If there is a man you can compare to Superman in the Philippines, there is only one possibility: Manny Pacquiao.
The 5-ft. 6½-in (1.69 m) 31-year-old is the only person who can lower the crime rate to zero, clear the horrendous Manila traffic, pack all cinemas and gymnasiums to the rafters, and fill every seat of every restaurant. Literally, every one of the 95 million people in the Philippines stops to watch a Manny Pacquiao fight.
Recently, some believe, he worked his magic to help an endangered US Senator retain his seat. It is said that with the PacMan's endorsement, Nevada Senator Harry Reid, trailing prior to the midterm elections, secured victory by winning the votes of thousands of Filipino-Americans.
Manny Pacquiao, the only man to win eight world boxing titles (after a unanimous 12-round defeat of Antonio Margarito in Dallas Saturday night), has fully come of age. He has amassed great wealth and achieved immortality in the annals of the boxing world. He has fought the best and annihilated them beyond expectations.
In a country where poverty, violence, and corruption burden the national psyche, Pacquiao's rags-to-riches story inspires hope and optimism in every Filipino. In marked contrast to corrupt politicians, the PacMan earned his millions through sweat and blood. His life story resonates strongly with ordinary Filipinos, having attained his dreams in a life's journey marked by difficulties, hunger, and discrimination.
He has not only won fights in the ring, most importantly, he has won fights against hopelessness and complacency to emerge as perhaps the most influential Filipino ever, able to achieve what only a superman can.
Now, that he has cast his hat in the political arena, Pacquiao is primed to fight his greatest fight: to try to help the Philippines fight poverty and guide it to peace and prosperity. This may be an entirely different fight.
Let's get ready to rumble.
Arnel Paciano D. Casanova is Executive Director of the Asia Society Philippines Center