Edwin Salazar of Oz

It will be 10 years this October since Edwin Salazar moved from Cebu to Australia. A top engineer with a topspin in tennis that mimics Rafa Nadal’s, Edwin works as a Senior Stormwater Asset Engineer for the Gold Coast City Council. He helps ensure that the city’s flood mitigation and stormwater drainage infrastructure performs well.

With tennis, while Edwin used to play five times a week here in Casino Español, now he plays twice weekly. He joins the bi-annual Filipino Tennis Open (playing singles and doubles) and has recently been recruited to a team that plays competition in a club where Sam Stosur picked up the game. Edwin’s weapon of choice: the Volkl V Sense racket.

Gold Coast City is 85 kms. from Brisbane. And so, two weeks ago and together with his wife Pipin, daughter Wren and friend Marevil Gladman, they watched The Battle of Brisbane.

“As early as April, the hype can be felt by the 6,000 Filipinos living in Gold Coast,” said Edwin, of the city that will host the 2018 Commonwealth Games. “During my chat with customers at The Filipino Shop (the one-stop grocer owned by the family and run by Pipin), almost all the men bought tickets. At that time, I was told the tickets were selling fast and some sections have been sold out. In the nightly news, Bob Arum said that 40,000 tickets have been sold in the 50,000-capacity stadium.”

At first, Edwin was unsure to watch. But upon the prodding of his parents, Doroteo and Zenaida, and his nephew Carlo, he bought tickets in May. Rushing to buy them before they sold out, Edwin bought four online tickets that were three times the listed price.

Na-ilad pod ko (I also got fooled) just like some of the spectators,” he said with a good laugh, paying AUD$197 apiece plus booking fees for a total $1,012.26 (about Php44,4400) for four tickets.

“Three days before the fight,” Edwin said, “Pipin found out that Pacquiao was holding nightly prayer meetings at Sofitel Hotel, where he was staying. So off we went. Aside from being curious, I was interested to experience what it was like to be at Manny’s prayer meetings.”

Edwin recounts the experience:

“I attended the second prayer meeting of Manny at Sofitel. I was standing beside Buboy Fernandez while the preaching was going on. I also saw Dyan Castillejo milling with the Filipinos inside the function ‘prayer’ room. Everyone was welcome to attend. The limiting factor was the room capacity. My estimate, about 250 curious Pinoys were cramped inside the room. And maybe another 250 more standing on the hall way as the security had to advise the others to leave the room due to the numbers going beyond the design & safety room capacity. We stayed for about 2 hours, from start to finish. At 6pm as we walked in the hotel — the lobby was overflowing of curious Pinoys. When we finally found the function room, all seats were taken except the stairs and a few spaces along the end wall.

What was it like?

I was impressed with how the meeting was well organised. I was expecting for Manny to walk in and preach or a at least a Pinoy preacher to preach. But Manny asked a professional American preacher imported from Las Vegas — apparently the same preacher Manny hires in Las Vegas. A Pinoy choir opened the prayer meeting; Manny just welcomed the Pinoys and said maybe max of 5 sentebces and the pro preacher took over. At the end of the prayer meeting, Manny slipped through and internal door and escaped the hundreds of pinoys standing along the hallway and later at the lobby waiting for the opportunity to see him. But Manny was too quick to be caught.”

Reminiscing on his fight day experience, Edwin was proudest of the moment before the fight started when our national anthem was sung. “I admit,” he said, “that was one of the times that I was very proud to sing the Pambansang Awit.”

Inside the Suncorp Stadium, Edwin recalls the boisterous hometown crowd. “At our section, the Jeff Horn supporters were very vocal even before the fight started,” he said. “And the nosiest one happens to sit (or stand) in front of my seat. As some of them had a few drinks in the nearby pubs, that even made them noisier.”

During the fight, Edwin and his family sensed that Pacquiao was losing. But then Round 9 came.

“Everyone stood up cheering for Pacquiao as he kept pounding Horn at the end of the 9th round,” Edwin said. “Like everyone else, we felt Horn will be finished in the 10th round. But when Horn was announced as the winner in the end, ‘naminghoy ming tanan.’ The ‘ka minghoy’ atmosphere was felt among the Filipinos riding the train going back.”

The following day at The Filipino Shop, Edwin spoke to many Filipinos and they were still downtrodden, in disbelief at the outcome.

“My friends, Eddie and Jaime Murrillo, believe Manny underestimated Horn’s strength and toughness,” he added. “But some thought Manny gave the game away to have a rematch.”

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