All he aspired for when he was starting his boxing career was to be the champion of the Philippines. But after 20 decades in the sport, Manny Pacquiao has become not only his beloved nation’s champ; but also a well-respected world boxing record-holder – the first and only eight-division world champion, with an impressive ten world titles.
“Of course I never think [sic] that I’m going to be like this. My dream is [sic] to help my mother and to be the champion in the Philippines,” he said in a recent interview. “I’m really thankful to God for what he has done in my life. I think God has a purpose in raising me like this. I believe it is to serve as an example and inspiration to others and bring them closer to God.”
Even as a devout Catholic, Pacquiao’s dedication to the traditions of the church was inspiring to many, regularly attending church on Sundays and praying the rosary religiously. His pre and post-fight Catholic masses were well-attended by supporters and fans. So were his rosary novenas that started on the ninth night before each fight. Entering the ring, he’s been seen wearing the beaded article around his neck; and making the sign of the cross at the start of each fight. But all that changed when he started reading the Bible more.
“We must read the bible because that’s the manual to life, so that we will be careful to do everything that is written in the Bible,” he said.
As a journalist who has covered Pacquiao since his first fight at the Araneta Coliseum in 1999, I was pleasantly surprised the first time I heard him quote and explain a bible passage to me, in one of our interviews: “Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do,” he quoted from the Book of the Prophet Joshua 1:8.
This was only the start of many more interjections of Bible verses during interviews. In a press conference for his June 9th 2012 bout against Timothy Bradley, Pacquiao quoted the Gospel of Matthew when asked for his message to nemesis Floyd Mayweather: “But everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment, for every empty word that they have spoken; For by your words you will be acquitted and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:36-27)
Since then, Pacquiao has released messages for Mayweather, on the issue of whether the two boxing greats will fight each other in the ring, giving the fans what Pacquiao believes “they deserve to see.” Three years later, the highly-anticipated Pacquiao-Mayweather match-up is still much talked-about. A few days ago, Top Rank honcho Bob Arum has announced that Pacquiao has agreed to a 60-40 split, in favor of the American fighter, along with other concessions the Mayweather camp has demanded. In his interactions with the media, Pacquiao has confirmed that and has been adding that he is now just waiting for Mayweather to sign the contract.
But the two-term Filipino Congressman is not waiting idly. He is in the States to promote a documentary about his life, directed by Ryan Moore, opening in select theaters this weekend. Pacquiao believes that through this film that traces his humble beginnings, to his current stature as an esteemed personality, he can leave a legacy that goes beyond his boxing world titles and memorable outings in the ring: “After this boxing career and when I’m gone into [sic] this world, I want them to remember me as a true role model to all of them, into real Christianity,” he said.
While many laud him as their hero and inspiration, Pacquiao has his own hero:“Jesus is my hero in life. I want to feel what the heart of Jesus is. I believe the Bible says ‘Seek first the kingdom of God and all these things will be added unto you.’ So, that’s my inspiration, the word and thinking about Jesus Christ,” he said.
And while he is thinking about his Savior, what he isn’t thinking about these days, according to him, is whether he would be or would want to be the next Philippine president:
“Politics. Dinala rin ako ng Panginoon diyan siguro to show the real …’yung totoong pagseserbisyo sa gobyerno, na may takot sa Panginoon. Importante na may takot ka sa Panginoon, to serve the people. Hindi ‘yung parusahan mo lang ‘yung mga tao. Hindi ‘yan ang number one sa solusyon, although we have the law. May batas tayo, pero importante na maintindihan nila kung ano ang ibig sabihin ng real Christianity. (I think God brought me into politics to show the real meaning of service in government, with fear of the Lord. It’s important that one has fear of the Lord when serving the people. It’s not enough to punish people. That’s not the number one solution, although we have the law. We have laws but it is important that we understand the meaning of real Christianity.)
“Jesus said unless you are born again, you cannot enter the kingdom of God. Meaning to say, we are required to be born again. We have to understand that, what it means to become “born again.” When we become born again, our mind, our thinking is not to take advantage of other people; but our hearts and minds will be how to give them advantage,” he said. “But I’m not thinking about it right now, whatever God’s plan is, will be done.”
It seems God’s will is to shower Pacquiao with lots of blessings. And in the language of observers, Pacquiao has been “favored by God.” He has succeeded is almost everything that he entered into – boxing, singing, acting, public service, and anything and everything in between.
“’Pag ako kasi nag-isip, hindi ko nililimitahan ang sarili ko sa kung hanggang saan lang ang kaya ko,” he said, adding that he believes the secret to success, aside from faith in God, are the Filipino values of “sipag at tiyaga.” (When I think, I don’t limit my thinking to only the things I can do.)
In the end, despite his successes, achievements and “favors from the Creator,” Pacquiao says he can only boast of one thing: “being still humble and always feet on the ground. ‘Yan lang ang kaya kong maipagmalaki. Isa lang akong normal na tao, na katulad ninyo.” That’s the only thing I can be proud of. I am just a normal person like you.)
And like most normal people, despite seeming to have everything he could ever wish for, Pacquiao says he prays at night to ask for blessings: “peace, unity and also protection, guidance, wisdom, knowledge because without God in our lives we can do nothing.” [END]
Jannelle So is taking a break from 20-years of print and broadcast journalism career that began in the Philippines and continued in the United States. She is credited for creating, hosting and producing America’s first and only locally-produced daily talk show for Filipinos, that ran for 8 ½ years under her leadership, making it the longest-running Filipino talk show outside of the Philippines. Connect to her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram; or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.