Saga of Kid Kulafu

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - November 28, 2014 - 12:00am

There’s a new movie in the post-production stage and it’s about Manny Pacquiao’s early life. A source said the biopic may or may not be an entry at the coming Metro Manila Film Festival. If the film isn’t shown during the Filmfest, it will premier in January.

Robert (Buboy) Villar, 15, portrays Pacquiao. Alessandra de Rossi plays Mommy Dionisia and Cesar Montano, his uncle Sardo. The movie is entitled “Kid Kulafu” and tracks Pacquiao’s boyhood until he leaves General Santos City for Manila to pursue a career in boxing. Paul Soriano is the director with businessman Ernest Escaler the producer.

In 2006, Star Cinema produced the film “Pacquiao The Movie” with Jericho Rosales as the world champion. The movie focused on Pacquiao’s life as a fighter. “Kid Kulafu” goes back in time before Pacquiao left General Santos City with 10 teenaged and wide-eyed boxing prospects to try their luck in Manila in 1994.

Asked how he got his nom de guerre, Pacquiao said it was because he used to pack bottles of Vino Kulafu. Vino Kulafu is a Chinese wine that is widely popular in the Visayas and Mindanao. “I was packing bottles of Vino Kulafu when I was a boy,” he said. “I thought of using a nickname as an amateur fighter and I became Kid Kulafu.”

* * * *

Pacquiao is the oldest of four children of Rosalio Pacquiao and Dionisia Dapidran. Mommy Dionisia had two children Liza and Domingo from a previous marriage to Alfonso Silvestre before starting another family with Rosalio. Pacquiao’s other siblings are Isidra, Bobby and Rogel. Rosalio abandoned Mommy Dionisia and their four children when Pacquiao was in sixth grade. As the oldest child, Pacquiao left school to earn a living and augment whatever income Mommy Dionisia brought in from working in a factory and selling native delicacies she baked. Mommy Dionisia, now 65, was left by two husbands but she never strayed from her duties as a mother to six children.

Pacquiao’s life in Manila could be the basis of another movie. He will never forget sleeping with 10 other teenaged boxing hopefuls in the ring at the L&M Gym in Sampaloc shortly after arriving from General Santos City. “Once, we came from Davao to work in a construction project and were so tired after all those hours under the sun,” he said. “We used to jog in the morning, work in the site then train in the gym in the afternoon. Our only rest was at night. One day, we all ate talbos ng kamote, Maggi noodles and sardines for dinner. We were so full and also so tired. We laid down in the ring to sleep side by side, talking about our dreams of someday becoming a champion and sending money to our family. In the morning, we all got up but the kid beside me, Eddie Caldaso, wouldn’t wake up. I saw he had a streak of blood coming out of his mouth and he was stiff. He died in his sleep, probably due to bangungot.

From an original group of 11, Pacquiao said they were down to seven. The others quit the sport because it was too grueling. Then, on Dec. 12, 1995, a tragedy struck in Sampaloc. Pacquiao was booked to fight Rolando Toyogon in the main event. In the undercard, Eugene Barutag – one of the 11 who went to Manila from General Santos City in a boat – battled Ranny Andagan.

“Before Eugene entered the ring, he told me good luck,” said Pacquiao. “I found it strange because he was about to fight and I wouldn’t go on until later but he wished me good luck. I was in his corner for the fight which was a war. Both Eugene and Andagan went down. Then, during a timeout, I saw (cornerman) Pee Wee Vasquez put ice water to Eugene’s mouth. It looked like the water entered his nose and Eugene couldn’t breathe, like he was drowning. He collapsed and I held him in my arms, telling him to stay strong. There was no ambulance and they took him to the hospital lying down on the floor of a jeepney.”

* * * *

Pacquiao said he couldn’t accompany Barutag to the hospital because he was next to fight on the show. After he outpointed Toyogon, Pacquiao rushed to the hospital in his boxing shorts and fighting boots with a towel wrapped around his shoulders. Doctors prevented him from seeing Barutag. Pacquiao later found out Barutag was dead on arrival. Pacquiao kept vigil in a Valenzuela funeral home during Barutag’s wake and hardly anyone showed up.

“I put his things, like his karaoke, together to send back to General Santos,” said Pacquiao. “Nobody else in our group wanted to do it because they were scared that Eugene would appear to them as a ghost. Eventually, the remaining guys in the group returned to the province, saying they never expected boxing to be this dangerous, that you could die.”

In 1997, Pacquiao said he had the same drowning sensation when splashed with ice water during a break in his fight against Melvin Magramo in Cebu. He breathed out the water from his nose, recalling what happened to Barutag.

Last Wednesday, Pacquiao was on the Kia bench as coach in the Sorento’s game against Purefoods at the Ynares Center in Antipolo. Pacquiao, who has a remarkable memory, said he had fought twice in the Antipolo stadium – in 2000 against Nedal Hussein and in 2001 against Tetsutoma Senrima. He won both fights by technical knockout.

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