Manny Pacquiao is expected to arrive on Saturday still a hero and a winner in the eyes of countrymen, most of whom feel he was robbed of victory in his world title fight against American Timothy Bradley in Las Vegas over the weekend.
The beloved Filipino superstar comes home under circumstances totally different from his past homecomings, when his conquests overseas were met with wild celebrations and the boxer showered with adulation and honors.
This time the boxer, who saw a run of 15 wins spanning seven years stopped by the controversial loss to Bradley, arrives with only one thing foremost in his mind: attend to constituents hit by deadly floods in Sarangani province.
Pacquiao, a congressman representing the province of Sarangani in Mindanao, cut short a planned vacation in the United States and booked a flight to Manila with wife Jinkee. Flight details are not yet available at posting time.
Their four children stayed behind with relatives but the couple is expected to rejoin them to continue their US vacation as well as a long-planned trip to the Holy Land after the situation in Mindanao has normalized.
Even in defeat, Pacquiao has earned the admiration of his home fans not only for the way he fought but for the grace he handled just the fourth loss of his career.
Although no elaborate celebrations are planned, Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim has ordered city officials to put up streamers welcoming the boxing hero and voiced his intent to hold a motorcade in his honor if Pacquiao’s schedule would allow it.
The streamers read: ‘Congratulations, Manny Pacquiao – the REAL WINNER.’
The Philippine Army is also keen to extend military honors to the ring icon, who is a reserve Army lieutenant colonel. “He is still deserving,” said Army spokesman Major Harold Cabunoc.