LAS VEGAS – A sense of pride has gripped the Filipino community here as well as in the entire United States where nearly 2 million of them reside, as Manny Pacquiao takes on Floyd Mayweather Jr. on Saturday (Sunday morning in Manila) in the richest fight in boxing history.
That a Filipino is part of the spectacle, tipped to gross no less than $400 million, is not lost on the Pinoy immigrants who have finally found a hero with global acceptance.
“I fervently pray and hope that he wins,” said Jam Esguerra, 17, who had joined her family in a sort of pilgrimage trip here from North Carolina with her dad and mom who is suffering from breast cancer.
What if he loses, she was asked.
“We will still cheer for him, you know, Filipino pride.”
A nurse, Sheila Cruz, also came all the way from Detroit to see Pacquiao even if she would not be able to watch the fight because of the sky-high ticket cost.
Every day, hundreds camp out at Pacquiao’s Mandalay Bay hotel where they linger at the elevator exit hoping that the boxing icon would make an appearance, even briefly.
When he does, he is usually surrounded by a phalanx of burly American security guards and is quickly led to his car. When this happens, a collective groan is heard from the waiting throng.
But on the chance that there is an acquaintance among those in the waiting crowd, Pacquiao normally would stop, say hello, and this moment ignites near pandemonium as many in the crowd surges for photos and autographs.
Though Pacquiao can identify himself as a man of the people, celebrities and VIPs somehow get a different and far more special treatment.
For instance, Thursday night, after Pacquiao came from his final training and then proceeded to a bible study at 6:30 p.m. that lasted two hours, his bedtime did not come until much later as many more came to see him.
Among them were Sen. Nancy Binay, Reps. Rufus Rodriguez and Toby Tiangco.
“Manny had wanted to take a rest,” said a Pacquiao aide but he could not refuse the visitors who had come all the way from Manila to talk to him.
Many of the VIPs were there to wish Pacquiao well, but nearly all had come to get a free ticket. Sen. Sonny Angara said so during an interview the other day.
The aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Pacquiao had been given 2,000 tickets by the promoters worth around $10 million and he was free to do whatever he wishes with them.
Asked if he can sell them, the aide said “if Pacquiao wants to sell them, he can.”
But the celebrity and VIP list are too long that selling the tickets, at a huge profit, may have been abandoned.