December 17 in GenSan is a near-certain day of celebration, in particular for one of the city’s greatest hometown heroes. Manny Pacquiao, legendary boxer, philanthropist, two-term congressman of Sarangani and current Philippine Senator, is already so much more a national (and international) celebrity than local at this point in his life. Still, he always makes it a point to come back home in time to celebrate his turning a year older and wiser. His regular venue may have been even more crowded than the usual; and owing to one very special VIP, amplified security measures made for a momentary traffic nightmare, but that Sunday evening, everything came out swell for Manny, his family and friends and his 2000-something guest list.
As early as noon of Sunday, December 17, increased police presence has put GenSan’s roadways under even closer scrutiny than what was already in place for the holidays. Special attention was placed upon KCC Mall of GenSan, of which its Convention and Events Center served as venue for Manny Pacquiao’s birthday party bash in the past several years. The precautions were absolutely necessary considering that one of his 2,000 guests, and VIP, was none other than President Rodrigo Duterte himself.
Present at the party for Senator Pacquiao’s 39th Birthday was his family: wife Jinkee, their sons and daughters, his mother Dionisia and brothers Bobby and Roel. The celebration proper began with a prayer and worship service for Manny and his family, followed by testimonials for the celebrant by selected guests. Of a very special note was the speech delivered by President Duterte extolling Manny’s long career as a professional boxer inspiring Filipinos, followed by his time in politics. Analysts who have heard the speech after the fact have construed it to be an informal endorsement by Duterte that Manny Pacquiao would make a decent presidential candidate himself in the future.
Following the birthday song greetings where Manny blew out the candles on his multi-tiered cake (with a 39 as its prominent décor), the attendees then had dinner while being serenaded by a selection of celebrity musicians who have all been long friends with Pacquiao. That night’s roll of performers included OPM icons Victor Wood, Freddy Aguilar and Joey Genoroso.
With regards to the implications of President Duterte’s seeming endorsement for Manny’s potential presidential prospects, his brothers Bobby and Roel are of the opinion that Pacquiao might well become a seasoned enough politician to go for it if the people will support him, while Dionisia Pacquiao was for a more cautious “wait and see” approach.
Although a serving Senator, Manny Pacquiao is still an active boxer in spite of his announced retirement in 2016 to run for election. His latest fight was in Brisbane, Australia against Jeff Horn last July, where he lost by unanimous decision. He’s still eager for any new challengers or match-ups.
Photo courtesy of instagram.com/jinkeepacquiao