GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/11 December) — Despite taking a devastating loss last Sunday, a hero’s welcome still awaits boxing sensation and Sarangani Rep. Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquiao when he returns home to this city and nearby Sarangani province later this week.
Michael Bren Evangelio, chief of staff of the Sarangani congressional district office, said the local governments of Sarangani and General Santos have signified to give the eight-division boxing champion a grand homecoming celebration.
“We’re now preparing for this (hero’s welcome) in coordination with the General Santos City government and the provincial government of Sarangani,” he said.
Both local governments had been affording Pacquiao a grand hero’s welcome every time the latter returns home from his fights abroad.
In June, Pacquiao received a rousing welcome from local residents despite also losing his welterweight title fight then in a controversial split decision against American brawler Timothy Bradley.
South Cotabato Rep. Pedro Acharon Jr. said Pacquiao deserves a hero’s welcome from local residents owing to the tremendous honor that he reaped for the area these past years.
He said the former boxing champion’s sixth round knockout from Mexican nemesis Juan Manuel Marquez last Sunday has not even made a dent to his legacy as a people’s champion.
“Manny is still our kababayan (compatriot). In our hearts, he’s still our champion,” Acharon said.
City Mayor Darlene Antonino-Custodio said the city government is preparing a hero’s welcome for the boxing icon despite his shocking loss last Sunday.
Custodio said they’re quite relieved knowing that Pacquiao was alright after falling face down on the canvass with one second left in the sixth round.
“We’ve been praying for Manny to be okay, hoping that whatever impact the blow had, nothing serious would happen to him,” she said.
Custodio, who watched the fight live via pay-per-view at the city gymnasium here, said her first reaction after seeing Pacquiao fall down was: “I hope he’s okay.”
“By then, he was more important for us than the fight itself,” she said.
The mayor said Pacquiao deserves getting a hero’s welcome from the city since “he has already proven so much these past years.”
Pacquiao is expected to return to Manila from Los Angeles, California on Wednesday and will later proceed to this city, where he is scheduled to celebrate his birthday on Dec. 17. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)