Now officially the first Asian to win three world titles in three divisions in Boxing, Manny Pacquiao's ascent to the WBC Superfeatherweight throne has become the pride of a larger group of nations.
It is very tempting to recount the details of the bloody battle dubbed "Pacquiao-Marquez II: Unfinished Business," but let's leave this to experts like our very own Chino Trinidad or the American veteran sportswriter Kevin Iole (see his blow-by-blow account of the fight here).
So let's take a look at another facet of this gruelling bout: its politics.
Into the early rounds, a commentator on the GMA-covered fight blurted: "Tatagan mo Manny Pacquaio, suportado ka ng Ginebra San Miguel!"
That unglued me from my focus on the footwork, lightning punches and feigned attacks displayed by the ring combatants, one considered as the "more intelligent fighter" (Marquez) and the other a "powerpuncher" (Pacquiao). The comment jolted me back to the reality of a larger world of boxing where greater power punches are being traded between and among advertisers, bettors, commentators, coaches, and promoters.
Note also how media constructs for us a reality that may not square with facts. When TV programmers focus on Pacquiao's mom in deep meditation while clutching a rosary, a not-so-subtle message is being fed into our consciousness: God was on Pacquiao's side. So, the Catholic faith of a Filipino is more powerful than that of a Mexican? Maybe the Spaniards of old are to blame for this unbalanced share of heavenly power, yes?
This politics of religion in boxing reminds me of Evander Holyfield's brandishing of his "power verse," Philippians 4.13, in his ear-wrenching game with Mike Tyson. Maybe, it was God's will that his triumph over a fighter of another faith be stamped with blood oozing from a severed ear lobe?
I can't help relating this to wars past and present waged in the name of God. God or Providence was always on the side of victors, at least according to the victors whose versions of history eventually become the picture of what had been and is.
Finally, the mention of Ginebra San Miguel makes a non-sequitur connection between gin and guts, beer and brawn. To my limited knowledge, tanking up San Miguel gin and beer doesn't make one into an accomplished prizefighter. I think the inglorious fate of some of the once promising Baguio-based boxers who matched gin and beer with their pairs of gloves testifies to this fact.
This advertising propaganda is not much different from that of those who branded cigars with terms (Hope, Champion, etc.) and painted them with scenes that do not really reflect the cost of the vice.
I wish for Pacquiao not only more victories, but also a good sense of the limits of human strength and popularity. I hope that some years from now he will hang his gloves on boxing's hall of fame while his strength remains so he could still spend the rest of his life caring for his family, pursuing his charitable projects, and ensuring that many more Manny Pacquiaos will rise after him.
Hopefully, that time would also mean the steady rise of our country from the depths of squalor and ignominy.
Mabuhay ka Manny!