rafeboogs's blog

Basketball/Ondoy pictures

I just wanted to share a pair of photographs that caught my eye in recent weeks, as I've watched the Philippines torn apart by typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng. There's not much that hasn't been said about the devastating loss of life and property the storms have caused, and it was particularly distressing for me to see pictures on CNN.com (it's number five in this slideshow) of the street in front of my old house submerged in water that would reach my chest.
Sometimes it's inappropriate to turn my one-track basketball mind onto subjects that are obviously much bigger than the game. I wrestled with that possibility and its associated guilt when I saw these photographs and felt a tinge of happiness at seeing basketball woven into the story of this crisis the same way it has become part of practically every facet of Philippine society. In the top photo, the scene is of grim resolve, people saving those few dear keepsakes that can be saved, while the bottom picture is just plain fun.

Of course, the far more important stories are the crippling effects the storms have had on people's lives, the number of people who've lost their homes and who may be permanently relocated. That alone is a frightening prospect, a disaster lumped on top of a calamity, like finding someone who's been shot and stabbing them through the bullet hole. That's not to say that slums/informal settlements aren't a problem, or that they didn't exacerbate the floods by clogging waterways with shanties, kangkong and solid waste, but the idea of the government overseeing a mandatory relocation of the urban poor is horrifying. And then there's the more positive story of the thousands of volunteers who stepped up to help those hardest hit by the storms. I'm proud that a lot of my friends contributed and continue to give to these efforts.

OK that's a little too strong. I wouldn't call myself a new Wynne Arboleda fan after watching him briefly smother a PBA fan with assorted Hadoukens and Muay Thai knees. But I'm tired of the reflexive condemnation that follows anytime an athlete overreacts and confronts a fan, whether or not the scene becomes as grisly as it did in the Burger King/Gilas game.


Full disclosure. I like professional basketball players. I like them more than the coaches and more than the fans. They are the people who made me fall in love with the game when I was eight years old. They inspired me to become a half-decent player, and even though I was never good enough to go past truly dismal college ball, I still -- by now you can officially call me deluded -- think of myself as an athlete first and fan second. My sympathies run toward the players. I felt bad for Ron Artest when the NBA gave him a season-long suspension after the Detroit brawl. Likewise, I already feel sorry for Wynne Arboleda, because it seems like people are already calling for his head, and he'll be sitting for the rest of the conference at least and I'm guessing longer.

What gets me is that when the dust settles, everyone always points at the player and no one else. Yes, the player is ultimately responsible for his actions, but no one looks at the league, the franchises or the fans that through all the ingredients for a disaster into the pot and turned up the heat.

For starters, step back and look at the history of Philippine basketball. Over the years, fans have always posed a greater threat to players and referees than vice versa. From Yco-Ysmael to Crispa-Meralco to Crispa-Toyota to Ginebra-Tanduay to just plain Ginebra (that would be from the 1960s until about ten years ago), fans felt entitled to express their disapproval with bad calls or dirty play by showering the court with peso coins, spent batteries, Monoblock chairs, water bottles, beer cans and other projectiles. Teams wouldn't enter an arena without enough beach umbrellas to make payong over the entire bench. I've heard that PBA players started covering their heads with towels on the bench because it took the sting out of peso coins. By many accounts, crowd violence over the years was just as bad if not worse in the college ranks, with rivalries like Ateneo-San Beda and Ateneo-La Salle leading to regular parking lot brawls.

The point is that the atmosphere at big-time Philippine basketball games has always been wild and woolly, and I think it's fair to suggest that leagues -- MICAA, PBA, NCAA, UAAP -- have tolerated and even encouraged fan misbehavior. It spiced up games and brought in bigger crowds.

