The world’s pound for pound champion is also Time magazine’s one of the most influential persons alive, according to its recently published annual TIME 100.
The list is a result of an online poll where readers were asked to vote for any living person (or entity) who currently influences the re-shaping of our world, for better or for worse.
Manny Pacquiao shares the distinction with the likes of US President Barack Obama (leaders and revolutionaries), First Lady Michelle Obama (heroes and icons), Twitter guys Biz Stone and Evan Williams (builders and titans), Nouriel Roubini (scientists and thinkers) and Rush Limbaugh (artists and entertainers).
Lennox Lewis, a former heavyweight champion and now boxing commentator for HBO Sports, has this to say about The Pacman:
Manny has connected with the people of his home country, the Philippines, to the point where he’s almost like a god. The people have rallied behind him and feel like they’re a part of him, because they can see his talent, his dedication, his grace and his class. The grip he holds over the Philippines is similar to Nelson Mandela’s influence in South Africa. I can surely see Manny becoming the Philippine President one day.
If leadership is about influence, how come Manny Pacquiao was knocked out by Rep. Darlene Antonino-Custodio in the battle against the congressional seat of General Santos City?
If Manny’s influence is comparable with that of Nelson Mandela, my question is: what is he influencing? what is his cause? what does Manny Pacquiao stand for? is he changing the world, even just our own corner of the world for the better, or for worse? Is he capable of influencing or is he the one being influenced? Is he a leader or is he being…misled?
Obviously, Manny Pacquiao is hell-bent on resuscitating his dismal political career through his People’s Champ Party. Manny Pacquiao wants to be a Congressman. And not everyone is happy about it– from Malacañang to the Senate, to civil society groups to radio commentators and columnists (At Large and Method to Madness) and down to the man on the street.
I don’t find fault in Manny’s desire to run for public office. In his simple mind, he has not achieved anything substantial yet. He may be rich, famous and yes, influential but Manny the Pacman, the icon, the hero wants to do more for his fans, for his countrymen. The man needs an outlet: he is fierce, fast and furious to some extent. He is passionate and energetic. He is a dreamer.
But being a dreamer is not enough. Donald Trump said, “Don’t just think big, we must think expansively”. That I think is Manny Pacquiao’s problem: his own limited blueprint of public service.
Maybe Manny thought that in order for him to serve his country, he has to be in government holding an important position. His exposure to trapos might have given him this wrong idea. Remember, Manny Pacquiao is a young man still, and very impresssionable inspite of his physical prowess. What he sees is what he gets.
Again from Donald Trump: “the fastest way to change is simply to change your environment”. For Pacquiao, that means breaking down the cordon sanitaire that envelopes him.
To return the favor, for making us proud to be Filipinos on those days (and only those days) when Manny Pacquiao rallies in front of our television screen as a symbol of unity, bravery and courage, let us help Manny Pacquiao expand his options. Instead of critizing him for his choices, let us open a whole new world for Manny, avenues where his vision for his country is not compromised by political divide.
This is actually a challenge to our civil society organizations. Rethink your ways of recruiting advocates. Re-evaluate your methods in communicating your advocacies. Reach out, get down and get dirty. Make extraordinary people icons without a cause –no more.
Before the dark side gets them. Before the dark side gets Manny Pacquiao.