This latest turn of events in Manny Pacquiao's life, considered our country's greatest boxer, hardly seems surprising: As of late, he has been seen toting the Bible instead of his boxing gloves, photographed in Bible studies instead of a boxing gym, and mouthing off Bible verses instead of his opponents.
Ladies and gentlemen, Manny Pacquiao, the preacher.
It is the latest in his reincarnations: from a struggling hick from his hometown, his almost - dare I use the pun? - godlike ascension into our national consciousness and international prominence was paved by way of the most barbaric of sports: punching a man senseless.
While most athletic endeavors base a participant's success by how fast they have traveled, how many baskets shot, or how many goals they have kicked, boxing is the only sport I know of that scores based on the punches on another person. (I have to include mixed martial arts, often referred to as MMA, in this category. Not so much "pro-wrestling" like the WWF, which seems to be the equivalent of soap opera for men swooning over other testosterone filled men.)
While most sports accept physical injuries as "collateral damage" in the service of the sport (strained shoulders from too many overhead shots, an ankle sprain from overuse in running a large football field), boxing is the only sport I know that has for its primary goal purposely inflicting injuries on another opponent, resulting in broken noses, lost teeth, massive blood loss, head injuries, and in later stages of a boxer's life, some have contracted dementia or Alzheimer's disease as a result of the beating received.
In turn, his success at this violent endeavor so widely celebrated (I see no difference between boxing and the gladiator games of yore, frenzied crowd cheering and betting while the bloodshed spectacle happens live) has been parlayed into business and entrepreneurial success, having many business endeavors run by both him and wife Jinkee.
He is also a one man advertising cash cow: With advertisements left and right, his earnings from these appearances in videos, photos, magazine spreads for international sports brands and local motorcycles, to name a few, are enough to last anyone 10 lifetimes and have a prosperous run on each of those lives. His "Midas touch" where ads are concerned has rubbed off on wife Jinkee and mom Dionesia, that they are "celebrities" in their own right, with their own product placements and target markets. I'm waiting for Manny's kids to go mano a mano with baby James (son of "Queen of All Media" Kris Aquino) in the tweens department anytime soon.
His latest endeavor: preaching the word of God.
God, apparently, told him to desist from the world that introduced him to all of us.
God, according to Manny, appeared to him in a dream, a divine vision, supposedly telling him: "You have done enough. You have made yourself famous but this is harmful." (Hmm. Even God acknowledged that the fame you attained was your own doing. Curious.)
It's interesting to note that he declined to give an actual number, of how many fights he has left in the ring, before he "retires" on account of the divine message he received.
It reminds me of embattled Chief Justice Renato Corona's fighting words, that he will answer all charges against him "in due time". When pressed for specifics, he suddenly becomes hard to interview.
A few comments, from someone who was raised in an environment that can be described as conservative, Christian (Protestant), Baptist and generally intolerant of other people's beliefs. These are based on what my formative years in school and church have informed me.
(1) Will you wage war against people who do not follow what you will preach? That is essentially what was taught to us, it's a war for souls, "we" (whoever speaks this line, apparently) have God on our side, everyone else who doesn't see it "our way" is evil/going to hell/the devil's minions. If yes, go to question 2. If no, skip 2 and go to 3.
(2) Will you choose your denomination now, for the record? As I understand from news reports, your current "faith revival" is largely due to a pastor of Protestant origin, conducting Bible studies with you on a regular basis. But the problem is you have identified yourself for so long as a Catholic; in fact, a priest who was asked about your closeness with this pastor said that the Catholic Church considers you their child despite this new relationship.
Let me tell you, nothing sparks more incense in the childhood sermons I have attended as a child and teen in our church services. Catholicism has always been despised in our school and church, and when asked point blank if Catholicism is wrong, they would answer by verses that pertain to "not having graven images before" God.
This means, Manny, you have to be clear: Are you now a Protestant, or still a Catholic? You cannot be both, as it appears now in the press, as there are fundamental differences that make your association in both sects an impossibility.
(3) Aren't you disobeying God by not giving a definite time frame of when to stop your boxing career? My understanding is that, when God says something, an order to do or not do a certain action, that is instantly executed. There's no "uh, let me think about it" scenario, lest you wish to be smote by the one who gave you the order. As one of your largest brand endorsements says for its tagline, Just Do It.
I hear you're still preparing for your next match with Bradley. This would be in direct violation of what God told you in your dream, wouldn't it? I mean, God even explained why, that it was harmful...so why still go on?
You can't be an effective "messenger of God" if you can't follow God's command to you personally. And you even publicly announced this, making us all aware of your disobedience.
You may want to rethink the career shift, given this shaky start.
(3-a) Does this also mean that God commanded you to beat up people for money, this whole time that you were boxing? Where I come from, people who do that are called by a different name.
(4) You have been quoted as saying, "When I speak, people listen." Your level of self awareness notwithstanding, you may want to ascertain the reasons why this is so. As I mentioned earlier, people are vicariously living their gladiator dreams through you, you get to beat up a person without the threat of a lawsuit but instead you are rewarded billions in pesos. (Is it in dollars already at this point?)
You may, again, want to think this through: Your first run in politics proved that your fame in boxing does not necessarily translate into political gold, you were beaten by Rep. Darlene Custodio.
Similarly, just because you now say you are a "changed man", does not mean you will be effective as "God's spokesperson". You claim to have a direct message from God, but you disobey God at the first instance of your test - you are still pushing through with the Bradley fight.
Talk about mixed messages.
When Paris Hilton speaks, people also listen. And not for lofty reasons, or because she has something of substance to say or contribute. Other than "That's Hot".
The problem with fame is that it deludes people into thinking that they can be more than what they really are. You see this phenomenon all the time - an actress who thinks that her fame gives her license to start a singing career, even though she has a voice that would make all species extinct. Or a career executive thinking she could be the top dog, not knowing that when people mention her name - and they mention it constantly - it is with derision and contempt for her lack of work ethic.
Manny, your current announcement reminds me of that famous Susan B. Anthony quote, as to why she distrusts those people who claim to know God so well. (Have your people look it up for you.) This seems more to me like an attempt to have the basbas ng Diyos (blessing from God), to make it seem like a divinely inspired and guided direction.
One thing I also learned from my religious upbringing is that, at the end of the day, it is you, and you alone, that will decide what to do next. (Free will is a major theological - and moral and ethical - discussion. Which reminds me, must get Sam Harris' book.)
In a country that prizes religiosity and piety - on the surface, where it really counts in Filipino culture - your latest public relations attempt may dazzle many.
But I have no doubt of one thing.
Your will be done.