In recent years the PBA has more or less eradicated the air of lawlessness that once predominated in the stands at Araneta or ULTRA, but the legacy is still there. I'd argue that this tradition is especially important in the Philippines, where basketball games have been a place for people to blow off steam and act in ways that would be unthinkable in their everyday lives. Yes, American fans also get drunk at NBA, NFL, and MLB games and do ghastly things, but they don't have martial law in their not-too-distant memories. Outside of the Big Dome, martial law-era PBA crowds were forced to live by the Marcos slogan Sa ika-uunlad ng bayan, disiplina ang kailangan, and if they missed curfew or failed to live up to that standard of "discipline," the consequences could be grave. Inside the Big Dome, on the other hand, they could expect to see Jaworski knee somebody in the gut or Rudy Kutch clobber somebody, an if they were truly lucky a full-scale brawl would break out. They could pepper the referees with peso coins, skirmish with other fans, and scream their lungs out with the filthiest invectives that came to mind.

That release valve was probably a good thing. But these days, with the PBA striving to emulate the NBA's stuffiness and with the Philippines more than 20 years removed from Marcos's repressive dictatorship (OK, I'm aware of the PGMA parallels; let me skirt that issue for now), the power dynamic between players, fans and the league is changing. Some fans still want to blow off steam, primarily by heckling. The players can't be as rugged as they were in the Seventies and Eighties, because this is a modern league now, with "scientific" coaching and professional standards. The league wants the fans to have their fun and the players to remain beatific basketball machines, passionate only about scoring and defense, and impervious to whatever bedlam occurs in the stands. But if the league continues to allow fans to treat players like animals while expecting the athletes the athletes to "take it like a man," every once in a while a player will snap and react in a more primal manner.

That's what happened with Arboleda, and what might have happened last year, if Danny Ildefonso's teammates hadn't restrained him in a similar situation. Which calls into question the league and the arena and security. After the beatdown, BTV courtside reporter Patricia Hizon asked why security didn't try to get between Arboleda and the fan. Araneta security told her they're not allowed to touch the players, while PBA security said they're only responsible for the referees. This is tragically predictable. Anytime something goes wrong in Philippine society, the institutions responsible calmly explain that due to some strange technicality or forces greater than all of us, it wasn't their fault. Recently, we've seen Pangulong Gloria calling the Philippines a victim of global warming in the aftermath of Typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng. Really? Global warming is a new phenomenon? It wasn't around when rains led to the 2006 Southern Leyte landslide? Or when Milenyo hit Manila? Or when Typhoon Reming caused mudslides that buried large swaths of Albay? And those are just the major natural disasters that hit the country while I was living there. In the basketball realm, when the late Sen. Robert Barbers asked government officials why suspected Fil-shams' citizenship papers were being rubber stamped, the Bureau of Immigration pointed to the Department of Foreign Affairs who pointed to the Department of Justice who pointed back to the B of I. The serial passing of the buck is as Philippine as the tinikling. When disaster strikes, it's never the fault of the people who are actually in charge.

So it's Sonny Alvarado's fault that Tanduay and the government fixed his papers, just as all the blame for yesterday's incident will fall on Wynne Arboleda. Everyone will turn a blind eye to the other factors that lit the fuse for his explosion. The bad guys get punished, everyone moves on and nothing gets solved.

Free Donbel (They did!)

Quinito Henson's Sunday column heralding the opening of the PBA's 35th season reads like a fairly rote list of transactions and announcements for the upcoming season. But a close reading reveals some fabulous laugh lines. Since I'm a terrible blogger, let the fact that I'm actually posting something about the new season be an indication of how excited I am. And I'm 8,000 miles away.

Anyway, more than any other line in Quinito's piece, this one killed me. It made me chortle a fine mist of Diet Coke on my keyboard and it broke my heart at the same time:
In the transition, several veterans were left by the wayside. Gone from the PBA are the likes of ... Topex Robinson (reportedly playing in Masbate).
What? A PBA without Topex? I guess after Purefoods re-acquired Paul Artadi, they decided they didn't need two non-shooting midget point guards in their lineup. But it's simply criminal that no one signed Topex as a backup. He was a solid ball pressure/change-the-tempo backup PG, not to mention his nickname is an acne cream! Did James Yap put the kybosh on him because of his well-chronicled love of Vicky Belo facial products? Now where will we find a 5-foot-6 guy to miraculously corral 3-5 rebounds in 15 minutes per game?

