Daily Archives: June 25, 2008

Cinderella Men

by Malou Liwanag-Aguilar/AJPress

LOS ANGELES – Pacman. The Flash. Villa. Three men who pushed their limits, and raised the level of the Filipino fighter in the world of boxing.

It’s amazing how determination coupled with discipline can change not only one’s life, but history. In the case of these three men, it is so true. These legends not only share a common factor of being champions, as the similarities go outside the ropes. Their fighting styles, techniques and the intensity of their jabs may be differ from each other, but their passion to pursue greatness links them together as one.

They have overcome the odds – poverty, the matches they lost and the bruises left by their opponents. However, they all continued to perform what they do best, and that is to fight.

Pancho Villa’s brief but brilliant career has gained the respect of his foreign counterparts. He is, after all, touted as the ‘Greatest Asian Fighter.’

Gabriel “Flash” Elorde was the longest reigning world junior lightweight champion – seven years and three months. He also became the first Asian inducted in the New York-based International Boxing Hall of Fame.

Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao is the first Filipino to win three world titles in three different weight divisions (Pacman is a former WBC Flyweight Champion, IBF Super bantamweight and now WBC Super featherweight). On Saturday, he is scheduled to fight David Diaz in Las Vegas. Whatever the outcome may be, win or lose, there is no doubt that Filipinos will always see Pacman as a champion.

Some people may label the sport as “evil” misguided and pious. Others may see it as a cruel and unusual sport. Yes, there is much about boxing that is ugly – the exploitation, the corrupt characters who leach on to the fighters for their own personal gain and the punch-drunk boxers. However, every sport, every game has its dark side. We must always sift through the mud to find gold.

Champion boxer Muhammad Ali once said, “I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.’” For Pac-Man, Flash and Villa, they also probably did – but they already have carved their respective places in history.


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GMA takes Fresno by ‘storm’

FRESNO – Meeting with almost 900 Filipino Americans from Fresno and nearby counties like Stockton, Bakersfield, Modesto and Merced, you can say Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo took Fresno by ‘storm’ – literally. The meeting was the President’s first official activity in her 10-day working visit to the United States.

Held at the Fresno Convention Center last Sunday, June 23, the meeting started with a Mass followed by a short speech and a video conference with the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) and cabinet officials who were in Malacanang early Monday (Manila time).

Reaching out to the community

In her short speech, President Arroyo called on the FilAm community to extend her assistance to victims of typhoon ‘Frank’ (international codename: Fengshen) in the Philippines.

Ngayon may bagyong dumaan sa Pilipinas na aasahan na naman ang lahat ng gustong tumulong,” the President said in her opening statement from Fresno.

“To our FilAm brothers and sisters, for your generosity towards the less fortunate in the Philippines, and for your commitment to enhance development in our motherland, salamat!” she said.

The President also lauded her kababayans in the US for their doing so much without losing their bonds of affection for their motherland and their inherent pride in their Filipino heritage. Every year, FilAms send all forms of assistance to schools, hometowns, provinces and local organizations.

“From medical and dental missions, to educational and internet support, to humanitarian and charitable causes, Filipino Americans are ever ready to help the land of your forefathers,” she said.

She then again appealed for any assistance to the typhoon victims that could be coursed through the various embassies and consulates via disaster-relief donation accounts.

A milestone and a trip down memory lane

The President’s visit to Fresno isn’t her first. In 1999, the then Vice President Arroyo was invited by the Chamber of Commerce as a guest speaker. Titus Versoza, who was with her that time, shared an interesting story about it. “After the event, we all drove to San Francisco, sabi ng Preside nte that time, kami naman ang taya sa dinner.” Of course, there was no way that Versoza would let Arroyo pay for dinner, but he had only $80.00 in his pocket, plus another $20 or $30 of his own money in his pocket so he wasn’t sure that it could cover everything they ordered. Since they also chose a Chinese restaurant which did not accept any credit cards, Versoza prayed that what he had will be enough. Luckily, the bill amounted to just $90.00. “There was even extra cash for tip,” Versoza said.

Arroyo extended her gratitude towards the hospitality given to her by Versoza’s group that time, “We will never forget the generous hospitality in Fresno,” she said that time to Versoza. But what makes this story more interesting is what Versoza said to Arroyo. “Madame Vice President, pagbalik nyo ng Fresno, presidente na kayo,” he said and to this the then Vice President Arroyo humbly replied, “Mahirap mangyari ‘yan.” Nine years later, Versoza’s statement then proved to be true.

Always a working President

In spite of being the US, the President remained in close contact with her office to remain informed of what is happening in the Philippines. Prior to the video conference in Fresno, she had already had a teleconference shortly after arriving in San Francisco last Saturday night. Press Secretary Jesus Dureza said, “The President is very concerned about what is happening,” he said and added, “She has been getting updates and gave specific instructions on what to do about the situation. She is actually personally handling this herself.”

Before meeting with the Filipino community, the President also visited the Community Regional Medical Center (CRMC) in the agricultural city of Fresno.

