Today is ‘Manny Pacquiao National Holiday’

The day has arrived. The day we’ve looked forward to for weeks, hours, months. This day is special. There has never been a day like Nov. 15, 2009. Elections happen in our land every 36 months—but that’s insignificant compared to this 36-minute mega-fight. This day—win or lose—will be remembered next year, in 2015, and 30 years hence.

Consider how Manny Pacquiao has changed our lives. He is on the cover of Time, the world’s most popular weekly. He is the first-ever Asian athlete to grace it’s front page. That’s historic. That’s his story.

Consider our city streets. Today, there’ll be a jeepney strike. For four hours until 2 p.m., the roads will be deserted. No, Barack Obama has not flown into Mactan, Cebu—he’s in Singapore. The streets have been closed for another President—the leader of RP sports and entertainment, if there ever was a title.

Consider the innumerable family reunions today. Brothers, fathers, daughters, lolos, mothers—all cloistered as one this lunch. And, friends, too. I, for one, will be in the brand-new Ma. Luisa home of my best friend, Dr. Ron Eullaran. So will my wife Jasmin and daughter Jana. So will Dr. Ronnie Medalle and his family. And Ray and Letty Patuasi and their families. Today, family and friends share one TV set. These get-togethers don’t just happen here in Lapu-Lapu or Toledo or Bogo. They’re in Tagum, in Baguio, in Kalibo. They’re in Dubai, in Los Angeles, in Vancouver—all over the globe where colleagues and kindred cluster. As one. All because of One.

Consider the movie-houses. Aren’t they closed during mornings? Not this A.M. Today, by 9, thousands will enter SM and Ayala and hundreds of other cinemas nationwide. Has this ever happened before?

Consider the restaurants. They’ll be jam-packed. Everybody devouring buffet meals at P299. San Miguel Beer? Oh, that will ooze. Rico’s Lechon and the dozens of other lechon stops? The owners, by day’s end, will be hundreds of thousands of pesos richer.

Consider the 11 a.m. mass schedule. Normally one of the most crowded of schedules—the pews will be empty. Consider the groom and bride who booked their wedding six months ago and chose the 10:30 a.m. schedule of Nov. 15. Ouch! Theirs will suffer either (1) a 60 percent drop in attendees or (2) will be forced, during the lunch reception, to install TV monitors with “live Las Vegas coverage.”

Consider that war ceases. Gun-fighting, in the hours during Pacman’s fight, will halt. Ceasefires called by President GMA can’t stop wars. Peace treaties can’t. Only one man can.

Consider how this man, once homeless and who only had one meal of rice per day, has transformed the way the world thinks of the name, “Filipino.” Today, mention our nationality and foreigners smile. They think of Pacman. Like Hillary Clinton, who spoke highly of MP. Same with America’s most celebrated of celebrities—Denzel Washington, Shaq, Tyson, Donald Trump, the Boston Celtics—who revere our 5-foot-6 southpaw from Gen. Santos City.

Consider that MP has a chance to win the SI “Sportsman of the Year” prize, besting Kobe and the NY Yankees.

Consider the impact that Manny’s win will do for him—and for RP—if he succeeds. Already in Nike’s billboards and TV ads, he’ll solidify his status on the Mt. Summit of Sports and be on the same plateau with Tiger, Roger, Bolt, Phelps.

But let’s also consider that our hero can lose. Overconfidence poisons. Too much smiling can turn that cheerful look into a bloody face. Boxing is unpredictable. Sports endings are never like a James Bond movie where Daniel Craig is always unscathed and left smooching a starlet.

You see, we’ve been spoiled by Manny’s KOs. After slaughtering the Mexicans and the DLHs and the Hattons—we believe he’s unbeatable. In this fight, from Freddie Roach to the betting tables to me and you—we believe Manny can’t lose. He can. Let’s hope not. Let’s pray. Let’s watch. Let’s clap.

For there has never been—and will never be—a day in sports, a day in Philippine life, a clash in boxing… like today.

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