But the truly bizarre thing about the Topex line is the mysterious, almost cryptic "playing in Masbate" line. What's he doing there? He's from Olongapo! Is he playing as an import in an Interbarangay tournament in Masbate City? Is he playing as a local? Seriously, he couldn't play for a Liga Pilipinas team? Did he join the rodeo? It's only eight months until an election, I hope he gets out of there before the trigger-happy Masbateños start licking shots.

Topex, I want you back in the PBA where you belong. I remember I saw you the first time I visited a PBA practice, with Red Bull in 2005. You came over and said what's up to me right away. Maybe because you thought I was the new import. But anyway, I appreciated your kindness. I hope somebody brings you back, or that you set new records in bull-riding.

Then there's this line:
Barako and Coca-Cola are the teams with the most veteran recruits. The Bulls picked up Aris Dimaunahan, Chad Alonzo, Gilbert Lao, Aljamal and Donbel Belano.
Hallelujah! Donbel Belano is finally free from the Talk-N-Text reserve list. Let's hope the only man to ever log a quadruple double (points, assists, rebounds, steals) in the MBA still has some game left in his tank. The Phone Pals/Tropang Texters/whatever-the-hell-they-go-by-nows have been hording reserve talent for years, guys like Belano and Jonathan de Guzman who would be a joy to watch on some of the league's low-budget teams. Finally, Belano is free to share his swashbuckling, sidestepping talents with PBA fans again. (Sadly, there's a decent chance he made more money wasting away as a TNT practice dummy.) The last time he got to play consistently was during the 2007 import conference, when Jimmy Alapag left TNT to play for the national team. And Donbel tore it up! He was one toilet-bowl in-and-out miss from pulling a Rudy Distrito (not that kind of Rudy Distrito!) in the last minute of game seven of the Finals that year. If his last-minute shot went down after rattling around the rim, Alaska might have lost. He's playing on Barako Bull with the rest of the blue-light special all-stars, budget-salaried journeymen from every corner of Philippine basketball, not to mention Alex Crisano in all his tattooed, Rodmanesque glory.

One more line, the buried/misleading sports news item of the year. When Henson mentions the upcoming game between Burger King -- the team that made Japeth Aguilar the #1 draft pick in August, only to almost lose him to the Smart Gilas national team, then get him back two days before the season began by basically threatening to permanently blacklist Aguilar from the PBA -- and Smart Gilas. Here's the line:
Fans are expected to come out in droves to witness Aguilar’s transformation from a Smart-Gilas anchor to a Burger King rookie.
That's certainly one way of looking at it. If I were in the country, I'd be hoping to witness BK coach Yeng Guiao plant an elbow in Chris Tiu's neck, then send a band of his henchmen from the Thug Life Bar at SM Pampanga to make parol -- Christmas lanterns -- out of Gilas coach Rajko Toroman's bones.

Have a great season guys. I'd give anything to be there.

Revisiting Rudy Hatfield

Has anyone looked at Rudy Hatfield's Wikipedia entry lately?

About the Man

Rudy retired from Basketball to follow his true passion. Teaching innercity quadrapalegic kids the wonderful sport of dodgeball. He even became a big brother to one of the kids from his dodgeball team (Matt Groundstone). It was with his time with Matt that Rudy decided to learn the Appalachian art of whittling.

"Rudy has really come a long way in his artwork. His unicorns easily sell anywhere from $500-$1500 each" says Sebastian Motiff (A whittling expert who has been seen on the Antique Roadshow in both the US and Canada).

"When I whittle, its like I'm in a whole new world. Its a happy place with flowery meadows and rainbow skies, and rivers made of chocolate, where children dance and laugh and play with gumdrop smiles" said Rudy in his most recent interview.

