On Monday at Oxford University, boxing legend Manny Pacquiao gave students, members of the Oxford Union debating society, school officials and their guests a glimpse of how hard work and perseverance set him free from the shackle of poverty and allowed him to make his dreams come true.
On Tuesday at Cambridge Union, the second day of his speaking engagements in the United Kingdom, Pacquiao touched the hearts of his audience on how being an athlete, turned his life around — from boxing to government servant.
“I was only 14 years old when I left my hometown in Mindanao so that I can train for it in Manila. My narrative took a turn because of that crucial decision to take a big step away from my comfort zone, “ the only man in the history of boxing to capture 11 world titles in eight weight divisions narrated.
“My victories in the ring pushed me right into center stage and ushered in fame and fortune. Opportunities came knocking at my door, one after the other.”
”But although I have savored the perks of luxury, the wages of poverty are etched in my memory. It is too much, I know, to wish that no one would have to live in poverty anywhere in the world,“ he surmised. “Unfortunately, poverty is a harsh reality we must accept. What I can do though is use my personal struggle to convince others that there is a reason to fight, that giving up should not be an option, and that winning despite the odds can happen.”
Pacquiao assured though that politics will never be his comfort zone. “But public service is my clarion call. My compassion for the plight of my people is what motivated me to enter the world of public service in 2010 as a representative of Sarangani in the Philippine Congress.”
Two terms after, Pacquiao won a seat in the Philippine Senate with over 16 million votes and fighting in a different arena. “As a legislator, I am waging war against modern-day slavery, supporting the cause of my fellow athletes, pushing for better healthcare services, and building more resilient communities.”
One of his dearest advocacies is the welfare of Overseas Filipino Workers, he bared. “The Philippine Statistics Authority reported that the number of Overseas Filipino Workers deployed in 2016 was estimated at 2.2 million. According to reports, there are over 200,000 Overseas Filipino Workers here in the United Kingdom alone.”
Pacquiao has authored bills for their additional protection and to offer genuine economic opportunities for their reintegration in Philippine society. “I filed Senate Bill No. 192 which was already approved on third reading, “An act mandating the Philippine overseas employment administration to publish, disseminate, and update a handbook on the rights and responsibilities of migrant workers.”
“It is a big step toward protecting our Overseas Filipino Workers against a multitude of vulnerabilities such as illegal trafficking, illegal recruitment, contract substitution and the like,” he noted. “I look forward to that day when our Overseas Filipino Workers would no longer have to be exposed to abuses just to earn money for their families back home.”
Pacquiao added he hopes that the day will come when the Philippines will no longer have to export our people as household workers who are treated like slaves; the day when people from all over the world would see and treat the Filipinos with dignity, honor, and respect.
Pacquiao is currently the Chairman of the Senate Committees on Sports, Public Works, and Ethics.
“As an athlete, I become agitated when I do not improve in terms of speed, style, and stamina. I keep pushing myself beyond my limits,“ he said, adding, “I apply the same principles in public service. As a lifelong learner, I must keep improving myself and I must not stop learning. That way, I remain relevant to my people and the world who deserve the best of Manny Pacquiao, inside and outside the ring.”
In closing, Pacquiao advised his listeners: “Have faith, persevere. Find your passion and heed your calling as the Roman poet Horace did: Carpe Diem — seize the day.”
“And above all, FIGHT.