MANILA, Philippines – I grew up watching Manny Pacquiao fight. This also meant growing up with the myth surrounding the man.
For as long as I can remember, when he gets into the ring, the streets turn empty and crime is stalled. An entire nation roots for the underdog from General Santos. Pacquiao is the People's Champ, the Pambansang Kamao. His victories were ours and his losses were our painful blows.
But the hero has evolved, and so has his story.
This time, in the wake of the pugilist-turned-politician's recent victory against Argentinian Lucas Matthysse, the usual celebration was marred as we asked ourselves a difficult question: can we separate Manny the politician from Manny the boxer?
Over the years we've seen how he has used his fame and fortune in the ring to propel him to a seat in Congress and later, the Senate. His lackluster term as a legislator has been criticized for dismal attendance, a series of disappointing policy positions against reproductive health and anti-discrimination, and a regressive lobby for the death penalty (READ: Death by hanging? Pacquiao jokes, 'Sisipain lang po 'yung upuan').
Yet, despite the evolution of his narrative, there are still those who insist that we can give credit where credit is due and separate the athlete from the public servant.
Is such a distinction even possible?
Is it necessary to separate the two when one leads to the other?
When he dehumanized members of the LGBT community by calling them "mas masahol sa hayop" (worse than animals), who was talking? The politician or the boxer?
Is his bigotry a function of his profession? Would he believe otherwise as a boxer? Or does it speak of who he is and his beliefs as a person?
When he broke his promise to leave boxing to focus on public service, he, in effect, already scrapped that distinction.
When he used his power, renown, and privilege to actively rob us of our rights and our humanity, it is only fair that we refuse this convenient compartmentalization and rob him of the things that put him there in the first place.
No more recognition. No more praise. Enough!
The scars of his bigotry will stay with us long after he hangs up his gloves and the crowd stops chanting his name. For there is no separation to be made when we confront the fact that, yes, talented individuals are capable of monstrous things.
To choose to look at his boxing career over everything else is an act of privilege. That's probably because you've not been told that you did not deserve to live or that you're blinded by the glitz of gold and fame.
Not me. Not many of us who feel this gnawing discomfort as we confront the fact that our poster child for Pinoy Pride is equally capable of sheer incompetence and hatred.
If we wish to dismantle the toxic fragile masculinity that permeates the fabric of our society, we must stop compartmentalizing and making excuses for bigoted machismo.
This isn't the first time we've made excuses for shallow patriarchal displays.
We attempted to brush these off as "Filipino culture."
We've mistaken patriotism for unqualified support for any and all things that our countrymen do, disregarding the fact that patriotism comes with accountability. Without it, patriotism loses its meaning.
Patriotism requires of us self-introspection, asking the hard questions, and confronting calls to become better than who we are.
Pinoy Pride and Filipino culture in its current state is rife with toxic manifestations of machismo and will continue to be so as long as we refuse to acknowledge it exists at the expense of those in the margins.
We do not owe those in power.
We need to demand better of our role models.
In the case of Pacquiao, when his name is up in lights, we see "bigot," not "boxer."
As Filipinos, our biggest fights are out of the ring: the fight for justice, equality, and the fundamental rights of all. Manny Pacquiao is not our champion. – Rappler.com