THE expensive sunglasses got my attention first.

I thought it was pretty weird for a guy with an obviously outdated sense of fashion—so obvious even a guy like me could notice—to be wearing such glasses, in a rundown non-aircon bus bound for Davao City.

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It was 1997. After an overnight boat ride (airplane promos were nonexistent) from Cebu, I got on the limited-stop bus bound for Davao. Don’t let the “limited stop” sign fool you, the bus stops as long as its limit to cram people like sardines isn’t reached.

I got on the bus when it was empty. It was how I noticed them. Two men, wearing last decade’s fashion, with one wearing expensive sunglasses college students can only dream of.

But the shades was no fashion statement.

It served a purpose.

It hid one of the ugliest welts I’ve ever seen. And after settling on my seat, I got to observe the owner of those shades, and realized I was lucky.

I had nary a scratch on my face but his was a face that saw a thousand punches—maybe one or two elbows, too.

His was the face of the first pro boxer I saw, up close.

And the first thought that crossed my mind was, “What is this pro boxer doing in this rickety bus? Aren’t they supposed to travel in style?”

Ever nosy, I listened to their conversation.

The owner of expensive glasses was on his way home, too. To be with his family.

“Kwatro ‘mil,” he was telling his companion, was his “take home” for his family.

The shades was a bonus from a “generous manager.”

He said the manager, when he saw his swollen eyes that morning, told him to wear shades so people won’t stare at him.

But he didn’t have any. So the manager gave him his.

I never knew that boxer’s name. I never even saw them get off the bus.

But I always wonder whatever happened to him.

Was he able to retire with his senses intact? Or did he go abroad and quench the appetite of up-and-rising stars eager to have a Filipino on their record?

Or did he, God forbid, end up like Lito Sisnorio?

Boxing, you see, is a cruel sport.

But Pinoys are spoiled by Pacman and everybody thinks all Pinoy boxers should be Pacman.

Check out the boxing forums. Any Pinoy who loses in a match is automatically labeled a bum.

A loss opens a boxer for ridicule by people who boost their egos by belittling others.

It’s why I stopped checking the forums. I used to do so, regularly, but these days—it’s as if that obnoxious drunk who shouts regularly at night, “Kinsa’y isog diha!” got an Internet call sign. (Of course, these tough guys hide behind an

identity, always ready to replace it once they are challenged.)

After reading another “____is a bum” thread, after yet another Pinoy lost, I had it. I fired off a long reply against these posters, but then I remembered why I keep on remembering that boxer in that bus ride.

After saying he got P4,000 for his efforts, the other guy, obviously, thought it was too low.

But he said, “Okey na lang na kaysa mangawat.”

Boxing, for him, was a means to support his family.

Boxing, for Internet hooligans, is an escape. A world where they can establish their expertise at the expense of others.

A world where they can be middleweight kings or heavyweight champs to escape the real world where they are ignored—like Expensive Shades man.

You can’t stop these Internet hooligans and you can’t reason with them. I just hope that someday, these hooligans would meet these bums in the ring.

I’ll even give them P5,000-shades for their efforts.