Pacquiao’s place – Manila Standard

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I don’t like Manny Pacquiao, his politics or even his religion very much. But I think I understand how he has become, over the years, a unifying symbol of national pride because of what he has achieved in the boxing ring.

But first, a small, unforgettable sporting anecdote: I learned about the “Football War” several years ago, when I was editing a short-lived magazine dedicated to the Azkals, the Philippine national football team.

I’m reminded of that strange 1969 armed conflict, which was sparked by an athletic competition, when I think about how some Filipinos simply fail to realize how most of their countrymen feel about Pacquiao. The 100-hour war between El Salvador and Honduras in 1969, after all, was sparked by a bitterly-fought qualifier match between the two countries for a slot in the 1970 World Cup.

There were other reasons why the conflict broke out, including long-simmering immigration and even agricultural tensions between the two neighboring South American nations. But the actual invasion by the Salvadoran military on Honduras was triggered by the bitter loss of the former in the best-of-three series for the honor of joining the international football elite in the battle for sport’s biggest prize.

Now, I’m not advocating that the Philippines should declare war on Australia because local boy Jeff Horn defeated Pacquiao last Sunday in front of a hometown crowd in Brisbane. But I do agree with Charles Engelund, a blogger who posted the following on Facebook yesterday:

“I didn’t watch the [Pacquiao-Horn] fight. I feel Pacquiao is past his prime and should look at safeguarding his legacy by choosing retirement.

“But, the man is undoubtedly a national icon. You may disagree with his views, but you don’t disparage a national icon.

“Especially in athletic competition, in a duel with another nation’s champion, you don’t cheer for the other side. You don’t jeer your own. To do so is akin to insulting our other national symbols. Why, it’s almost the same as disrespecting the flag.

“And this is something people like Jim Paredes don’t understand. Because people like Jim don’t really know their own country. They are so out of touch, so cocooned, so different that they may as well be foreign. They don’t recognize national symbols, they don’t see the ties that bind.

“Pacquiao is human, imperfect, with glaring flaws. He is at the same time a champion and a national symbol.”

People like Paredes, who I understand once immigrated to Australia, rejoiced after the defeat of Pacquiao, one of the greatest boxers of all time, because they do not realize what the boxing icon has done by putting the Philippines on the world sporting map. And because of Pacquiao’s association with the poor and with President Rodrigo Duterte, they think that their hatred for the boxer is actually cool.

But then, Pacquiao’s place in his sport—and in his countrymen’s hearts—is already secure even if he never gets in the ring ever again. Paredes is just a legend in his own mind, an Australian trapped in a Filipino’s body and trying desperately to break free.

* * *

The automotive industry should give an award to the Metro Manila Development Authority for doing its best to boost car sales by pushing for a two-day ban on vehicles through its expanded “coding” scheme. Because if the plan pushes through, long-suffering residents of the metropolis will now be dreaming not only of a second car to avoid the current once-a-week prohibition, but of a third or fourth vehicle to get around the proposed ban, as well.

I still don’t understand why the MMDA, under its new chairman Danilo Lim, insists on going back to the same schemes that have tapped out since the time of Cory Aquino. And making a pile of money for those car companies that have always benefited when the government—unintentionally, I’d like to think—increases their sales through such stupid schemes as number-coding.

The best way to ease traffic in the metropolis is still improving the public transportation system, like the Edsa MRT-3 and the two LRT lines. In the longer term, adding more train lines to these three systems, after they have been improved, will go a long way towards easing the gridlock on the streets.

Now, I get that the MMDA cannot really do anything to improve the existing commuter trains lines or even to build new ones, because that is not its job. The MMDA, after all, is an enforcement agency, not a government entity in charge of public infrastructure.

But if enforcement is the MMDA’s job, then it should first clear the streets of obstructions and deploy more enforcers on the road, which would also help ease traffic. Enough of these crazy prohibitions that only add to the ordinary motorist’s and commuter’s daily portion of grief.

Lim, a former military officer, must understand that he cannot just order Metro Manilans to sacrifice some more when they don’t see the government doing all it can to ease their plight. And expanding the number coding ban to two days is a terrible imposition, one that only a car dealer can really love.

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