Manila Vanilla

What it's like to be a U.S. Fulbright scholar, basketball player, journalist, and the whitest man in Metro Manila.

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Location: Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines

New Yorker by birth, shipped across the globe to the world of malls, shanty-towns, patronage, corruption, basketball and a curious burnt-toast smell that wafts around at dusk

Sunday, March 01, 2009

More Pacman silliness

Writing about Manny Pacquiao time after time feels profoundly unoriginal, but unfortunately the Pacman just keeps doing funny and interesting stuff. He may be the pound-for-pound king of boxing, but even outside the ring the quirks of his personal life stack up against any other celebrity. In fact, although Pacquiao is probably my favorite boxer, I think I might be an even bigger fan of his extracurricular hijinks, which include playing for his Liga Pilipinas basketball team, running for political office and recording monster ballads.

What do you mean Princeton doesn't have a cockfight pit?

Now, we can add framing a Ph.D. to hang next to the Santo Niño in his living room. Last week, Manny Pacquiao, world lightweight champion, became Dr. Emmanuel D. Pacquiao when Southwestern University in Cebu gave him an honorary doctorate in the humanities. This is certainly a little goofy, but not the travesty some bloggers have made it out to be. I don't think awarding Manny an honorary degree that he hasn't come close to earning (in an academic sense, at least) spells doom for Philippine higher education. 

Besides, what other prominent Filipinos receive honorary documents? Politicians, businessmen, taipans and generals, probably, and have they really done more for the country than Pacquiao? Disgraced ex-president Joseph "Erap" Estrada received one from Ateneo. The long "public service" careers of politicians would be more aptly described as "public bilking." Philippine tycoons have to get their hands dirty to make and maintain their fortunes. Shadows of human rights abuses loom over any military man. People from all these sectors have also done good things for the country, but I want to emphasize that the troubles of Philippine society compromise the ethics of any person in a position of power, and we'd be overlooking a very messy, complicated system of moral compromises and lesser evils to just say that they are better people than Pacquiao, a superstar athlete without much formal education. At least Pacman has provided a decade of uplifting beatdowns of Mexican boxers, that have united and delighted the nation. When he gets into congress in 2010, he can complete the circle and become the pound-for-pound king of government graft.

We should also point out that bestowing dubious honorary degrees upon boxers is not a Filipino invention. Here in the United States, Muhammad Ali, George Foreman and, you guessed it, "Iron" Mike Tyson have all received honorary doctorates. Pacquiao will have to work really hard to distinguish himself as the least deserving member of that group. Of course, with the possibility of a long career in politics awaiting him, Pacquiao has a chance to do that! Kayang-kaya mo, Manny! 


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