I went to General Santos City to pay respect to my dead cousin. A very sad trip since it is still less than 40 days after his older brother died and with a heavy heart, again I made the trip. But, there is something to look forward in this trip as the family of my cousin has very special ties with Boxing Legend and Philippines Senator Manny Pacquiao. He was once one of my cousin’s worker in his tuna business two decades ago. To say that he started his career with Manong Gene is something up for discussion because Pacquiao’s working days with my cousin was as colorful as today’s headlines.
Last December 1, 2016 at exactly 3 PM, he paid his visit to his former “amo.” I was sleeping when my relatives who were in the room also were having a commotion yelling and screaming to others who were sleeping that the Senator was in the house. You can tell indeed that Pacquiao is one of the guys because my cousins and relatives called him Manny minus “the honorable.” Of course, I got up and followed the boys to where Pacquiao was seated. He was seating in the sala where the casket of Manong Gene was laid for public viewing. He already viewed it and he was on “tete a tete” mode with Manong Gene’s wife and daughters. He was surrounded by other family members too. All those who were crowding him were ladies and the guys were standing in different corners of the room.
A chance meeting with Manny Pacquiao won’t be complete without “kodakan” moments especially now in this age of Facebook and Instagram. He was very obliging to the many requests for “selfies, twofies, groupfies, and stealfies.” There was even a Nora Aunor moment when students who were classmates of my “apo” or “pamangkin” came in droves; perhaps they were alerted by some classmates who saw Manny came into the house. I saw the students taking out their notebooks and scribbled Manny’s name and made a beeline towards him. Manny was quite happy to sign his name on the pages of their notebooks.
After everything else was settled, Manny talked with the family and with other guests too. He was so unassuming and gentle with his voice. I was watching him interact with these people from a distance. I intentionally did not join the commotion for “kodakan” moments with him and instead I took some pictures of him from where I was standing. Looking at some of the images from my less P500.00 cellphone, I felt something in my head and in my heart. Suddenly, all the negative energy I harbored for him were gone in 60 seconds. Honestly, I am quite envious of his success. A former “kargador” is now a senator. Who wouldn’t have their teeth gritted from frustration?
You cannot fault me if I feel this way. He could have been contended with just being a boxer but he choose to go higher and Manny has earned a place not only in Philippine sports but in politics and solidifying his place in Philippine history as well as future entry to “greatest Filipinos ever.” Yes, it was quite unfair as I said to myself. One of the most unusual moments during his visit was when he talked about God and Christian living. Instead of encouraging gossip and intrigues as many of the guests were querying him on EJK probe and Leila De Lima, he chose to discuss about being prepared about death and accepting Jesus Christ as personal savior.
His religious slant might be construed as hypocrisy but I saw it in a different light. I saw him as a mature politician where he chose to discuss matters which are more important than politics like spirituality and self-contentment.
Perhaps, it was the way I looked at the situation that all my negative impressions and bias towards him were erased. Perhaps, it was actually seeing him paying respect to the one hand that fed him at one point in life; it was more than a legend and “kuwentong barbero” and I actually saw his gratitude and gratefulness to Manong Gene. He is still one of the boys. He was meek while talking to my cousin’s wife. He still in awe with my cousin’s children and did not posit himself as someone who achieved greater things in life. He still talked with his fellow “kargadors” like he used to. At that time, I realized that labelling Manny as “hambog” is just pure bitterness. He was not “hambog” from the distance where I watched him interact with people.