I feel compelled to write about the big hullabaloo surrounding Manny Pacquiao at the moment, not because I am pro- or anti- anything, but because in my opinion, it was caused by a communication problem rather than a mindful intent to denigrate the LGBT community. He was asked about his stand on same-sex marriage – apparently off-the-cuff – and he gave a candid, if somewhat condescending, answer based on his religious beliefs, now strongly fundamental as it were. It was not as if he went to the town square and spoke without provocation.
But first, the usual disclaimer. I have always had gay friends – I even lived with them as a “bedspacer” in the salt mines of Sampaloc, Manila back when I was a college freshman. They were adorable free spirits, each of them talented in their own inconspicuous way. I would watch them put on their fake eyelashes while doing my homework and then gawk at their beautiful transformation. They gave me free haircuts, of course, and engaged me in giggly conversations about, what else, boys. Many years later, to my surprise, one of them got married to a woman and they had a child who became my goddaughter. Thus, I will never be anti-gay because of the pleasant experience I had with them in my teenage years. But, I won’t be pro-gay, either, just because it is the fashionable thing to do. Respect is the operative word.
With that said, Manny Pacquiao is in a sticky situation because of his lack of communication skills, to put it mildly. He may be a preacher now but preaching is different from getting one’s message across to a more diverse audience. I may be wrong – preaching or pontificating becomes mechanical at times due to constant repetitions of the same message not unlike a teacher dishing out the same lessons to a different set of students year in and year out. So when the medium is changed, the message takes on a whole new meaning.
Just because one gets to speak English with a bit of twang does not necessarily make them a good communicator. Content is still king in the world of communication and communication is the key to unlocking the secrets of the universe, in a manner of speaking. Pacquiao may be a different person now in more ways than when he was not yet a multi-billionaire, but there are also things that did not change without stating the obvious. Nevertheless, if one has single-handedly brought honor to the country for more than a decade, one can accept his warts and all.
But can we? Do we? One colossal mistake and he gets thrown the kitchen sink clogged with all sorts of grease and scum. The boxer fondly called Pambansang Kamao is branded a bigot for expressing an opinion and those calling him such don’t realize that they are bigots as well. Look up the true meaning of bigotry and know that it cuts both ways. I strongly dislike your way of life, you strongly dislike mine and we loudly proclaim our mutual dislike – we are both bigots, right?
I am not going to cite the relevant Bible verses from which Pacquiao based his statements since they are all over the Internet anyway, and I am not about to get into arguments about religion with anyone. Suffice it to say that Pacquiao knew the message by heart, he just did not deliver it very well. And since the interview appeared to be freewheeling, he did not have the judiciousness to pause and think and choose his words carefully considering the sensitivity of the subject matter.
As a result, the words he uttered were “abhorrent”, “despicable”, “reprehensible” to people who felt directly or indirectly alluded to. Perhaps, they are but it’s not like we have not heard them spoken that way before. The difference being that it was the Manny Pacquiao speaking, thus it instantly reverberated across the globe. If it were just any Tom, Dick and Harry, would anyone have even given a damn to the whole ball of wax?
Nope. I am not joining the bandwagon going around town reproving Pacquiao and ridiculing his person. I am not condoning, either, his unfortunate choice of words. The man has already apologized, “humbling” himself in front of those he has offended. He was condemning the sin, not the sinner, he said – if that means anything at all to those who refuse to listen. But the hypocrites in our society are more pretentious than Judas. They want him to suffer like Job for calling them “worse than animals”.
Remember what our national hero Jose Rizal said about those who don’t love our “sariling wika”? Mas masahol pa sa hayop at malansang isda. Pacquiao may not be as intellectually gifted as Rizal but the comparison ends there. The former was erudite, the latter is rough along the edges – nonetheless the words are equally hurtful. And as one wise bishop asked from above the cacophony: Were Pacquiao’s words true or not?
Manny Pacquiao, for all his earlier faults (he claims to be a thoroughly changed man), has done more for this country than all the angry and self-righteous voices could ever do in their entire lifetimes combined. Tell us, Vice, what kind of lessons you are imparting to the young in your TV show. Tell us, Boy, what you see when you look at yourself in your invisible mirror. Tell us, Aiza, why we should allow our daughters and nieces to emulate you.
Of course, Floyd, we should let other people lead their own lives. No quarrel with that. In the same way, we should not prevent other people from expressing their own opinion even if it is contrary to ours. Tolerance as a word still exists in the dictionary.
(From Pacquiao’s Facebook, Feb. 13, 2016: I’m so happy giving this houses free to my constituents in Sarangani Province from my own pocket more than thousand families are the beneficiaries. and i’m still building more because i always believe what the bible says; 1 Peter 4:8-10 NIV  Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.  Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.  Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. Thank you Lord for everything even some people are criticizing me but I’m still happy because you live in me. @johnnybantilan @davidsisson @jinkeepacquiao)