Dear Kuya Manny: Please retire at 60

‘Sports breathes from hope and to engage in sports is a way to relieve the different forms of stress of life. However, if used the improper way, it can be lethal. A promise of solace can be turned into a nightmare that can haunt the minds of people. That’s exactly what you did, Kuya.’

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Dear Kuya Manny,

In a true Filipino fashion, can I call you ‘Kuya’ since I’ve always seen you as an older brother? How are you? How are the bruises? I hope you’re recovering well.

I learned that you had another bout when my sister’s husband called and inquired about its result while we’re having lunch last Sunday.

“Have you watched the fight?” my sister asked while holding her smartphone. “Who won?”

“What fight?” I responded.

“The Pacquiao fight” she replied. “You don’t know?”

I paused for a moment not just because of cluelessness but also because every little reason why I stopped caring about any news about you all came back to me. The horror you single-handedly inflicted into my consciousness three years ago saw the light of the tunnel again. Piece by piece. Detail by detail. Pound for pound.

May 3, 2015. Sunday. “The Fight of the Century.” It’s you versus Floyd Mayweather Jr. SM Megamall Cinema 3. Pay per view. 2 tickets. I was sitting next to my younger brother Ronnel. The 12-round match has ended. Jimmy Lennon Jr. announced the winner. Cheers were replaced by sighs. Nobody wanted to leave the theater. We were shocked. “Is that it?” the old man sitting across me shouted in exasperation. We waited for the climax of the movie pictured mentally by hundreds of millions of fans all over the world: Mayweather, the nemesis – blank-faced, defeated on the canvas after being hit by you in a barrage of uppercuts and right hooks. It never happened.

No, it’s not that we lost that made it unforgettable. It’s the difficult truth hidden behind the curtain that consumed me. You made me despise boxing. The sport died for me on that day.

During a post-fight interview, you revealed that you had entered that fight with a pre-existing shoulder injury and then further injured that area during the fourth round of the contest. When I heard this, my heart wanted to explode. I couldn’t believe it. It felt like I have been deceived with my two eyes wide open by you, the same man who had told in his pre-fight interview: “Don’t get nervous… I’m the one fighting, so relax.”

I watched every possible discussion that one can view online because of the hype everyone has poured for that momentous event. Boxing greats, analysts, and even superstars from other sports became involved and gave their take on who would emerge victorious. It was billed as the modern era’s Joe Frazier versus Muhammad Ali contest. But nobody saw it coming – the lie of the century.

Kuya, it was the first time in my entire life that I decided to buy tickets and watch a fight of yours on pay per view. I had watched all your previous fights on tv and on Youtube. To me and probably just like the million others around the world, it was an attempt to be part of history; to be able to tell myself decades later, if God will permit, that I was there with you in every blow, in every jab, in every hook. It was my humble way of supporting you. But again, I was wrong. You and your camp had a different view the entire time. The world expected a clash of titans with no injury report divulged to the public. Everyone assumed that you were at 100% or almost at the peak of your strength and so tickets have been sold out.

Kuya Manny, a few days after your Mayweather fight, I tried to convince myself that you had hidden the truth for the fight to not be postponed because the other camp might use it a reason to back out. I understand that you had been luring Mayweather for the fight to be realized for so many years. Is that more important than your integrity, reputation and dignity as a man? And just like that, you moved on from one fight to another as if nothing happened.

Sports breathes from hope and to engage in sports is a way to relieve the different forms of stress of life. However, if used the improper way, it can be lethal. A promise of solace can be turned into a nightmare that can haunt the minds of people. That’s exactly what you did, Kuya.

But who am I compared to your greatness? Why should I hold a grudge to you after everything that you’ve done? Is it too hard to forgive another human being and forget all the heartaches?

Whenever I see you in the news or whenever your name surfaces in my conversations with my colleagues and friends, I remember how you made me feel. You brought another exceptional dimension to the word “Filipino” in the international stage. You’re “The Filipino Pride” and “The People’s Champ” and you’ve shown the world what we’re made of.

Yours is a beautiful rags-to-riches story: a mighty warrior who became affluent because of his grit, passion, persistence, and determination. As a storyteller, I fell in love with it. Is it too much to ask for a story book ending in your part?

In his final NBA game, your good friend Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant astoundingly scored 60 points on 22 of 50 shooting against Utah Jazz in 2016. A number of spectators were standing and jumping in the Staples Center arena out of excitement. The mood was festive. Hollywood A-listers were in attendance. He was blessed with an epic ending which is rare for sports legends in history. He retired a winner. After bagging your 60th career win, you have the power to retire a champion.

At 2:43 of the 7th round, you convincingly showed the world what’s left in your tank after defeating the much younger Argentine boxer Lucas Matthysse by TKO and earned the WBA Welterweight title.