Bumisita ako ngayon para ipaalam sa inyo na ipinagmamalaki namin ang ating mga medical practitioners dito sa Amerika,” she said.

There are about 2,000 Filipino nurses and medical practitioners gainfully employed at CRMC. In the past seven years, some 5,976 Filipino nurses were deployed to the US to fill up the 130,000 vacancies for nurses and physical therapists, according to Acting Labor Secretary Marianito Roque.


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A friend and ‘F.O.E.’

by Malou Liwanag-Aguilar/AJPress

LOS ANGELES – Aside from representing US presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, candidate for member of the State Assembly (Dist. 32) and former State Senator and Assemblyman Phil Wyman was at the Fresno Convention Center for another reason – friendship.

This friendship of course, is with President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and and First Gentleman Mike Arroyo.  Some would wonder how an American politician would be closely related to the first couple other than for official business, but Wyman’s story is one for the books.
“I met the President because her husband, Mike, and I were classmates,”  said Wyman in an interview with the Asian Journal.  From 1970 to 1971, Wyman was a graduate student at the Ateneo de Manila University Law School.  “I was the only foreign student at that time,” he said and jokingly added, “We even set up our own fraternity – FOE –  Friends of Everybody.”

Wyman has so many memorable experiences with the couple, but he has one that he regards as the most important – the day when he was invited to dinner at the house of the former president, Diosdado Macapagal (and the President’s father), with the former first lady, and the couple.  “My first thought was, ‘What a remarkable family,”  Wyman said.

On politics and stars

Before even going to his political career, Wyman believes that dinner was a factor in his life in public service.  “During that time, I had a wonderful conversation with the President’s father, about life,” Wyman shared and added, “and a background on how to be successful in politics.”  He admits that he was overwhelmed and humbled by the experience,  “I was just a buck sergeant back then, but there I was, having a conversation with the former president of the Philippines.”

Wyman continued on by saying that he saw the Macapagal clan as a “wonderful and nuclear family.”  That time, President Arroyo had a used clothing store for the destitute.  “She was interested in economics, and I knew that she had a future in politics,” he said.

Outside law and politics, Wyman and the First Gentleman were also charter members of the Philippine Astronomical Society.  In fact, he still remembers President Arroyo’s message for her, after getting their family involved in astronomy. “It was the sweetest thing – ‘Tell Phil that I remember that he was the one who taught our kids about stars.”

There was no doubt that Wyman’s affection for the couple goes beyond politics.  At the meeting last Sunday, he proudly showed Asian Journal a cherished possession – a photo of him with the couple during their graduation.  He shared that he not only see the President as a great leader, but also a great friend.  “They’re the best friends I ever have.”


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GMA, Bush talk about vets, terrorism, food & typhoon

by Cynthia de Casto/AJPress

WASHINGTON DC – The White House meeting between President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and US President George W. Bush lasted for about an hour Tuesday morning.

The two presidents covered several important issues during their talk. One of the pressing issues discussed was the passage of the Filipino veterans equity bill.

“I made a strong case for why the Filipino veterans of World War II deserve equity and I’ve asked for the understanding and support of the leaders of America,” Arroyo said after the meeting.  “This is consistent with one major aim of this trip–to help fight for passage of the Filipino veterans equity bill that’s part of a larger bill pending in Congress,” she added.

Another important matter taken up by the two leaders was the fight against terrorism. President Bush praised the Philippine government’s “carrot and stick” approach in dealing with extremist groups. “I congratulated the President (Arroyo) on her strong stance on counterterrorism, more than a strong stance, effective stance on counterterrorism as well as letting out a vision for peace,” Bush said.

Bush also expressed “deep condolences” to the families of those who died in Typhoon Frank. He said the US government was ready to help the Philippines deal with the aftermath of the disaster. He likewise offered to give food aid amid the rising cost of rice in the Philippines.

“We want to help our friends in time of need, and we are happy to do it” Bush told Arroyo.

GMA was accompanied to the White House by Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo, Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro, Jr., Trade Secretary Peter Favila, Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno, Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap, House Deputy Speaker Raul del Mar and Ambassador Marciano Paynor Jr., consul general in San Francisco.


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Overseas Filipinos help typhoon victims

by Cynthia de Castro/AJPress

LOS ANGELES – The Bayanihan spirit is alive and well in various Filipino communities abroad as relief efforts are underway to send aid to the victims of Typhoon Frank/ Fengshen which hit the Philippines recently.

In Bahrain, a Filipino community group set up a helpline and relief fund for families, specially those of workers working there. Among the workers in Bahrain who lost their family homes in the Philippines are Francis Paguntalan, Oliver Huertas, and Eddie Arollado.

Filipinos in Vancouver, meanwhile, have decided to send their aid through churches. In coordination with the Filipino Fellowship Baptist Church, around 125 Filipino community organizations in Canada are being encouraged to send money so victims can buy necessities since sending things will take two months to arrive.

In Hawai, the Filipino Community Center has joined with the Hawaii International Relief Organization and the Aloha Medical Mission to collect at least $30,000 to provide relief for the typhoon’s survivors. Geminiano Arre Jr., the president of Hawaii’s Filipino Community Center, said their priority is to raise money to buy medical supplies.

