When basketball fans watch a seventh game featuring two of the elite teams in the NBA, lets say the Cleveland Cavaliers and the LA Lakers, they tend to focus their attention on that game and disregard everything else.
Unemployment, poverty, family feuds, and all other problems that are bugging them are temporarily thrown to the recycle bin. Forgotten for a short while, only to be remembered afterwards.
Kobe Bryant and Lebron James suddenly become heroes.
Regardless of the result of the game, at least these people were able to experience some kind of happiness that they normally don't feel in times of economic depression. They were genuinely entertained. They have successfully escaped from life's problems for at least an hour.
Birth of a New Hero
In my country, the Philippines, the economic conditions are far worse than those of the United States. More than half of the people are living below poverty line. Slum areas are a common site and it seems there's not much to look forward to considering our government is ranked as the most corrupt in Asia.
The year 2003 may seem like any other year but to the Filipinos this was the year when they found their symbol of hope. This was the year when a ray of light pierced through the darkness that has engulfed the country for decades.
This was the year when Manny Pacquiao rose to boxing superstardom by beating the pulp out of Mexican legend Marco Antonio Barrera via 11th round technical knockout.
Since then, Filipinos have been identifying themselves with Pacquiao. He is the source of their new found pride. He is their unlikely savior.
More Than a National Hero
With regards to this issue, I believe Pacquiao more than qualifies to be a national hero. Heroes don't have to be revolutionaries or suicide bombers. Rather, heroes are those who do extraordinary deeds to achieve something that will greatly benefit a nation in times of need.
Jose Rizal, Bonifacio,and our other heroes did something extraordinary when they fought against our Spanish conquerors. They sacrificed even their very own lives to achieve what our nation badly needed and that time it was freedom.
Although Manny fights in a different manner and in a different stage, the end result is still to give something our nation badly needs only this time it is hope and not anymore freedom. He may not have sacrificed his life for us in a war-zone, but when he is up there in the ring he gives it his all.
Manny indeed earns millions of dollars in the process but despite of this he remains humble. He has even become a model of philanthropy with his ever generous way of sharing his blessings to the poor.
The way Manny behaves towards his opponents is another thing worthy of emulation.
He never resorts to trash talking and he respects his foes even if they hurl mud against him. Juan Manuel Marquez has insulted Pacquiao many times but Manny never retaliated. This kind of attitude is an embodiment of his being a Roman Catholic Christian.
He is a role model not just for the Filipinos but for everyone else around the world.
I would even go further by saying that he should be in a way considered an International hero.
Distinction From Other Great Boxers
What makes Manny different from other great boxers is that he carries the hopes of 90 million Filipino people. Every punch he unleashes carries with it the aspirations of an entire nation.
Every time he gets hit, every Filipino feels the pain.
You can name all great boxers from any era, from Henry armstrong and Rocky Marciano to Sugar Ray Robinson and Muhammad Ali, but none of them has ever generated so much excitement as to create a feast for an entire nation. Only Manny Pacquiao has ever done this feat.
The bliss brought about by a Pacman victory usually lasts one whole day. The economy will receive a temporary boost as people will be flocking to their nearest liquor store to celebrate. They will be talking endlessly about the fight, analyzing each round and predicting what the future holds for Pacquiao.
For us Filipinos, a Manny Pacquiao victory represents overcoming the hardest obstacles in life. His rags to riches story is an inspiration to us all. Unknowingly, he has made a statement that poverty is not a hindrance to success.
A Pacquiao fight may last only for 36 minutes.
But in those 36 minutes, crime rate drops to zero.
In those 36 minutes, peace reigns in the Philippines.
In those 36 minutes, Manny "Pacman" Pacquiao makes the Filipinos forget there ever was a problem of poverty in their homeland.