by Quay Evano
He Came. He Played. He Conquered.
In his first visit to Canada, Filipino boxing Superstar Manny "Pacman" Pacquiao arrived in Calgary on Boxing Day and instantly conquered the hearts of thousands of Filipinos and other nationalities eagerly waiting for him for months. His fans swarmed him at the airport, at the basketball court and wherever he went.
Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League
The only eight-division world champion boxer was in town to promote the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League or MPBL, which he founded in August 2017. The basketball games were supposed to be held at the Winsport Arena, but was changed to the Seven Chiefs Sportsplex in Tsuut’ina Nation a few days before his arrival.
Before he became one of the world's greatest boxers, Senator Manny Pacquiao said that he has always been passionate about basketball.
"Love ko talaga ang basketball,” Pacquiao says. “Mali lang ang kontratang napirmahan ko. Akala ko basketball, boxing pala. Kaya naging boxer ako (I really love basketball. I just signed the wrong contract. I thought I was signing up for basketball but it was actually boxing. That's why I became a boxer)."
Pacquiao said he is happy the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League is getting more positive reviews from kababayans.
"Siguro sa dami ng mga trials na pinagdaanan ng Maharlika Pilipinas League, ngayon ang na-achieve namin ay iyung resulta, iyung feedback ng tao, ay lagi nilang pinapanood ang Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League,” the senator says. “Talagang laking pasalamat natin at ang liga ng bawat Pilipino ay nakakapagbigay ng kasiyahan sa ating mga kababayan. Lalo pa itong lalaki at lalago pa lalo ang Maharlika Pilipinas at mabigyan ng chance iyung mga local players natin na makapaglaro at ipakita ang galing nila."
He adds that the league is a venue for young Filipino basketball players to show their talents and skills. "Itong Maharlika Basketball League ay para sa mga Pilipino, kasi maraming magagaling, alam natin pagdating sa basketball ang Pilipino love talaga nila ang basketball,” he says. “Ito ang pagkakataon na mapakita ang galing kasi maraming Pilipino ang mahilig sa basketball, magagaling kaso nga lang hindi napapakita, hindi nakikita ng taong bayan, so itong Maharlika Pilipinas magbibigay ng chance sa kanila para mapakita ang galing nila."
The Boxing Legend
Known as one of the greatest southpaws and for his aggressive power punching combinations in the boxing world, the senator plans to have a match in April 2020. "About boxing, pinaplano kong magkaroon ng fight this April, kasi iyun ang break namin sa senate,” Pacquiao said. “Mahabang break so iyun ang chance ko na hindi maapektuhan ang trabaho ko. (About boxing, I plan to have a fight this April because we have a break in the Senate. It's a long break so it's my chance that my work in the Senate won't be affected)."
It was a dream come true for thousands of Filipinos who have seen the boxing legend only on television for many years. They never thought that the day would come when they would be face-to-face with one of the greatest Filipino athletes. "Ako po ay big basketball fan po and noong narinig kong si Manny Pacquiao po ay pupunta raw po dito ako po ay naging excited kasi po big fan ako ni Manny Pacquiao,” designer Adel San Miguel Angue says. “It's a dream come true na na-meet ko po siya."
For husband and wife Allan and Lerma Oruna, they couldn't believe the senator's humility and generosity. "Sobrang happy at na-overwhelm ako. Sobrang napaka-humble niya, sobrang napakahina ng boses, hindi ko lubos maisip na isang boxer tapos napaka mahinahon magsalita,” says Lerma. “Kaya sobra akong napapaproud sa kanya."
"Para sa akin bilang Pilipino, nakakaproud talaga, kasi mismong si Senator Manny iyung dinadala niya ang mga players niya dito para iyung mga hiindi pa nakakauwi ng Pilipinas, ay makikita mismo dito sa Calgary," Allan adds.
Pacquiao said he plans to bring the Maharlika Basketball League all over the Philippines and to different cities abroad too. "Ang Maharlika Basketball League ay iikot sa buong Pilipinas kung saan man may team na nakasali sa liga and then magkakaroon ng homecourt game, ganoon, hindi lang yan, may mga games din tayo sa ibang bansa iyung kung saan maraming Pilipino na nag invite na mapanaood nla ng live ang MPBL," he says.
During the exhibition match between Team Pacquiao and Calgary Casem on December 27, 2019, Manny Pacquiao achieved a triple double, finishing with 31 points, 11 assists, and 10 rebounds. Team Pacquiao won 116-99 over the Calgary-based team.
On Dec. 28, Senator Pacquiao and the whole MPBL delegation drove to Edmonton to hold their exhibition games in Alberta's capital city.
Special thanks to Ms. Maricar Morales and Claire Aguilar of Wyzmyndz Productions from producing the event.