MANILA, Philippines - Manny Pacquiao has dropped all his previous plans and commitments in Los Angeles to be with his constituents in Sarangani which was recently hard hit by flashfloods and a tornado.
A magnitude 5.9 earthquake also rocked different areas in Mindanao, including General Santos City, yesterday morning just as Pacquiao was about to board a Philippine Airlines flight to Manila.
He is to arrived at 5:50 a.m. at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) from Los Angeles. (Related story on Page 20)
Pacquiao, a congressman in Sarangani, said he felt the urgent need to come home and be with his people. From Manila, he will fly straight to his province.
He assured the victims help is on its way, and called on them to pray hard.
“Relax lang kayo. Pray and believe in God,” Pacquiao, coming off an unbelievable loss to Timothy Bradley in Las Vegas last June 9, told GMA-7.
Pacquiao has found new faith in God, and said that in just six months reading the Bible he learned much more than what he did through his lifetime.
The day after he took a very controversial loss to Bradley at the MGM Grand, Pacquiao preached before more than a thousand worshipers at the Riviera Convention Center in Vegas.
“I used to pray five times a day and yet I sinned. By reading the Bible, the manual of life, I have learned that praying is not enough,” he said.
While his supporters cried foul over the judges’ decision to give Bradley the victory, Pacquiao has taken it all in stride, urging everyone to “accept it with all their heart.”
“Kailangan yung faith and belief natin hindi lang sa good times (We must keep our faith and belief not only in the good times),” he told the flood victims from his LA mansion.
“Even in bad times it should be the same. Even during storms,” he said.
Pacquiao flew home with his chief adviser Michael Koncz, and left behind his family, including his wife Jinkee and their four children in Los Angeles.
Pacquiao had hoped to enjoy more time with his family, and they had planned a trip to Disneyland. But he said things like this couldn’t wait.
Pacquiao was also scheduled to begin shooting his scenes for Rob Schneider’s Hollywood movie “Brass Knuckles” where he plays the role of a gangster.
The shooting was supposed to last a week, but the disaster in Sarangani has forced the boxer known as “The People’s Champion” to reschedule his shoot.
Pacquiao is also planning to visit Israel, and see for the first time its religious sites.
The military has reported 88 persons missing and more than 700 families displaced after massive flashfloods struck the towns of Glan and Maasim in Sarangani.
The victims are not packed in relief centers and barangay halls in the said towns.
Last December, Pacquiao and his wife flew to Cagayan de Oro, in a private plane owned by Chavit Singson, to distribute relief goods to victims of Tropical Storm Sendong.
“The evacuees were so happy to see Manny. Para silang nabuhayan ng loob. Some of them were almost in tears getting near Manny. They were so happy to see him,” said a member of Pacquiao’s staff.
Late in 2009, as he trained in Baguio City for his fight with Miguel Cotto, Pacquiao used his Sunday off to be with the victims of Typhoon Pepeng in Metro Manila.
It was a very dangerous move because even Baguio and the provinces leading to Manila were still reeling from the effects of the typhoon that left a thousand dead.
But Pacquiao ignored the danger to personally distribute a busload of relief goods.
“You know it’s dangerous, boss,” Koncz reportedly told Pacquiao before they left Baguio in the boxer’s black Hummer and a trail of SUVs and police escorts.
– With report from Rudy Santos - By Abac Cordero