by Emil Guillermo
Manny Pacquiao is the most unique Overseas Filipino Worker ever. He makes millions in his underwear right here in America, where he lives and trains as a boxer.
At the same time, he’s a Filipino Senator.
It means I have a love/hate relationship with Pacquiao. Because he’s Filipino, I always want him to win. Or do better. But I abhor his homophobic stance on LGBTQ-plus issues. I’m not gay, but I have LGBTQ family and friends. And I’ve publicly denounced Pacquiao for his bigotry.
He could and should do a lot better.
That’s why I don’t see Manny ultimately as a politician/holder of high office. Read that as “president of the Philippines.”
You can’t govern even as a senator while being zealously bigoted against some of your people.
Quite simply, Pacquiao is a boxer. That’s it. Or at least he was a boxer.
Now, he’s merely the global ambassador/metaphor for Filipinos all over the world. You can box your way out of the barrio.
He’s kind of like an exhibitionist on a pedestal. You can’t knock him down. Not like Yordenis Ugas did on Aug. 21.
That’s why title fights are no longer in his future. Exhibitions are. Wouldn’t you pay to see him go toe-to-toe with the Filipino drug vigilante, President Rodrigo Duterte?
Or maybe a 3-D hologram of Ferdinand Marcos?
So, here’s my courageous proposal. I’ll fight Manny. He can build up to Duterte. After Pacman’s loss to Ugas in the welterweight title fight in Las Vegas, Manny’s done fighting real boxers.
That’s not to say the Ugas fight wasn’t close. It was close enough that if the boxing judges and the boxing gods conspired, the flurries of past greatness that Pacquiao flashed throughout that night still could have justified a split decision for Manny.
But integrity reigned. (Not like it did in that first Pacquiao Bradley fight, remember?) This was for real. The judges and the fans saw the same fight. Ugas was bigger, stronger, and seven years younger. Ugas jabbed with his left and countered with right. Manny couldn’t penetrate.
Pacquiao was still the best 42-year-old fighter that night. But he wasn’t good enough to strap in the belt for the win.
Pacquiao said afterward, “he wasn’t young anymore,” and that he’d take a while to decide his next move. So, I’ll make it for him.
I’m the same size as Pac-Man, based on standing next to him a few years ago in San Francisco. Better yet, I’m also likely not as strong, and maybe a dozen years or older than Pacquiao. Perfect.
I’m just what the doctor ordered Pacquiao. I’m the ideal opponent—a Pinoy Palooka.
I’ve taken some boxing courses, online.
And I know the difference between a Philly shell and some shellfish. I’m not a total boxing ignoramus. I just know I’m Pacquiao’s ideal payday. He could fight me, and three hours later, without a scratch, show up comfortably hit the karaoke bar.
Let’s put it on pay-per-view. He’ll get his big cut. I’ll take a fraction of my hospital expenses and my own retirement. And then the bulk will go to help further LBGTQ-rights in the Philippines and in the global Filipino community.
I’m serious. Manny as a competitive fighter is done. But Manny is still his own cash cow.
The fight against Ugas was originally against Errol Spence Jr. And that came with a $5 million guarantee. When Spence got injured Ugas stepped in. Manny might make a little more when all the pay-per-view is done. But whatever it is, it won’t be like the $160 he made while dancing in the ring with Floyd Mayweather Jr. in 2015.
He can still make good dollars fighting a nobody like me who has publicly called him a bigoted homophobe.
And what a weigh-in it could be. He could read the bible cursing me. And I would trash talk him on behalf of my gay brothers and sisters.
It could be part of his global “all-comers” farewell tour fighting all principled palookas.
And then we can test Pacquiao’s humanity. On Saturday, Manny and Ugas were hugging at the end like lovers, not fighters. We’ll put his homophobia to the test and fight for gay rights.
If the deal is right, it’s for Pride month 2022. In Honolulu even.
I’ll start the rope skipping and road work now.
Politician in the ring
I admit being taken in by Pacquiao as he rose up in the ranks around 2009. It was the same time as Obama was flashing his smile and brand. And in one of my columns, I even said that Pacquiao was like the Philippines’ Obama.
It was an audacious claim. His charisma fooled me. There wasn’t much else. The other things a pol needs like good policy sense was not. I now readily admit I was wrong. Manny was just a figurehead. A hood ornament-type rock star. How good a policy person could he be? Depends on whom he surrounded himself with.
And then there was the homophobia.
Just watching him in the ring since before the Mayweather fight has made me wince. And then that Ugas fight. A public official during a pandemic with more than 16,000 people in an indoor arena? How responsible is that?
That was all Manny the exhibitionist, not the pol. He’s got his priorities as a working multi-millionaire boxer.
Meanwhile, between COVID-19 and the power shift in Afghanistan, the world is in crisis.
The crisis at the Kabul airport coincides with my memory of another crisis at the airport in Manila in 1983.
Sen. Benigno Aquino was assassinated on August 21 that year from a gunshot to the head as he stepped off a jet at the Manila International Airport.
Aquino was returning home after years in exile to facedown the dictator Ferdinand Marcos since sanfitized by Duterte as a hero.
But it was my cue to visit the Philippines as a journalist to witness the remarkable funeral procession for Aquino, a harbinger of the People Power to come.
That’s why every August around this time, wherever I am, I feel the rainy season near and feel more Filipino than ever on the insides.
This year, the season coincides with Afghanistan and the “handover” to the Taliban that was not supposed to be a handover. The civil war never materialized and instead, we’re left seeing our Central Asian brothers and sisters in Afghanistan left stranded trying to get out.
I can’t help but think of Filipinos at the start of World War II.
That’s when U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt called on Filipino scouts to join the U.S. and fight side by side in the Philippines. In exchange for their service, the U.S. promised citizenship and military benefits.
After the war, the U.S. turned the promise into a lie. President Harry Truman signed the Rescission Act of 1946, and that was that. No citizenship, no benefits.
That was way more formal than the current situation in Kabul. But ask any Afghan who risked their lives as a collaborator and interpreter for the U.S. these last twenty years, and the betrayal is about the same if all isn’t done to get Afghans safe haven to America.
Right now, the suicide blasts this week at the airport prove that everyday life is a life and death matter in Afghanistan with the Taliban in control.
If Pacquiao were serious about being the president of an established democracy like the Philippines, he might have made a passing statement about World issue No 2. (He already whiffed on Covid with the massive, maskless indoor crowd).
Make no mistake, Manny is not really a political leader, nor a global leader. He’s a boxer. Just not an elite one anymore.
Exhibition and karaoke tour, here he comes. Duterte can get in line. I’m feeling that August sense of Ninoy’s courage. I got next. For LGBTQ-Plus rights.
EMIL GUILLERMO is a journalist and commentator. He was a columnist at the Star-Bulletin, and a member of the Advertiser editorial board. In Washington, D.C. at NPR’s “All Things Considered,” he was the first Filipino to host a national news program. He vlogs at www.amok.com
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by Emil Guillermo