Villaflor: Pacquiao, Pinoy Pride and online trolling

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Monday, April 14, 2014


I GREW up in a time when being Filipino was an iffy thing. You’d hear all these stories of Pinoys in other countries who were ashamed of being one, how they’d deny their nationality at the slightest chance.

But times have certainly changed. Now is a great time to be Filipino.

“Pinoy Pride” is all abuzz in social media, spawning nationalists and nationalistic trolls alike.

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If a designer makes it big abroad or a Philippine beach makes it on a world’s best list, for instance, online threads would be flooded with “Proud to be Pinoy” comments.

At times, this outpouring of national pride can get embarrassing, if not plain annoying, even among fellow Filipinos.

But considering what manifold purgatories this country has been through, can we blame ourselves if we celebrate the success of others as our own, be it in fashion or, more prominently, in sports?

And no other person can elicit such celebration of Pinoy Pride than our “National Fist,” the pugilist Manny Pacquiao, one of the greatest boxers of all time (in my list he’s easily top five).

Of course, there’s no need to explain the kind of adulation Pacquiao draws from his fellowmen. From the mud to the stars—his is the story of a young man’s ascent to greatness, the stuff movies are made of, the kind of story that brings out the best in Filipinos and gives them hope, online trolls included.

So Pacquiao’s story is known in the farthest ends of the earth, especially where there’s a Filipino soul trying to survive, his words and actions well-documented, sometimes parodied, but mostly taken to heart.

His wife is a celebrity. His mother is an ultra-celebrity. And his alleged infidelities, religious and political pursuits, and financial scandals are a cause célèbre that has no equal in the country. (Kris Aquino’s are a distant second, but let us, please, not get into that.)

But something odd happened after the fight with erstwhile champ Timothy Bradley last Sunday.

There was none of this loud, chest-thumping celebration that we’ve been accustomed to seeing and hearing each time Pacquiao disposes of an opponent. There were no pronouncements of Pinoy Pride.

Instead, there were just slightly less animated discussions of Pacquiao’s boxing prowess or what’s left of it, or as some would argue, how he’s harnessed such prowess efficiently with the wisdom that comes only with experience.

And amid the hushed tones was a sense of relief, one that was more palpable than Pacquiao’s lopsided beating of Brandon Rios in November last year, which was expected really.

Sunday’s win against the dangerous, undefeated Bradley, who for all we know, moonlights as a body-building runner, was reassurance that Pacquiao has moved on following that catastrophic knockout loss to Manuel Marquez in December 2012 (a lucky punch, some pundits protest).

To be assured that their hero’s incredible story has not come to an end is an overpowering sense of relief like no other.

In the words of the man himself, “My boxing journey continues.”

And so it does.

Manny will continue to inspire Filipinos regardless of social rank (including fellow athletes like the Azkals, who will be playing in the tournament of their lives, the AFC Challenge Cup, this May).

This latest episode of Pacquiao’s boxing career, likewise, will give him more followers, in addition to his more avid ones – the Bureau of Internal Revenue’s Kim Henares, politicians and the pastors to name a few – who will be cheering him on to make the country happy and proud.

And if online nationalists and nationalistic trolls are to be believed, you ain’t seen nothin’ of “Pinoy Pride” yet.

(nsvillaflor@gmail.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on April 15, 2014.

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