By Greg Macabenta
The Philippines was quiet all of Sunday morning, Nov. 15. People went to church early and then cleared the streets, all of them heading for the neighborhood theaters or coliseums or barangay halls where the Pacquiao-Cotto fight was beamed. I myself paid good money (P550 or more than $10) to watch the fight at the SM Mall on Sucat Road.
After the fight, folks exchanged high fives and loudly told each other, “Ang galing ng Pinoy” (Pinoys are great!). Shades of Muhammad Ali’s “I am the greatest!”
Of course, this euphoria has a way of fading and the Filipino people will soon go back to dealing with day-to-day woes, many of them worse than the punishment inflicted by the recent series of natural calamities.
The question is, how can the Philippines maximize the Pacquiao Phenomenon and translate it into long-term benefits for the country? Here are a few ideas on how to exploit Pacquiao for the national good.
One idea would be to name Pacquiao Secretary of Education. I can think of no better role model for the Filipino youth struggling with reading, writing and ‘rithmetic. Here is a young man who hardly had any formal education and who could hardly speak English when he knocked a long line of Mexican boxers into retirement.
Now, he speaks better English than a lot of congressmen. And, boy, does he know his arithmetic. From learning to count only from one to ten (courtesy of the boxing referee), he now counts in the millions.
Pacquiao is the greatest example of overcoming outsize odds, as well as turning popular perceptions upside down. In the years BP (Before Pacquiao), a Visayan speaking Tagalog was good for laughs. Pacquiao and his mother, Dionisia, have made it fashionable. Singing out of tune was also jeered at BP. Pacquiao has also made it the new standard of vocal excellence.
With Pacquiao heading the Department of Education, we can turn out generations of champion boxers and finally secure our niche on the world stage. Eat your hearts out Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan, etc. You can have your scientists, industrialists, intellectuals, artists and statesmen. The Philippines will stand supreme as Lord of the Rings.
And while we’re at it, Pacquiao could help restore the credibility of the National Artist Award, dispensed by the government and reportedly sullied by the selection of two questionable recipients. He could be named National Artist for the Pugilistic Art. Samples of his work could be exhibited at the Cultural Center. The mangled face of Miguel Cotto.
The bloody matinee idol profile of De La Hoya. The broken nose of Erik Morales. Etc.
Another possibility would be to appoint Pacquiao as Secretary of National Defense. Think of the possibilities with Pacquiao as head of DND. He could revive the sagging morale of the armed forces, reminding our soldiers that “the best defense is offense.” Because the AFP is poorly armed and there’s no hope of ever modernizing its armory, Pacquiao could train our soldiers to use their fists in fighting the country’s wars.
If anyone can forge a peace with the Muslim separatists, it would the Man from Mindanao. He could solve the sticky problem of Mindanao autonomy or a separate state by organizing a grand boxing competition, pitting Christians against Muslims. The winners would take control of the disputed territories.
Pacquiao could also be named governor of the Bangko Sentral. His dollar earnings could stabilize the exchange rate and more than make up for the waning dollar remittances from overseas Pinoys, especially those in recession-plagued America.
In this regard, Congress should pass a law officially renaming Pacquiao MONEY, as in Money Pacquiao in recognition of the sizeable revenues he generates. There is a biblical precedent here. Remember how God changed Abram’s name to Abraham and Jacob’s to Israel?
Of course, all of these possibilities pale beside the biggest plum of all: the Presidency.
PACQUIAO FOR PRESIDENT.
But the Manila grapevine assures me that there is no truth to this rumor. According to knowledgeable quarters, the official salary of the president, the highest executive position in the land, is not enough to even cover Pacquiao’s training expenses. Of course, the unofficial emoluments and perks could ensure a lavish lifestyle for several generations of Pacquiaos – as it has that of the current and past presidents – but it appears that Pacquiao would rather make his money the hard way.
What may have some credence is the rumor that Pacquiao may be persuaded to run for vice-president. After all, in this country, the vice-presidency has little value except for winning votes. In fact, the typical barangay idiot wonders why Noynoy Aquino picked Mar Roxas for VP running mate instead of his sister, Kris.
Sadly, the masses cannot see beyond their noses. It hardly ever occurs to them that in the event of the sudden death or incapacity of the president, the VP takes over – and heaven help the Philippines in such a case.
The current crop of prospective presidential contenders have been desperate to get – hire or buy may be the more proper term – a marquee vice-presidential running mate, to boost their chances of victory. Administration candidate Gilbert Teodoro has just recruited TV star and part time politician and public servant, Edu Manzano, for his VP slot.
The tactic apparently works. Remember how Gloria Macapagal Arroyo appropriated the mass appeal of Noli de Castro for her candidacy? That move was designed to neutralize the boxoffice draw of her rival, Ronnie Poe.
According to scuttlebutt, without De Castro’s mass appeal, Garci would have had to pad the election results by two million votes instead of just one million.
As it turned out, getting De Castro elected vice-president has been beneficial to Arroyo in other ways. It has also served to secure her beleaguered position. As bad as people see her governance, they can’t stand the thought of replacing her with De Castro.
Manny Villar was seriously considering hiring another TV personality, Wowowee’s Willie Revillame, as his running mate. Talk about scraping the bottom of the barrel.
According to reports, Villar was also ardently talking Pacquiao in Baguio, where the boxer was in training. Was he wooing Pacquaio for the VP slot? Who knows? Anyone desperate enough to consider Revillame for the vice-presidency will try anything. Besides, Pacquiao is a superior choice by far over Revillame. Less garrulous. More charming. More humble. Even sings better. But that, of course, is academic. Villar has chosen Loren Legarda instead. She is considerably prettier than Pacquiao.
A couple of days after the fight, the dailies are still giddy over the bout and so are the newscasts. People are savoring the sweet victory of their Pambansang Kamao (National Fist). Frankly, so am I. In truth, if anything can rouse intense pride in being a Filipino, a Pacquiao ring triumph does it. After being routinely pummeled by the forces of nature, the abuses of public officials and the dominance of the world economic giants, the Pinoys find in a Pacquiao victory an opportunity to HIT BACK.
You cannot imagine the psychological uplift such an experience can give. For one great moment, you not only feel EQUAL to the world, you’re beating it up.
TAKE THAT! AND THAT! AND THAT!
Boy, that feels good!!!
By Greg Macabenta