I clearly remember our parish priest’s homily when I was around 15 years old: “The Philippines is exporting our OFWs to different countries. But in the midst of our poverty, do not be worried for there is a grand plan for us…. Filipinos are already all over the world, the time will come when we shall conquer the earth.”
Over the years, I have heard this evangelical message a few times not only from our priest but also from family and friends. It is reflective of how, until today, the Church continues to influence society by promising hope and prosperity in the midst of significant poverty and economic disparity.
Idolizing a hero
Pacquiao is the epitome of a dream we all have: the promise of a better life, the promise of future success, or perhaps the promise of fame and prosperity – one that an average Juan de la Cruz could relate to and fantasize for himself.
But if we peruse it at its very core: why do we revere Manny Pacquiao as if he were a national treasure?
True, boxing is an extremely competitive sport in which the best professionals could average ~60 punches per round and those who prevail become multi-millionaires. This is where Pacquiao secured his world record place in the annals of boxing legends by claiming eight (8) division titles. But what exactly is behind this boxing success that could literally translate to, or be transferable to being able to result to cease-fires, decongest Manila’s traffic and even effectively run a Senate seat?
Searching for an answer requires us to go back further in history…. when the Spaniards landed in South America, little did the locals knew how bleak the future would be for them. Hernán Cortés and Francisco Pizarro were extremely efficient invaders of the Aztec and Inca empires – and within less than a generation, ancient cultures were eradicated and the new rulers were firmly in control.
The same blueprint was used during that same era when Magellan landed in Homonhon, also believed to be where the 1st mass was held in the Philippines. The common denominator between these conquistadors was the propaganda tool utilized to tame the population — religion.
The mantle of Christianity was used to penetrate the cultures and economies that Spain occupied. Had the internet existed back then, Lapu-Lapu and the Indios would have learned how Moctezuma II of the Aztec empire was outmaneuvered by the conquerors with the false promise of peace and prosperity, and would have finished off the rest of Magellan’s crew.
After centuries of rule promising prosperity, the Philippines and South American Catholic countries are still hopelessly ensnared in poverty, inequality and corruption.
A misguided concept of Salvation
Religion continues to be used today not unlike the way the Spaniards managed its subjects: “Bear the sacrifice today for we live in a temporal world, for tomorrow you will be rewarded.”
The path is difficult – but for the time being your faith could be enriched by kissing a statue or your bishop’s ring.
I was in church a few months ago and couldn’t help but wonder in the photo I took below, why the Church still encourages until today kissing the statue of the Santo Niňo after celebrating mass.
The symbolism of this practice gives hope – that the act could somehow help absolve us of our sins, shower us with blessings, and perhaps allow an easier path towards salvation.
The conquerors had a genius of an operation, so much so that almost 500 years later, it is firmly embedded in the nation’s DNA. Filipinos are willing to forget the abuses of the present for a better life after death – one that leaders of both the church and government continue to exploit until today.
Realizing the country’s thirst for hope in the midst of poverty – Pacquiao has presented himself as our future, a potential path to the nation’s salvation….
Pacquiao as the Savior
Nothing could have made Filipinos more ecstatic had Pacquiao demolished Horn july 2 in Brisbane. His win would’ve continued providing hope for millions of impoverished Filipinos. Pacquiao, the nation’s pride, will reinforce the false belief that the country will have a better life shortly thereafter.
A victory would’ve been a tremendous boost to the country’s morale, a respite from the nation’s latest crisis. Yet unfortunately, it would’ve also fortified his place as the Filipinos’ epitome of success, at the minimum guaranteeing his place in the next elections, but perhaps even the vice-presidency or presidency in five years.
This is nothing but boxing: Pacquiao is a sports hero, but a national hero he isn’t.
His future wins will allow the Filipinos to forget its suffering for a while and elevate him further as a statesman that is worthy to lead. His future success will be another opportunity to practice blind reverence as we had over the centuries. Indeed, another Pacquiao win will be a loss for the nation.