If I resided in General Santos City and headed for the poll booth this May 14, I’d write down two words beside the blank space for Congressman: Emmanuel Pacquiao.
Seriously, I would.
A month ago, I lambasted Pacman. Called him “Chump” instead of “Champ.” Asked if the only credentials he carried to Comelec were his lethal left hook and his “This is for the Gods” broken English. Everybody in this archipelago—excluding, of course, his lawyer, wife, and dog—disapproved.
Well, call me crazy. Call me any word you like because I’m saying this: I’m rooting for Manny this May 14. I’m serious. Last month and last week and even as recent as 10 A.M. last Sunday, I mixed the words “Manny” and “politics” and “stupid” in the same sentence. Not anymore. Not after watching him bleed his eye with a deep cut, then growl like a beast and smother Jorge Solis after that wound; not after watching him angry on that sixth, seventh, and eighth rounds when he unleashed left
hook after uppercut after right hook and floored Solis to oblivion.
Think about it. How can you not feel inspired? How can you not root for a man so poor 16 years ago that he peddled on the streets, lived in the slums, and is now so heroic that he’s carrying—alone—the nation’s flag and waving it for the world to smile and say:
Is it because Manny hasn’t finished college (or was it high school? Or elementary?). Because he can’t speak English like Tony Blair? Because his IQ isn’t as high as Darlene Antonino-Custodio’s?
So what! Is all success based on one’s schooling? One’s childhood upbringing? One’s English?
I say we give Manny a chance. Why? Because Manny Pacquiao is a unique human being like no other. He’s not a Cesar Montano or a Richard Gomez who score with pogi points.
What do I see inside Pacman?
I’ve never seen a Filipino athlete as determined as Manny. You can see it in the way he “over” trains, in the way he grits his teeth, dives, and punches for that KO. And this determination, I believe, rooted deep underneath that sweatshirt, might—just might—spill over to his province mates if he’s elected. He’ll fight for them. Bloody himself, if needed. That’s who he is.
What else is inside Manny?
He’s pro-poor. Makatao. How can he not be? Once poor, who better to talk to the poor? He suffered what they suffer, lived in a nipa hut as they now live, starved as they now starve, ate what they now eat.
Clout. That’s another. Name me a Filipino with more influence and “star power” than Manny. When he enters a stadium, eyes enlarge, people stand, and cameras click. Simply because he’s Manny Pacquiao. I’m not saying everything Manny wants, Manny gets. But believe me—whether it’s to approach GMA for a new 13.5-km. asphalted road or to call PNP head Gen. Oscar Calderon for more men to safeguard GenSan—my guess is, what Manny wants, Manny gets. His people benefit.
Here’s one more: South Cotabato is not as popular as Cebu or Davao or Cagayan de Oro but, with Manny at the helm—and with mediamen beside him to take pictures, write stories, and film video footages in every step—wow, the limelight will be on South Cotabato.
Finally, here’s why I’ve softened on Manny: I thought politics would ruin his boxing. I thought he’d lose focus, get distracted, lessen his road running and replace it with another running. Did that happen last Sunday? You saw it. I saw it. The answer is no.
So, call me crazy, but you know what, at the end of this all, Manny just might surprise us. Let’s not forget: Nobody believed he’d topple Marco Antonio Barrera in 2003, critics declared he wouldn’t last against Erik Morales, and now, his countrymen berated him when he declared his running for Congress. Well, let’s see…
As for me, just like last Sunday, I would never bet against Manny Pacquiao.