IT TOOK me sometime to realize that the man who has been on the forefront of the raging Sabah crisis is someone whom I had met up close and sat next to over lunch once at Sulo Hotel in Quezon City.
It was a very intimate press conference attended by a number of NSA heads. One of them was Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, president of the Philippine Pencak Silat Association. I didn’t know his full name nor his political affiliations then.
Sultan Kiram’s image has been all over the front pages of the national dailies and television, but I failed to recognize him.
When I met him at Sulo Hotel over a year ago, he was recovering from a serious illness and looked extremely weak. He walked very slowly and needed assistance.
His wife was by his side, taking care of him and choosing the food that he would eat. I remember that she only ordered fresh lumpia for him since, she said, his doctors ordered a strict low-cholesterol, low-protein diet for his delicate condition. I don’t remember exactly what his ailment was, but I guess it has something to do with his kidneys because, according to television reports, he is regularly undergoing hemodialysis.
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So how could I connect the sick man at Sulo Hotel to the man on the front-page headlines and on television news. With his headgear and a more robust physique, the head of the Sultanate of Sulu exuded strength and power.
But when his affiliation with the Philippine Olympic Committee was mentioned on TV news, the realization suddenly hit me. The head of pencak silat whom I had lunch with and the Sultan of Sulu are one!
I was almost in disbelief. Appearances can be very deceiving. The Sultan may have appeared physically weak when I saw him, but he has that inner strength of a warrior. He’s a leader whose duty it is to protect his people and his territory.
I hope I get the chance to sit down with him and his charming wife again to talk about his sport, pencak silat. It is a combat sport, I’m told, but I have yet to see it played.
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Promoter Bob Arum of Top Rank will be hitting two birds with one stone when he flies to Macau on April 6.
First, he gets to watch Brian “Hawaiian Punch” Viloria—who is now under contract with Top Rank—defend his world flyweight title against Juan Francisco Estrada of Mexico at Venetian Hotel.
Second, he gets to meet with Juan Manuel Marquez and eight-division world champ Manny Pacquiao to finalize negotiations for a fifth showdown in September.
If Pacquiao-Marquez V pushes through, Arum plans to include Olympic gold medalist Zou Shiming of China in the card. Shiming is making his debut on April 6 and Arum seems to be so excited about this new acquisition.
Marquez received only $6 million in his last bout with Pacquiao and is now Asking Top Rank for $20 million. He should get an answer—or a counteroffer—from Arum on April 6.