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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Conrado de Quiros on Religion and Pacquiao's Loss

I had wanted to give my one-centavo on this nonsense about religion having to do with Pacquiao's humiliation dealt him by his arch-rival JMM, but when I read my favorite columnist's article on the issue I thought he just articulated what I had in mind -- only that, it was in the unrivalled Conrado de Quiros' way. Here's an excerpt from his 18 December write up, "Postscript":

Well, we’re free to debate the wisdom of Pacquiao’s conversion to the born-again fold to our heart’s content, but as an explanation for his defeat it’s rather embarrassing....

Again, you don’t have to be a disbeliever or cynic to see what’s wrong with it. At the very least, what does that view of earth, or heaven, make of Providence? That he (or she) is a boxing fan who watches fights eagerly and decides to bestow his blessings on those who worship him more ardently or more according to his prescribed rules of worship? Or who picks favorites, favoring Filipinos more than other nationalities (with the exception of the Jews who like to think of themselves as his absolute favorite), for no other reason than that they are Filipinos?

Rather like the Olympian gods, brilliantly depicted in the original “Clash of the Titans” who had favorites, quite apart from lovers among mortals, and decreed the latter’s fates by their individual partialities or whim. The title is ironic: It wasn’t just a clash of mortals, of heroes versus villains, it was a clash of the gods, of Zeus versus the other gods or goddesses jealous of his love for his mortal son, Perseus. Except that in this case, there is only one deity who is believed to be exceptionally partial to the champion of his second favorite people, until the day that champion scorns him by this act of unfaithfulness.

At the very most, what does this view of earth or heaven make of Providence? That he approves of boxing and moves in mysterious ways in the ring, finding in its goings-on a way to extol divine grandeur? When I first heard the theory about Pacquiao’s crushing defeat being God’s punishment of a scale of an Egyptian plague, I thought of my friend Nandy Pacheco and wondered what he thought about it. Nandy is as devoutly religious as it gets and is as averse to boxing as it gets. His philosophy, which has extended to Kapatiran, being that God cannot possibly condone violence, and boxing is nothing if not violent. Perhaps on a scale less than guns, but violent just the same.
I was about to say rather like the times of the Crusades when the Christians imagined God to be on their side and the Muslims imagined Allah to be on theirs. Except that the same thing continues to this day, the American Tea Party thinking God to be on their side and the al-Qaida thinking Allah to be on theirs. As though God or Allah approves of wars, or wholesale carnage, and bestows his blessings on one side or the other depending on how loudly they pray to him.

Best to keep earthly matters to the earth. Best to keep mundane matters to the mundo. By all means let’s be religious, by all means let’s turn to prayer and supplication as much as we want, or need. But let’s not turn religion into some kind of anting-anting, or talisman, the better to win wars, to win fights, to dodge the bullets of the police in a running gunbattle with them. Let’s not turn God into a whimsical deity or a bored one with all the time in the world and nothing better to do, and raise all sorts of questions about whether God created us in his image and likeness or we are creating God in our image and likeness. With all our flaws, with all our foibles, with all our pettiness.

***

But come to think of it, religion may really have something to do with Marquez devouring Pacquiao. While it is true that his new faith had led him to become the "new" him, his religious addiction may have caused him to focus too much on the hereafter that he lost sight of the here-and-now. And so he failed to train harder for the sport that gave him his millions of dollars, his multitude of fans, and the luxury of offering evangelistic platitudes to millions of Filipinos whose lot is to live in places where natural and man-made calamities abound with no millions of pesos to draw from the bank with which to rebuild their lives. Perhaps, too, like many fresh converts to evangelical or pentecostal sects, he had thoroughly bought what can be called a "personal exceptionalism" -- which is to say that since he had become a "true christian" he is now the apple of God's eye like David was, and like David his prayers are going to be heard well and God will give him power to destroy the Goliaths he will be pitted against. But just like in David's case, disaster strikes even those favored by the gods. Prayers do not and cannot clothe any human being with the cape of invincibility.

If Pacquiao intends to return as King of the Ring soon, he first needs to recover the respect he once had for the sport that built him and the respect he had for the people who had been rooting for him and idolized him long before he ever became Pacquiao the Politician or Pacquiao the Preacher.

But if this shocking bout marks the end of his boxing career, there's no shame in it really. We who have lived in the glorious Pacquiao Age of boxing will always count it a great honor to have lived at a time when a scrawny southpaw from the South of our country once became boxing's North Star to and from whom hordes of people from all over the world gazed in awe and drew inspiration.

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