The man called Pacman

Last Friday, I sat eight feet away from Manny Pacquaio. It was his last training session here in Cebu and—together with my dad Bunny, fellow columnist Atty. Jingo Quijano, and The Freeman sports editor Manny Villaruel—we watched Pacman spar for 10 rounds at the Rex “Wakee” Salud Gym. After sparring, he stretched, did skipping rope, toyed with the speed bag, and laid on the floor to do crunches.

Is he in shape? In excellent shape. At the end of over three training hours that would land you and I in Cebu Doctors’ University Hospital, Manny didn’t frown or drop his shoulders—he smiled, danced, sang.

ARA MINA. Yes. She’ll sing the National Anthem at Pacquiao’s October 6 fight. Questions have flourished: Has the boxer fallen in love with the sexy starlet? Did he ask her to sing to inspire him that night? Or is this a ploy to help promote their upcoming movie, “Anak ng Kumander,” which included, from what I’ve read, a kissing scene which took all of nine takes? Whatever the reason, our only request is this: Ara Mina, please don’t do a Christian Bautista.

Manny Pacquiao is ‘The Gambler’

With my brother Charlie

Although he calls the Waterfront Cebu City Hotel and Casino his home here, I haven’t seen Manny pulling the levers of slot machines or sitting on a high stool and rolling the dice to wager on Craps. It’s not that kind of gambling I’m speaking of.

It’s this: Manny loves taking risks. Inside the ring, you know his style. Does he hide behind those two red gloves to cover his mustache? No. Manny pounces. Attacks. He’s aggressive. Assertive. He knocks on the head of his enemy not to kiss him—but to tutor the student on the definition of “K.O.” He swings punches that break ribs and bend jaws. That’s Manny. He sees blood, goes for blood. For the risky shot. He gambles.

Take basketball. For the past two Sundays, I guarded Manny on the wooden parquet floor. Is playing this game of LeBron James, you ask, a gamble? Of course. Think about it: Who, in his right mind, would risk injury and play basketball weeks before a Las Vegas fight that would pay him P150 million?

No one. Except one. Manny.

Far left, that’s Manny with the jump-shot… That’s me (No.9)

Last week, I sat beside Freddie Roach at the lobby of Waterfront. He was alone and I introduced myself. We spoke about our basketball game—and how Manny and I collided and fell to the floor.

Barrera? No, it’s Pacquaio vs. Morales

Who said Manny Pacquiao was fighting Marco Antonio Barrera on October 6 at the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas?

Much earlier than that, Pacquiao is fighting Morales. Yes, Morales. Haven’t you read the news? The prize money isn’t the reported $5 million Pacman is due to receive against Barrera. It’s over a car. Nope. Not just any car. It’s a Porsche Cayenne Turbo. Wow. That’s no ordinary machine. It’s an SUV that retails in the U.S. for $93,700. Computed in pesos, that’s P4.872 million.

But wait, it’s not Erik Morales whom Manny’s fighting. This Morales is first-named Napoleon and he’s no boxer. His championship belt? His title? Customs Commissioner.

Here’s what happened: Last July 2006, after his successful third-round knockout of Erik Morales, Manny imported the Porsche. He tapped a broker to process the entry. The Porsche left the docks of California and traveled the Pacific Ocean before landing in Manila. At the Customs port, after negotiations, the SUV stepped outside the gated walls and unto the streets of Manila.

Manny Pacquiao smiled. His Porsche had arrived “home.”

Don’t laugh! Manny might have the last laugh

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.

Manny? Congressman?


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.

Go, Manny!

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:

Go, Philippines!

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?

Dili intawon.

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.

A Manny win will score very Manny votes

AS much as you and I and 91 percent of the Filipino population (in a survey) disapprove of Manny Pacquiao’s running for Congress this May 14, this we have to conclude: When the bell rings and the gloves are clasped and mouth guards are bitten, Pacman is all about one word.


Asked in an interview if the legal tussle against Oscar de la Hoya and his battle inside the not-so-square ring called politics could get in the way of boxing, he replied: “Never. I never let distractions get in the way of my training. My focus has been to train hard and concentrate.”

Thanks, Manny.

Thank you because, had you lost aim and succumbed to the trappings of your green dollar bills, had you shifted from “running on the road” to “running for politics” and slackened off your uppercuts, jabs, and training—we’d have lost a hero.

Let’s admit it: This nation owns just one hero and he’s not Jose Ma. Sison. He’s Pacman. Sure, we’re 90 million-strong in this 6.5-billion world and we have Lea Salonga and Bata Reyes and Tony Meloto and Paeng Nepomuceno to call our own, but, let’s face it, no Filipino compares to Manny. Among many stands only one Manny.

That’s why as we all converge at resto-bars and the SM Cinemas and at home this morning—every single Filipino with eyes who can see, will be watching—there rests a huge burden for our Robin Hood: He has to win. Not a loss. Not a draw. Not even a 12th round outing to be decided by three men is good enough. Pacman has to win. By KO.

Imagine if he loses? All Filipinos scattered around this globe will clasp both hands in despair, we’ll cover our faces, shake our heads, and weep. For weeks, the Philippines will undergo a depression. A severe depression. That’s why I say…

Thanks, Manny.

Thank you for the sweat that dripped off your chest at Gensan, for the kilometers you sprinted uphill in the mountains of Los Angeles, for the punches you absorbed inside the Wild Card Gym.

You see, when Pacman steps inside that square ring, he’s in unbelievable shape. You know why I know this? His weight. It’s 128.75 pounds. Unlike Solis, who weighed 130.5 and 130.125 before finally making the 130-pound limit, Pacquiao is fit. This means that while he arrived late in L.A. (didn’t we all think Manny had too many distractions on his mind), he didn’t gorge on lechon or drink eight bottles of San Mig Light. He was all about one word.


