Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Run Manny Run!

One news item that caught my eye today (aside from senatorial candidates trying to beat the Comelec deadline which is so old news) was Manny Pacquiao’s supposed candidacy for congressman of General Santos City and South Cotabato. GenSan, as it is commonly called by locals, is known as the “Tuna Capital of the Philippines.” I visited Gen San and the outlying towns of South Cotabato a couple of times in the past and was pleasantly surprised to find many Ilonggos not only in Gen San but even in Muslim-sounding towns like Surallah and Nurallah in the province. I surmise that long ago the province must have been dominated by Muslims until Ilonggo settlers from Panay, encouraged by President Quezon’s land resettlement policies, started arriving en masse in the 1920s up to the 1930s. Several years back, I visited a college buddy who used to live in DOLE (the pineapple company) located in Polomolok, South Cotabato which is about 30 minutes ride from Gen San. The DOLE compound, situated at the foot of Mt. Kalsangi, is an enclave complete with American-style houses (similar to the ones in Subic and Baguio), an international school for the children of DOLE expats, etc. And best of all, they have a wonderful golf course there.

Going back to Pacquiao’s impending entry into politics, it seems that not many Filipinos welcome the idea. Well-meaning fans fear that his boxing career will suffer if he becomes congressman and that he will be “eaten by the system” (lalamunin ng sistema) and eventually become a trapo (traditional politician) himself while detractors say that Manny lacks the education, intelligence and experience to serve in Congress.

On the contrary, I believe that Manny Pacquiao is the perfect person to lead his area.

At the height of their power, Britain was ruled by men who distinguished themselves overseas, whether it be thru war or commercial conquest. England’s greatest prime minister for example, Winston Churchill, started his career as a second lieutenant in the Fourth Hussars which saw action in Sudan and Egypt. He first gained national fame when during the 1899 Boer War in South Africa, his unit’s armored train was ambushed and Churchill was captured by the enemy. He managed escaped a few weeks later. He even left a note under his bunk for the Boer undersecretary of war saying “I do not concede that your Government was justified in holding me and I have consequently resolved to escape…Regretting the circumstances have not permitted me to bid you a personal farewell, believe me, yours very sincerely, Winston S. Churchill” (a word has been invented to described this impudent confidence - "Churchillian"). Another great leader, John F. Kennedy, distinguished himself during the Second World War as a US Navy officer and his war exploits was adapted into the big screen via the movie "PT 109. " Military service seems to be a big issue in American politics, and former President Clinton was perpetually hounded by his refusal to serve in the military at the height of the Vietnam War. Even incumbent U.S. President George W. Bush is being ridiculed for having served only in the National Guard as a fighter pilot. In most countries, international achievement is usually a sure ticket for a successful career in politics.

Since the Philippines do not engage in "foreign wars of conquest," the only way really for a Filipino to distinguish himself/herself internationally is thru sports and the performing arts. And Manny Pacquiao single-handedly made the Philippines a "boxing-superpower" and his victories brought tremendous honor and prestige for our country. How many of our politicians, even the intelligent ones, can claim to have achieved that for the country?

Just because Pacquiao looks like a houseboy and speaks Tagalog with an Ilonggo accent, it doesn't mean that he is "simple." Far from it, I believe Manny is a very intelligent and astute man; you have to be to become a good boxer. Judging your opponent, predicting his moves, parrying his thrusts and studying beforehand how to defeat him requires both mental agility and extreme physical conditioning. These are also the skills politicians use (or aspire to) to get ahead in the game. And more importantly, Manny has the self-discipline and willpower to achieve what he wants to achieve. If he applies that same singlemindness to his public career, I believe he can do wonderful things for his province. But most of all, he has the capacity to inspire our people, and that to me, is enough to qualify him to run for public office.


Anonymous said...

I can't believe that you are comparing or equating Manny with the likes of Churchill and JFK, if Manny runs and win, it will be a new low to our already miserable state of politics.

Oliver M. Mendoza said...

I believe the point I was trying to make is that we should choose our leaders on the basis of their contributions to national pride and international achievements. Manny Pacquiao is probably not equal to Churchill or JFK in terms of intellect and eloquence but he brought great pride to our nation and made the Philippines a "boxing superpower." Many of our present leaders cannot claim as much and have in fact achieved even less in life and yet we elect them with nary a thought. I admire Pacquiao for what he has achieved and done with his life. He has become a symbol of hope for the Filipino - Born to poor parents, he could have ended up as a tuna kargador in GenSan but he worked and trained hard to improve his lot in life and is now a millionaire (in dollars pa ha). He gives true meaning to sipag at tiyaga. I admire him and if he wants to become congressman, by all means let him. He will edify Congress, not demean it.

ivanhenares said...

Sana matalo si Manny sa GenSan nang matauhan! Mag-boxing nalang siya!

Oliver M. Mendoza said...

Thanks for dropping by Ivan. The problem is he can't be in boxing forever. I read somewhere that with his "flashy" fighting style, Manny is good only for another 3 years.

I just wonder if another Filipino who brought honor for the country like say, Lea Salonga (who is beautiful and speaks impeccable English unlike Manny who speaks Tagalog with an Ilonggo accent and is not exactly Ginoong Pilipinas material), decides to run for congress, would public opinion be the same?

Anonymous said...

Manny will just affirm the idea that you don't need to be educated or you don't need to have a specific skill set of a politician or a lawmaker in order to become one, he had brought great pride and is a source of inspiration to a lot of people as a boxer and not as congressman,yes it's true that there are congressmen who know nothing better than Pacquiao but for our sake let us not compound the already gargantuan task of weeding out this type of people out of our government by putting Manny on the ballot.