Saturday, June 13, 2009

Happy Independence Day Boxing Country

Today, I was able to watch a Manny Pacquiao documentary on ANC. It was fairly short, and in the short time it was aired, Manny Pacquiao's beginnings as a boxer was given attention, along with his latter wins, and intention to enter politics. The docu was supplemented by boxing analysis and an interview from Pacquiao himself. The video was simply made, and the facts were laid out with no other purpose but to inform viewers about our most successful sports champion to date, perhaps as part of the Independence Day Celebrations of the news channel.

Documentaries like these are normal to the Filipino eye, but what may be real eye candy for some is watching the HBO 24/7 pre-fight documentaries about Pacquiao and his upcoming opponents. This well-produced series covers Pacquiao's training process (along with his opponent), with the purpose of hyping up the upcoming competition. With this purpose, it is ordinary to see thousands of boxing and training clips, backed up by string music from an orchestra, and brave statements from each of the boxing camps. For anyone enthusiastic about boxing (or for anyone into making film), these documentaries are truly well-made, and have beautifully combined information with excitement.

My attention was caught by the beginning of each 24/7 documentary, wherein the each of the boxers' lands of origin are given attention. For Manny Pacquiao's homeland, our beloved Philippines, beautiful shots of General Santos City and Manila were made, pretty much composed of farmland, kids, and slums beneath the urban jungle. I felt pity (mostly because that was how the viewers were supposed to respond to the treatment of that segment) as it was implied by the voice-over narration that Pacquiao came from a really poor family, and that he had to struggle his way to success, and that there little chance of even entertaining the thought of international success as an ordinary Filipino, but Pacquiao was able to reach his present status; today, Pacquiao is worshipped like a god.

Lennox Lewis said the same thing in Pacquiao's Time 100 feature this year (,28804,1894410_1894289_1894356,00.html). "Manny has connected with the people of his home... where he's almost like a god." Truly, Manny Pacquiao's victories have brought national pride and happiness, but as a Filipino, I don't think I ever came to think about imagining him the way Lewis thinks Pacquiao has connected with us.

I understand that these may be statements made to glorify Manny Pacquiao's success through the years. However, when we read write-ups about him and watch different videos concerning his notable career, the 3rd world state of the Philippines, and how it is hard to succeed here, always seems to be the literary and artistic choice for emphasizing this success. It feels like comparing white against a dark shade, just to see how bright white can be. When reading these things from outside the Philippines, I just feel that somehow, these want to make me think that Manny Pacquiao is bigger than his own country.

There's nothing wrong with what's happening. It is perfectly alright for Manny Pacquiao to be where he is. I just feel we have to be aware that for this ebony-ivory device to work in the write-ups abroad, Manny Pacquiao's status has to remain larger than his country. It is important for us to be aware of this in order to note that Manny Pacquiao's success needs to be acknowledged not as the point of real salvation for our country, but only as a big step towards it. The reason most probably that Muhammad Ali's success before as a boxer was never glorified in a Pacquiao sort of way was that America already had so many other famous successes to speak of, and that Ali's was not entirely new, despite his numerous attempts at calling himself "The Greatest."

We have to thank Manny Pacquiao for giving us so much recognition abroad. But we have to be real and true and accept that while his success is also our success, he has every right to claim it, and people outside the Philippines are still free to think that the country is Pacquiao's ebony. Pacquiao's success is an open call to Filipinos to do what we never knew before was possible. With a good outlook for the Filipino future, these literary devices of contrasting great Filipinos against a pitiful Philippines may eventually be ineffective.