Rudy has since opened up his on boutique where he sells his unicorns, and has earned the nomiker "The Unicorn Whisperer". It was his wife,Bethany, who first called Rudy 'Unicorn Whisperer' after seeing how whittling those unicorn figures from wood, just seemed to calm the rage inside of Rudy. Bethany has been Rudy's biggest fan, supporting his whittling and aspirations of making it big in the Unicorn art world.

Before the crazy rumor mill cranks up, let me state that I'm fairly positive Rudy "The Unicorn Whisperer" is a hoax. None of the names included in this description appear anywhere else on the Web. It also seems like the kind of joke worthy of Rudy Hatfield's unhinged sense of humor. I wouldn't be surprised if he wrote the whittling myth himself, and if it wasn't him then it's probably a clever fan's homage.

For those who aren't caught up on Rudy Hatfield, he was the PBA's premier rebounder and garbageman for much of this decade. He was so good that I saw opposing coaches devote most of their scouting time to keeping Hatfield off the boards and keeping his energy from spreading to his teammates. Like that other great boardsman, Dennis Rodman, Hatfield had an eccentric side. He left the Philippines in the prime of his career to try out as a professional wrestler and then attend fire department training, because "they’re crazy enough to run into a fire when everyone’s heading out and I get to wear suspenders all day," he wrote in an E-mail to Quinito Henson. "Chicks dig guys in suspenders, if you smell what the Rock is cookin’." To give you an idea of what the H-Bomb was capable of, here's the YouTube video of his immortal post-game speech after Ginebra bagged the 2007 All-Filipino championship. Wherever Rudy Hatfield is, the PBA misses him.


Recycling my comments from FireQuinito

I admit it. I have a problem. I only seem capable of blogging when I've already responded to something at FireQuinito. I have excuses: I'm writing non-stop to finish this book, and will return to blogging in about a month. I hope. Until then, if there's anyone who reads my blog but doesn't read FireQuinito (message to this reader: Baliktad 'yan! You should pay more attention to Jaemark, who actually updates FQ.), here is a comment I posted there about racial prejudices in the Philippines as they relate to basketball and some other things. I was responding also to Howie Severino's blog. My take only scratches the surface, but I'm not expert enough to really get to the bottom of this subject.

It never surprised me that racial attitudes in the Philippines were a bit behind those in the U.S., since the Philippines has a much different racial history. Both countries have their baggage, but the States has to deal with the legacy of slavery, which is where racism against African-Americans comes from. There are relatively so few black immigrants or half-black Filipinos that it's not a surprise that the Philippines hasn't had to come to terms with that kind of racism.

You definitely see it in basketball, where imports are lauded as athletes but viewed with a sharp-edged paternalism, where teams spy on their black American players to make sure they aren't running wild like the O.G. Black Superman, Billy Ray Bates. When imports are in public, people try to touch their hair or ask why it's so curly, ignorant racism that most players graciously ignore. It's like because most Pinoys see relatively few black people, they've never had to update their dated, racist attitudes about them.

It's interesting that Howie Severino framed his blog in terms of Filipino-Americans, because of the generational divide in that group, where many older Fil-Ams exhibit the kind of racism Howie wrote about, but younger Fil-Ams identify with American youth culture, so much of which comes from black trendsetters. Plus, if they play basketball, their idols are black NBA players, and their teammates are probably black, too. I've heard young Fil-Ams say, sometimes with pride and sometimes with annoyance, that they're known as the blackest of the Asians, i.e. they're good at breakdancing, basketball, DJing, etc. It's a generational dichotomy that somebody who's done some real research will have to parse out better than I have here.

2009 PBA Draft thoughts

FireQuinito has published the 2009 PBA draft results. Shame on Inquirer.net and PhilStar.com for not getting it up sooner. I know this story is lost in the bigger news of the week, Cory Aquino's death, and that should be everyone's lead story for a long time, but they should still be able to report on what's happening in the rest of the country.

