Pacquiao, religion and coincidence

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Wednesday, December 12, 2012


THE boxing news-sharing website Pinoy Greats (pinoygreats.com) used to be solely dedicated to reports about Filipino boxing icon Emmanuel Dapidran Pacquiao and aptly named Pacland (mannypacquiao.ph) until its owner had a run-in with the handler of Pacman’s own website.

A recent thread in its public forum section stirred a debate when it tackled Pacquiao’s transfer to another religion in relation to his loss to Juan Manuel Marquez in last Sunday’s bout in Las Vegas. One entry: “Manny didn’t kiss the rosary and kissed the canvass instead.”

I am not surprised at the cropping up of the religion angle ironically sparked by comments from Pacquiao’s mother Dionisia in the aftermath of Manny’s brutal sixth round knockdown by Marquez. Pacquiao himself invited it because his religious belief is propping up his ring exploits. Also, his leaving Roman Catholicism in favor of a “Christian” group (generically referred to as “born again”) is high profile.

Pacquiao, in the past couple of years, has made a turn for the better. He jettisoned his vices, selling his fighting cocks and shying away from casinos. He mustered the courage to curb his womanizing, which had threatened her marriage to Jinkee. He turned to the bible, guided by “Christian” pastors, and devoted his time to his family. The change was palpable and widely admired.

Now, that was where things became tricky. That change in lifestyle followed his change of religion, one that the devout Catholic Dionisia opposed. That transfer naturally triggered comparisons between Catholicism and the old Manny and being “born again” and the new Manny. It brought into the picture the question of which is the better religion.

Pacquiao’s two losses (to American Timothy Bradley and to Marquez) can rightly be attributed to many other things than to religion. His loss to Bradley was judges-manufactured. His loss to Marquez may be a case of bad luck, or Pacman’s boxing skills may have deteriorated with age. The losses and his transfer of religion may just be coincidental.

But what other people may refer to as “luck” and “coincidence” can be, in the eyes of the believer, either miracles or “gaba.” Thus, some Catholics saw the following differently:

--The loss came a few weeks after the canonization of Pedro Calungsod in Rome, an event that, as Dionisia claimed, she would have attended had not Manny refused to give him air fare. Also, the loss happened during the feast of the Immaculate Conception, an event revered by Catholics worldwide.

--Aside from praying, Manny did not go through his other ring rituals, like making the sign of the cross, which to Catholics is an invocation of protection from “above.” “Maypa si Marquez nanguros pa,” quipped a priest. Guess who was, to some Catholics, protected by the “Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit” in that bout.

God, they say, doesn’t micro-manage or take sides in a boxing bout. That may be true (okay, who of us really know the way God works?). But if what is happening to Manny now is merely coincidental, then one way to silence the Catholic critics is for Manny to go back to his winning ways. If that happens, his winning may be merely coincidental to his transfer of religion, but “Christian” pastors surrounding him can use that to prop up their claim of the superiority of their beliefs.

(khanwens@yahoo.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on December 12, 2012.

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