By Ronnie Nathanielsz
Manila Standard Today
WHEN pound-for-pound king Manny Pacquiao asked one of his aides to get a chair and have us sit next to him at the 12th Annual “Flash” Elorde Awards Banquet of Champions, we were pleasantly surprised. Not too long ago, he was visibly upset by our comments after his last fight against Juan Manuel Marquez and our condemnation of his indiscriminate ways and the leeches, who surround him.
But then, it seemed so long ago and time and circumstance have combined to change it all in a blessed way.
After we sat down, Manny proceeded to ask us about our favorite passage in the Bible and we answered Psalm XXIII — “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.”
Sufficiently impressed when we told him, the psalm says it all, Manny recited several excerpts from the scriptures, chapter and verse, in amazing fashion. We couldn’t believe how much he had memorized and the ease with which he quoted the Bible and reflected on the meaning of the passages he cited. This was certainly a new Manny Pacquiao, far removed from the wild and wooly individual, whose lifestyle brought untold pain to his charming wife and threatened to wreck his family.
God, in His infinite wisdom, effected a complete change in Manny because, from our own knowledge of Pacquiao, he was a soul worth saving and one who could be put to far greater use in setting an example to others to mend their wayward ways because he wields such an influence.
At the Elorde awards night, he and Dyan Castillejo, the indefatigable reporter, who chronicles so much in terms of Manny’s life and times, requested us to attend Pacquiao’s fellowship at ABS-CBN on Thursday evening, where she is indeed a leading light.
We went, not merely to please Dyan and Manny, but to see first hand how Manny, the “Fighter of the Decade” deals with the word of God and to discover even further, his comfort with an obviously new calling.
We were impressed not just with the facility with which he handled the role of a preacher-man, but the genuineness with which he reached out to use his own life’s example as a magnet to get people to change their ways and to believe in the word of God and to learn to love Him like never before.
There was, on Manny’s face, a look of sometimes childlike innocence. In many ways, we felt it was a reflection of his transgressions being washed away by genuine repentance and a new Manny Pacquiao being born again—and we hasten to add —within himself.
All his life his wife Jinkee has been both a tower of strength and a woman of faith and Manny has realized that she too is a blessing in his life and has learned to love her and share a life together with their four children in the embrace of the Lord and His word.
Manny has touched the lives of millions by his incredible achievements in the ring, earning respect and redemption for our country which was long denied the recognition it richly deserved. Beyond that, outside the ring, he has been a picture of humility and an individual, who cares for his people like very few others do.
It somehow pains when people suggest that Pacquiao is using God and religion to further his political ambitions, because it does seem terribly unfair. If anything at all, we sincerely believe that God is using Manny to spread His word because whenever Manny speaks, a multitude listens.
The applause he received at ABS-CBN several times during his address and the warmth with which he was embraced by the over-flowing congregation that gathered at the Dolphy Theater spoke volumes of how much he touched them both individually and collectively.
We know for a fact, that he touched us deep within our soul by the message he carried and the story he told.
Having known Manny since he was a 16 year old kid, striving to break away from the bondage of his family’s poverty and to carve a name for himself and a better life with his God-given talent as a boxer, we can sense the honesty within him.
To him, with God’s grace, many more doors may open but the one thing that will always remain enshrined in our hearts and in our minds is that Manny Pacquiao opened the door and his heart to God and it has served him and blessed him as well as those of us who admire and care for him in a special sort of way.
Manny Pacquiao is indeed a champion for all seasons and for all-time and is truly one of God’s new-found warriors!
(Published in the Manila Standard Today newspaper on /2012/March/31)