The Fight We’ve Always Wanted Wasn’t The Fight We Expected

I watched the fight multitasking. I was clutching a pillow, scrolling through Twitter, and hugging my 4-year-old son who got surprised every time the men in the room shouted when Manny landed a punch. Every round was stressful and nerve-wracking. Before the fight, we prayed for Manny Pacquiao to win. We rallied for him in social media. As a nation, we were so pumped up to watch him defeat Floyd Mayweather. But when the fight started, we all knew that it would go down to the wire. And it did!

Image: FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images; ; Photo from Mashable.com

Image: FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images; ; Photo from Mashable.com

The Fight of the Century reached 12 rounds and when it ended I felt blah. See, I can’t even describe it properly. Both fighters fought well but it fell so short that underwhelming is even an understatement in my opinion. This match was so hyped that it raised the expectations so high that Manny and Floyd couldn’t reach it. Here’s why:

We wanted blood and bruises, we got scrape-free faces

Everybody expected a dog fight. Fans of both parties wanted their opponents to be photographed with fifty shades of black and blue. But no, both fighters looked like they just came from a sparring practice. There were no stitches or blood. I’m not a boxing expert but based on what I saw, the flow and dynamics of the fight didn’t dictate such an outcome. One was calculating and the other was trying to catch a slippery opponent. If you have one party dodging a lot, you simply can’t expect a slug fest. And for most of us, it was a major letdown.

Image: Eric Jamison/Associated Press; Photo from Mashable.com

Image: Eric Jamison/Associated Press; ; Photo from Mashable.com

We wanted more punches, we got more hugs

And a million memes to go along with that. As Pacquiao fans, we wanted him to be more aggressive. We wanted Mayweather to stop hugging our hero. But from Manny’s point of view, he punched enough. He was also cautious because he didn’t want to get knocked out. Mayweather is a strategist and for Manny to go all out and attack him would be careless and stupid. So if he said he did his best then let’s take his word for it. I believe Manny knew what he was doing. He is an experienced fighter and a champ. As for the hugs? I can only say the same thing. Money knew what he was doing, it was part of his strategy, and yes, it made him look like Olaf but at the end of the day, he won within the rules of the game.

Image: John Locher/Associated Press; ; Photo from Mashable.com

Image: John Locher/Associated Press; ; Photo from Mashable.com

We wanted Manny to win, we got Money declared as champ

I don’t know with you but when the final bell rang, I only had one thing in mind—Money won, Manny lost. It was a bitter pill to swallow. Sure Floyd danced the night away but he threw and landed more punches. And sometimes that’s all you need to see. Was he the better fighter? That’s for the real experts to decide. From what I saw, he looked scared at some point. His father was even nervous to the point of asking his son, “What’s wrong with you?” But that didn’t stop him from sticking to the plan. Manny did his best to get in but I think he was also trying his best to avoid a counterpunch that will knock the lights out of him. I think he made the most of the openings he saw. Freddie Roach also told him, “Don’t walk right into it.” And he was wise enough not to.

Image: Al Bello/Getty Images; Posted in Mashable.com

Image: Al Bello/Getty Images; ; Photo from Mashable.com

For both fighters it was a balancing act all the way. No one went all in, not in the fans’ standards anyway. It was a battle of who outsmarts who. I’m a Manny Pacquiao fan but I wouldn’t even say that it was a close fight. From a literal stand point, Money was too far most of the time. Too far to be reached, too many hugs, too many elbows, too many dirty plays. But despite all that, I also saw Money landed more punches than Manny. And I’m not a boxing expert; I’m a stay-at-home, full-time wife and mom. I have 20/20 vision and I’m not delusional. It sucks to even say this but Money won because he did what he had to. Not in the way I like it but he found a way to win within the rules and in any game that’s all that matters.

Image: John Locher/Associated Press; Photo from Mashable.com

Image: John Locher/Associated Press; Photo from Mashable.com

Manny looked more careful to me but I’d like to think that he also stuck to his game plan. He didn’t go there careless and brash. He, too, was calculating albeit more aggressive. Maybe he should’ve done more but maybe doing more would’ve gotten him KO’d, too. So I’m with Manny when he said he really did his best but it wasn’t good enough.

