Every time Manny Pacquiao wins a fight, at least one person brings up the reality check: that Pacquiao’s victory is his and his alone. His victory doesn’t lift us up from poverty, it doesn’t cure corruption from Government, and once the fight is over, it’s the same-old-same-old for the lot of us. It’s the jaded reaction that comes with Pacman winning every title and every match he ever did in his illustrious career: Pacquiao may be a champion, but we aren’t.
There was a time that I hated Pacman so much that all the respect I can give him was an iota of grudging appreciation for his boxing skills. Don’t get me wrong: I still don’t like the guy as an actor or a potential politician, but his fighting spirit and pugilistic prowess are simply undeniable. Pacquiao, in the ring, is unstoppable. It’s just the fanaticism over Pacquiao that gets into my skin, my nerves, and my bones. For a guy who makes his living in a boxing ring, taking punches and making them, every minute and round counting as a dollar in the purse, Pacquiao is our hero.
As a Filipino, Pacman is my champion, my ring legend, my icon. Yet a title belt is not the difference between me and Pacman.
I thought about it in terms of jobs. Pacquiao makes his living through boxing, and we only happen to ride the legend of this ring hero by having our flag carried to the ring when he makes his entrance, our anthem sang when he’s in the ring, and our flag emblazoned on his ring jacket and his trunks when he decimates his opponent. None of us ever have to do that. I don’t carry the flag of the Philippines every time I go to work, or bear the hopes – and bets – of an entire nation when I write copy and make reports and help devise strategies.
Put simply, if not curtly and in the most acerbic eight words I can muster right now: it’s not my job to be a hero.
I said before that at least in this country, the most basic demands of citizenship are sometimes considered heroic. In these trying times for heroes, a sense of civic duty and having spine to stand up for what you believe in can turn you into a hero. There’s no shortage of heroes in this country, whether you sing praises to them or not. There’s Efren Penaflorida, for one. There’s Myrna Pocare and Celia Regulacion. There’s Manny Pacquiao, even. They’re doing things that, at least from where we all stand, is something extremely difficult and heroic: be Filipinos.
At its most rudimentary, I guess, I should start doing things for my country on a regular basis compared to what I’m doing nowadays: zero. I guess I should put the welfare of my fellow Filipinos on the forefront compared to where they are today: the very back seat. I guess that if it’s a trying time for heroes, the best recourse is not to be one, but to be a class act of a citizen that shines along with Pacman: not to merely trail along, walk under, and bask in his glow from the comfort of his shadow.
Being a part of a nation of heroes, I am extremely ashamed and embarrassed to say that I don’t know the first thing about being a hero, and I haven’t been doing my part to live, breathe, and practice that label we have put upon ourselves. Part of Manny’s job is to carry the hope of the Filipino people, including mine and yours, with him every time he enters a boxing ring. I don’t have to do that at work.
I guess that’s something we can all ponder upon. Like it or not, Pacquiao entered that ring and whooped Cotto not only with his livelihood in his mind, but with the realization and recognition that he represents his country in the ring. Last I checked, I should be doing that too as a citizen of the Philippines, yet I didn’t represent my country on my desk at the office today, or became a class act of a citizen of the Philippines. Sure, I did a good job – an excellent one – but does that put me in the same league and level as to put my arm around Pacquiao’s shoulders and say that like him, I’m a hero? No: even the most basic of duties like voting, paying taxes, obeying the law, and being a watchdog of society are now acts confined to the sacrosanct, the impossible dream, the heroic. Sad, but true.
There’s the difference between me and Pacman. Pacman makes it his part of his job to represent and to give honor to his country. I don’t have to do that when writing copy, even if I could, I should, and I must. All that said, I don’t.
Yea verily; I can pontificate about heroism and write with a smirk about how to be a hero, yet I have done absolutely nothing significant or important for that matter that could make me a hero like Manny, much less put myself in a position to look down at him or anyone else for that matter. I don’t know how to be a hero, and I should consult the first person I meet on the street who has the answer to that question. At the very least, be a citizen. Or be a Filipino, for that matter. All this took place in the Philippines: a nation of heroes. Or so they say. That’s the slap in the face I had to give myself today.
I don’t meet or reach the basic requirement of being a hero: to do things for the sake of my country and my people. From that basic requirement – citizenship – every other succeeding definition of heroism is subject to discussion. For a guy who lives in a place where everyone’s a hero, I haven’t been doing my share at all. Aray.
No, I’m not going to wear boxing gloves and follow in Manny’s footsteps. Then again, I have the rest of my life to figure out a place in a company of heroes.
* – Photo sourced from The Guardian