Pacmania

Doctors associate the word mania with severely elevated mood. For some people, it is an illness. But what if it afflicts a nation? Pacmania presented itself in Sunday’s “Grand Finale” in Las Vegas that featured Filipino Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao and Mexican Erik “El Terrible” Morales, an event beamed live, or at least in some spots, to the Philippines.

That fight happened a day after my wife Edizza gave birth to our second son, Eldrick Khan, at the Cebu Doctors Hospital. That morning, I found myself roaming the deserted streets looking for an establishment offering commercial-less TV coverage. I ended up in the crowded room of one of the restaurants near the Chong Hua Hospital.

The mood inside was clearly “severely elevated,” especially after Pacquiao’s left brought Morales down for the last time in the third round. And that sight must have been replicated everywhere where there are Filipinos—in the Philippines and in other countries reached by our version of a diaspora. It was Pacmania and surprisingly we felt good.

Not given to outwardly showing my emotions, I was initially tempted to criticize the excesses, especially with politicians and businessmen clambering upon Pacquiao’s bandwagon so bits of his fame will fall on them. Then it dawned upon me that the celebratory mood is real and that this moment is rare in this country’s sports landscape.

I grew up adoring international sports superstars and wondering whether the time will come when a Filipino will earn adulation of the world. Michael Jordan in basketball. Tiger Woods in golf. Mike Tyson in boxing. For a while there, I wallowed in the thought that never will somebody from a poor country like ours gain such international acclaim.

And then Pacquiao. His demolition of El Terrible, a future boxing hall of fame inductee, had even cynical international boxing writers proclaiming him as the world’s best, pound-or-pound. The stars of the Mayweathers, etc. seemed to have dimmed side by side with that of Pacquiao. Finally, a Pinoy has claimed legit world sports superstardom.

It is only but rarely that a Filipino is proclaimed as hope of an international sport that has lost its luster after the likes of Tyson left the arena and Oscar de la Hoya has become more of a businessman than a boxer. A Pinoy becoming a toast of the sports world and savior of boxing? We Filipinos should savor this while this lasts.

–Candido O. Wenceslao
(For Sunstar Cebu column, November 24, 2006)

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