Sunday Lifestyle

Pacman of faith

MANO-A-MANO - Adel Tamano - The Philippine Star

The joke goes that there was a robbery in Las Vegas — Manny Pacquaio was robbed off his victory not by Bradley but by the judges who gave the decision to Manny’s opponent. I’m not a boxing expert but from what I saw — and this seems to be the very broad consensus of most who viewed the fight — Pacman outboxed, out-punched, and outclassed Bradley. Very telling was Arum’s claim that Bradley himself told him, before the decision was announced, that he tried but could not beat Manny. Even more telling was Bradley’s statement to the press that he had to review the tapes of the fight to see if he really won. Even he wasn’t convinced that he deserved it. But what really struck me wasn’t so much the ruckus regarding the decision but instead Pacman’s declaration of faith: that he saw this defeat as a mere test of faith. 

Like any Filipino, I’m a Pacman fan and I celebrate and share in the country’s pride when he wins. But because of the class and the faith that he showed after his loss, I’ve come to respect him even more. Of course, there are some who claim that Manny’s newfound religiosity is all a show and that it is just some bizarre PR campaign to clean up Pacman’s image. Personally, I refuse to see it that way because, one, I want to give Manny the benefit of the doubt as I would with most people and, two, being a man of faith, and someone who has also struggled with the difficulties and temptations of life, I’m happy for Manny and his family that he has renewed his belief in God and the primacy of his family.

And definitely Manny needed some faith when he lost. When you lose, as I have experienced losses in my legal and political career, it is easy to become cynical and angry. You can easily blame God. Manny could have easily thought that it was so unfair for God to make him lose now that he has, in fact, renewed his faith and re-focused on his family. His trainer confirms that he’d stopped his late-night partying and was fully focused on preparing for the fight. So Manny could have easily blamed God for his loss. But publicly he didn’t and continued to be thankful for his blessings — he is a gazillionaire after all — and he thus showed his faith. And that is the point: faith is best shown when we don’t see things go our way. Faith connotes belief in the unseen and what Manny saw was defeat and unfairness. Yet instead of complaining, he thanked God.

Again, some people take a cynical view of faith and religion and they distrust anyone who wears his faith on his sleeve. That is understandable, particularly in the Philippines where the most corrupt public officials make showy displays of religiosity. That said, the cynicism really doesn’t help us. What good does it do to question your neighbors’ declaration of faith? My attitude is that one’s relationship with God is the most intimate and personal relationship that a human being can ever have. And so who am I to judge what’s in a person’s heart and how God may view that person?

Part of why I’m happy about Manny’s turn for the better in his faith is that I, as have most Filipinos, witnessed the very public marital problems of the Pacquaio couple. And being a married man myself, I find myself happy when I see people fix their marital problems. Even in my law practice, I always make it a point, when I handle annulment cases, to ask my clients if they can still find a way to fix their marriage, particularly when there are children involved. This is why, sometimes, when there are TV shows that talk about celebrity couples breaking up, I change the channel because I do feel a certain sadness when I witness marriages fail. In Islam, where we allow divorce, there is a belief that of all the things that are allowed by God, what is most hateful to him is divorce and there is the image of the throne of God shaking every time a couple has an Islamic divorce. This is how much honor is conferred on marriage in the Islamic faith.

Anyway, a big part of having faith is renewal — meaning that through faith we change our lives for the better. Obviously, if humans were perfect beings, then we wouldn’t need religion at all. But precisely — and this is the Islamic belief — God sent “warners,” meaning prophets and teachers, to all nations so that they could teach people to change their ways and to better their lives. And for me, that is the whole point of religion. In Pacman’s case, I liked the fact that, after the loss, he was interviewed with his wife at his side, showing the solidarity of his family and perhaps also emphasizing the truth that his wife shares in all his victories and will also be there to help him in his defeats

Obviously, we, too, will have our losses and our defeats and while it may not be as public or obviously unfair as Pacman’s, it’ll test our character nonetheless; and unless we have faith, it is easy to fall into despair. In Islam, we have an expression that God will not give a soul a greater burden than it can bear. This is the clearest statement of the truth that whatever defeat we experience and whatever problem we face, we can overcome it precisely because God knows what burdens and challenges that we, as unique human beings, can handle.

Finally, sometimes I try to figure out what unites us, in the modern age, as a Filipino nation. Part of the answer, I think, is that our athletic champions — like Pacman and the Azkals — do teach us to take pride in our being Filipino. But what I’m hoping that our fellow Filipinos will take away from the Pacman-Bradley fight is that what makes Manny a true champion isn’t his athletic prowess, his fists, or his physical strength. Instead, it is his heart and his faith.











  • Latest
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

or sign in with