Political Tidbits is the prestigious column of Belinda Olivares-Cunanan that ran for 25 continuous years in the op-ed page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the newspaper that she helped put up with its multi-awarded founder, the legendary Eugenia Duran-Apostol, in December 1985, just two months before the EDSA Revolution.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Pinakyaw na ni Pacquiao and lahat ng titles

I watched the Pacquiao-Margarito fight earlier this afternoon at the Fort Bonifacio General Hospital’s Multipurpose Hall, together a few hundred soldier-patients in their blue hospital gowns. Many came in wheelchairs and others carried their own dextrose bottles, but their cheers were just as lusty as those from Filipinos across the nation and all over the world, as they reveled in the latest glory of Manny Pacquiao in wresting the world super-welterweight title from the Mexican Antonio Margarito. It was especially meaningful to watch the fight with the soldiers, as boxing ranks high as a favorite sport among the military.


As a soldier filing out of the hall put it, “Pinakyao na ni Pacquiao ang lahat ng mga world titles.” To hear it from the sports writers, from the beginning it was no contest, for as one put it, “Margarito was never there.” Heavy and slow of movement, his six-inch longer reach proved no match for the lightning speed of Pacquiao’s jabs and his incredible footwork, which made all the difference. But as Paranaque Rep. Roilo Golez, who was a skilled boxer in his midshipman’s days at the United States Naval Academy in the late ‘50s---he was the first student to garner the title of boxing champ for four straight years, a Pinoy against American challengers---stressed at the program Cecile Alvarez and I recorded for tonight at dzRH, there was palpable tension in today’s fight nonetheless up to about the 9th round. This was because everyone realized that with Margarito’s sheer size, had he succeeded in landing that one great big fist blow that he dreamt of and aimed at Pacman’s head---as we say it, kung napuruhan si Pacman--- it could knock our champ out cold on the floor.


Margarito strode into the cavernous brand-new Cowboy Stadium in Arlington, Texas, magnificent in his multi-colored robe, looking imperious and unbeatable, and exuding flamboyant confidence. The sight of him made his opponent from Sarangani look so puny that it drove fear into the hearts of Pinoys everywhere. Women in our crowd gasped. Later, during our dzRH taping, I complained to Rep. Golez that should there be a next fight for Pacquiao, he should wear one of those fancy capes like Margarito’s, to add drama to his puny height, instead of the yellow bathrobe-like thing he had on. Golez laughed and said, “When you’re starting to be famous, you need all the borloloy. But when you’re already an icon like Pacman, you can afford to look simple.”


Once in the ring, Manny proved once again, as Golez put it, that he is the “compleat boxer,” very scientific in his approach. He never let Margarito corner him (in fact I chuckled that because of his short height he could duck under his charging opponent’s arms, like a naughty child escaping from an upset father). Golez acknowledged that Margarito had a psychological advantage because of his build, but as he told fellow spectators, if the Mexican failed to connect his jabs to Pacman in the first two rounds, panalo na si Pacman. And that’s what happened—for every blow Pacman took from Margarito, he returned it with shorter but faster and more numerous jabs that left the Mexican’s face looking like it had been repeatedly beaten with a club. As Golez put it, in boxing the good big guy always beats the good small guy, but this time, the big guy took all the beating from the small guy.

But ferocious as Pacquiao was, he showed his compassion. In the 11th round he motioned to the referee to call off the fight already as Margarito was bleeding badly in the face, but the latter said Mexicans fight to the end. From then on it was obvious that Pacquiao just aimed to tire him out so as not to hurt him more. I found it quite amusing that both fighters kept making the Sign of the Cross as they strode to the ring center for each round; I said to myself, Wow, God faces a tough choice here. But of course, He went for skill.


Last night, Cecile and I agreed that whether Manny wins or loses, we’d discuss boxing at tonite’s weekly Sunday program, even though it’s a subject women don’t normally “analyze.” We contacted Annapolis boxing champ and now Paranaque Rep. Roy Golez to be our expert on board and he readily agreed to the interview. My late brother-in-law, Carlito Y. Cunanan, Roy’s upperclass at that renowned institution (who later became rear admiral and Philippine Navy Chief), held the champ record for one year, and Golez admitted that Carlito was his inspiration when he decided to train in boxing at Annapolis. Another champ there was the famous (infamous to some quarters) Oliver North who got involved in the issue of arms shipments to Iran, while another boxer who didn’t quite become a champ was Carlito's classmate, John McCain, now the multi-termer senator from Arizona and presidential candidate of the Republican Party in 2008. Today at the Annapolis Gym, the names of all the boxing champs of various years are emblazoned in one wall, including Golez’s.


In our taped kwentuhan with Golez after the Pacquiao fight, he revealed that early on he realized that God gave him a fast jab and footwork that proved advantageous over taller opponents; we noted that he really could have turned boxing pro, but he chose government service instead (he’s now on his second round as congressman, serving his 6th term). Golex said he is an avid reader of various sports magazines such as “Boxing Illustrated” and “Ring Magazine,” and he noted how foreign sports analysts and commentators began going into superlatives over the “Pacquiao Phenomenon” as he conquered one weight division after another, beginning at 105 lbs., or 45 lbs. ago. He noted how the superlatives crescendo-ed especially after his fight with Morales, and how Pacquiao is perking up the sport like no other, as witnessed by the incredible crowds his fight packed in Texas this morning.


Cecile and I queried Golez on whether he would advise his House colleague from Sarangani to now hang up his gloves and go fulltime into public service and serving the poor with his billions. We stressed that most women share Mommy Dionesia’s sentiment about her champ-son’s calling it quits while he’s way ahead. Golez was ambivalent, stressing that “it’s hard to advise him,” as he noted that there are still two or three boxers for Pacquiao to fight, and that “it’s good for the sport.” He also stressed that as the boxing icon, Pacquiao serves to inspire an entire generation of Filipinos to excel, to a higher degree than previous Filipino boxing legends such as Pancho Villa, Flash Ilorde and Leo Espinosa succeeded. But Golez also stressed that an international icon like Pacquiao can only come from a huge population base.

At this point the Paranaque representative, who is a staunch leader of the anti-RH Bill bloc in the House, lost no time in reiterating what former US President Bill Clinton had stressed here last week: that there are distinct advantages to a huge population, such as the vast human resources that a nation can put before the world.  Add these resources to the Philippines' vast natural resources and Filipinos cannot but win, Clinton said.
 I agree, but side by side, we also have to marshal the right infrastructure for education, health and other social services. This means using our precious financial resources dutifully and not waste them in frivolous spending like Congress does oftentimes.


As promised last Wednesday, here’s the Prayer for Private Devotion for the Servant of God, the late Bishop Alfredo Ma. Obviar, whose cause for beatification is now in Rome:

“Almighty and ever-loving Father, we thank you for granting your Church an exemplary shepherd in ALFREDO MA. OBVIAR. May we learn from his prayerful life, faithful and silent endurance in suffering and humble obedience to the Church. In your merciful love, grant us the grace of raising him up to the altars, so that in him You may be glorified. We ask this through Our Lord Jesus Christ your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit One God, forever and ever. Amen

(Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be.., Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, Pray for us. St. Joseph, Pray for us. St. Therese of the Child Jesus, Pray for us).

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