Pacquiao arrives to subdued welcome
MANILA, Philippines—He may have lost in the ring, but Filipino boxing icon and Sarangani Rep. Manny Pacquiao firmly believes he remains a winner, what with the support of God and the Filipino people.
Pacquiao arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport early Saturday morning, a week after his controversial loss to American Timothy Bradley.
“It’s OK. In the heart of God and the Filipino people, I am the winner,” he said as he thanked his compatriots for their support and prayers.
Pacquiao lost to Bradley in a split decision which ended Pacquiao’s remarkable seven-year winning streak but drew widespread criticism.
Most observers thought Pacquiao had easily defended his welterweight title against Bradley.
But Pacquiao said he harbored no hard feelings.
“It’s not a problem with me. I don’t think I lost anything,” he said in Filipino.
He urged Filipinos to accept the verdict and move on.
“I really thank you for your support, but let’s just forget what happened and accept it wholeheartedly,” he said.
Pacquiao’s arrival statement on Saturday was preceded by a prayer offered by a pastor from General Santos City.
A streamer with the message “Welcome home Manny, ang aming kampeon (our champion),” greeted him.
Another banner held up by a group of supporters read “Manny Pacquiao, boxer of the century.”
Pacquiao was showered with confetti although his arrival this time was much less festive. The crowd that greeted him at the airport was also noticeably thinner.
The Saranggani representative said he hurried home to help the flood victims in his province.
“I decided to return to my province because my constituents are there, they were affected by floods, they need my help,” he said.
He said he left behind his wife, Jinkee, and four children in the United States.
He said he would return to the US after attending to his constituents’ needs.
“I’ll return to my family once the problem in Sarangani is over,” he said.
Sarangani was one of the areas hardest hit by flash floods brought by a shallow low pressure area last week.
As is his habit, Pacquiao proceeded to Quiapo Church for a thanksgiving Mass.
Addressing hundreds of churchgoers from the pulpit of the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene, he said he was a reformed man.
“I used to gamble, drink and womanize. I often cussed but I have repented for that. I no longer want to do those things.”
“Because it is useless,” he continued, “Going to church over and over to ask for forgiveness but repeating the same sins.”
The boxing champ shared the beauty of reading the Bible, living out its verses and of being prepared for the Second Coming.
“Are we ready? For me, if the Lord were to take me I am prepared. Even now, after I finish speaking before you, if the Lord takes me I know where I will go. I would be brought to the Kingdom of Heaven,” he said.
The crowd at Quiapo Church had also dwindled considerably. With reports from Jeannette I. Andrade and AP