Catching up with Manny (Part 2)

Pacquiao with TFLA Editor Cecile Caguingin Ochoa (center) and a family friend Alice Roldan. TFLA Photos

Pacquiao with TFLA Editor Cecile Caguingin Ochoa (center) and a family friend Alice Roldan. TFLA Photos

Fans wait patiently outside the restaurant.

Fans wait patiently outside the restaurant.

By Dante D. Ochoa
TFLA Publisher

Off from a good start at the earlier part of the day, team at 4:30 p.m. sped to Vine Street near Santa Monica Boulevard eager to reach that small strip mall in Hollywood where arguably the best known little boxing gym in the world is located, before Manny Pacquiao who made it famous, winds up his training day at 5 o’clock.

Not that we can get into the gym itself since it’s been closed to the public for obvious reasons – security and the fact that there’s just too many Pacquiao fans not to mention the plain curious or worse, hmm ‘weather spies, enough for the place to burst at its seams if they are all let in.

No, we were following a tip: get into that Thai restaurant at the ground floor of the 2-story edifice and order food and wait for Manny when he comes down to eat after the hard day’s training. Obviously, this ploy is not lost to many because the restaurant was already crowded, filled with people eating and waiting for Manny. But still, coming in from parking, blocks away, I found our restaurant seats are already secured, thanks to our editor Cecile, already smugly drinking coffee in a corner.

First timers at the restaurant, we scrutinized. The interior walls of the restaurant were wallpapered by everything Pacquiao, an expansive record of Manny’s boxing achievements and history, undoubtedly a lore worthy of boxing’s Hall of Fame. A big TV hangs on the wall that will be part of the dining entertainment for Manny.

So we waited in the restaurant probing for leads from presumably hard-core fans and whoever cared to talk to us. Luckily, Philippine Daily Inquirer sports correspondent Aquiles Zonio sat nearby and was amenable to a reporter’s conversation. He was filling us in on many very interesting topics when we got word that we needed to leave because the restaurant will be reserved for Manny and his entourage for dinner. We requested for a few more minutes to wind stuff up. Nat, the restaurant owner relented, but not a minute passed when a stream of people came rushing into the restaurant.

There was this unmistakable sense that Manny has “entered the building” and true enough, Manny, for me the best pound for pound boxer in the world today, emerged from behind the phalanx of Pacquiao advance team wearing a comfortable green gym outfit.

In an instant, a quick handshake between this awestruck fan and the champ as he walked to his seat at a long table flanked by aides, Michael Concz, seated in front of him. It certainly made my day.

Cecile, her friend Alice, and I were seated facing Manny from another table determined to simply observe and enjoy being in the same room with Manny. Soon everyone has settled to dinner routine and we continued with our meals that we had conveniently ordered earlier.

Tina, wife of owner Nat, served the entourage, crispy chicken wings, beef tapa, wonton soup, fried rice and fruit, a staple of the fighter’s dinner “every time he comes in.”

Manny dined quietly and was, throughout, in character with his public persona, soft-spoken and smiling all the time while his entourage amazingly kept up with his demeanor, mostly. Manny exuded this sense of control of himself and his surroundings while seemingly enjoying, knowing that everyone around him was having fun. This Pacquiao mystique is an exceptional sight.

While having dinner, everyone watched a video of Manny, scuba diving, playing golf and some training footages or simply having a good time with family and supporters. He breaks into laughter when reminded of funny moments with his group. Manny then after about an hour, stood up to mark the end of dinner time. It was 6:30 p.m. Manny was very gracious to give us a photo opportunity and then stepped out to a crowd of patiently waiting fans outside the restaurant eager just to have a glimpse of the people’s champion before he got in a waiting black Mercedes Benz.

red line

Leave a Reply