MANILA, Philippines - Eight-division champ Manny Pacquiao came home to a warrior's welcome at the House of Representatives on Monday after becoming the first sitting congressman to win a boxing championship.
In a privilege speech before his fellow lawmakers, the congressman from Sarangani dedicated his triumph over Mexican pugilist Antonio Margarito to all Filipinos worldwide.
"The victory of the Filipino people in Texas, USA last November 14 is a testament that the Filipino race can rise above all odds and be the best in their chosen fields. Ang tagumpay na ito ay tagumpay nating lahat. Nagpapatunay na iba ang lahing Pinoy," he said to rousing applause inside the plenary hall.
Pacquiao credited his Filipino supporters, including congressmen who flew to Nevada to watch the fight, for giving him the strength to overcome a challenger who was taller and heavier than him.
"My championship belt in the 8th weight division, the first in the history of boxing, shall forever cement the Filipino people as the eighth wonder of the world," he added.
Pacquiao was awarded the Congressional Medal of Distinction by his own peers on Monday, which is the second time that he will receive the congressional award. Speaker Feliciano Belmonte said the congressional medal is the highest award that can be bestowed by Congress.
"We are overjoyed and proud that we have a member like Manny paquiao. We want to show that we are proud of him and he has done so much for our country and our people and this is one way that we can show it," he said. Pacquiao first received the award in the 14th Congress when he was not yet congressman.
The People's Champ remarked on how beautiful the medal was before thanking his colleagues for the honor.
"This is probably the warmest welcome I've ever had," he told reporters.
After the ceremony, one congressman asked the Speaker to adjourn the session so that they could go straight to a private victory dinner with Pacquiao.
Boxing takes a backseat
In a press conference before the awarding, Pacquiao said his boxing career will have to take a backseat as he buckles down to work as congressman of Sarangani province.
He said he will also make time for other pet projects of the Aquino administration including being tapped as "poster boy" of the tourism department and a possible adviser in the peace talks with Moro rebels.
"For me, I will concentrate now on public service and will help as poster boy for tourism and peace adviser. Boxing will have to be set aside. Focus on this first. That's time management. I will focus now on public service," he said.
Asked about the controversial tourism logo that was scrapped by President Aquino, Pacquiao joked that it should be changed to "Pacquiao Philippines."
The congressman said he will be endorsing the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) who promised to donate ambulances to his district.
He said he is intent on building a provincial hospital for his constituents as well as livelihood programs and free education for kids in poor families.
I'll retire when I'm 35
Despite taking a breather from the sweet science, the 31-year-old Pacquiao (who turns 32 next month) said he has no plans of hanging up his gloves soon. He added that he could fight for a couple more years and even retire when he turns 35.
He also said he does not want his 2 sons - Jimuel and Michael - to go into boxing. He said he purposely does not put boxing paraphernalia inside his house to discourage them from following his steps.
"I don't want my sons to go into boxing. In my house, there are no boxing equipment like boxing shoes, gloves because I don't want them to be lured into boxing. Boxing is hard. Some people might think it's easy but it's very hard," he said.