‘Kudos’ to Sen. Manny -- and his speechwriter

November 09, 2018

SENATOR Manny Pacquiao, ‘the fighting pride of the Philippines,’ has claimed another “victory” that none of his contemporaries -- in boxing and politics -- has achieved: to be invited as speaker to the highly prestigious, ‘Oxford University’ in Great Britain.

Already of course, and as I have stated previously in this corner and which no one can deny, prior to his “joust” with Argentinian champion,  Lucas Matthysee last July 15, the “Pac-Man” has already earned for himself that very unique place of being the only 8 division champion and in the process, also bagging 11 world titles.

These achievements, to my mind and those from the boxing community,  can well stand the test of time for decades, if not, generations to come. Mahirap nang mapantayan ang kanyang mga nagawa at kontribusyon sa boxing, sa totoo lang!

As for his speech at Oxford last November 5, kasamang Ernie Reyes and dear readers, I am printing it here nearly on its entirety (for lack of space) because it was, indeed, a truly inspiring speech.

Of course, critics are quick to point out in the social media that Manny, purportedly being “bobo,” could not have possibly written such beautiful piece.

But heck, whoever wrote the speech knows Pac-Man very well. Besides, having been a “backup writer” of sorts for Pres. Erap back when he was still a political prisoner of EDSA Dos, knowing your “subject matter” (the one delivering the speech) closely and intimately, is the “key” indeed to making a good, if not, a great speech.

And if ever Sen. Manny ever gets to write his own speech, I am sure he would also write it along the same lines as it mirrors his personality and yes, his continuing struggle to be where he is right now.

Let me emphasize though, that I don’t know Pac-Man personally; at the Senate, I never even bother to interview him. Also, I am writing this piece not to earn “pogi points” from him but simply because, I like the speech and hope you would also feel the same way, so, read on, dear readers.

“Dreams do come true”

“President Horvath and the other esteemed officials of the University of Oxford; distinguished members of the Oxford Union, other dignitaries in attendance and ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon.

“I am the only eight-division world boxing champion in history, having won 11 major world titles, ranging from Flyweight, which has an 8 stone limit, to Super Welterweight, which has an 11 stone limit.  My tailor has been kept very busy throughout my career, adjusting the waistbands of my trunks.

“I have fought some of the best fighters in history.  And yet I have to admit, as I stand before you, I am intimidated when I think of the kind of main event headliners who faced you over the years:

• Sir Winston Churchill,

• American Presidents Reagan, Nixon and Carter,

• Mother Teresa,

• the Dalai Lama

• and Sir Elton John.

“And here am I, Emmanuel Dapidran Pacquiao, standing before you armed with just the equivalent of a sixth form education, an undisguised respect for what your group and your university represent and a pretty fair left hook…

“… When I received your gracious invitation, I asked myself, what could I talk about that could possibly interest you?  What could Manny Pacquiao say that would be of any impact, much more utility, to the men and women who enjoy the highest standards of instruction at Oxford?

“The answer came fast:  I know what I should speak about, something very few among you can claim to know about:  my education, certainly non-traditional, non-formal, largely unstructured.  I will call it my education in the Open University of Life…

“… We were dirt poor.  I had to work since the age of five, to help my mother feed my three siblings and me.  Many days, I was lucky to have one full meal.  On days when we had no food, I would drink lots of water just to fill my stomach.  But my mind and spirit were never hungry.  I read anything I could get my hands on.

“I even read the newspaper that my lunch or dinner came wrapped in.  I read signs everywhere, even on moving vehicles.  I learned measurements and weights by constantly reading the rates and tariffs at the warehouses where I worked as a stevedore, a docker in your parlance.

“At night when I could not sleep because of the cold, I would read the labels on the carton boxes that served as my bed on the street pavement.

“The movements of the clouds, the tint of the horizon, and the clarity of the stars taught me when morning was about to come.

“And for me, the morning did come.  Warm, bright, and simply amazing—a lesson in what can be achieved if you have determination … if you ignore the odds against you …and as you are taught here at this magnificent institution never, ever quit…

“… I do not fault anyone who views me as singularly ill-equipped for this role.  Instead, I ask:  is there anyone more knowledgeable than this humble civil servant about the hardships incident to the way of life of the majority of our people?  Who among my colleagues has faced poverty face to face from birth?  Whose life’s work has it been to battle illiteracy?

“In crafting effective laws, there is no better guide than the pulse of the masses.

“I may not have financial acuity.  I may not be historically fluent.  I may not even be socially adept.  But I am philosophically rooted in my personal adversities, which morally bind me to the general struggle of our people.

“ I am a fighter, not just because it is my profession.  I was a fighter long before I first set foot in a boxing ring.  All my life I have fought to live.  Every single day in my youth, I fought for survival.  Now, I do it and get paid for it.  Then, I was lucky to get a piece of bread for it…

But how are my struggles of any value to the Filipinos?  It cannot feed or clothe all of them.  No matter how much I give financially, hundreds of thousands more remain wanting.

In 2013, in the aftermath of Category 5 super typhoon Haiyan (locally remembered as Yolanda), the deadliest typhoon to devastate my country, leaving a record of more than 6,000 dead, I went to Tacloban and visited a nightmare.

“The place was a virtual ghost town.  Everyone had lost someone from their family; others, their entire family.  No property was spared.  There were bodies everywhere.  There was no food, no water, no electricity.  Each face I looked into bore the same expression:  defeat.  Not a single person there thought that they could ever recover from that tragedy…

“… Four years later, I would see the same physical and societal devastation in Marawi.  Our beautiful city of the South was reduced to ruins by civil strife.  Death and destruction broke the hearts and backs of its residents.  But not their spirit.  One year later, Marawi is now under rehabilitation…

“… Miracles do happen.  Dreams do come true.  Being poor does not mean one must die poor.  Hard work and persistence will set you free from the shackles of poverty.  But it is faith that will take you to the very top…”