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By Manny Piñol

My Mother's Tears
Fri, 26 Aug 2005

Last Saturday, Aug. 20, our family gathered in Nueva Vida, the village of our youth in M'lang, North Cotabato to mark our departed father's birthday. We lighted candles and shared food under the shade of a mango tree that I planted 40 years ago at the back of our ancestral home.

Our father, Bernardo, would have been 79. He died of brain cancer three months after I was elected mayor of our town, M'lang, in 1995. It was actually my father who ran for mayor but when he got ill with barely two weeks left in the campaign period, I was asked by the family to leave behind my job as a journalist and take over the candidacy. The rest is history.

My mother, Efigenia, 77, and nine of her 11 sons were at the gathering. A brother now lives in London while another was on a trip abroad. Aunts, uncles, cousins and a few friends were there too.

In the middle of the gathering, my mother stood up as she saw five young boys arrive. Each of the boys kissed her hand before joining the others in partaking the simple food on the table. The five boys are young boxers trained and managed by my brother, Noli.

They all come from poor families who tried their hands in boxing which they obviously see as the only way for them to get out of poverty. Luckily for them, all of these boys have the potentials of becoming champions someday.

The yuoung boxers are part of the family. To my mother, the boys are grandchildren she cares for. She goes to all of their fights to cheer them and occassionally scold the referee when she feels the boys do not get a fair shake.

Well ahead of the entry of the six young boxers to our family's life, we took in a scrappy boxer from Davao City who claimed that his manager was cheating him in the accounting of his real earnings in boxing.

Diosdado Gabi was nowhere in the world ratings when he came to us and begged that we took him in as our boxer. We later came to a settlement with Gabi's manager, Roger Sumampong, for the transfer of the boxer's managerial rights to my brother, Noli.

Naive and too trusting, the family did not bother about the legal documents covering the boxer-manager relationship between Gabi and my brother. We took him in like a brother. The whole family invested in him -- time, money and effort and trooped to all of his fights.

(We were all brought up by a father who taught us the value of "palabra de honor" or word of honor. To us, written agreements are only formal acknowledgements of a commitment that everybody is supposed to honor. Of course, we were proven wrong. Many people simply do not understand the meaning of "Word of Honor.")

My mother became a doting grandmother on Gabi. She lent her prized jewelry to the daughter of my guest house caretaker whom Gabi married in a civil ceremony. Mother would sometimes carry Gabi's son during fight nights as though he was her own grandson.

I was personally embarassed when Gabi, in a weigh-in before one of his fights, stepped up the weighing scale in an old brief with a hole just below the garter-belt. I had to rush to the shopping center to buy two boxer's shorts and later lectured his wife to take care of her husband's things and needs.

From an obscure fighter, Gabi became the WBC International Flyweight Champion and was later rated highly by the WBC. In fact, on the day he disappeared, he was ranked No. 5 by the WBC and No. 10 by the International Boxing Federation (IBF).

Gabi left without even saying goodbye. Not to me, not to my brothers and most especially not to my mother who was so deeply hurt that she shed tears.

The boxer later claimed that he left because my brother, Socrates, did not help him on his church wedding day.

Gabi and his new manager, a Canadian now residing in the United States, are now peddling lies by saying that the boxer did not receive his purse in his last two fights which was the reason why he left. This is of course a big lie since we never got a single centavo from his purse since he started fighting under my family's care. Michael Koncz, who spirited Gabi out
of the Philippines, is also telling people through a letter addressed to me that I am still Gabi's co-manager. This is another big lie.

I later found out that when Gabi left his former manager, he also peddled lies to us when he claimed that he was being cheated by his manager who cared for him since he was a young boy.

Aggrieved, we decided to file a criminal case against Gabi seeking to recover the money we spent in improving his career. I cannot discuss the merits of the case because the case is now pending before the court.

The case was filed more out of a desire to seek justice rather than to recover investments. It is an attempt to correct a wrong done against my family and most especially my mother.

I believe in a God of fairness and justice. I also believe in karma.

Every tear that fell from my mother's eyes will virtually turn into big steel balls that will weigh down on Gabi.

But we are not about to stop helping other young boxers. We believe that in this big world that we live in there are more people with goodness in their hearts, a lot more than people who do not value "Palabra de Honor."

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