The Filipino American community is also extending assistance to their kababayans. While on her US trip, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo instructed embassies in the US, Europe and the Middle East and Asia to open disaster relief donation accounts, set up websites, and provide mobile phone numbers where donors could send their assistance through text messaging.


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Manny Talks to the Asian Journal

by Joseph Pimentel/AJPress

LOS ANGELES – As the gentle waves of the Pacific Ocean break across the Santa Monica beach and a smooth calm breeze cools hundreds of onlookers, the Pride of the Philippines Manny Pacquiao stood solemnly along the Mariasol Cocina Mexicana restaurant porch with a horde of media clamoring for his attention.

The 29-year-old speaks slowly and softly. He stands with a sort of innocence about him ignoring his surroundings. The calming and relaxing beach scene is quite a contrasting image to the hectic media onslaught that all converged for Pacquiao. (Not to discredit Pacquiao’s opponent David Diaz, but he’s never experienced this kind of media attention in any of his previous fights.)

His quiet nature is also a discrepancy in Pacquiao’s own life. From the outside, he’s a gentle human being who would always take the time to sign a boxing glove or take a picture with a fan. But inside him is a competitive fire, one that burns and drives Pacquiao to success in the boxing ring.

He knows his spot in boxing history is solidified. Come Saturday, June 28, at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, Pacquiao can further enhance his stranglehold in the below welterweight division in boxing. A win against David Diaz, a formidable opponent, will take Pacquiao’s popularity to greater heights.

The three-time World Division champion (four titles if you count the 126-pound Ring Magazine title), Pacquiao has his eyes set on Diaz’s WBC Lightweight (135-pounds) Title. He would become the first ever Asian and Filipino boxer to accomplish such feat.

Looking at Pacquiao now with a ripped toned body similar to Bruce Lee’s, it’s hard to imagine that he started out as a scrawny 16-year-old strawweight of 106-pounds hailing from General Santos, Philippines.

At the age of 19, Pacquiao captured his first of three titles after knocking out Chatchai Sasakul of Thailand for the WBC Flyweight title. He then went up in weight and won the WBC International Superbantamweight title, and most recently, the WBC Super Featherweight title against Juan Manuel Marquez.

Top Rank President Bob Arum said that Pacquiao’s attempt to move up in weight for the world title should be even more reason why fans should come out and watch this “historic” fight.

“Moving up in weight is hard because nobody does that anymore,” said Top Rank President Bob Arum. “These aren’t Mickey Mouse belts. All four belts will be World Boxing Council belts, which arguably are the most important belts.

“Come Saturday, we’re going to see Manny make possibly history if he beats David Diaz.”

This fight also marks the first time Pacquiao will have the label “pound-4-pound” top boxer. Ring Magazine, the bible of boxing, bestowed the Filipino with the honor after Floyd Mayweather Jr. announced his retirement.

Trainer Freddie Roach said he and Pacquiao would need to prove that moniker.

“To be pound-4-pound the best boxer in the world, we’re going to need to knock Diaz out,” said Roach.

What are Pacquiao’s thoughts about this historic fight? Recently, Pacquiao sat down with the Asian Journal to discuss his fight against Diaz and future in boxing.

Asian Journal: Four world titles in four-weight division. What does that accomplishment mean to you?

MP: It’s a big honor for me to get four title belts in four different divisions. It’s a very big deal. Being the first Asian and Filipino is even a bigger honor because nobody has done it before.

AJ: Everybody is expecting you to win this fight against David Diaz. How do you prevent yourself from underestimating your opponent?

MP: For me, I’m not underestimating him. Everybody thinks this is going to be an easy fight. This is a hard fight. Diaz is a good fighter and better boxer. I’m training hard because this is going to be a tough fight.

AJ: Since you are moving up in weight, do you think you can carry your speed and punching power over to the next division?

MP: Yes. I think I can do that. I’m still fast and the power will still be there. I just need to maintain my conditioning.

AJ: Diaz is a bigger fighter than you. Many boxing experts expect Diaz to attack your body. Are you doing anything to work against that?

MP: I’ve been preparing very hard on my body. (Pacquiao does over 1,000 reps of sit-ups in the morning and the afternoon). Both of my ribs (midsection) feel strong.

AJ: There’s a lot of talk that after this fight with Diaz, you’re going to move up in weight to 140-pounds to fight Ricky Hatton. Are there talks underway with the Hatton camp about a possible fight?

MP: There’s a lot of conversation with Hatton but I don’t pay attention to that. That’s my promoter’s job. Whatever decisions my promoter chooses I’ll do it. [But] We will talk about it (a Hatton fight) after this fight. Right now, I’m concentrating against Diaz.

AJ: Lastly, your friend Oscar De La Hoya recently announced that he is going to retire after his next fight, you’ve heard that Floyd Mayweather Jr. announced his retirement, is there a possibility that you are going to retire early?

MP: I don’t know. It’s hard to tell. As long as I have power in my punch and I can still box, I’ll continue my boxing career.


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