Saturday, February 20, 2016

Not to sound Hipster or anything, but I've been hating on Manny Pacquiao's antics long before it was cool to hate on Manny Pacquiao's antics.

Or: My Love-Hate relationship with Manny Pacquiao

Or: Explaining Manny Pacquiao to White People

Also: Hugas Kamay: Washing My Hands of Manny Pacquiao

Written in: Calgary, Alberta, CANADA
Composition: Taking advantage of an opportunity to "punch down" and get away with it for once!
Previous Post: What's with all the Western Civilization Hate?

Now is probably as good a time as any to comment about Manny Pacquiao and his most recent headline grabbing actions.

For some people, it all started with this:

Manny Pacquiao provokes storm by calling gay people 'worse than animals' - The Guardian

To no one’s surprise except probably for Manny, this sparked a huge backlash that has now ended up with Nike terminating any sponsorship deals with the famous Filipino boxer. More will be sure to follow.

As well, observers are noting how this could tarnish his campaign for higher public office.

Well, well well... isn't everyone oh so progressive now for dogpiling on Manny Pacquiao? 

Not to sound  hipster or anything, but I was hating on Manny Pacquiao's public antics, long before it was cool to hate on Manny Pacquiao's public antics.

Crowd Chants "Do Not Vote!" (for Manny Pacquiao)
not long after he announced he will be running 
for Senator of the Philippines.
Date: October 2015.
 Original Article

Actually, I must confess, although I’m a little surprised that it took this long for people to start finally seeing Manny for what he is - an ignorant, religious fundamentalist, undereducated celebrity who makes a mockery of the Philippine political system - I too am actually late to the party.

Yes, this is me at my most elitist, but goddamnit, this is my one and only chance to "punch down" and possibly get away with it!



The thing is, friends and family in the Philippines have been noticing how potentially poisonous Manny can be for the Philippines' global image and the overall welfare of Philippine society for a long time now. Yes, I must confess that even though I am ahead of the curve of how global sports editorials have soured on Manny's public antics - how, since last year, I have been pointing out how Manny is making a mess of Philippine politics - I myself still am behind the times... like, by half a decade or so!

His rise to sports fame coincided with his growing influence, that it propelled him to get elected as a lawmaker in 2010 despite his severe lack of qualifications in that nation's lower house. But through a combination of geographical distance and partial willful ignorance (because even though one can always Google these things, I didn’t), I probably dismissed a lot of grumblings against Pacquiao's political life because of his talent as an athlete, as well as the overall inspiring story of his rise from squalor to being a multi millionaire.

In fact, that rags to riches story of his is what caused me to hold back. To criticize him for his lack of qualifications feels like "punching down", as I mentioned, because you cannot separate his shortcomings from his impoverished childhood.

Yet, even though I myself held back, others did not do so. Especially not Filipinos in the Philippines.

Philippine society is famously known for many things and being politically correct is not exactly one of them. Unsurprisingly, a whole band of critics against Pacquiao arose - even during the zenith of his fame, which I would place around late 2000's to early 2010's.

And oh man, they sure turned me off rather quickly. So much so that it actually pushed me to side with Manny! I mean, how could I not? Manny was the ultimate underdog in every fight he has been in, both in and outside of the ring! He's like the Rebel Alliance to the powerful Empire, the Luke Skywalker to Vader, the Yoda to Emperor Palpatine. For me, Manny was so heroic, he was largely unassailable.

Nonetheless, criticism against Manny grew, mostly centering around class-based distinctions.

Maybe it's hard for you white (or any Non-Filipino) readers to get this, but I'll give it a shot: The Philippines is a place of stark contrasts. Where some people live in cocooned wealth inside their exclusive gated communities, and others in abject poverty. Where the mega metropolis of Metro Manila is as cosmopolitan as any Asian megacity and is home to tens of millions of people, while some villages in the provinces scrape by without the basic necessities of electricity, sewage, and plumbing. Where, save for one national public institution, expensive private schools are probably the only recognized quality education around.

Manny had all three strikes against him: He is from the provinces, he was uneducated, and he grew up poor, very poor indeed. His accent and general fashion sense and public decorum (at least before he made his millions) are such easy pickings for everyone in the alta sociedad or higher society.

It's a little and a lot like how most North American comedians from a large metropolis have in their repertoire a bit about redneck yokels. Except it’s a bit more insidious. It's classist and maybe even a bit racist - since Filipinos tend to divide themselves along ethnic lines.

