Manny celebrates in Manila

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — WORLD Boxing Council (WBC) intercontinental super-featherweight champion Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao yesterday celebrated his latest triumph in the company of thousands of adoring fans who patiently lined up the streets of Metro Manila to get a glimpse — and even a handshake — of the country’s most phenomenal athlete.

A red carpet welcome greeted the 27-year-old fighter from General Santos City upon his arrival from Las Vegas, Nevada, at the NAIA Centennial Terminal 2 aboard Philippine Airlines flight PR 103.

Pacquiao arrived with his wife Jinky and his boxing entourage.

From the airport, the boxing champ and adopted son of Manila proceeded to the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo, Manila, for a thanksgiving mass offered by the Manila Sports Council (MASCO) headed by Ali Atienza.

Manila International Airport Authority head Executive Assistant Robert Uy, airport assistant general manager for security and emergency services Ret. Gen. Angel Atutubo and SPO4 Fidel Geronimo personally supervised the security arrangements to ensure Pacquiao’s passage.

A slight commotion marred Pacquiao’s arrival when angry mediamen started hollering at Ilocos Gov. Chavit Singson, who was with Pacquiao’s party, for allegedly blocking their view.

Pacquiao paid a courtesy call on Mayor Lito Atienza at the Bulwagang Antonio Villegas. The champion was greeted by jubilant government and private employees.

Manila Police District Explosives and Ordnance Division (MPD-EOD) operatives secured the area with the help of bomb-sniffing dogs.

Pacquiao was fresh from a stunning third-round knockout win over proud Mexican champion Erik “El Terrible” Morales at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, last week.

“Nagpapasalamat ako sa walang sawang pagsuporta sa akin ng ating mga kababayan, “ Pacquiao told a big crowd at the Manila City Hall grounds.

Later, Atienza and other leading government officials accompanied Pacquiao to Malacañang for a brief meeting with President Arroyo.

“Para sa ating lahat ang panalo kong ito laban kay Morales,” he added.

Pacquiao, however, refused to comment on reports that he is planning to run for a government position in the May 2007 elections.

Instead, Pacquiao personally thanked Atienza for leading the grand welcome and for planning to build a life-size statue in his honor at the world-famous Baywalk in Roxas Blvd.

“Hindi ko po makakalimutan ang pagpapahalagang ibinibigay ninyo sa akin,” Pacquiao said.

From Malacañang, Pacquiao and company led a motorcade along major streets in Manila where thousands of fans braved the heat to cheer their boxing hero.

In the evening, a bigger celebration was held at the Raja Sulayman in Malate to toast Pacquiao’s latest achievement.

More celebrations are being planned for Pacquiao, including one in his hometown in General Santos City next week.

Pacquiao is reportedly celebrating his 28th birthday on Dec. 17 there simultaneous with the baptism of his daughter Mary Divine Grace and the blessing of his 2,000-plus square meter palatial home worth about P35 million.

His two-month-old daughter Mary Grace, was born when Pacquiao was already in the thick of training in Las Vegas for the final installment of his well-chronicled trilogy with Morales.