Manny Pacquiao may have been deeply criticized by members of the LGBT sector for his statement about same-sex relationships. He was stripped of Nike endorsement. He was mocked by gay celebrities for sleeping with other women.
That is despite the honor he brought to the country as the world’s first and only eight-division world boxing champion and many other humanitarian efforts he did.
But to the overseas Filipino workers, like Filipinos back home, Manny Pacquiao is a symbol of pride and his life story is an epitome of the Filipino resilience amidst poverty, calamity and disorder in the society.
While the same-sex relationship debate is raging and polarized the public, let us understand why Manny Pacquiao matters to OFWs.
1. Manny Pacquiao Wants Documentation of All OFWs in Legal Trouble.
Fresh from his visit to Mary Jane Veloso, a Filipina who is on death row in Indonesia, Pacquiao expressed concerns of other kababayans who are imprisoned abroad, and called on the government to catalog all the legal cases Filipinos are involved abroad.
2. Manny Pacquiao Begs Indonesian President to Save Mary Jane Veloso.
Although Veloso is technically not an OFW, she represents Filipinos who escape abusive employers, victims of illegal recruiters and detained without proper legal assistance.
Pacquiao don’t have to do it — he is not the de facto representative for OFWs. But he did not have to be an appointed OFW representative to save a life.
“Mr President, on May 2nd, I’ll be fighting in Las Vegas, Nevada, against Floyd Mayweather. It is considered the fight of the century. It will be a great morale booster if, in my own little way, I can save a life. I am dedicating this fight to my country and the entire Asian people, to which the Philippines and Indonesia belong. Thank you, Mr President,” Pacquiao said prior to his May 2015 fight with Floyd Mayweather.
3. Manny Pacquiao Offers His Lawyers Services for Laglag Bala Victims.
A significant ratio of those who travel abroad are workers whom families depend for a living. Becoming a victim of the airport scam is not just a travel annoyance but an outright threat to livelihood of Filipinos abroad.
“Dapat nating ikabahala at dapat bigyan ang agarang solusyon ang problema kahit pa totoo o hindi ang sinasabi ng pamahalaan na ito ay isolated incident lamang [This should alarm us and we should provide immediate solutions to this matter, regardless of whether or not these are ‘isolated incidents’ as the administration claims],” Pacquiao said.
4. Manny Pacquiao Tried — and Failed — To Be OFW Affairs Chairman.
Pacquiao not only did help Filipino workers out of convenience, he wanted to serve them better. That is why, as a member of the House of Representatives, he sought the blessings in Congress to become the chairman of the House committee on overseas workers affairs. By holding the position, he could maximize his assistance to Filipino communities abroad.
As it turned out, Pacquiao failed to win the nod for the post, citing his lack of experience and poor attendance in House sessions as possible reasons.
5. Manny Pacquiao becomes synonymous to our identity as Filipinos.
Imagine as a worker abroad — waiter, bartender, graphic designer, customer service staff or pediatric nurse — when you reply you’re a Filipino if someone asks where you’re from, it is likely that Pacquiao’s name enters the conversation. And it makes us proud because he is depicted as a sports hero.
Without Manny Pacquiao, our identity as Filipinos may be identified by other people as linked to the infamous Imelda Marcos shoes or as victims of supertyphoon Yolanda, whether we like it or not.
6. Many OFWs Relate to Manny Pacquiao’s Humble Beginnings.
Many OFWs can relate to Pacquiao, whose father left the family when he was on sixth grade, prompting him to sell peanuts and doughnuts in General Santos. It was during his rounds that he first witnessed a boxing match, and the rest was history.
He also found job in the construction, welding, bakery and selling sampaguita at church during Sundays.
Manny Pacquiao may have his own share of Achilles heel — issues like womanizing, alleged tax evasion, and the recent remark on the LGBT community — that put his character in question. But who is perfect out there to cast the first stone on him?
Despite his popularity and wealth, Manny Pacquiao remains humble — building houses, offering jobs, and more importantly, his faith that served as inspiration to many. Whether his fights ends in wins or losses, his demeanor remains the same.