DONAIRE  HONORED  BY  AQUINO  FAMILY,  TOO

[PHOTO AT LEFT - Nonito Donaire Jr. presents the WBA title belt to former President Cory’s daughters Ballsy, Viel and Pinky. At left is Donaire’s wife Rachel and partly hidden at back is Ballsy’s husband Eldon Cruz. MANILA, Philippines]

MANILA, AUGUST 20, 2009 (PHILIPPINE STAR) By Joaquin Henson - It was supposed to be newly crowned interim WBA superflyweight champion Nonito Donaire Jr.’s tribute to the late Sen. Ninoy Aquino and former President Cory Aquino but to his surprise, the surviving Aquino family turned the tables on the fighter in an emotional show of affection at the Roozen Hall of the Don Bosco complex in Makati yesterday.

Donaire and wife Rachel attended the concelebrated morning Mass to commemorate the late Sen. Aquino’s assassination in 1983 at the jam-packed Don Bosco Parish Church then trooped to the Roozen Hall for the champion to present the WBA title belt, his yellow robe (with the inscriptions “I.M.O. (in memory of) former President Cory Aquino” and yellow fighting trunks (with “Aquino” emblazoned on the back waistband) to the family.

Donaire wore the robe and trunks in his win over Panama’s Rafael Concepcion for the interim WBA crown in Las Vegas last Saturday. He dedicated the fight to the late President Cory.

After the turnover, former President Cory’s daughter Ballsy Aquino-Cruz sprang a surprise when she announced the family is “adopting” Donaire as a “bunso” brother.

“I was overwhelmed,” said Donaire. “I never expected it from the family. What an honor for me to be accepted as part of a family which I respect so highly.”

Ballsy then gave Donaire an autographed family portrait and a bag-full of President Cory memorabilia.

Ballsy’s son Jiggy said his grandmother’s name Corazon means “heart” and that’s exactly what Donaire showed in agreeing to fight an overweight Concepcion when he had the option to take his $150,000 purse plus $6,500 as his share of the Panamanian’s fine for failing to make the weight without entering the ring.

Donaire said he couldn’t disappoint the Filipino people by walking away from the bout because it was a matter of national pride.

“It isn’t about money,” he said. “In my heart is instilled the word ‘laban’ which was President Cory’s battlecry in her fight for democracy. We owe her our democracy because she gave us the voice to speak out. I couldn’t have backed out from the fight. I was determined to fight even if Concepcion weighed 20 or 50 pounds over the limit.”

Donaire’s wife Rachel, who wore a bright yellow dress, explained that yellow symbolized hope and a bright future for the Philippines. Donaire was in a suit with a yellow necktie.

“Jun’s fighting color is red but this was an exception to honor President Cory,” she explained. “More than anything, yellow means there is hope for a bright future. It’s a color that shines through and of course, it’s the color that President Cory used to rally our people.”

Donaire said his fighting sign – two interlocked Ls, one upright and the other, reversed – combines “L” for “laban” and “7” or a reverse “L” to commemorate his knockout over Vic Darchinyan for the IBF flyweight title on 07/07/07 – July 7, 2007.

After the Mass, another daughter Pinky Aquino-Abellada walked up the rostrum and thanked the crowd for remembering her parents as heroes. She urged the people to vote wisely and said she is confident that Filipinos know which politicians are candidates for personal gain and which are not.

“There was never a taint of corruption when my father was a senator and my mother was President,” said Pinky. “In the end, they still went home to our old house on Times Street.”

Pinky said Donaire’s belt, robe and trunks will be on display at the Aquino Center in the Hacienda Luisita, Tarlac City. The Center is where the family recreated Sen. Aquino’s Fort Bonifacio cell and exhibits the clothes he wore during his assassination.

GMA’s Chino Trinidad was the master of ceremonies in the tribute and testified how Donaire overcame a much bigger opponent to win for the country and the Aquino family. Trinidad covered the fight on-site for live satellite TV transmission to the Philippines.

From Don Bosco, the Aquino family hosted a lunch at 11 Palm Avenue, Forbes Park, where President Cory’s parents lived. The Donaires were warmly received as part of the family.

Among those who attended the lunch were US Ambassador Kristie Kenney, Bro. Bernie Oca of La Salle, Star columnist Popoy Juico and wife Margie, Ambassador Howard Dee, Mila Drilon, Dinky Soliman, Fulgencio Factoran, Cesar Buenaventura, Antonio Gonzalez, Deedee Sytangco, Domingo Lee, Miguel Perez-Rubio, Cesar Sarino, Gen. Voltaire Gazmin, Gen. Ramon Montano, Odette Ong, Speaker Jose and Gina de Venecia, Solar owners William and Wilson Tieng, Ambassador Mercy Tuason, Adolf Azcuna and Maritess Lopez.

RELATED STORY:

Donaire to don yellow trunks for Cory (The Philippine Star) Updated August 08, 2009 12:00 AM

MANILA, Philippines - IBF flyweight champion Nonito Donaire Jr. will be stepping in the ring next week wearing yellow trunks in honor of the late former President Corazon Aquino.

Donaire, who will be going up against Panama’s Rafael Concepcion for the WBA interim super flyweight title, said he has chosen Mrs. Aquino’s trademark yellow color as a way of paying tribute to her.

“One thing is that what she (Mrs. Aquino) has done for the country and what she has tried to do for the country is something that you have to acknowledge,” Donaire told reporters in a conference call to promote his upcoming fight.

“She has fought, just like her sign ‘Laban,’ which means fight. She always had that fight and love for the country to just get it to another level. I just have great respect for the late former president. It’s my way to pay her tribute and give my respects to her,” he said.

Mrs. Aquino passed away last Saturday due to complications from colon cancer. Known as an icon of Philippine democracy who toppled a dictator in a peaceful “People Power” revolution in 1986, the former chief executive was buried last Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Donaire is now in Las Vegas, Nevada, to wrap up his pre-fight preparations. He and Concepcion are slated to meet on Aug. 15 (Aug. 16 in Manila) at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

Donaire hasn’t fought since knocking out previously unbeaten Raul Martinez at the Araneta Coliseum last April.

The Donaire-Concepcion is the main event of the “Pinoy Power 2” boxing card promoted by Top Rank Inc. – the same outfit handling Manny Pacquiao. – Contributed by Dino Maragay


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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