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Monday, November 14, 2011

What Passes As Traitorous

I am writing this the day after Cong. Manny Pacquiao has once again prevailed and triumphed against his erstwhile arch-rival, Mexican pugilist Juan Miguel Marquez, amidst a barrage of questions and negative comments in cyberspace over the majority decision that - can we say this now? - "settled" the question of who is the better fighter between them.

(Photo courtesy of

I decided it best to sleep over it, lest I make the mistake of writing something that would be done "in heat", maybe not the best way to put it, but one that describes it well: as a reaction to the adulation that Pacquiao has gotten for "uniting" the country when he fights.

I grew up at a time when we never knew this Southern boxer, so I was able to witness before me that meteoric rise (in wealth, prestige, fame and position) of the boxer who has appropriated the name of one of my earliest favorite video game characters, Pac-Man. (Speaking of which, do the inventors of Pac-Man get royalties of any kind when Pacquiao uses this name?)

My feelings and thoughts haven't changed after a good sleep.

We have unnecessarily placed Manny on a pedestal, one which we have appropriated for some figures in our country, so much so that any one who tries to hint at having a voice of dissent is summarily cast as unpatriotic, unfair, and worse, a traitor to "Philippine culture" and "national pride".

Can anyone tell me how Bob Arum earning -illions (I don't have the exact figure, but I'm betting it has those last 7 letters) or HBO PPV raking it in contributes to national pride?

It has also become "fashionable" to say "I'm doing it for the country" - rabid Pacquiao fans, please turn away now lest you wish to wince - but lining up your coffers as a professional boxer does not equate to "fighting for the country" for me.

But then again, as I have mentioned in a previous post, this is a country that feels that a third-runner up finish in a beauty contest also is considered a boost to "national pride". In that absurd universe and context, it makes sense. (

As we now say in online lingo, WTH?!?!?

The decision that Manny won yesterday has been - even Pacquiao fans will have to agree - deemed as "not a slam dunk", or in other words, it wasn't a decisive victory by any stretch of the imagination.

And this is where it diverges into a fork in the road: Those who focus on the word "decisive" and the other half - in the Philippines, maybe 95% - focusing on the word "victory". It all depends on whether you value the process or the outcome.

It has now become inconceivable to even doubt or question any of the moves that Pacquiao makes, both on and off the ring. And if anyone raises a ruckus over his victory as "not spectacular", you will hear any/all these words being tossed around: crab mentality, negative, doomsayers, walang magawa sa buhay, jealous put-downers, traitors. Of course, these comments are reserved for other Filipinos. When Mexicans or other nationalities do the same, they're called sour-graping, sore losers, and most quizzical of all, racists.

After their 12 rounds, I was following the analyses of boxing pundits and I never saw one of them remark, on a round-for-round basis, that Manny won. All the comments have been either each round was a draw, or Marquez won some rounds. It was only when I saw some Facebook status updates saying "We Won!!!" that I realized the judges thought differently when they cast their votes. (Yes, I've seen that FB photo being passed around now, one with a "professional punch analyzer" on a piece of paper, saying "technically" Manny hit more percentage-wise. You don't need to send me a copy.)

What was particularly telling to me was how Manny himself reacted after the fight was declared over. It wasn't one of a "warrior" who felt vindicated or victorious (and quite the polar opposite from how Marquez felt and exhibited). Neither was Jinkee's (Manny's wife) reaction just before they announced who won. It seemed more to me like someone steeling herself for settling for last season's Prada - or some equally horrible news.

Judging from the online brouhaha now, it was far from being a "satisfactory" outcome. (Today's Inquirer has the word "Controversy" to describe the match decision.)

Unfortunately, I live in the Philippines, a place which worships Pacquiao. If you wish to be mobbed for whatever reason, or have a death wish, just go to a public square shouting "Pacquiao Sucks!!!" and I doubt you would have a minute to draw your last breath.

I am not a boxing fan. I see no difference with boxing and the gladiator "sports" of yore, a way to assert whose balls are bigger through violence. Yes, these are basic instincts and urges, the need for validation, satiating our lust for war and violence. But I cannot help but note the massive hypocrisy, that on hand, we teach our children, day in and day out, that hitting someone is never a good way to solve conflicts, that violence only breeds more violence, and that we are supposed to be "better" because we can use our brains instead of our fists to settle matters; and on the other hand, we cheer and bet massive amounts, we would fly all the way to Las Vegas for ringside seats, we pat ourselves on the back for, even just a short while, laying down our arms and "solving" our traffic problems, all because this minute boxer from Mindanao who has become larger than life is beating up another man.

Stripped to its' very bare and core, this is what boxing is: a spectator "sport" where we not only allow, but glorify one man hitting another. It is not, as one Facebook comment I saw goes, a "gentleman's sport". Is that how we define a gentleman? To see who is better at getting another person beaten black and blue, and in some cases, causing permanent brain and body damage? THAT'S the epitome of a gentleman?

I already made this same observation a year or two ago, and when I posted that I found it disturbing how we, as a nation, glorify violence through boxing, someone tried to rationalize it by saying, "It's only for sport! Lighten up!"

That has to rank as one of the worst defenses for championing boxing.

And who can blame Manny for entertaining thoughts on running for Vice President and even President? After all, no one finds it improper that a Congressman of our Republic has to take time off from Congress - I don't care if they're on recess, that's not the point - to train for a championship boxing bout. For that matter, our legislators must have an easy time crafting laws because you see them on TV judging talent shows, or advertising for computer schools, hosting their own shows as well as promoting their upcoming movie! Ganon ba kadali maging kongresista? (Makes it rather plain to see what's really keeping the RH Bill from being passed into law.)

No wonder, come elections, we manage to up the ante on the ridiculous scale.

We willingly put our blinders on.

Who cares, as long as we have our entertainment. Bloody or otherwise.

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