I don’t really know him that much. Except for a single perfunctory introduction when he was yet a congressman, I cannot cite the slightest affinity to the person as to be able to give him unsolicited advice.
But Manny Pacquiao, the “Pacman,” the “best pound-for-pound fighter in the world,” the honorable member of the august Senate of the realm, the gentleman from Sarangani and General Santos, the “national treasure”—all these encomiums, and more, is a very public person, and I suppose that gives this writer the freedom to advise, effrontery forgivable.
It’s time to hang up the gloves, sir.
Not because you lost to that upstart “hornet” from the continent down under, by what many consider a hometown decision. Far from it.
Even Malacañang speaking for the Filipino nation, said very proudly, you are a national treasure, win or lose, fairly or unfairly.
I shall not comment on the fight itself. I have no expertise whatsoever in this art of pugilism which you have honed into a science over the past two decades of fighting in the square arena.
Neither shall I relate to your age, and the effects of years of willing punishment upon your body. I am not a physician nor a therapist of anything.
I write this as an ordinary Filipino grateful to you for having placed our country in the world map, so much so that when I travel to some foreign land, immigration clerks down to cab drivers exclaim “Pacquiao!” whenever they learn where I am from.
It’s time to hang up the gloves, sir, and be truly serious about your chosen second career.
Our people elected you to the Senate more as reward for the pride you have elicited for a nation so parched for it. Do not rest on the laurels of your public reward even if you deserve it far more than others who merely parlayed movie fame to high office.
Think of it as a means to serve them better. This time, sir, for you to reward them back with genuine concern and sincere service.
Make the most of your five more years in the Senate. Participate in its deliberations, whether in plenary or in its committees. Come prepared, not to read scripts written by half-hearted staffers, but on the basis of diligent self-study. You can do it, sir.
Enroll at the University of the Philippines, which through its College of Public Administration (NCPAG), can equip you with the right knowledge to refine your street-smarts and arm your desire for public service with the templates of good governance.
And then, if you are sufficiently prepared, go for the vice presidency, in tandem with whoever President Rodrigo Duterte, like you a son of Mindanao, will endorse as his successor, the better to continue the reforms that genuine change will require. Because change cannot be done in a mere six years.
Think of it, Senator Pacquiao. Help the anointed next president as the voice of the marginalized in the next six years. Cooperate with him in undertaking Part Two of Duterte’s reforms towards a better Philippines.
And prepare yourself for Part Three.
Three continuous terms. Eighteen years, almost a generation. Enough to push this twelfth most populous country in the world to the ranks of the First World with visionary and purposive leadership. From perennially developing to finally developed.
Distract yourself no longer with the gore and glory of the ring. Disturb yourself no longer with the desire to exact revenge upon the Horn of kangaroo-land.
Be a good senator of the Republic now; be a cooperative vice president come 2022; and by the grace of God and a people who will have confidence in your abilities and self-preparation, be a good president come 2028.
Heed this unsolicited advice from one who cannot promote you like a Bob Arum can, neither train you like the inimitable Freddie Roach, but who has had enough experience in “spotting” future presidents.
* * *
I end on a sad note. I learned from my foreign post that a good family friend, Tita Saling, Rizalina Bautista Boncan passed away recently, and I was unable to personally convey my condolences to her grieving loved ones. To Riz and Gina, Kelly, Boom, Palito, Ricky Dicky, Becky and former Monetary Board member Raul Boncan: the sense of loss can only be assuaged by the realization that Tita Saling lived a full and meaningful life, not only because she raised a great family, but because she actively contributed towards making our nation worthy of bequeathing to generations next.
For all our travails as a nation and all our shortcomings as a people, and even during the dark last days of the rule of authoritarianism, she never lost hope that things would turn out for the better. Ever the cheerful optimist, Tita Saling was the epitome of the true Filipina, clinging to the good values she grew up with, yet ready to embrace the changes that modernity brought.
Speaking for myself and our college barkada who trooped quite often to her Makati home, she will be sorely missed.
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