The fight we’ve always wanted is over. It didn’t meet our expectations but at least we finally saw it. It reached 12 rounds with both fighters sizing each other up to the very end. It was a good fight but not a great one. It was like a story without a climax but still worth telling. From the moment the bell rang, we had a calculated boxing match. And maybe that’s really all there is when you’re fighting an opponent who wins with that strategy. Hats off to Floyd for remaining undefeated and winning the way he best knew how.

Image: Harry How/Getty Images; Photo from Mashable.com

Image: Harry How/Getty Images; Photo from Mashable.com

And for Manny, you’re still our champion, the pride of the Philippines, the hero that brings our nation together in a way that nobody else can. We’re proud of you. My son even wants to be like you. We’re still not on the same page in terms of a boxing career, though. Haha! But on the character side, yes. 🙂 I know that when you watch the fight again you’ll see that Money won. It may be hard to see that immediately after the fight but I know you’ll come to terms with that. But I am happy that during your post fight prayer service you acknowledged that God’s ways are higher than ours and you have peace of mind. 🙂

Image: Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times; Photo from La Times

Image: Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times; Photo from La Times

This loss is nothing to be ashamed of, you fought a good fight, you made Mayweather think twice, and you escaped some nasty blows. You’ve proven to all of us time and time again how great of a fighter you are. So stand tall, champ! God has already given you the platform to show the world that He can make a world-class fighter out of nothing. And you have shown that last night. A third-world fighter in a first-world country battling a first-world boxer. We couldn’t ask for more. Thank you for fighting for our country and for God’s glory. Thank you for making us proud again. 🙂

Ikaw pa rin ang nag-iisang Pambansang Kamao ng Pilipinas. Mabuhay ka!    

What Typhoon Yolanda Has Taught Me

Typhoon Yolanda has shown me two striking faces of humanity—compassion and indifference. In the midst of tragedy, human compassion shone the brightest, giving light to the hopeless people in Tacloban. I’ve seen the bravery of the people who sacrificed their lives just to save their family. I’ve witnessed the tenacity of the Warays, building their shanties again days after typhoon passed. I’ve watched the proactive response of individual citizens and different organizations in the country to pull together resources for the typhoon victims. And I’ve discovered that we were never alone in this tragedy with the outpouring love and support from various countries all over the world.

Sadly, I’ve also seen the dark side of humanity with indifference ripping the solidarity of Filipinos. I’ve read reports of the NPA sabotaging relief trucks and raping women. I’ve seen politicians use this devastating event to subtly promote their political ambitions in the guise of “providing relief.” I’ve watched how netizens blamed the government, its agencies, and practically everyone in authority, adding more disunity to our already grieving country. I’ve witnessed two high calibre broadcasters create division with their opinions. I’ve heard people judging and castigating the people who looted the groceries without even knowing the whole story. It was a cruel irony to see compassion and indifference existing side by side.

This typhoon has taught me many things and someday I will share these to my baby when he is old enough to understand. I want him to know that events like these make a mark in history not only because of the magnitude of the disaster but also because of the lessons that came along with it.

No Help is Too Small. In disasters like these, every form of help counts. Even if you don’t have money, there are many things you can do for your countrymen. We can pray for them, donate anything we have in excess (clothes, towels, shoes/slippers, blankets, etc.), volunteer in relief operations, leverage social media to disseminate information, and many more. If you have extra money, you can either donate it or buy groceries to be included in relief efforts done by different organizations. The amount you give doesn’t matter. Even Jesus recognized that the woman who gave a penny contributed more than the rich who gave more. She was lauded because she put everything she had to live on (Mark 12:41-44). I was so touched when I saw in the news a street kid who decided to give his alms to typhoon victims. My heart melted when I saw the photo of two American girls selling lemon iced tea for our kababayans. If you give from the bottom of your heart, that’s all that matters.

