I got reacquainted recently with Arnel Pineda’s journey after any wife sent me the Journey songs stored in her cell phone. One Journey song that often got me frustrated as a Karaoke buff is “Open Arms.” On YouTube is this Pinoy singing the Journey anthem like he is Steve Perry, Part 2. That shows Pinoy talent is really moving up internationally.
Of course, the bigger Pinoy draw is still boxing’s pound for pound king Manny Pacquiao, who threw the first pitch in a San Francisca Giants game at the AT and T Park yesterday. The major league baseball event was part of the “Filipino Heritage Night” in recognition of the “Bay Area’s large Filipino American population,” reports said.
Before showbiz, boxing was the endeavor that made us Filipinos proud in the international arena. Last Sunday, Brian Viloria, the Fil-Am “Hawaiian Punch,” snatched the International Boxing Federation (IBF) light-flyweight crown from Ulises Solis. Nonito Donaire retained his IBF/International Boxing Organization flyweight titles.
Boxing seems to be in our blood in much the same way we fell for cock fighting. When I was still in grade school I noticed how people in Sitio Kawayan, Barangay Sambag 2 reacted to every bout, be it involving Filipino fighters or foreign big names like Muhammad Ali. The “Thrilla in Manila” between Ali and Joe Frazier was a major event.
Incidentally, sports ed Mike Limpag lent me the other day the recent documentary on the “Thrilla,” this time taking the point of view of Joe Frazier. While the documentary reiterated the old personal animosity between these two great heavyweight fighters, it also reminded us that at one time in our past, the eyes of the boxing world were on us.
In Manny Pacquiao’s fights aired on HBO, the network’s promo blitz includes the show “24/7” that provides background info on the fighters. The recent episodes of “24/7” shows Pacquiao and his next foe, the British boxing star Ricky “The Hitman” Hatton. Pacquiao, of course, is not the only one featured in the shows. The Philippines is, too.
Manila, and the Philippines, was the backdrop of the “Thrilla.” And the year 1975 was but three years removed from that day in September when Ferdinand Marcos signed Presidential Decree 1081 putting the country under Martial Law and bringing us to the path of dictatorship. Looking at footages of old Philippines was stuff of nostalgia.
I was in a malleable age in 1975, my mind, bombarded by Martial Law propaganda meant, to inculcate respect for authority (“Sa ikauunlad ng bayan, disiplina ang kailangan”). The realizations—human rights abuses, plunder of the public coffers, destruction of the country’s political system—only came years later. The “Thrilla” was one of those events intended to showcase a growing Philippines under Marcos’ rule.
(I wrote this for my April 24 Candid Thoughts column in Sun.Star Cebu)