Anyway, this post is really a comment I left on FireQuinito, and assuming I still have any American readers, let me apologize to them right now: This is going to be a fairly impenetrable read, as it references and doesn't explain mediocre Fil-Swiss centers, the PBA's limit of five Fil-foreign players per team, and 2008 MVP Kelly Williams, brother-in-law, Lamont Charles Waters, who was drafted in the second round by Kelly's team, the Santa Lucia Realtors. It's nice to see guys I played with for a couple years at Reyes, LS Greenhills and Xavier getting a chance in the pros.

Let the confusion begin:

That Burtscher pick has to be the biggest 1st Round sucker punch since Isiah Thomas drafted Renaldo Balkman, and everyone made the "did he think he was drafting Ronaldo Blackmon?" joke. And both picks were made by my respective teams. I spent a lot of time with the Alaska franchise, but I can't pretend to know the thought process here. One trend is becoming clear: If you played for Cebuana Lhuillier under coach Luigi Trillo in 2007, you can sit on Alaska's bench for a while. They drafted Bono and now Burtscher, they've hired Nico Uy and Chris Viardo as practice players, and they took on Ariel Capus as a free agent. Now, all they have to do is pick up Macky Escalona and pluck Don Dulay from RoS, and the cycle will be complete. I don't get it, but there seems to be a trend. And, as Ariel Capus and Ken Bono will probably admit, Alaska is as good a place to ride the pine as any. It's one of the few PBA franchises where Fil-Ams and locals really seem to enjoy being around each other. In fact, although the franchise is known for using their "family" approach to lowball players during contract negotiations, the family vibe does exist at Alaska. Plus, you get to be around Jeff Cariaso, maybe the PBA's classiest player, and Willie Miller, certainly the funniest (although it looks like they could both be gone by next season, and if so, all bets are off). If Poch Juiño stays on in a reserve role, you get another top-10 hilarious guy to pal around with. And as long as Bong Hawkins is on the sidelines, hijinks will ensue. All in all, I imagine Burtscher will have a fine time watching these guys play.

I would have tipped you on Charles Waters if I knew that he was no longer going by Lamont. He's in great shape, and he plays really, really hard. Doesn't have the greatest instincts, but he tries on defense and can be very tough to box out. He's also a good guy who won't mind playing limited minutes. Unless one of the undrafteds ends up killing SLR someday, you can't do much worse than that.

So if TNT is picking up Nic and Kevin White, which Fil-Ams have to go? Ali probably isn't heading back to Coke so soon. Harvey? Would they move Jimmy to make way for Castro? Whoever is on the outs, I imagine they're pissed. Nobody likes to get kicked off that MVP gravy train. Double bonus! Triple bonus! House and lot! Free load!

Idol of the day: Patrick Michels

Three hundred and sixty-four days a year, my idol is Homer Se. But today, I want to honor Pat Michels, my old roommate. His feature story on a truck driver who was injured while doing contract work in Iraq (this does not at all do the story justice; read it!) recently won first place among small circulation weeklies at the national AltWeekly Awards. Congratulations!

Hayden Joe!

This Hayden Kho scandal has got legs! I circulated press accounts of the video (including a download link for the world's sexiest rendition of Careless Whisper) and ensuing brouhaha at Harper's Magazine, and within an hour editors were huddled in an office, laughing their asses off at the playboy-cum-plastic surgeon. One editor sent this out:

There is something so innately hilarious about that video that you don't even
need the backstory to appreciate it. It's like they createda ridiculous Internet
meme of dancing-and-bad-singing and THEN happened to be incredibly famous and
venal just to make the meme supremely awesome, and to make it possible to enjoy
their humiliation even more.

