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By Ronnie Nathanielsz

Tue, 08 Jul 2008

Many of us who genuinely care for Filipino ring idol Manny Pacquiao whom we have long considered a national treasure, are elated deep down within us at the perceptible change in this young man in recent months, all for the better.

The Pacquiao of today, his stature greatly enhanced by a superb display of boxing skill and devastating power against a fine young man himself, David Diaz, when Manny - a Filipino and an Asian - became the first to win an unprecedented fourth world title and was elevated to the top of the pound-for-pound list by the prestigious ?Bible of Boxing? Ring Magazine, is noticeably different from the Manny of yesteryear.

Today he has shunned the long hours and late nights, the gambling casinos, the cockpits and the pool halls ? as well as the fun life that caused him problems and his charming wife Jinkee unnecessary pain. The Pacquiao of today has settled into the comfort of a sound family life, loving and caring for his wife and their three children, planning for a secure future and above all remembering God as the Merciful One and the Guiding Light of our often troubled lives.

We have always known Manny from the time he was a 16 year old skinny kid carving a name and a following on the weekly boxing show ?Blow by Blow? which we had the privilege of producing and hosting much of the time on nationwide television, to be kind-hearted and generous, sometimes to a fault.

His birthdays in his old home in General Santos City turned into a spectacle as a veritable sea of humanity ? the poorest among the poor ? filled every available space leading to his home to receive a gift bag with rice, canned goods and noodles which Manny personally handed out to them with a couple of crisp P100 bills. Times were good then, but not as good as they are today, for him.

The result is that his generosity and kindness have correspondingly soared. Beyond that he has come to understand the demands placed on him as a role model for the youth and a hero we can justly be proud of. Of course there have been times when his generosity and forgiving ways have been terribly misplaced. At the risk of incurring the ire of some lets be honest in stating that we are referring to a couple of those who hang around him in Los Angeles, in many ways live off him and sometimes even swindle him. Terribly sad but true.

His forgiving heart apparently overcomes his initial aggravation and perhaps inner disappointment but while we condemn those who do this to Pacquiao we have to concede in the end, that its his money and if he cares to forgive them who do him wrong, that?s his privilege if not, in some strange way, a tribute to his compassion.

Manny Pacquiao has come a very long way from the kid who broke away from the bondage of his childhood poverty to re-write boxing history and more than anything else give our people in their troubled lives something to cheer about and a reason to be proud.

Manny Pacquiao never sold stolen cigarettes on the streets as HBO commentator Jim Lampley erroneously stated in a pre-fight documentary some months ago. But he did steal our hearts with his fists of fury and in recent months, the decency and goodness with which he lives his life.

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