Pacquiao: I'm a lifelong learner

By Abac Cordero (The Philippine Star)

MANILA, Philippines – His next fight doesn’t happen until November. So, when Manny Pacquiao came to celebrate the 24th anniversary of The STAR, he did the next best thing: He sang.

He also said he was continuing to learn, not only as a boxer but also as a congressman.

“The call for service was too loud to ignore, and it is very clear. My destiny is to be an excellent professional boxer, and to be a passionate servant and leader. Because of that, I have committed to be lifelong learner,” he said.

Pacquiao’s surprise duet with Gary Valenciano, also known as Mr. Pure Energy, brought the house down yesterday, and the world’s greatest boxer, now a congressman, said he wouldn’t mind doing it again.

“I look forward to being here again next year,” he said in his short, well-applauded speech.

Pacquiao was cheered, almost mobbed, the moment he got off his pearl white Mercedes Benz, clad in a barong, as are most congressmen, and accompanied by his business manager Eric Pineda.

He was brought to an air-conditioned multi-purpose hall where several hundred employees, guests and the paper’s top brass had eagerly waited his arrival as guest of honor.

Pacquiao joined Speaker Sonny Belmonte at the center table. With them were The STAR president and CEO Miguel Belmonte, editor in chief Isaac Belmonte and chief Kevin Belmonte.

Bacolod City Mayor Bing Leonardia came in and joined the table.

Pacquiao grabbed a bite of roast beef and fish fillet as employees kept on sneaking from behind to have their pictures taken with the richest and most popular Filipino athlete ever.

But he didn’t mind. Besides, he’s no stranger with The STAR, which he first visited when he was still struggling to become a champion, and last year when he also graced the anniversary party.

Pacquiao looked surprised when Gary V was introduced to the crowd, and was as amused as everyone else, listening as the great performer a belted a few of his hits.

Then came the duet. And Pacquiao, who loves to sing as much as he loves to box, didn’t disappoint. Together, up on the stage, they sang “Natutulog Ba Ang Diyos?”

It’s one of Pacquiao’s most favorite Tagalog songs, and he didn’t have a hard time catching up with Gary V. They drew the loudest cheers of the day, and people asked for more.

Later on, the boxer delivered his prepared speech.

“Nakabalik na naman ako dito (I’m back),” he opened up, and instantly the crowd chanted his name.

He thanked The STAR for having “your eyes on me” and for making him feel “challenged to be better in everything I do, knowing that I am accountable to you.”

Pacquiao, now hailed as the greatest boxer of all time, said a lot of changes have happened over the last 12 months, and that “the challenges outside the ring
were too strong to overlook.”

He was referring, of course, to his decision to throw his hat into the political ring, and now he’s a congressman in the lone district of Sarangani, his wife’s home province.

Pacman’s was no ordinary speech.

“In the past 12 months, our country has been exposed to various challenges, and The Philippine STAR has been there 24 hours, seven days a week. I learn a lot by reading,” he said.

Now that he’s a congressman, Pacquiao said his days are more hectic, his appointments have more than doubled.

“Pero siyempre, hindi ko puwede kalimutan ang mag-punta dito. Basta Philippine STAR (But of course, I won’t forget coming here. As long as it’s Philippine STAR),” he said.

Once again, he brought the house down.

He didn’t stay long after his speech, because he had to rush to Congress. Profusely, he thanked the newspaper for all its support, and he vowed to live up to expectations.

Just as he left the building, an advance party of PSG (Presidential Security Group) arrived, and started clearing the area, from the street out front to The STAR’s main lobby, for the arrival of another very special guest.

Then President Aquino came. But that’s another story.

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