We commemorated heroes and icons of People Power last week. While we’re at it, maybe we ought to also discuss and reexamine our definition of what makes a hero.
I had not wanted to minimize the euphoria immediately after Manny “The Pacman” Pacquiao’s victory over Eric “El Terrible” Morales which is why I had kept clear from making any comment at that time. Pacquiao’s feat indeed made him the man of the hour in Philippine sports, and rightly so, the focus of national attention. By drumming up anticipation and excitement weeks before the fight itself, media maximized awareness for the Pacquiao-Morales rematch. On fight day, crime and traffic—the two constants of Philippine cities—were virtually non-existent with most Filipinos glued to their TV sets.
This is not to question the heart and punching power of Manny Pacquiao as a pugilist. It is all about the questionable practice of demeaning heroism by honoring people who have not truly deserved to be regarded as a national hero, thereby promoting hero worship. When Pacquiao punched his way to victory, Filipinos enthroned him as a hero. No doubt, Pacman’s victory was well deserved but to elevate him on the pedestal that befits national heroes—thereby encouraging the impressionable youth to hero worship him—would be doing injustice and disrespect to our real heroes.
Manny Pacquiao’s victory over Eric Morales in Las Vegas last month was not even a title fight. He did not even defeat an ace fighter crowing at the peak of his boxing career. In fact, Morales was a boxer on the wane. Rocky Marciano is one of the greatest heavyweight champions of the world but his victory over a 37-year old Joe Louis is not regarded as one of Rocky’s greatest fights for the same reason—no big deal when you defeat your “grandfather” in boxing.
One other thing is that Pacquiao defeated an Eric Morales who had been thinned out and devitalized by having to drop two pounds from his comfortable fighting weight of 132 pounds. In fact, nothing best demonstrates that advantage than Pacquiao himself. My friend Ronnie Nathanielz confirmed in his February 15 Manila Standard column that Pacquiao does not want to fight Morales a third time (despite the Pacquiao camp’s previous announcement of a 3rd fight) if the fight is to be held under the 132-pound weight category.
So, here is our brave and sagacious ‘hero’ now balking over the prospect of
fighting Morales at his optimum weight. Certainly gaining two more pounds is no big deal compared to the fate Morales had to face with the burden of diminished stamina and strength resulting from shedding pounds. In other words, with Morales over the hill and devitalized, Pacquiao had fewer reasons to lose.
Reminds me of traditional politicians (trapos) who will compete in an electoral contest only if they have the 3G advantage (guns, goons and gold, and now, additionally the Garci factor). Manny Pacquiao now sends us a signal that he is not about to fight his opponent on a weight level where his opponent fights best. Is that the man we would elevate to the level of Jose Rizal, the national hero who gracefully marched to his execution?
The heroes I know of are people who made the supreme sacrifice for their nation, their country. Now the question—did Manny Pacquiao really undertake to win those ring victories for the nation or were they really for his personal financial benefit? Somehow, Pacquiao’s association with traditional politicians and his ease at paying homage and praises to them make me wonder if he has not picked up their glibness for mouthing motherhood statements and doublespeak.
Pardon my cynicism, but I cannot help but be wary of people who profess to undertake great feats for country and countrymen. There are just too many instances of wolves of the type stalking about in sheep’s clothing.
I did not doubt the sincerity of Sheila Mae Perez, the country’s bemedalled diver in the last SEA Games, when she said that she wanted to win in order to be a source of pride for her country. After all, her series of triumphs did not involve large sums of money. With youth and the purity of the amateur spirit behind her, it was clear that all she wanted was to do her family and her country proud.
Not so with the circumstances surrounding Manny Pacquiao. For one, there is too much money involved—the match was a professional fight, not an amateur international tournament where the country is officially represented. The accolade “sports hero” is rightfully assigned to the amateurs who represent their countries in international competitions.
How come that with all the money that Pacquiao made we did not see any of it spent on a project that would have benefited his poor countrymen? What we hear of instead is Manny Pacquiao buying a Porsche Cayenne (the upscale SUV of Porsche, costing at least P7 million) and for last Valentine’s Day—ABS-CBN’s TV Patrol reported that he gave his wife a Rolex watch costing P800,000. Wouldn’t Manny Pacquiao’s pronouncements of ‘love for his countrymen’ be more appropriately matched by a sponsorship of a Gawad Kalinga (GK) Village to provide shelter for the poorest of our homeless?
A simple decent watch rather than that P800,000 Rolex for the wife would have allowed Pacquiao to provide 20 families with a P40,000 GK home each. A respectable Toyota Rav4 rather than a P7-million Porsche would have given 175 other families a decent GK home each. Instead, Manny Pacquiao demonstrated a dangerous lust for luxury characteristic of what is called the culture of having. Heroes are distinguished by their selflessness and sacrifice—they promote and exemplify a culture of sharing.
Also, there are far too many trapos swarming about and dipping in The Pacman’s glory. He showed smooth aplomb in dealing with all these trapo characters which somehow seems to indicate that they could all be birds of the same feather. Someone should advice Manny Pacquiao to avoid the company of trapos.
Then there is the issue of paternal support for the son that Pacquiao allegedly sired with another woman. When that story broke on television, the complaining mother presented a photo showing her and Manny Pacquiao with their alleged son and the boy’s birth certificate where Pacquiao was listed as the father. Oddly, Pacquiao did not deny the romantic liaison with the woman but declined to immediately admit paternity until DNA test results can confirm it. From where I sat, that sounded to me like “I admit to having fired my gun to commit homicide but not murder.”
Regardless if the son is the result of their romantic interlude or not, does a Manny Pacquiao who admits to an intimate relationship with another woman other than his wife deserve to be hero-worshipped? Is that the father and husband that we want our son to aspire to be?
I endeavor to make this examination of the adulation that people now heap upon Manny Pacquiao because I believe that all this reflects a serious flaw in the Filipino sense of values. Hero worshipping Manny Pacquiao is as counter-productive and damaging to our people’s psyche as electing Joseph Estrada and Fernando Poe, Jr. as president. In both cases, we enshrined people who do not have the qualifications to uplift the Filipino condition.
Tell me about your heroes and I will tell you the kind of people you are. How would you regard people who adore the Adolf Hitler types of this world?
In fairness to the people who made Hitler Fuehrer, Germans to this day feel the shame and guilt of having allowed Hitler to be the scourge of the world. The Germans have learned their history lesson while we continue to fail to learn ours. As a result, we are unable to exorcise our demons. Filipinos don’t know their history, hardly honor their genuine heroes and are too easily inclined to hero worship the toughie on screen or in the boxing ring.
It is our national tragedy that many Filipinos do not know their own history. But it is an even greater tragedy that Filipinos pay homage to bogus heroes. If Filipinos knew the history of the Philippine Revolution of the 19th century, they would be able to understand why the country is where it is now. The Illustrados who stole the revolution from the real revolutionaries reincarnated in the trapos who took over after Filipino People Power restored democracy in 1986.
Filipinos are right to cheer when Manny Pacquiao connects with his hard punches. The nation has a right to feel elated when Manny Pacquiao floors and conquers his opponents.
But we condemn ourselves to further tyranny when we start hero worshipping Manny Pacquiao—especially when our predatory politicians are angling to use his popularity to get away with their charade and deodorize their nefarious ways.
You may email William M. Esposo at: firstname.lastname@example.org