By Ludwig O. Daza

The likes of Manny Pacquiao are akin to Halley’s Comet, appearing only after every 75-76 years, or even more. Our generation is lucky to have witnessed this man’s rise from abject poverty in General Santos City (Gen-San) to boxing stardom and to posh mansion of the plush Beverly Hills. Pacquiao’s feat is unlikely to be duplicated by any aspiring fighter. The next Halley’s Comet is sure to graze our skies in 2061, but the Gensan Comet’s next appearance is highly unlikely.

His journey has been documented in every which way and his exploits has earned him accolades and respect the world over. What he has achieved, an ordinary Filipino can only dreamed of, given the fact that in the Philippines rarely an extremely poor lad gets rich, and in Manny’s case gets filthy rich – by Filipino’s standard. His star billing enabled him to grace the White House and befriend Hollywood stars, something that Filipinos or any nationality for that matter would consider out of this world, just like a comet.

The recent news that Manny’s next address is Beverly Hills is at the same time stupefying and inspiring. Who would have thought that a kid with a fragile frame and who had sparred at the Elorde Gym in Paranaque City with a vagabond friend in tow as his man Friday would later on reside in Beverly Hills?

The glitter and glamor of Beverly Hills are not unknown to the Philippine elite, but to the hoi polloi, Beverly Hills only evokes memories of Eddie Murphy in the flick Beverly Hills Cop – a movie fan couldn’t have missed that one.

I am sure Manny couldn’t have seen that movie as he was just a penniless kid in Gen-san and toiling in the rice-fields. But his desire to better himself allowed him to escape the bondage of soil and try his luck in Metro Manila which eventually led him to Elorde Gym in Paranaque City where he trained. That time, Manny was just 3 jeepney rides away from Marikina, the place where I’m staying. Considering that Manny is kind-hearted, probably my offer to do laundry for him would have been gladly appreciated and that could have led me to loitering in Beverly Hills as part of his coterie. Gosh! I missed that chance.

The meteoric rise of Manny Pacquiao is a topic in any gathering of friends over a bottle of spirits. The musings and the missed chances of being part of Manny’s team always draw guffaws when friends have one drink too many. Yes, who would have thought? If one had a crystal ball, he would have attached himself to Manny like a leech.

While Manny was just starting to make a name in boxing, courtesy of a boxing event popularly known as “Blow by Blow”, which is shown weekly on television, the toast of the Philippine Boxing then was Luisito Espinosa.

As Espinosa’s star faded with strings of defeat, Pacquiao’s comet was streaking and slowly supplanting Espinosa’s star-power in the minds of the boxing fans. Soon enough, Pacquiao became a household name. In every bout, boxing aficionados eagerly await his knock-out punch like it was a delectable dish just about to be served, that whenever he dishes it out the crowd, either watching live or viewing the TV monitor, erupts wildly in unison. Another win for Pacquiao means another daily newspaper front-page for him the next morning. The talk of the town then was Pacquiao might just be the next Espinosa or Rolando Navarrette, or maybe the next Flash Elorde. Little did we know that he would be the Manny Pacquiao of today – the one and only – eclipsing not only Filipino boxing greats but is on the cusp of being the greatest of them all.