Manny Pacquiao the National Symbol

I’ve been hearing a lot of grumbling, not least from my own household, about how lionizing Manny Pacquiao over his conquest of Oscar De La Hoya reveals our weaknesses and delusions. The overwhelming majority has bought into a societal illusion that an achievement by a single Filipino, a pugilist at that, validates our worth as a people. The Pacquiao saga is nothing but a circus that distracts us from the very real problems plaguing the country. Very good points, but the reasons we exalt over Manny Pacquiao’s triumphs are just as legitimate.

We do need heroes. Not heroes as historical abstractions, like Bonifacio and his bolo, or an amorphous mass like the Filipino OFW, but contemporary flesh-and-blood champions we can put a face to, no matter how homely. Like Manny Pacquiao.

And we need to mythologize our heroes, to make them larger-than-life. And Pacquiao fits the bill perfectly. He provides drama and pageantry to our drab lives. He has lived the beloved, age-old, near-universal narrative of the poor boy who makes good. By dint of sheer guts, hard work, resilience and, yes, faith in a higher power, he managed to achieve fame, wealth and glory. He literally had nothing but the shirt off his back when he started out as a boxer and through his God-given talent and determination, a bit of luck and the (not always altruistic ) kindness of strangers, he has scaled almost unimaginable heights. It helps that he’s so demonstrative of his religous beliefs (apparently authentic), which Pinoys love.

Heroes flesh out our fantasies and this is not necessarily a bad thing, as long as we remain grounded. Obviously, not everyone can be a Manny Pacquiao. He’s one in eighty million. But he can serve as an inspiration and a symbol of what we can achieve as individuals, if not as a nation.

Not to worry, though. He will soon enough be brought down from his pedestal. The fate of all demigods is to be revealed as having feet of clay. He will go the way of Oscar De La Hoya in his own time. Meanwhile, there’s nothing wrong in celebrating the all too fleeting victories of a true champion.

3 thoughts on “Manny Pacquiao the National Symbol”

  1. What Pacquiao showed to the whole world is enough. People in the world have entertained well. Just until there. Sana hindi siya padala sa mga bulatik ng mga pulitiko. Ang pangalan niya ay napagandang pakinggan ngayon. But, if he joined politics, surely mawawala ang napakagandang musika nito na tumutugtog sa ating mga tainga ngayon. Congratulations, Manny!

  2. I enjoyed the fight as a maputi ang balat Anglo asawa ng isang filipina. I like both fighters, but I was pulling for Manny, as I have relatives in Mindanao who I know were rooting for Manny. True, sports are distractions that leave us disappointed most of the time. ( The San Francisco Giants have not won the World Series in their 50 year San Francisco existance ).
    A Mexican-American friend of mine explained de la Hoya’s desrtuction, stating that Oscar’s Father is Mexican-American, but his Mother is Puerto Rican-American, and if both parents were made of Mexican-American DNA, Pacquiao would have been destroyed in the first round. Yeah….right ! No excuses. Pacquiao is the best fighter in the world at this time. It is that simple.

  3. Well, Dionisia moving into Parvenu (Palm) Avenue in Dasmariñas Village and the names Jinky & Manny have chosen for their kids merit at the very least a raised eyebrow.

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