They’ve adoringly called him ‘People’s champ’ for so long, but the moniker is none more appropriate than it is today.
Boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao returns home on Saturday no longer a holder of a world title, but still a champion in the eyes of countrymen convinced that he won the controversial fight against American Tim Bradley in Las Vegas at the weekend.
Unlike in past homecomings where motorcades and elaborate ceremonies awaited the Pacman in the capital, this time the mood is a lot more somber as he returns primarily to attend to constituents hit by deadly floods in Sarangani province.
His itinerary is also fluid, perhaps because his return was unscheduled. The fighting congressman was supposed to stay in the US with wife Jinkee and their four children for another month but had to cut it short to deal with the calamity.
A tour of the metropolis showed no welcome banners for the Filipino ring hero, although Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim has ordered city officials to put up streamers that read: ‘Congratulations, Manny Pacquiao – the real winner.’
There are also no ceremonies lined up in Malacanang, officials said. It is also not certain if he will make his traditional post-fight visit to the Quiapo church.
The only detail that appeared certain is that Pacquiao, who saw a 15-match unbeaten run spanning seven years ended by Bradley in a contentious split decision, will arrive in an early-morning Philippine Airlines flight with Canadian adviser Michael Koncz.
It will be different in Sarangani where a hero's welcome awaits Pacquiao, Dominguez said.
Jeng Gacal, Pacquiao's legal counsel, said he was informed the city government of General Santos also planned a similar treat to the boxer.
"He did not lose in the eyes of his kababayans," Gacal said.
People close to the Fighter of the Decade said he plans to rejoin his family for a vacation in the US and a visit to the Holy Land as soon as he can.