Baguio City, Philippines â€“ He runs early morning; takes a break to rest in late morning until past noon. In mid-afternoon, he goes to the gym to train. This is typical training schedule for any boxer. But when evening comes, this particular boxer becomes preacher.
â€œDati, magdadasal ako. Kahit paramihan tayo ng dasal sa isang araw, wala na sigurong tatalo sa akin,â€ said boxing champion Manny Pacquaio at his nightly prayer meeting, a practice begun when he started training for his upcoming fight against Timothy Bradley, Jr. â€œNagsisimba ako linggo-linggo. Pero â€˜pag Lunes hanggang Sabado, gumagawa ako ng kasalanan. Akala ko â€˜pag pinagsisihan ko mga kasalanan ko, okay na kay Lord.â€
Preaching in front of a crowd of hundreds at the packed hall in Cooyeesan Hotel, Pacquiao bares all in a candid testimony â€œfor the Lord:â€
â€œDati, lahat na ng kasalanan. Nagsusugal ako, nambababae, magmumura, madaling magalit, nagtatanim ng galit. Kasi hindi ko pa alam kung ano ang dapat. Pero nung nagsimula akong magbasa ng bibliya, nalaman ko mali pala â€˜yung mga â€˜yun. Dun ko lang nalamam kung anoâ€™ng kagustuhan ng ating Maykapal sa langit,â€ Pacquiao admitted, showing photos and graphics in a power point presentation that he personally prepared. â€œKaya nga ako na-late eh. Kasi nag-prepare pa ako,â€ Pacquiao added.
And it was pretty powerful stuff. I have been regularly attending bible studies sessions; talking to Christian friends openly discussing the Lordâ€™s word; and reading the bible quite regularly as well. And even if Iâ€™m still no expert when it comes to these things, I could sense Pacquiaoâ€™s sincerity.
â€œTonight is not about religion. This is about our relationship with God,â€ he said as he continued to spew bible verses and passionately explained what he thought it meant. â€œThe bible is our manual to life. It is the truth. And we need it because there are many lies in the world. Tricky ang devil. Pag wala kang word of God, madali kang madala.â€
People clapped in appreciation of Pacquiaoâ€™s teachings and honest candid witnessing to how the bible changed his way of life. He even quoted 2 Corinthians 5:17 â€“ Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold all things are become new.
â€œNgayon, pag may magandang babae mag-pa-picture, picture na lang. Tapos alis na ako. At hind na din pwede â€˜yung dalawa lang kami. Kailangan may kasama. Kung hindi, baka mailagay sa Internet. Sabihin, hala, bagong babae ni Manny Pacquiao,â€ he joked but people knew it was true. Pacquiaoâ€™s indiscretions with women is no secret to all. It has widely been gossiped about and rumored and exposed. But he adds that itâ€™s all over now. â€œIsa na lang ang queen ko,â€ he commented, looking at wife Jinkee.
For her part, the wife whoâ€™s had to go through so much, in exchange for the money, power and fame that came as her husband became known all over the world as one of the greatest fighters who ever lived, also admitted to changing her life and her lifestyle.
â€œKahit nasa amin na lahat, parang may kulang pa rin. At yung happiness, parang temporary lang. Ngayon masaya ka, mamayang konti hindi na naman,â€ said Jinkee who joins her husband at the nightly prayer meeting, sitting with the choir and lets it all out, raising her hands with gusto, as she sings praise and worship songs to the Lord.
â€œLahat ng ginagawa naming mag-asawa ngayon, para na lang kay Jesus Christ. Mas masaya â€˜pag ganito. Lahat ng ginagawa ko, para sa Kaniya na lang,â€ she shared in an interview before one of the prayer meetings.
She entered the hall looking radiant in a simple bright orange and pink top, paired with jeans. The wife whoâ€™s had to publicly hurdle her husbandâ€™s philandering and other antics was all smiles as she faced the crowd eagerly asking to take a picture with her. â€œNapatawad ko na lahat nang nakasakit sa akin. At pinag-pe-pray ko na sana mapatawad na rin ako ng lahat ng mga nasaktan ko,â€ she added, as she glowed.
When I tweeted about all this, not a few responded with cynicism and ambivalence. And itâ€™s ok to doubt. I had mine, as well. I first heard Pacquiao recite a bible verse at the press conference of his June 9th title defense against Bradley:
â€œBut everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words, you will be condemned,â€ he said, quoting Matthew 12:36-37.
And in the years that I have been covering the Peopleâ€™s Champ, through all the victories, triumphs in and out of the ring, and as he collected one title after the other; never have I been so proud. At the end of the night, he revealed that thereâ€™s nothing more he wants for himself and his family. The only thing he prays for now is for more people to turn to the Lord and start reading their bible.
He conquered boxing; succeeded in politics, dabbled in singing and acting and has been living a full life showered with many blessings that he considers were very â€œworldly.â€ But the boxing champion that earned eight different world title from eight divisions is now working at earning the title that matters the most â€“ champion of the bible.
Catch the full interviews on Kababayan LA, weekdays at 4:30p.m. on KSCITV, channel 18 in Southern California. Previous shows are at www.youtube.com/kababayanla18.