There’s also a certain term called Baduy. The direct translation is ‘Tacky’, but it doesn’t have quite the same impact. Baduy can mean old fashioned, but it could also mean simply out of touch, yet tries too hard and misses. ‘Un-cool’ comes probably the closest to Baduy.

Beyond Manny's accent, in the Philippines where English is the language of instruction, the way he struggles to give a seemingly original thought in English interviews that wasn’t rehearsed prior is comedy goldmine. It’s even more cringeworthy when he peppers it with borrowed American phrases everytime he verbally stalls.

Go ahead: YouTube him and listen for how often he says “You know, like” and  “Like, you know.” 

2014 Interview, before all this latest 'scandal' arose.

Again, this seems like small, inconsequential things to whites (and non Filipinos in general) who might assume that his English level is probably on par with the average educated Filipino. But the short answer is that... it isn't. He's improved a great deal for sure, but he used to be a lot worse at it, and he's definitely still below average.

It's somewhat ironic that during the height of his fame, white people and other 'westerners' in general were fawning over how 'good' his English is - all while every Filipino I know always has to listen very VERY intently just to understand him.

And this is why, for Filipinos in the Philippines, Manny's rise to global fame and recognition was both a godsend and cringeworthy.

A godsend because it put the Philippines on the map. In a world where people still sometimes mistake it for Indonesia, any distinction is good.

Cringeworthy, because Manny as the de-facto, publicly anointed spokesperson - in another context - is somebody they would look down upon. Somebody lesser than they. Somebody that, given the choice, they would gladly replace with someone who sounds more intelligent and less embarrassing to hear.

Like I said, it is incredibly elitist, but Pinoys do tend to be elitist anyway. Par for the course.

And I'm not gonna lie: I probably traded in a few of these cultural jabs against Manny at some point. But by and large, I felt bad for him and have even defended him against such immature jokes thrown at his expense.

Nonetheless, I could also understand why some people in the Philippines would have this opinion, even as early as a decade ago, when Manny's star was on the rise, where his image was incredibly clean, and well before this latest uproar. Even back then, friends and family in the Philippines publicly cheered for him, but privately resented that it all seemed to be getting out of their hands because Manny, as the closest equivalent to a representative of the Filipino people throughout the world, had nothing in common with them. And yet there he was, being paraded around by Filipino officials as the country's hope, rubbing elbows with Filipino showbiz personalities as the newest kid on the block, and sold to us by his promoter, Bob Arum, as a symbol for every Filipino in the world.

It's a phenomenon that's been labeled as Filipino Pride - a cultural fascination to elevate and be loud and proud of that nation's top achievers. Though not everyone agrees with this Pinoy Pride, it's hard to deny that Manny's achievements were praiseworthy. And so, they still cheered because they have to, but nonetheless put qualifiers on their praises. Their cheers were thus asterisked and parenthesized. Eg:
“Go Manny! Yay! Take the boxing victory for the Philippines!” *
(* = [aside] Oh my God. Is this really it for the Philippines? Are we just a bunch of boxers and beauty queens now? Is this really the guy who’s going to be our voice? Barely speaks English. Totally uncool. His Mother Dionisia is completely scary in her backwardness... ugh!)
But, for the longest time, I fought very hard against having to put an asterisk and an aside whenever I sing my praises for Manny. Where, for educated and tactful Filipinos in the Philippines, Manny was an embarrassment, we Filipinos of the diaspora are only given light doses of Manny. This way, he probably remained palatable to us (overseas) for far longer than for them (intelligent Filipinos in the Philippines).

For them, he was an everyday reminder of what is wrong with Philippine celebrity culture. For us, he was the guy winning titles for the birth country. In a way, I bought into the hype Bob Arum made of his prized fighter.

Go ahead: Google him and listen to how he always bills Manny as the symbol of hope for the Filipino people.

Arum sees Pacquiao retiring in 2016, running for President - Philippine Daily Inquirer

Avuncular Arum: I hope to live to see Manny Pacquiao as President -

Unfortunately, I have been away from the Philippines too long, that even I became susceptible to the western/white propaganda that oversimplifies the exotic lands of elsewhere - the birthcountry of the Philippines included. In a way, this promotion isn’t that far removed from the underhanded noble savage label of ye old timey colonialism and racism. That just because Manny had come from poverty, was undereducated, his mother had backward superstitious beliefs and so on and so forth... that somehow makes him more noble... and therefore worthy of representing the Philippines.

I swallowed the propaganda whole. For the longest time, for me, Manny = "The Filipino struggle".

Looking back now, it's a wonder why I ever bought into it. 

