MANNY Pacquiao surprised a lot of people when he showed up for KIA's final game in the PBA Governors Cup eliminations against Meralco on Wednesday afternoon.
Pacquiao, who has been away from KIA games for a long time, said he wants to boost the morale of the Carnival and at the same time help Barangay Ginebra make the playoffs.
At 4-6 (win-loss), Ginebra needs a KIA win of no more than 17 points against Meralco and a win against also-ran NLEX in the other half of the double-header to catch the last bus to the eight-team playoffs.
“Oo, gusto ko makapasok ang Ginebra," said the boxing hero and KIA playing-coach. "Kahit kaunting tulong sa side ko, makatulong ako kasi madami fans yung team eh.”
True enough, Kia looked inspired by Pacquiao's presence, even posting a nine-point lead in the second quarter.
“Syempre, pag andyan si champ, kakaka-inspire lumaro. Saka nakakahiya na matalo, all-out support niya sa amin eh,” said KIA shooting guard Leo Avenido.
Pacquiao, who was once an endorser of Ginebra with his mother Dionisia, also has one message to the barangay.
“Tiwala lang. May chance yan. Syempre, kailangan ng prayers,” he said.
Unknown to many, Pacquiao was a big fan of Ginebra growing up in General Santos City. His brother Bobby said the boxing hero never missed watching a Ginebra game in their black-and-white TV set.
“Bata pa lang kami talagang lagi kaming sumusubaybay ng Ginebra. Si Kuya Manny, diehard fan ng Ginebra yan,” said Bobby. “Favorite ni kuya si (Robert) Jaworski saka si Bal David saka sila Noli Locsin at Vince Hizon.
“Buong pamilya kami nun, tutok sa TV 'pag may laro Gordon’s Gin (old name of Ginebra)”
Pacquiao’s head of security, Caloy Homo, told Spin.ph Pacquiao is still recuperating from shoulder surgery and his appearance at the Smart Araneta Coliseum was not really planned.
“Biglaan lang 'yan. Kasi di pa siya talaga pwede manood dahil hindi pa fully healed yung balikat niya,” said Homo. “Kaso gusto nga daw niyang samahan yung team, kaya bigla kaming dating dito.”
NLEX Road Warriors star center Asi Taulava bared he already had an inkling on why Pacquiao was at the Big Dome when he arrived.
“I knew, he’d want to motivate KIA but it’s a different story when it comes to Ginebra. It’s a tough season for us (at NLEX). This conference didn’t fall our way becase of injuries,” said Taulava.
“But we’ll do everything to beat Ginebra later. What a better way to go on vacation and take somebody with you,” he added.
Taulava believes that Pacquiaos presence at the KIA bench somehow inspired Kia players to play well against Meralco.
“Kia is really playing inspired ball with the champ. Manny is a one-man motivation crew. Just for his legacy, these guys are inspired to play tonight."
Ginebra star enter Gregory Slaughter was happy to hear the reason behind Pacquiao's appearance.
“That’s great. But you know they have something on the line, too, and Manny wants KIA to win. It’s a great move by their head coach to inspire the team even though the game is no longer of that bearing for them,” said Slaughter.
“But Pacquiao’s willingness to help us (Ginebra) in his little ways is just simply wow,” added the 2013 top overall pick.