Pacquiao steps aside for the true Champ

by Dyan Castillejo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 06 2012 12:47 PM | Updated as of Apr 06 2012 08:47 PM

MANILA, Philippines – Core members and volunteers of ABS-CBN Christian Fellowship were still busy setting up for the 7 p.m. March 29 fellowship when I received a phone call at 4:30 pm from our guest speaker. “Malapit na kami diyan sa ABS,” Sarangani Congressman and world boxing champ Manny Pacquiao said.

“Huh? Ang aga niyo,” I answer.

“OK lang,” he said. “Gusto ko i-testing iyong Powerpoint presentation ko.”

In less than 5 minutes, a convoy of 4-5 vehicles pulled up the driveway of the ABS-CBN compound bringing the members of Barangay Pacquiao - Manny dressed in a suit, Jinkee in a gorgeous yellow lace dress, their 4 kids, Jimuel, Michael, Princess and Queenie and their yayas, his security detail, executive assistant Stephanie, and Pastor Jeric Soriano.

A crowd quickly gathers when word of his arrival spread. ABS-CBN employees left their workstations to stare, get a picture or shake the hand of the 8-division boxing champ. Even the kids are greeted with cheers and well-wishes. Manny obliges the fans while slowly working his way to the Dolphy Theater.

Once there, Manny introduced the Pacquiao Word Worship team, led by his wife Jinkee, his staff, security and some friends. All of them are wearing Team Pacquiao T-shirts. The team practice their line-up of praise and worship songs such as Power of Your Love, Here We Are, Shine Jesus Shine, and Walang Hanggang Pasasalamat.

Manny briefly goes through his presentation with Pastor Jeric who has been intensely teaching the Sarangani congressman. He gives Pacquiao the nod – he’s good to go. Before the service, the organizers gather as a group and say a prayer asking for the Holy Spirit to empower the speaker, the musicians and everyone involved.

Packed theatre

The Dolphy Theatre is packed even before the fellowship starts. The worshippers come out and lead the people in worship before I formally introduce the Pacman on stage. He started off by greeting everyone with his big smile.

“Kumain na ba kayo? (Have you eaten?)” he asked, earning a chuckle from the audience.

Manny then encouraged them with a Bible verse. “OK lang. Sabi sa Biblia, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Pacquiao then shared his dream where he heard God speaking to him: “Anak , bakit ka lumayo sa akin? (My child, why have you gone astray?)”

Manny did go astray as his boxing career soared.

“Umiinom, sugal, bar, babae...,” he said

He then added: “That old Manny Pacquiao is gone and the new Manny Pacquiao has come.”

‘I didn’t understand the Bible’

Manny attributes his spiritual awakening and transformation after truly discovering the author and subject of the Bible, Jesus Christ.

He said he repented from his sin, rededicated his life to Jesus and went on a quest to learn as much as he could about his Savior and how to get closer to God.

“When I first read the Bible, I couldn’t understand it. I wanted a bible study in the morning and in the afternoon. I felt my day wasn’t complete if I didn’t read the Bible,” he shares.

Manny moved on to his presentation and for the next 45 minutes, he shared how the Word of God, when read, meditated and followed, turned his life around.

The Pacman shared one Bible verse that made an impact on his life. Joshua 1:8 “Keep this book of the Law always in your lips. Meditate on it day and night so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.”

“The Bible is spiritual food that feeds your Spirit man,” Manny explained.

“The old Manny, when tempting thoughts would come to me, I had no power to say ‘No.’ Now I do,” he added.

Turning point

It was 4 months ago when Manny declared inside the Wild Card Gym in Los Angeles that he wanted to turn his life around. He hasn’t looked back since.

Pastor Rice Brooks in Las Vegas shared to him about the Word of God one week before his fight with Juan Manuel Marquez. Pacquiao fell in love with God, and everyday after, I could see his eyes sparkle whenever he learned a new truth and precept.

He glued himself to the Bible and prayer, and rededicated himself to his family. Round by round, he pounded away at his old habits. Today, Manny walks around with his iPad equipped with Bible apps. He also shares pages of Bible verses he has memorized.

“Marami na akong mga weapon!” he exclaims to everyone who’s listening.

Pastor Jeric Soriano said Manny has carried his discipline in boxing training to his study of the Word of God.

“He is extremely diligent and determined,” he said.

Pacquiao said another one of his favorite Bible verses is Jeremiah 29:11. “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”

He explained: “Dati dasal ako ng dasal. Simba ako every Sunday pero Monday to Saturday lahat ng kalokohan ginagawa ko. Hindi natin maloloko ang Panginoon.”

His wife, Jinkee, was all smiles as she listened to her husband preach for the first time.

“Ang Holy Spirit na kay Manny na talaga. Happy ako at lahat kaming pamilya. Ang saya na talaga,” he said.

Bible studies in his Manila and General Santos City homes are frequent. Pacquiao also likes to listen to an audio bible with portable speakers in his vehicle.

In his sermon, Pacquiao is stretching his arms wide to the audience.

“God loves us so much. That’s why he even died for us.’

“Famous athletes like Jeremy Lin, Tim Tebow and now Manny Pacquiao are all sharing about God. Why me? Because the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ is near.”

Dig deep into the Word

Pacquiao ended his sermon by bowing down in prayer and asking all who want to begin a new life with Jesus to join in.

‘Lord, maraming salamat sa iyong pag-ibig.  Sorry sa lahat ng kasalanan ko. I give my life to you Jesus. The old is gone, the new me has come. Thank you. I love you, God,” he said.

He then joins his group in singing a couple more of his favorite praise and worship songs.

“Diva for the Lord” Dulce belted out a powerful number while Pastor Jesse Dedel prayed over the Pacquiao family, encouraging Manny to press on till the end.

Celebrities and top management attended the fellowship but the night did not belong to them. In the end, even the 8-division world boxing champion stepped aside to give glory to the true champion – the Lord Jesus Christ.

Pacquiao also encouraged Filipinos to dig deep into the Holy Scripture during Holy Week.

“Dig deep and truly have a life changing experience with God by committing to read His Word and obeying it. He has a solution for every situation and nothing is impossible with God,” he said. “Believe! Don’t live in unbelief.”

Pacquiao has said before that he plans to retire soon since he has nothing left to prove inside the ring. Indeed, his boxing conquests may soon come to an end but his new journey of victory in Christ is just beginning.