I’m now staring at his picture taken right after the final weigh-in yesterday. His shirt is off and he’s smiling, clenching his fists, posing beside Jorge Solis. Compare their bodies. Solis is taller, bigger, and yes, more handsome—but look at Pacquiao.
Stare at those abs. Gaze at that chest. Marvel at his arms. In bodybuilding lingo, look at the “definition” of his muscles. Wow. They’re well-chiseled, well-cut, so well-defined that I don’t think one percentage of fat resides inside Pacman.

Thanks, Manny.

Thank you for knocking-out Solis in the fourth round. Or is it the sixth? The eighth? 10th? Never mind what round, thanks for teaching this undefeated—yet underrated—Mexican a lesson in how to spell the letters “K.O.” Teach him about history.

Remind him about the name “The Alamo,” and how, back in 1836 during the Alamo Mission one, the Mexicans were annihilated and bloodied.

Annihilate Solis. Bloody him. Twist him like an enchilada. Chew him like a burrito. Crumple him like you would a crispy taco. For Manny, when you do that, you’ll retain the “Filipino Hero” medal, you’ll keep 90 million of your countrymen away from depression, and best of all, next month, you’ll assure yourself of a new championship belt bearing one name.

Congressman Manny Pacquiao.

Be the world champ, not a chump

Manny Pacquiao is joining politics. Can you believe that? He said so himself: “It’s no longer a question of ‘If,’” he was quoted as saying, “it’s a question of ‘What position.’” Can you believe that?

I can’t. As much as I try to decipher what’s ticking inside Manny’s brain, I can’t understand it. I mean, why would a very young man, in a decent profession making decent money, run for a position salivated at by old men? Is it because, as some say, “Time’s running out?” Time’s not running out. Manny’s only 29 years old! That’s young. Too young, in fact, for public office. Why be in such a hurry?

The worse thing is, as we all know, running for politics and running for boxing isn’t the same running. They clash. Like Rum and Milo, they don’t mix. One running forces you to smile, the other forces you to cry. And here’s the truth: If you run for politics, you can’t run on the road. You can’t focus. You’ll spend all your time shaking people’s hands, delivering speeches, creating TV commercials, plugging yourself on radio ads. You’ll spend hours and days and weeks and months running for politics. Not running on the road. Not jabbing at those mitts. Not working on upper-cuts. Not pummeling the bags. Not boxing.

And isn’t Manny a boxer?

To start with, what qualifies him to run for office? His school background? Ha-ha. His oratorical skills? He-he. His decades in public service? Ho-ho.

His name. Oh, yeah, his name! How can I forget his name. That’s what qualifies Manny to be a mayor. His name. Well, here’s my advice. Since he’s got such a powerful name (some same stronger than the letters GMA), then why doesn’t he just run for the highest position vacant on May 14…

Senator Emmanuel Dapigran Pacquaio. Doesn’t it sound good? And fitting? Doesn’t it befit a world-champion? If I were Manny, becoming mayor of GenSan, the tuna capital of this part of the earth, why, that’s small fish. Go for the whale. The Great White Whale position. Run for senator!

Running for senator entails cash, lots of cash. Money. Does money need Manny? Manny need money? No, Manny doesn’t need money. He’s got many. With Danding Cojuangco and San Miguel Beer filling his barrel, with Motolite behind his behind, with Burlington on his feet—how can Manny lose?

Senator Emmanuel Dapigran Pacquaio. I like it.

But back to running for GenSan mayor, which Manny appears to aspire for. You know what he’s doing? He’s doing the same thing to the Pedro Acharon, the incumbent GenSan mayor, that he did to Oscar de la Hoya. Remember the Golden Boy?

Here’s what Manny did: Months back, he sat down with Oscar over a steak dinner, listened to him, nodded his head, they shook hands, he signed the contract, and promised to be Golden Boy’s “Golden Boy.” Then—only weeks after—Manny punched Oscar. (Good thing it wasn’t, literally, a punch or else Manny would have been KO’d.)

Back to Mayor Acharon, if Manny runs against him, he’s doing the same thing. You see, Manny was like the mayor’s adopted son. He was the sponsor during his wedding to Jinkee. He sat at ringside in Las Vegas—upon Manny’s personal invitation, of course—to cheer. He was at the blessing of his mansion and at the baptism of his daughter.

And then Manny punches the mayor by running against him? Ouch! Is that how Manny is now? Just because he’s world champ?

Bad, bad decision. And hasn’t our hero been making bad decision after bad decision lately? Signing with Bob Arum instead of Oscar? Bad decision. He knows it. We know it. Had he signed with Oscar, he’d be fighting at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas against Marco Antonio Barrero. But because he signed with Arum, Manny’s fighting we-don’t-know-who on we-don’t-know-when at we-don’t-know-where.

Macau? Is that where he’s fighting? There’s no ready coliseum there. Only slot machines. Texas? Is that the new venue? Ha-ha-ha. Will George W. Bush be at attendance? The last time I heard of a fight in Texas, it was ‘em cowboys.

Here’s my point: I love Manny. You love Manny. Every single being on this planet with Filipino blood circulating in his system loves Manny. Is he going to throw it all away because he wants to shift careers and join the dirty, pollution-infested politics?

Manny, please: Forget politics. Forget it. No one’s stopping you from jumping into that foray—but do it later. Not now. Not when you ought to be inside the gym and not on the podium, not when we need a hero and not a thief, not when you’re, lest you forget, the world boxing champion.