Philippine Christian Culture and Pacquiao

I must note that I am an outsider. Although I have lived in the Philippines almost 9 years, my wise is Fil-Am, as well as my children, I was born in the US, and am not Filipino by ancestry. Because of this, I am a bit removed from some of the emotional turmoil associated with the success and failures of Manny Pacquiao.


It is also true that I am an Evangelical Christian. However, despite the fact that it is my belief, that does not necessarily mean that I share the same attitudes with some other Evangelical Christians here in the Philippines.


English: Rep. Manny Pacquiao at a speaking eng...
English: Rep. Manny Pacquiao at a speaking engagement in Silliman University, Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental, Philippines. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


For those who don’t know (are there some?), Manny Pacquiao is one of the greatest boxers in recent times. He has been a top-ranked boxer in several weight classes. If you want to know more about his record, Websearch him yourself. He spent most of his career as a Roman Catholic and was known for praying and crossing himself in the ring. Recently, he has changed his affiliation to Evangelical Christianity. His mentors in the faith got him to stop crossing himself (while I don’t cross myself… it is not part of my faith culture… I am not sure why some felt he must stop this practice). He also stopped the use of the rosary.


His most recent outings have not been great. His last three bouts have been an unimpressive win, a disputed loss, and a knockout loss. A number of Filipino Catholics have suggested that his loss stems from his change of affiliation (or faith, if you prefer).


Nothing surprising there… but I was surprised at how vociferously Evangelical Christians here have argued that his change of belief had nothing to do with his losses. My guess is that because Evangelical Christianity is a minority belief system in the Philippines, it seems important to be defensive in this area. Yet, it might have had an effect. Pacquiao’s increase in religious activity associated with his change of belief, as well as his greater involvement in politics and celebrity activities, probably did have an effect. It is hard to be at the top of your game when there are many distractions. Additionally, if he believes (deep down) that certain practices or talismans will bring him success, he might perform more poorly without them. That is not to say that these have power inherent to themselves, but they may have power due to the belief (conscious or unconscious) of that power. And… let’s face it… how many deeply committed Evangelical Christians do you know who are topnotch boxers anyway? (I am not a huge boxing fan, but I can think of one, and he is retired.)


However, because Evangelicalism is marginalized in the Philippines, it appears to be important over here to market the faith bringing success (short-term as well as long-term) to those who convert. Living here in Baguio City, there is no real downside to being an Evangelical Christian. But in some parts of the Philippines, there is clear marginalization. Being defensive about Pacquiao is pretty understandable under these circumstances.


What is the correct response for those outside of this clash of religious cultures? Generally, it seems best to leave it alone. I like to attack the misguided presumption that becoming an Evangelical Christian must lead to material blessing and success (one should not abuse and misquote Scripture to try to trick people into converting). But there is still room for thoughtfulness for those who are still trying to come to terms with Manny, Boxing, and Faith.

<And to be fair, I wish Manny Pacquiao all the best. I WAS sad when he lost, and hope his next bout is a win. He seems to honestly be seeking to do good for the Philippines, his faith, and for the world. This is a rare thing in a part of the world where, culturally and historically, power tended to be selfishly used to accumulate more power. Time will tell what God has for Manny, and Manny has for God.>

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