Probably because like so many Filipinos of the diaspora, I have a severe shortage of 'stock' characters or Filipino icons I can cite that everyone already knows and can relate to, in the same way, say, Brazilians have Pele and Senna, the English have David Beckham, and how Canadians have Gretzky, and so on and so forth.... I just so desperately wanted a Filipino sports icon.

But the cold truth is that.... Manny is NOT representative of any Filipino I have ever met or known in my life. No one I personally know had the same background as Manny. 

Not even close.

Contrast that with Wayne Gretzky who, had he been younger, could have been a guy I went to highschool with here in Canada. He's just sooo accessible and unremarkable, it's not even funny how Wayne comes off so much as your average everyday Canadian. And I mean that in a good way in that, with him, there's no big drama, and no big tale of woe to sell to you. Which, by the way, could probably be said of many other famous Canadian athletes such as Genie Bouchard, Steve Nash, Olympian Kaillie Humphries, and Hayley Wickenheiser - who went to the same University as I did, by the way! Woo hooo!

Looking back, I would actually now label my previous preoccupation with trying to relate to Manny as 'my' sports hero as a kind of ridiculous pretentiousness - as though I was trying to be more masa or something. Not to mention insulting to friends and family in the Philippines who hadn't actually bought in to his fame.

But then, the first cringeworthy moment came in February of 2007, when I was in the Philippines for this trip of mine (the very same one this Blog is based upon). I saw Manny Pacquiao on TV taking his High School equivalency exam. At the time he was being billed as a possible candidate for Philippine Congress.

The person I was watching TV with remarked,
"Langhiyang 'to... Hindi man lang pala nakatapos ng high school, nagbabalak pang kumandidato!"
("This shameless ass... Didn't even finish high school, and yet here he is, planning to run for office!")
That was when I started to realize that the hero-worship Filipinos supposedly had for Manny isn't total. That’s probably when I started to also annotate my praises to Manny. By 2008, after I had come back from my Philippine trip:
“Go Manny! Yay! Beat up De La Hoya! WooooO!” *
(* = [aside] Oh my God. Is this really it for the birth country? The boxer my friends and family in the Philippines consider as completely underqualified, wants to keep trying to run for office?!)

He then went on to lose that particular election in 2007, but he still persevered and finally went on to win in 2010.

From thereon in, I started to finally see the critics of Manny Pacquiao as less elitists and more as nationalists. I finally started to see them as truly patriotic Filipinos who feel as though Filipino ideals have been compromised by Pacquiao's political victory: For them his political career is what makes politics in the Philippines so damned cringeworthy. The least qualified dude is the one who gets elected to make laws, all because he’s a famous national hero.

How could they not cry "Idiocracy" amidst that?

Still, I probably still wrote him off as less a danger than the outright thieves, murderers, and morons populating Philippine politics. Because Manny really truly seems to have a generous heart, his life in politics is probably a money-losing endeavor, wouldn’t it be? I mean, I don’t think he went in there to steal, seeing as he’s worth so much already (although there is the danger of his cronies, advisers, and hangers-on being corrupt, but I’ll save that for another rant).

I even defended Manny when he got knocked out by Juan Manuel Marquez in 2012. At the time, I heard (or read) a few people I know in the Philippines who had been vocal fans of Manny in previous years, come out and say that Manny had it coming. As though they were almost glad that their champion had lost!

But I had missed some of the most recent developments around Manny Pacquiao's public antics in the Philippines.

Little did I know that, in his 2nd year as a Congressman, my educated, tactful, well-read, and well informed friends and family in the Philippines had gotten tired of Manny Pacquiao.

 If anything, their Schadenfreude moment should not have been a surprise,
"Buti nga!  Ayan kasi, puro ka kasi showbiz at pulitika, napabayaan mo yung training mo. Mag boksing ka nalang kasi! Kupal!"
("Aha! That’s what you get for dabbling in politics, showbiz, and being too busy and not preparing hard enough for a fight! Just stick with what you know - boxing - you dumbass!")

Then, a second turning point came last year for me when he started spouting off against what has been regarded by many women’s rights activists as a much needed mandate: The Reproductive Health Bill of the Philippines. Basically, it is a law that will make affordable contraception a right.

Manny Pacquiao hits out against contraception - Wall Street Journal

100 Million people, the majority of which are in poverty, an ever growing homeless population, little to no arable land left because they’re now all subdivisions... And his biblical interpretation is still old testament “go forth and multiply?”

Plus, he’s such a hypocrite too. His wife has come out and said that she uses contraceptives. Yet her husband denies women in poverty that kind of right. Which, by the way, is where Manny came from - poverty. You don’t have to dig deep to see the hypocrisy here. In short: Now that he’s part of the establishment, Manny is as anti-women, anti-choice, and as counter productive towards uplifting poor Filipinos as it gets.