That video definitely has viral potential. Can it break through to computer screens in the U.S.? Time will tell. I've been watching for days and I can't get over how goofy it is. Hayden doing the Alyssa Alano and mumbling his way through the lyrics he doesn't know. Katrina being so maarte that she has to towel down his sweaty chest. Doesn't she know that a glistening chest is SIZZLING HOT! The Senate hearing is also precious, with one of the many choice moments coming towards the end, where Sens. Jinggoy and Bong (Resiklo ng Saudi!) struggle to understand the mechanism that allowed Doc Hayden to transfer video from his camera to his laptop. I hope this story makes it into Harper's Weekly Review next Tuesday. 

Good stuff at FireQuinito

FireQuinito is a very, very impressive Philippine sports blog, and I'm not saying that only because the guy who runs it reads my stuff. The blog's take on Philippine sports is funny and right. And, coming on the heels of my Pacquiao roundup, I'd like to link to FQ's take on a classic Pacquiao post-fight development -- his being named a special intelligence agent by the DOJ -- which I'm kicking myself for not including in my post yesterday. Also, his reference to Anak ng Kumander is classic. MV and FQ may be getting lined up for a terrible movie-reference arms race, as I am determined now to work Katas ng Saudi into this blog by the end of the week. Hail Jinggoy!

Pacquiao Roundup

I love Manny Pacquiao. Readers of my blog, if there are any left, will probably notice that few topics other than the Pacman can drag me out of hibernation and get me to post something new. Pretty much anyone who watches a Pacquiao fight ends up loving him as a boxer -- his hand speed, his punching flurries, the reckless abandon with which he fights, his improvisatory flair -- and you can count me among them. But my absolute favorite time in a Pacquiao fight isn't during the bout itself; it's the fallout over the next month, when Filipino politicians scramble to share a piece of his limelight and when Manny gets a chance to rest and indulge in hobbies like billiards, basketball, videoke and cockfighting.

Representing on fight night.

After the De la Hoya fight, Pacquiao brought to life the classic sports comedy scenario of the boss who puts himself on the court, when he decided to play semi-professional basketball with the team he owns in the Liga Pilipinas. He also accepted an honorary doctorate from Southwestern University in Cebu. After abusing David Diaz last year we got to witness the brief but charming Pacquiao/Kevin Garnett courtship. With June rapidly approaching, let's take a look at the tornado of hyperbole swirling about after Pacquiao's May 2 flattening of Ricky Hatton.

Exhibit A) After Manny's victory, the Philippine department of health asked him to consider remaining in California with his entourage, rather than returning to the Philippines immediately, just in case a member of Pacquiao's posse had contracted swine flu in the States. The Philippines is always proud to be one of the last countries officially hit by pandemics. I remember when I arrived in the country for the first time, in November 2005, the first thing I saw was a giant blue placard that read WELCOME TO THE BIRD FLU-FREE PHILIPPINES! I wouldn't be surprised if the government was mocking up a new version of this poster for swine flu just around the time Manny planned his return, and I can imagine Health Secretary Francisco Duque (BTW, shouldn't his nickname be Frank Dux, like the Canadian-American martial arts champion portrayed by JCVD in the movie Bloodsport?) brooding over the fact that Pacquiao's victory parade, with all that hugging and high-fiving, and how it could ruin his swine flu sign. Pardon me, Franky, but your position here seems slightly myopic, given that 1) the Philippines recently slaughtered 6,000 pigs infected with swine ebola; 2) no one is fooled by the "no recorded cases" of bird/swine flu gag, just like no one believes it when entire provinces report zero crime for an entire year; 3) the country faces public health woes far greater than swine flu.

