Sunday, June 24, 2012

Lapu Lapu and Manny Pacquiao: And Nothing in Between?

I used to be a big fan of professional boxing. I used to follow all the fights, all the fighters, all the weight divisions. I was even a regular subscriber to Ring Magazine. However, I became jaded to the manipulation and corruption that was poisoning the sport. As a result, boxing has slipped way down my list of favorite sports pastimes. If not for Manny Pacquiao coming into his own as a world-class fighter, boxing would have had little interest for me at this stage in my life. Besides, there is always the NFL, the NBA, or Major League Baseball to act as a release from the stress of everyday existence.

Needless to say then that the highway robbery of Pacquiao’s latest voyage of pugilistic confrontation did absolutely nothing to change my lack of appetite for professional boxing. Professional boxing is a poor excuse for playing on people’s desire for sports escapism and for getting them to pay good money to watch it. Pro boxing has had several golden ages, but they are long gone. I imagine that boxing, as we indulge in it today, can barely be distinguished from professional wrestling.

I suppose I am suggesting that a wrong has to be righted, that Pacquiao should have been declared the winner of his fight against Timothy Bradley. That goes without saying for anyone who watched the fight, not including the judges. But there is something else I want to say here about Pacquiao that doesn’t have to do so much with the fight as it has to do with what one well-known Filipino American journalist, Emil Guillermo, said recently on his SFGate blog prior to the Bradley-Pacquiao travesty.

Guillermo wrote something about Pacquiao that was the sort of thing that someone ignorant about Philippine history would come up with. He wrote “Not since Lapu Lapu killed the colonizer Magellan (April 27, 1521) has there ever been a Filipino fighter like Pacquiao.” The thing is, from what I have read of his writings over the years, I have gathered that Emil Guillermo has always been knowledgeable about the Philippines and its history. That’s why his declaration is so mystifying. Guillermo is asserting that between Lapu Lapu and Manny Pacquiao no Filipino fighter can compare in quality, bravery, and determination. Really, Emil?

Ok, let’s give him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe Guillermo was momentarily caught in a hyperbolic state of mind no doubt propelled by his enthusiastic support for the Pacman. I sure hope so, because his statement left a hell of a lot of Filipino fighters out. Guillermo must have used some wrecking ball process of elimination.

When I say “fighters,” I presume Guillermo meant Filipinos who fought and struggled with valor against repression and not solely against adversaries in the boxing ring. That is unless the pre-colonial chieftain Lapu Lapu was himself a prizefighter. Did I miss that in my readings of Philippine history?

I could draw a list of comparisons between Guillermo and a whole bunch of ignoramuses about Philippine history except that it would pain me to do so. Guillermo is as witty and informative as journalists come. But people who don’t know any better will take his colossal historical omission as fact. In other words, bubbleheads on history will read Guillermo’s quote and it will become apparent to them that the Philippines only has two historical individuals who can be legitimately called great “fighters”.

I hasten to remind Guillermo and to enlighten any dullards about history that extraordinary, hardcore Filipino fighters are not mere dots on the horizon of Philippine history that are few and far between Lapu Lapu and Manny Pacquiao. There were plenty of eminent Filipino fighters to go around: the Katipunan; Macario Sakay and his band of insurgents; the resistance against the Japanese in World War Two, Filipino labor unions, opponents of martial law under Ferdinand Marcos; the manifestations of People Power. These folks were every bit the fighters that Lapu Lapu was and that Manny Pacquiao is.

It would take volumes to cover all the great fighters in Filipino history. I’ve got to hand it to Emil Guillermo though. He tried to do it in one sentence by naming a grand total of two who lived five centuries apart. With respect to Emil Guillermo, we’ll chalk up his glaring oversight to Pacquiao-mania.


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