But now that it’s been “revealed” how anti-gay he is, well, now the world is finally paying attention. Only now did one of his major sponsors finally drop him.

Yet with very little effort, I dug these up from 2015:

Manny Pacquiao on Abortion, Same Sex Unions, and Contraception - HuffPost
Pacquiao Leads Anti Condom fight at home - CBS

I mean, these things aren't a secret by any means! He's been like this forever! He's been spouting off primitive backward crap from the get go, and you all only paid attention to it just now!

Not to sound hipster or anything, but I have been hating on Manny Pacquiao's public antics, long before it was cool to hate on Manny Pacquiao's public antics.

Crowd Chants "Do Not Vote!" (for Manny Pacquiao)
not long after he announced he will be running 
for Senator of the Philippines.
Date: October 2015.
Original Article

Welcome to the party Nike, and everyone else in the world I guess. Surprised it took you this long.

But then again, I'm one to talk.


Stray Observations:

Apologists to Manny Pacquiao's most recent statements against the LGBT community don't seem to understand two things: The Responsbilities of an Elected Official and Free Speech.

Re: Responsibilities of Elected Officials

Consider this person

"Manny was asked on (sic) his opinion on public television and it's not as if Pacquiao was walking around preaching and telling people how to act and to do (sic)."

In response, I would like to point out that just because Manny is not 'shouty', that he says his beliefs and opinions matter-of-factly, that he seems to say them with the fullest of conviction, and with a certain smug smile... it does not mean he doesn't push his beliefs on others. In fact, he totally does!  And he does it in the most powerful and insidious way possible: By skewing the system towards his beliefs, and to the detriment of everyone else who does not share them.

Manny Pacquiao is an elected official, and he has come out and admitted repeatedly that he lets his faith and his beliefs guide his decisions. In fact, the record shows it: He voted against RH Bill, and he matter of factly said that he will vote against anything which goes against his religious beliefs.

He has unabashedly, unashamedly and undeniably let his faith affect his vote. He doesn't even deny it, he just says it outright. Make no mistake, Manny Pacquiao is a religious fundamentalist in the strictest sense of the term. In all of his actions, he does not practice any sort of belief in the separation of church and state.

Karen Davila reminds Pacquiao on Separation of Church and State - Manila Bulletin

Original Radio Interview: Fast forward to 6:22

 Re: Free Speech

As usual, people invoke "Free Speech" in cases such as this one. Without fail, I have heard (read) people screaming different variations of, "Manny Pacquiao should be able to freely express his opinions. Whatever happened to 'Free Speech?'"

To begin with 'Free Speech' as people often spout it on the internet, is often based on cursory knowledge gleaned from Western Pop Culture. And Western Pop Culture in the Philippines usually equals American Culture. Therefore, right at the entry point, a lot of people make the mistake that it is somehow a universal human right that is consistently defined across the globe.

The short answer is it isn't. And people don't seem to get that.

In the case of the Philippines in particular, 'Free Speech', as it has been interpreted by their courts, seems to have more conditions. In one case, it is possible to get sued for 'hurt feelings'. I fucking kid you not. So in a sense, I believe apologists of Manny Pacquiao's actions should actually be thankful that he is not getting sued by LGBT groups in the Philippines for hate speech, or libel, or perhaps even defamation or whatever is relevant to the Philippine scenario that could possibly override the Filipino freedom to express themselves.

Secondly, these people who invoke free speech as a defense don't often understand 'Free Speech' anyway as it is often practiced in most democratic countries!

All freedom of speech does is protect you from both prosecution and persecution. It absolutely does not mean you can use it to deflect counter-arguments to your stated position. And yet people do it all the time. Often, it goes like this:

Person A:  "I believe in this and that and so on and so forth!"
Person B:  "I disagree! 'This' and 'that' are false, and so are 'so on' and 'so forth'!"
Person A:  "But but... but.. you can't contradict me!  Free Speech!"

And so, in his latest uproar, apologists of Manny Pacquiao simply do not understand that just as Manny is free to express to himself, everyone is free to do so as well. What they want is the freedom to say anything unchallenged.

To my knowledge, only religion grants that. And only at the highest levels.

So, mag-pastor ka na lang kaya, Manny? Sa totoo lang, parang mas bagay.

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Blogger emilializ said...

Didn't Pacquaio once say that he couldn't promote contraception because he had to listen to the big boss (God?)

10:22 AM  

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