Pinoy Greats! Filipino Heroes Come Alive, Move Forward
By Winchell Campos
Fri, 02 Sep 2011
LOS ANGELES, CA--Fact: There are about more than a dozen unsung Filipino-Americans working in the White House, some of them directly and constantly in touch with the president of the United States, Barack Obama. Some even have served the last four American presidents.
Another smaller fact: Sometimes, President Obama, himself, refers to his Filipino-American staff members as "Pacquiao," in a light reference to the current and probably the greatest Filipino boxer who ever lived, Emmanuel "Manny" Pacquiao.
Even before Pacquiao became an elected Philippine Congressman, he was THE greatest fighter from the Far East who broke the glass ceiling, one who has slowly carved a name for himself and has become part of mainstream America. They say once you've reached that pinnacle, you know you've made it and you have arrived.
We have lived to see the Pacquiao phenomenon. The man who rose from the ranks, conquered poverty and became a unifying force in sports and society, has galvanized and united a race, once fragmented and tormented by identity crises. Today, second and third generation Filipinos would be seen proudly wearing the tri-colors of the Philippine flag in numerous art forms and social gatherings. In Pacquiao's fights in some of the biggest arenas in the world, they had to sell Philippine flags because there is an obvious market for it.
So when an unfunded team of paddlers defied the odds to win five gold medals in the recently concluded World Dragon Boat championships in Tampa, Florida, they did so with the help of a whole nation. Droves of Pinoys came out to support the team and cheered lustily for the would-be heroes. Some brought in food, others just chipped in by saying "good luck" to a team which almost did not make the trip.
Back home, corporate sponsors cashed in on the opportunity to support the "Pinoy" in a true bayanihan spirit, believing in the goodness, courage and bravery of the Filipino fighting heart.
Pacland, a website that was dedicated to Pacquiao and which is as old as Pacquiao's triumphs, has also become an iconic and multi-awarded website. It is visited by tens of thousands of Filipinos daily worldwide and has become one of the busiest. In fact, it has become a hub and point of reference for every boxing and sports fan, not necessarily Pinoy.
Whether it be the implosion and/or the explosion of ideas and information via the world-wide-web, our successes of today are magnified a hundred-fold. Our forefathers and the people who trail-blazed our paths would have been as big as they are right now. They are as old as America's railways because yes, they helped build these structures from a lost past. But still, we will try to make their legacies alive like the Filipino soldier who defended the country in World War II, unwittingly so that the whole world could survive the onslaught of the enemy out to conquer other worlds. After a lifelong struggle to get recognized for their heroic deeds of saving the world and delaying the advance and timetables of the enemy, finally our "lolos" did not die in vain.
Efren "Bata" Reyes Jr., Francisco "Django" Bustamante, Wesley So, Leah Salonga, Arnel Pineda, Charice Pempengco and a whole bunch were home-bred. The Philippine Azkals--a rabid group of Pinoys and half-Pinoy soccer players--have captured the imagination of a nation still wanting and dreaming to win the World Cup. Under the microscope, the Azkals are a microcosm of the migrant Filipino nation and race, who had to leave the country in search for that pot of gold somewhere else, anywhere around the world. In some sports sense, we still have to win our first gold medal in the Olympics, a dream that has eluded us.
Ten million-strong, these migrant Filipinos have actually kept the Philippine economy afloat like the 7,100 or-so islands that comprise the archipelago. The common joke goes: It all depends whether it be high or low tide.
It is the same tide of nationalism that we are breeding at home and beyond our shores. When Pacquiao fought Marco Antonio Barrera at the AlamoDome in San Antonio, Texas, the crowd ratio was 100 to 1. There were just probably a hundred of us there on that fateful night. Three years ago, during the British invasion of the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, there were 10,000 Brits who competed in an impromptu cheering competition against an equally huge Filipino crowd still in the infancy stages of creating their own songs and cheering beats. Despite the armada of the drum-and-bugle brought in by the Englishmen, in the end, they were silenced by Pacquiao's punches, starting out from the opening bell.
There was an eerie silence once Pacquiao delivered one punch after the other. As combinations fell, the semblances of a Manchester United juggernaut has been toppled in only two rounds, thanks to the persevering spirit of the Filipino, who believed nothing is impossible in this day and age. And as Ricky Hatton fell like a sack, we have remained strong and magnanimous in victory, not gloating over our fallen enemy.
We shall continue to move forward as a nation. Corruption is slowly being nipped in the bud by a relatively new Filipino president, who has lived a whole life seeing and experiencing the ills of previous predecessors, who have milked the country dry and thin.
This is a new day, a fresh start. To the creators and conceptualizers of a great idea that will bring us all towards achieving that dream, however divided, however fragmented by regionalism, religion, beliefs and even TV channels, God Bless Us All.
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Winchell Campos is the official biographer of Manny Pacquiao. He will author "Pacquiao," the ONLY accurate, true and factual life story of boxer and Congressman Emmanuel "Manny" Pacquiao.
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