A kING'S WELCOME FOR MANNY - Cebu Circle | Cebu City, Philippines

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Sunday, November 21, 2010


11/21/2010 - Manila—Manny Pacquiao arrived home to a king's welcome yesterday, dapper in a dark suit and striped tie, in his first homecoming as a boxer-politician.
Looking fresh with nary a trace of a bruise or a scratch from his latest triumph, the newly crowned World Boxing Council super welterweight champion looked more like a congressman than a boxer, waving and smiling at an adoring throng of fans.

Pacquiao, the Sarangani representative, arrived at 6:19 a.m. aboard Philippine Airlines Flight 103 from Los Angeles, with his wife Jinkee and the rest of his entourage, including TV journalists.

"This honor belongs not just to me and my family but to all Filipinos in all corners of the world," he said at the lobby of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 2 that was cordoned off for the event.

"I am very happy to be back with my family. Thank you to everyone, to the media and the fans for always supporting me... Now we are in history as the only boxer with eight championship belts in eight weight divisions," he said in Filipino.

Behind him, there was a banner emblazoned with the words: "Welcome Home Manny! 'The fighter of the Decade.' We are proud of you!"

The night before, airport officials debated whether to include "Honorable" before Pacquiao's name to reflect his congressman status. They finally decided they didn't want that to eclipse his achievements in the ring.

But the politician in Pacquiao was ever present. He spent more time discussing his plans for his constituents and answering questions about his political ambitions than actually talking about boxing.

"I am not an ambitious person. Whatever my position is, my focus now is on my being a congressman," he said when asked about reports that he had aspirations of running for the presidency in the future.

"Right now, it's not on my mind. Maybe that's still far away. I will just concentrate on my work as a congressman," the 32-year-old Pacquiao said.

Pacquiao dismissed commentary that he was avoiding African-American fighters, noting that Joshua Clottey was black.

"I would not be called the pound-for-pound king if I avoided anyone," he said.

"I'm ready to face anyone, as long as it's a boxer," he said.

But Pacquiao admitted that he was more comfortable at weights of "145, 147, or 140" pounds.

On Monday, he said he would return to his day job—proposing bills and passing them in the House of Representatives.

Pacquiao said he was working on the construction of a provincial hospital in his district by next year, one of his campaign promises, and pledged to continue efforts to pour projects into Sarangani.

His mother, "Mommy Dionisia”; his sons, Michael and Jemuel; and his daughters, Princess and Queenie were also at the airport with other relatives. Pacquiao was in fine spirits as he hugged and kissed his children.

Princess, 4, unfurled a hand-made card with a design of the Philippine flag and the message: "Welcome back, Daddy. Congratulations. The Best Fighter in the World. I love you. I miss you. Princess Pacquiao."

Last Sunday, Pacquiao pummeled Antonio Margarito and won a lopsided unanimous decision over the taller, heavier Mexican at the Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

With his latest triumph, the boxer earned for himself the distinction of being the only boxer in the world who has won titles in eight different weight classes.

Pacquiao later got a Texas-style welcome at the New World Hotel soon after he arrived at the airport.

Red balloons shaped into giant letters to form the word "Pacman" and a group of dancers performing "Cowboy Dance" greeted Pacquiao and his family outside the hotel.

Confetti rained and balloons fell on him as hotel guests and staff, carrying small Philippine flags, greeted him with loud applause and cheers as they dashed to greet him.

His favorite dishes were prepared for his breakfast, a buffet of Filipino home-cooked dishes like danggit, beef steak, tinolang manok, tapa, and rellenong bangus.

The family stays in what is now called the “Pacquiao Suite.”

It's the same room he uses every time he comes home from a fight and has personalized touches, like a gallery of photos of Pacquio's feats in the boxing and political arena.

The Pacquiao couple's bathrobes, for instance, were embroidered with their names and the number "8."

Unlike in the past, organizers did not include a motorcade in the activities lined up for Pacquiao's homecoming, said Atienza's son, Arnold "Ali" Atienza.

"Wala lang, basta napag-usapan lang na wala na," he said when he was asked about it.

Pacquiao was scheduled to hold a homecoming concert and street party at the SM Mall of Asia grounds in Pasay City Saturday afternoon (Cebu Daily News)

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