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Manny Pacquiao and the Philippine Flag

Twinkling with Ninfa R. Leonardia

It does seem as if the Olympic Games will be held this year, that  is, some time in the next months, but attendance will be strictly limited to 10,000, or even half of  that number only. One wonders how the gigantic stadium will look with just a sprinkle of spectators. But nobody need worry, because, for sure TV will be there covering every aspect and even sports lovers from other countries will not miss the action because television will accommodate us all.

***

Well, some may say, it is different from being right there, cheering and clapping until your palms are sore and your throat hoarse, but you can do that in front of your TV set, too, can’t you? Just be sure not to pump the backs of your fellow watchers, or the contest may happen in your own home. I remember the times when I was able to watch, actually, the fights of Manny Pacquaio in the U.S. and in one instance, a man, who was probably too excited, slapped the back of another in front of him, who apparently did not even know him.

***

The confrontation made us fearful that a boxing match would take place right in our midst and I was terrified, because I was the only one in the stands, my friends, Mary Ann Barcelona and only delivered me to the stadium as they had no tickets themselves. As for Brother Bing L, the mayor, he was located in a front seat, being the one always asked by Manny to carry the Philippine flag to the ring whenever he had a fight. And that was also how I was also provided a ticket to the fight.

***

But there is a story  about that Philippine Flag. Mayor Bing always brought it home with him after every fight, and if you go to his Office at the Government Center, it is installed right there, and some of his visitors often pose for photos near it! But, I forget if I have mentioned this also, that once, after a fight, also in Las Vegas, he stopped for a minute outside the stadium, and a man grabbed the flag and ran off with it. Of course he did not know that Bing used to be a basketball player and could run faster than him, so he grabbed the flag back. Yes, I believe the man was a Pinoy, too.

***

But Manny Pacquiao, despite his popularity and fame, has remained a very humble and simple person. Once, during his visit to Bacolod, we brought him to Hacienda Balbina in Pontevedra, where Danding Cojuangco was still in residence. I was rather amused to note that both of them seemed shy towards each other, but the ice was broken during dinner and some of those with us at the table cracked jokes and conversation became animated. I recall that Danding (May he rest in peace) was very thankful to Bing for bringing Manny there.

***

Everybody wanted to have a picture with the famous boxing champ, even the kitchen help and he accommodated everyone. And they were all thankful to Eli Tajanlangit who was the one who arranged the party. Well, things are different now, Danding is gone, his family led by his wife, the beauteous former Gretchen Oppen, now reside in Manila, and someone else is running Hacienda Balbina. By the way, one thing I admired in Danding and Gretchen  is that, even if they had acquired Hacienda Balbina, the beautifully managed model for others, they never changed its name “Balbina”, the old matriarch who used to own it.

***

Sorry for reminiscing so much, let’s get back to the present  and find out how the scheduled talk between America’s Joe Biden and Russia’s Vladimir Putin had gone on. So far, I have not yet gotten reports, having to write this column early, to keep our staff from violating curfew. I guess they would be exempted if they explain their working hours, but I believe they can relax better when they end work early. Me, I am probably the earliest to start “working from home” but I’m proud to say, I’ve never missed a column yet.

***

And I appreciate and I’m proud of my staff, who, decimated as they were after  the height of the COVID, are still working on, with as much enthusiasm as ever. How fortunate the DAILY STAR is to have gathered these few young people who apparently were also born with printer’s ink in their blood. May the Good Lord bless them and all of us so we can go on with the mission of the DAILY STAR as He had helped us through so many vicissitudes in its 39th year of existence!*

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