GenSan lays red carpet for Pacquiao

Pacquiao, fresh from his conquest of the previously undefeated Mexican boxer Jorge Solis in San Antonio, Texas last Sunday, arrived at around 8:45 a.m. April 18 on board a Philippine Airlines flight from Manila along with his wife Jinky.

"I've been longing to come home to share my victory to all of you," a beaming Pacquiao said shortly after stepping in at the city airport's VIP lounge where he was met by local officials led by Mayor Pedro Acharon Jr. and Rep. Darlene Antonino-Custodio, Pacquiao’s rival in the congressional race in May.

Cannery workers, tricycle drivers, office employees, housewives, children and even visitors coming from as far as Sultan Kudarat province gathered along the city's main thoroughfares to get a glimpse of a city government-sponsored float carrying the boxing champion.

Confetti later showered as Pacquiao's entourage, which included his wife Jinky and parents Dionisia and Rosalio, passed by the city's business district during the almost two-hour motorcade.

Several supporters of Pacquiao, the congressional candidate, showed up with some campaign materials but they later returned to the sidelines on a cue from the boxing champion himself.   

"This is not about politics. I am here not as a candidate but as your champion," Pacquiao later said in a brief program prepared by the city government at the city's oval plaza gymnasium.

Pacquiao reiterated his gratefulness to the support bestowed on him by local residents and officials saying they helped motivate him more to win his latest fight.

"I know you've been praying hard for this win so I'm giving this back to you," he said.

Pacquiao also took note of the continuing support and recognition given to him by Mayor Acharon and Rep. Custodio despite their political differences.

Custodio, a friend and "number one fan" of Pacquiao, said she would not allow politics to destroy the good relationships that they've both established for many years.

"It's just like we're both applying for the same job. Whatever happens, we will remain as good friends and Manny will still be our boxing champion," she said.    

Acharon, who earlier considered scrapping the usual "hero's welcome" for Pacquiao because of the latter's entry into the political arena, pointed out that he will remain a good friend and mentor of Pacquiao despite their political differences.

"This is all work. There's nothing personal here," added Acharon, who stood as one of Pacquiao's wedding sponsors.

Glenvil Gonzales, assistant city administrator, said they carefully planned the "hero's welcome" to make it non-political and more meaningful.

"We made it a point that only Manny and his family will be standing on the float during the entire motorcade to separate it from politics and I think we successfully accomplished that," he added.