Do Not Take Anything For Granted. We often neglect the comfortable life we have. The basic things like having a roof over your head and not tarpaulins; lying down on your bed (with pillows and blanket) and not on folded boxes; having electricity (for your multiple gadgets and appliances) and not living in the dark; eating three times a day (with snacks in between) and not scraping under ruins for food; and having your family around (even if they annoy you sometimes) and not hopelessly looking for their lifeless bodies. I’ve shed tears watching those who survived calling out to their family members, begging them to contact them to let them know if they’re still alive. Seeing all these things gave me a new perspective on contentment. I realized that complaining over small things belittles the suffering of other people who practically have none. I’ve learned that we should cultivate a heart of gratitude for all that we have and never take them for granted. We should give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18) because there’s always something to be grateful for.

Photo credit: www.bbc.co.uk

Photo credit: http://www.bbc.co.uk

“Benefit of the Doubt” Makes a Difference. We all have frustrations about how slow the relief is coming to the people in Tacloban and other towns in Eastern Visayas. I believe that these frustrations come from our desire to help our countrymen dying of hunger and typhoon-related injuries. Since most of us are not able to physically go there, we need to give allowance or leeway to the people in authority who are doing their best to help. Unless you’re a logistics expert in disaster coordination then by all means say your piece. Some were wondering where the first line of defense was not realizing that the local authorities in Tacloban were typhoon victims as well. Some of them died while some have lost family members. Some said the municipal government of Tacloban City didn’t prepare but I myself saw an earlier footage of the people already set in evacuation centers. Perhaps they should’ve thought of leaving the city but when “the strongest typhoon in history to make landfall” hits you the first time, no amount of preparation would have sufficed. So give our government some “benefit of the doubt.” Sure they have given us many reasons to doubt their credibility but in a time of need we need to set these things aside and focus on helping our countrymen. It doesn’t mean we’ll forget, it just means we will prioritize a greater need right now. We can all express our opinions and dismay but we should do so with consideration to the people who are actively helping in those areas. We should stop generalizing the government (because there are a few good men left there) and stop polarizing our nation. Instead, we should extend help in whatever form or capacity until this storm is completely over.

Photo credit: www.cnn.com

Photo credit: http://www.cnn.com

Relief and recovery is different. Tacloban may have been getting more food supply but our help shouldn’t end there. Relief efforts are temporary. Recovery programs are the ones that will have a huge impact in rebuilding the lives of the people in Visayas. The trauma brought about by a massive destruction like that can affect a person in ways I could never imagine. The construction of houses along with the restoration of livelihood will take a long time to accomplish. We should not stop praying for them and sending help to them until we really see these areas rise again. Rehabilitation is a long process that these victims would have to go through. We have to be vigilant and united in ensuring that this takes place as soon as possible. The recent news reports have been nothing but silver linings showing how the people in Tacloban are expressing their hope and strength. They created signs on wood and cardboards telling the whole world that they will indeed rise again. Some have started opening their businesses again to jumpstart the city’s economy while some victims have joined in relief efforts to help ensure that everyone gets the aid they need. These pockets of hope are symbols of the resiliency and steadfastness of the Filipino people.

We all have learned a thing or two about this recent calamity. I guess what’s important is that we will use whatever we’ve learned to change things—within ourselves, in our families, and in our communities. It could mean teaching our children about green living. It could mean being mindful of your trash and disposing it properly to prevent flooding. It could mean contributing consistently to a non-profit organization like Red Cross or UNICEF. It’s not about doing something on a global scale. It’s about working within your sphere of influence and allowing its ripples to make a bigger impact as it goes beyond your reach.

The HEAT Experience

If victory is so sweet for a fan half across the globe, how much more for the team who worked so hard to earn that championship ring? I bet it was delish.

I’m no basketball expert. I tend to notice different things in the game if you read my previous blog. I’m an outsider in the world of the NBA perennially confused about who’s who. I don’t know the difference between charging and offensive foul. One thing I know for sure, though. I love this game! I revel every time the Miami Heat wins. I’m still in good spirits when we lose because either the game was close or the opposing team was just great. I enjoy that kind of intense competition.

