GOING by stories of his hungry boyhood, Manny Pacquiao should be counted among those starless little boys in poor, dusty slum villages who never had the luck of owning a Christmas toy of their own.
These luckless urchins, needless to say, survived past Christmases on half-dreams, borrowed joys and assorted fancies just to be one with a thankful world on Christ’s birthday.
Of course, it’s also core of the Pacquiao legend how he moved up from the dirt floor to chase his boyhood dream.
Next they knew, the boy who had nothing, was now a wealthy superhero, helping the needy, providing joy and everything, including inspiration, to the hungry and homeless.
Pacquiao also became the receptacle of his people’s hopes.
Anyway, the purest Christmas hymn composed for the Filipino soul was not a carol.
It was a ballad of national longing, a kundiman that evoked the people’s hope and aspiration in the darkest night of the last war.
Payapang Daigdig, music and lyrics by National Artist Felipe de Leon, was reportedly first heard at the height of the last war, months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, while Manila lay directly in the beastly path of godless Japanese invasion.
“Ang gabi’y payapa, lahat ay tahimik/ Pati mga tala, sa bughaw na langit”
Tonight reigns God’s peace,/ Stars shine above in heavenly splendor
It was, to put it mildly, not an exact caption for the boundless fear, the immeasurable anxiety that reigned around Manila and its environs.
But instead of a cry of despair, Professor de Leon lent countrymen his gifts by providing them with a song and tune to calm their hearts in those times of devastation, death, danger and desolation.
At its purest, the De Leon Christmas masterpiece was the swoon of an angel’s flute, a nightingale’s heavenly song assuring that peace and goodwill would be back with Christ’s coming.
Back to Manny Pacquiao, there was for over half a dozen years, boundless joy out in the streets, mainly among the poor masses, each time he would score a big victory abroad.
Come Christmastime too, it hardly mattered if the daily wage-earner, the poorest of the poor, would again not have enough on the Christmas table.
There was always the gift of Pacquiao’s nobility and greatness—very tangible—that would be more than enough to assure and warm countless cold, hungry souls.
Then, all of a sudden, there was nothing.
It was unbelievable, came the cry from the streets, mainly in the wet market.
Talo, ubos, what happened, patay, knockout, rose the assorted groans, accompanied by a blank stare, grim drooping of once sure shoulders.
If, as one concerned Pacquiao admirer—the generous Fil-Chinese trader L.Y.—claimed the Pacquiao loss to Marquez ruined his day, it felt like a calamity to others, mainly the poor masa.
Not exactly doomsday, but there was the prevailing feeling Pacquiao had also led them to a dead end.
Of course, Pacquiao was quick to assure everything would be fine again, saying he would be back.
Not the end of the world, OK, but very few was willing to listen again.
Instead, there were mounting questions of what went wrong.
It was to each his own point plain boxing devotees and self-styled experts.
Where do they go from here?
No, it didn’t happen inside the ring, said one poor worker, a subdued homeless handyman who, just like Pacquiao, never had anything on Christmas day when he was a small boy.
“Si Pacman naman, nasa kanya na ang lahat, humanap pa ng ibang Kausap.”
Loosely translated, Eddie Enriquez, more known as Edi Bunga in his neighborhood in Vergara, Mandaluyong, wondered:
Why did Manny still seek a new Provider when he already had everything?
Edi Bunga fears that, going by how far Pacquiao has proudly traveled from the womb, the fallen superhero would never know where he honestly went wrong.