Exhibit B) Laguna Congressman Edgar San Luis submitted a resolution in the Philippine House of Representatives that would grant Philippine citizenship to Pacquiao's trainer, Freddie Roach. This is a nice gesture; a little silly, but I don't mind the idea of honoring Roach with citizenship. However, since I tend to see events through the prism of Philippine basketball, where Filipino ancestry and citizenship is a very contentious issue, I also have to think of the Fil-foreign players toiling in the Liga and the PBL because no one will pay to fix their papers for the PBA draft. I think of former imports like Norman Black, a PBA hall-of-famer, who chose to spend his life in the Philippines and has played a vital role in the development of basketball in the country. Black still isn't a full-fledged Filipino citizen, although he could probably become one if he called in a few favors. And what about Alex Compton, the Manila-born American citizen who has been beloved by millions of Filipinos since 1998, when he arrived in the country to play in the MBA? Of all the Americans floating around the Philippine basketball world, no one loves the country more than Compton, who has become a fluent, even elegant Tagalog speaker, who stayed in the country even after the MBA folded and it was unclear how he'd be able to make a living. Freddie Roach, merely by helping Pacquiao become such a great fighter, has made a legitimate contribution to Filipinos' lives, but citizenship wouldn't mean as much to him as it would to these other Americans who decided to build entire lives and raise families in the Philippines.

Exhibit C) Manny's money. Pera ni Pacquiao. How much of it does he have? What will he do with all of it? Who gets a piece of it? We've seen the stories about how Manny gives away rice and small wads of cash in General Santos City. My favorite was a Ronnie Nathanielsz piece on how Bob Arum, Pacquiao's promoter, wants to protect Pacquiao's money.
Arum said: "I'm not going to stick that money [fight earnings] in his bank. I am going to sit down with him and Jinkee (Pacquiao's wife) and guys like Lito (Atienza) and Chavit (Singson) whom I respect, and make sure he puts it some place where he can't get his hands on it."
Really? Manny's money will be safe in the hands of a boxing promoter, Lito Atienza and Chavit Singson? It's tough to come up with two slimier trapos (traditional politicians AKA corrupt dynasts) than those two guys. This is like Arum saying, "I want to protect Manny's meat locker, that's why I am turning it over to these two hyenas."

Exhibit D) Finally, the main event -- politics. With national elections now less than a year away, much has been made of Pacquiao's potential in politics. He's openly stated his plans to run for congress again in 2010, and Lennox Lewis is out there writing columns saying that Pacquiao will be president. Most of what has been written is brainless hype. Pacquiao's mass appeal does have a ton of political potential. But it doesn't look like Manny himself is going to be the one who exploits it. Instead, higher-ups like Noli de Castro (ninong to Pacquiao's infant daughter, Queen Elizabeth Pacquiao), power brokers like Singson and Atienza, and even relatively clean, opposition politicians like Sen. Chiz Escudero and Pampanga Gov. Ed Panlilio seem poised to campaign aside Pacquiao and ride his popularity to their own electoral victories. Pacquiao indeed has the fame to come out in the top-12 of a senatorial ballot, and perhaps to challenge for the presidency, but his political advisers (many of whom senators, senatorial candidates, members of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's administration and presidential hopefuls), for reasons that seem steeped in self-interest, seem to be steering him to more modest goals.

The American press has picked up the political angle -- A USA Today story mentioned Pacquiao's plan to run in 2010 -- and they have accepted the fools' explanation of Manny's failed 2007 bid for Congress, when he lost the race for GenSan's seat to Darlene Custodio. As the story goes, Pacquiao lost because voters thought serving in Congress would interfere with his boxing career. They were looking out for him. How sweet. Actually, he lost because he made the mistake of challenging a political dynasty in a local election. This is a correction that really shouldn't need to be made, but Conrado de Quiros set the record straight nicely in an appropriately cynical column in the Philippine Daily Inquirer. Pacquiao lost to Custodio because local elections are still about machinery, and Custodio's family has controlled elections in General Santos for generations. Philippine senators are elected nationally, so having name recognition like Pacquiao's could easily make him a lock for a seat.

Every time Pacquiao fights, the chatter surrounding him becomes a little more unhinged, while at the same time the political side of the story becomes more realistic. Who knows what could happen if he fights and defeats Floyd Mayweather, Jr., at the end of this year.
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