GENERAL SANTOS CITY – Residents here in the village of Labangal were saddened by the defeat of their very own Manny Pacquiao in the presidential election.
The boxing champion-turned-politician spent his childhood years here in this village located just beside Sarangani Bay which is why most folks here have met him in person.
“Malungkot po kami, kasi natalo,” said Macmac de Ocampo.
(We are sad because he lost.)
“Malaki po ang ambag niya dito sa Labangal. Marami siyang natulungan dito. ‘Yung basketball gym, siya nagpatayo dito,” he said while pointing at a court where Pacquiao used to play.
(He contributed greatly to Labangal. He helped a lot of people here. He paid for the construction of the basketball gym.)
He said it used to be a makeshift basketball area until Pacquiao had it constructed into a real basketball court.
Elmer Peñaflor said Pacquiao’s family used to live near that same play area, just beside the house of his uncle Zardo Mejia.
Mejia was Pacquiao’s first boxing coach.
“Tinedyer siya noon. Doon siya angpraktis sa bahay niya, d’yan siya nagboboksing boksing. Sako lang ang punching bag niya,” said Penaflor.
(He was a teenager then. He used to practice at home, he boxed there. His punching bag was a sack.]
Caring for the poor
Florendo Saraga lamented Pacquiao’s defeat because he believes the former boxing champ sincerely cares for the poor.
“Marami siyang pinangako para sa amin. Umaasa kami na sana magkabahay,” he said.
“Namimigay ‘yan ng pera pag dumadating. Matalo manalo siya sa laban, meron kaming natatanggap.”
(He promised us a lot of things. We hoped to have our own house. He gives away money when he comes. Even when he loses a match, we get something from him.)
Lucky Jiokino said he used to play baskeball with Pacquiao before the latter became a global superstar.
“Naglalaro kami dito ni Manny noong 2005 hanggang 2007,” he said.
“Ikinalulungkot talaga namin kasi parang malayo siya sa pagkapanalo sa pagkapresidente. Pero kahit ganun ang nangyari suportado pa rin namin siya.”
(Manny and I used to play here from 2005 to 2007. We are saddened that his numbers are so far from that of the frontrunner. But despite that, we still support him.)
Loss no surprise
Mejia was not surprised by the outcome of the presidential elections.
Pacquiao will place a distant third place behind winning candidate former Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and Vice President Leni Robredo.
“Hindi na rin naman tayo nagulat, kasi sa survey malaki man masyado ang lamang,” said Mejia.
“Nung una, nung ‘di pa lumabas ang survey, umasa rin kami. Pero tinanggap na lang din natin ‘yan sa dulo.”
(We're not surprised, because even the surveys showed he was not a frontrunner. Before the surveys came out, we were still hoping, but we have accepted the results.)
Mejia said that he initially did not favor Pacquiao joining politics because it's a world vastly different from sports.
But if he could advise Pacquiao, he said the senator should tandem with winning Vice Presidential candidate Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio.
“Kung tumakbo si Sara na presidente, pwede siyang magvice-president siya ni Sara,” he said.
(Had Sara Duterte-Carpio run for president. he could have been vice president.)
No matter what the election result was, the people of Labangal vowed to continue supporting their very own hero.
“Ano mang nangyari sa eleksyon, ganun pa rin ang tingin namin sa kanya,” said Jiokino.
(Whatever happens, we still support him.)