were fighters, to send over prospects for training in the big city.

As an amateur, and known as Kid Kulafu by fans, Manny had compiled a 60-4 record and gained a reputation for his raw power, spunk and fighting spirit.

More than anyone else in that boat, Manny was destined for greatness.

Mommy Dionisia entrusted Manny’s fate to the Lord. Whenever he had an appointment in the ring, she would pray endless rosaries for God’s protection until news came that he was safe, after which she would continue praying, this time in thanks.

She wouldn’t watch any of his fights and chose to stay home or go to church. Mommy Dionisia watched only replays on TV – at least, she was spared the anxiety of not knowing the outcome.

Early in his boxing career, Manny augmented his income by working as a gardener and carpenter. For a while, he was paid P200 to accompany basketball star Asi Taulava for an hour’s jog around the Cultural Center complex.

Whatever money he earned, Manny would send to Mommy Dionisia.

When Manny fought Marco Antonio Barrera in Las Vegas two years ago, Mommy Dionisia fainted in her General Santos City home and was rushed to the hospital. She didn’t watch the fight live on TV but was overcome by the emotions of those who did.

A bind that ties

With Manny maturing to become a marquee fighter, he made sure his mother’s days of poverty were over. He built a home for Mommy Dionisia in General Santos City near his and made her comfortable. As she was introduced to a life of leisure, Mommy Dionisia never strayed from her devotion to the Lord. In fact, she prayed even harder for Manny and those whose lives he touched. Her faith remained as strong as ever.

Last month, Mommy Dionisia made her first trip to the US. Manny was in the thick of training for the Ricky Hatton fight but made sure he had time for her. He took her shopping, and bought her a Rolex watch. He took her to church and to restaurants. Inevitably, media caught sight of Mommy Dionisia.

In the April 30 issue of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Steve Carp wrote a front-page story on Mommy Dionisia entitled “The Biggest Fan Will Be In Prayer.”

Carp quoted the 59-year-old mother as saying, “I told Manny to always be humble and to pray – he is a good son.”

Mommy Dionisia said she wouldn’t be at ringside and would pray in her hotel room while the fight was in progress. “I will just pray,” she said. “I want to give Manny a mother’s support – I would have been here before but I wasn’t feeling well so I waited.”

On the morning of the fight, Mommy Dionisia wore a white dress and white veil as she sat beside Manny and his wife Jinkee on the front row during Mass celebrated by New York-based Filipino priest Fr. Marlon Beof in a conference room at the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino.

She cradled a miniature Sto. Niño in her hands throughout the service.

“If you are strong before, double your strength and your prayers so you will be safe and you will win,” Mommy Dionisia told her son.

Manny promised to do as she advised because “she’s my inspiration.”

After the fight, Mommy Dionisia was brought to a nearby hospital for a checkup. Doctors said she was weakened by fatigue. She made it in time for Manny’s thanksgiving Mass the next morning.

Mommy Dionisia’s influence on Manny is evident in his humility, generosity and religiosity. Once, she told writer Bryan Walsh jokingly that “Manny is like a Xerox copy of me – if I were a man, I would be a millionaire because I would be a champion boxer.”

On May 15, Mommy Dionisia will celebrate her 60th birthday with a big party – featuring ballroom dancing, her favorite pastime – in General Santos City hosted by her son.

Mommy Dionisia raised Manny to be hardworking, obedient, respectful of elders, helpful and God-fearing. It’s no wonder that Manny is what he is today – and all because of her.

On the occasion of Mother’s Day, Manny’s fondest wish is to live up to Mommy Dionisia’s expectations because it is through living her dreams that he is able to show his love for her and their faith in God.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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