 

You see, my husband is a die-hard LeBron James fan. He rooted for him when he was still with Cleaveland and remained loyal when he chose to be with Miami. He was the same with Jordan, rooting for him whichever team or sport he played. I know that he’s been praying for 9 years for LeBron to win a championship. He looks at things objectively. He knows what a great athlete he is and he understands why he had to make “the decision” although he would’ve wanted that LeBron did it differently. I actually agree with him on that.

I don’t really get why people hate LeBron so much. In fact, it’s only in basketball that I saw being a “hater” as being part of a cool posse. I think it’s the most pathetic posse to be a part of. It’s like fans in general are afraid to recognize his greatness because they’ll be dubbed as sissies. It’s a “guy thing” to be part of the “hating elite.” Well, I think it’s a “gay” thing (no offense to my gay friends whom I love), a glorified male version of gossip girl filled with backbiting. Being a “hater” became a bandwagon that everyone jumped into without much thought.

For us, we painfully watched the 2011 season go by without a championship. What a dark and dreary experience it was to watch LeBron hesitate to take those shots during the finals against the Dallas Mavericks after watching him carry the Heat in spectacular playoffs series against the Chicago Bulls and the Boston Celtics. It was like watching a clone play the game for him, lost beyond recognition. Then I realized that it’s exactly what happened. He got lost. Lost his identity, his love for the game, and his drive altogether.

When the Miami Heat franchise decided to do that “celebration” I knew they were headed downhill. I remember saying, “Oh no, pride goes before destruction.” When LeBron said the infamous “not one, not two…” statement, it sealed the deal. At the back of my mind I recited a verse I kept close to my heart, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

 

God created a cosmic humble pie and gave each member of the Heat team a mouthful. Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh had extra toppings of injuries. LeBron got half of that holy humble pie complete with a crunchy criticism crust filled with insult flavor. He needed that. The entire team needed that. I felt bad for my husband when they lost but I knew that God’s timing was perfect and losing was part of God’s impeccable time.

A year later and I saw something I never saw before. A change in character. We were excited to have another shot at the ring. I was more excited to see how LeBron would redeem himself. It started with a statement coming from him on how he contemplated, sought help from other people, and went back to the basics–from playing to silence his critics to simply playing because he loves the game.

His demeanor on and off the court changed, too. He was more calm and focused. He stopped tweeting. He tuned out the media. He read before games instead of playing loud hiphop music. He didn’t celebrate and made gestures after making awesome shots. During the final minutes of Game 5, Mario Chalmers was urging the fans to celebrate. LeBron called his attention, shook his head, and told him “not yet.” Very different from last year when he and Wade celebrated prematurely during Game 2 with overacting chest bumps. This time, he just went about his game, leading the Heat one possession at a time. No celebration until they deserved to do so.

God gave grace to the humble, indeed. LeBron James finally won his first championship ring along with regular season and finals MVP awards. He told the media that the best thing that happened to him last year was “losing the finals.” He said he was humbled and he needed that. He acknowledged his mistakes and learned from it.

When I prayed for the Heat to win, I prayed to God to answer it for His glory. I saw that He was glorified because He showed the world that He works in a different scheme. This world applauds the proud and mighty, God doesn’t. That’s why the Heat lost last year. God uplifts the humble. In His economy, the first is last and the last is first. I saw that first hand in the story of the Heat. Their journey to victory was filled with thorns and pain. Was it worth it? They would probably say very much. You can see it in the smile in their faces.

The long bitter road paved the way to forgiveness, humility, and change. Heat President Pat Riley said after the championship revelry, “forgive us for the decision, forgive us for the celebration, forgive us for saying not one, not two.”

I thank God for allowing me to see this team grow. It made the victory more significant because it was won not out of vengeance but out of a humbled team. Last year LeBron tweeted, “The Greater Man upstairs know when it’s my time. Right now isn’t the time.” This year, let me tell you this, LeBron: The Greater Man upstairs knew it was your time to be lifted because you humbled yourself. 

The Heat experience for me is more than just a fan’s journey to winning a championship. It’s an opportunity to witness the character transformation of the player we root for. It’s an opportunity to see God’s principles at work even in the world of sports. It’s an opportunity to watch my team change and mature on and off the court. And oh, what a sweet experience that was. 🙂