SO JANNELLE! For Pacquiao, a legacy beyond the world titles: ‘To be remembered as a true role model’

pacman and bible

Born-Again ‘Pacman’ has been going around the Philippines preaching the word of God

In Baguio, Pacquiao preaches the Word of God while training for 2012 fight against Timothy Bradley

By Jannelle So

All he aspired for was to be a boxing champion in the Philippines. But after two decades of his reign in the ring, Manny Pacquiao has become known far and wide as a world record-holder, the first and only eight-division world champion with an impressive 10 world titles.

“I never thought that I’m going to be like this,” he said in our recent interview. I sat down with him and his wife Jinkee in a Macau hotel in 2013 as he was preparing to face light welterweight champion Brandon Rios. “My dream is to help my mother and to be the champion in the Philippines. I’m really thankful to God for what he has done in my life. I think God has a purpose in raising me like this. I believe it is to serve as an example and inspiration to others and bring them closer to God.”

There is a constant reference to God whenever Pacquiao speaks. He used to be a devout Catholic, like his mother Dionesia, whose dedication to the traditions of the Church was inspiring to many Filipino faithful. He would attend Mass with his fans before every fight and make the sign of the cross as he enters the ring. There is always a rosary hanging by his neck.

But all that changed when he started reading the Bible more deeply. Along the way, he became a Born-Again Christian. He has on many occasions said he has “accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior.”

This would be the start of many more interjections of biblical verses during interviews. In a press conference for his June 9th 2012 bout against Timothy Bradley, Pacquiao quoted the Gospel of Matthew when asked for his message to nemesis Floyd Mayweather: “But everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment, for every empty word that they have spoken; For by your words you will be acquitted and by your words you will be condemned.”

Three years later, the highly-anticipated Pacquiao-Mayweather match-up is still up in the air. Top Rank CEO Bob Arum has recently announced that Pacquiao has agreed to a 60-40 split, in favor of the undefeated five-division world champion, along with other concessions. Pacquiao has confirmed to reporters that he is now just waiting for Mayweather to sign the contract.

While waiting for Mayweather to budge, Pacquiao has kept busy with pageant judging duties in the Miss Universe in Miami, and traveling, meeting with Prince Harry in London. He has also been promoting a documentary about his life, “Manny,” directed by Filipino American Ryan Moore, which opened in theaters the weekend of January 24th.

Pacquiao believes that through this film that examines his phenomenal career, he can leave behind a legacy that goes beyond his world titles.

“After this boxing career and when I’m gone from this world, I want them to remember me as a true role model to all of them, into real Christianity,” he said.

Pacquiao has stated time and again he has only one hero.

“Jesus is my hero in life. I want to feel what the heart of Jesus is. I believe the Bible says ‘Seek first the kingdom of God and all these things will be added unto you.’ So, that’s my inspiration, the word and thinking about Jesus Christ,” he said.

Politics, according to Pacquiao, is possibly a blessing so he could show the true meaning of service to the people.

“Politics. Dinala rin ako ng Panginoon diyan siguro to show the real …’yung totoong pagseserbisyo sa gobyerno, na may takot sa Panginoon. Importante na may takot ka sa Panginoon, to serve the people. Hindi ‘yung parusahan mo lang ‘yung mga tao. Hindi ‘yan ang number one sa solusyon, although we have the law. May batas tayo, pero importante na maintindihan nila kung ano ang ibig sabihin ng real Christianity. (I think God brought me into politics to show the real meaning of service in government, with fear of the Lord. It’s important that one has fear of the Lord when serving the people. It’s not enough to punish people. That’s not the number one solution, although we have the law. We have laws but it is important that we understand the meaning of real Christianity.)

While he believes his Creator has blessed him with material success, Pacquiao said he also attributes to good old-fashioned hard work and determination his life’s achievements.

“’Pag ako kasi nag-isip, hindi ko nililimitahan ang sarili ko sa kung hanggang saan lang ang kaya ko,” (When I think, I don’t limit my thinking to only the things I can do), he said, adding that he believes the secret to success, aside from faith in God, are the Filipino values of “sipag at tiyaga.”

He pledged to remain humble and be a normal person like everyone else.

“’Yan lang ang kaya kong maipagmalaki. Isa lang akong normal na tao, na katulad ninyo.” (That’s the only thing I can be proud of. I am just a normal person like you.)

In Macau, China, interviewing Manny and Jinkee before the Brandon Rios fight in 2013. The author has covered Pacquiao since his first fight at the Araneta Coliseum in 1999.

In Macau, China, interviewing Manny and Jinkee before the Brandon Rios fight in 2013. The author has covered Pacquiao since his first fight at the Araneta Coliseum in 1999.

Jannelle So is taking a break from 20 years of print and broadcast journalism career that began in the Philippines and continued in the U.S. She is credited for creating, hosting and producing America’s first and only locally-produced daily talk show for Filipinos, that ran for 8 ½ years under her leadership, making it the longest-running Filipino talk show outside of the Philippines. Connect to her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram; or email her at

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