LAS VEGAS – Cris Esguerra left Wednesday from North Carolina where he has been living for more than a decade and arrived in this city not to gamble or be entertained, but to get a chance to meet Manny Pacquiao.
The plan was to see the fight with his family that included three girls in their teens, but the other plan was personal.
His wife Hazel has breast cancer, undergoing chemotherapy. “She’s there, the woman with no hair,” Esguerra said, pointing to a corner where the woman sat.
And what’s that got to do with Pacquiao? He was asked.
It seems the Esguerra family just wanted Pacquiao to say a few words of encouragement to Hazel and maybe, just maybe, that would make her feel well and give her the strength to continue fighting the disease.
Word has reached the Esguerras that Pacquiao has become a devoted Christian and he may possess miraculous powers.
Pacquiao’s total and seemingly unconditional embrace of his new religion have made people think that he can make the ill well, the depressed joyful. People facing the uncertainty of life are also now seeking his blessings in a desperate attempt to prolong it.
The Esguerras, however, are just some of the countless Filipinos, and foreigners, too, who have been camping near the elevator exit of the Mandalay Bay hotel. From daybreak to late at night, people from everywhere and from all walks of life, gather as though a messiah will soon appear.
Many of them don’t have a chance to watch the fight on Saturday, but the idea of seeing Pacquiao in the flesh before he climbs up the ring against Floyd Mayweather Jr. is good enough for some of them.
“It’s like taking Tylenol, you feel better all over afterward,” said Willie Rizaldo, 43, who came from Saskatchewan in Canada in the hope of just getting a glimpse of the Filipino champion.
There were 20 family members with him from Canada, many slumped in the sofa at the hotel lobby, tired from waiting, but still hopeful.
Rizaldo said there was really no chance to see the fight at the Arena “because the price of the ticket is equivalent to a good part of our savings.”
Lorna Viernes, a nurse, is also hoping against hope for a Pacquiao sighting. She has invested a lot for this trip, having flown from Hawaii two days earlier.
“Please excuse me,” she said, “I have to place a bet for Pacquiao.” Asked what her bet will be, “a 7th round knockout.”
The latest odds for that is 25-1.That means, a $1 bet will give a return of $25.
Some, however, were luckier than others. They get to see Pacquiao nearly every day since the champion arrived here last Monday from Los Angeles.
One of them is Ana Corpus of Los Angeles. “I’m seeing him in a while,” she said
Where? She was asked.
There’s a Bible study session in an hour and he will be there, she said.
“Come join us, the place fills up rather quickly because he will be speaking.”