But just like a younger brother to his kuya, I hope you retire now from boxing and enjoy more time with your family and loved ones. I’m worried that you might seriously get hurt on your next fight and bid goodbye to the sport you’re passionate about because your mind and body have given up on you. I’m concerned about how your wife Jinkee, your kids, and mommy Dionisia would react if they’ll see you in an unspeakable state. You have nothing else to prove.

Also, please reach out to the LGBTQ+ community and all of those you have offended before. Embrace them with open arms and patiently search for the common ground for us to move forward. I believe you have the heart to spark a real change to the sufferings of our fellowmen. I pray that your health will be at its summit to battle against the more valuable, salient, and pressing issues and challenges that we face as a people in the future. Because your loss is our loss and your win is our win.

Finally, I hope you lend your ears this time.

Sincerely yours,

Ben

(Various versions of this piece appeared on The Sports Column, Read Boxing, Boxing Insider, and United States Sports Academy’s The Sport Digest in July, 2018.)

When You Finally Find Her, Fight For Her

WHEN YOU at long last met her, don’t expect her to instantly reciprocate your smile, affection, and care. She’s been through a lot and she wouldn’t deftly bare the fountain of her being for you to quench your thirst for every imaginable speck of curiosity you have about her. She’s witnessed them all: the mundane, the humdrum, and the lackluster. The passing of time made her deeply understand the footnotes for every arrival and departure; that the goodbyes of some are inevitable and to be replaced in someone’s heart is a thriving possibility.

When you ultimately decided to solemnly know her, expect her to push you away. Prepare not to cruise on a newly furnished highway complete with post lights and signs but be introduced into a concrete jungle of questions and uncertainties. There will be bricks and tests and sobbing. She easily trusted some people before but they betrayed her and like the morning mist along the shores, no trace of them can be found anymore. Yes, they left without any explanation with all their vows and promises.

When your paths at length crossed, always remind yourself that you only have one chance to be with her. In a world clad with so many options and choices, it’s facile and tempting to believe that someone will come along after her; that there’s a better, more alluring, and more brilliant soul waiting for you; that beyond the horizon is somebody else who’s a better fit to your personality. The truth is, there will always be someone more quick-witted, funnier, and exquisite than her. But remember that she’s more than the generalizations you can imagine. She’s greater than every conceivable affirmative adjective that your mind can pinpoint and grasp.

When your hearts eventually encounter each other, do everything to keep her. Focus on the little things and then to the complex, the grandeur, the complicated differences in your beliefs, principles, and roots. There’s excitement in novelty, in the realization that after a long time of waiting, you’re in each other’s arms. The days and the nights will be unlike before. The sun will shine brighter, everything will feel lighter, and the moon and stars will be clothed with poetry and rhymes. The clouds will have rejuvenated meanings and symbolism and together, you’ll joyfully search for their formations rudderless flowing above. Suddenly, you’ll dance with her under the pouring rain with a kind of music not dictated by external devices but by the voices entangled within you to celebrate life, to forget for a moment all the worries and frustrations both of you should endure.

When you, at last, see her, you may sense discomfort, banishment, and dismissal on her part. Over time, she has convinced herself that she won’t be needing anybody else in her life. She’s strong and confident and equipped with her dreams and passions. Doubts will enter your consciousness on whether you’ll pursue her or not. Recognize that if she’s gone this far, why would she crave for someone to be with her? But no matter how strenuous she is, be there for her. Be courageous and determined. Show your sincerity. Cheer her up, support her, and open her mind to a world she’s never been to before. Prove to her that being alone can be a thing of the past; that you have arrived.

Because when you finally found her, no matter how thirsty and yearning and hankering you are to discover the reservoir of the fountain of her being, you have to be patient. Brace yourself. Stand next to her. Pitch your most cherished coin. Listen. Splatter…

And when you’re both ready, drink.

(Thought Catalog published this piece on the 19th of April 2018.)

If You Genuinely And Sincerely Love Her, You Will Love Her Like This

IF YOU love her without pretense, you will welcome the thick, towering walls she had built for herself even before you met her. You’ll not try to shatter or see them as adversaries you have to defeat to find her, to finally have a glimpse of the beguiling soul contently breathing in its innermost and deepest realm. Instead, you’ll embrace them as august fragments of her being. You’ll be patient until she greets you with her infectious laughter and beaming smile because you never deserted her.

If you really love her, you will not entertain the idea of dating anybody else who obviously showed their intent to be with you, to talk to you, to get to know you better. Just the idea of you being with someone else will haunt you. You’ll mightily close your eyes and shut your ears whenever a temptation knocks on your door and windows and imagination. Yes, she’s onerous to decipher but you’ll not stop and give her up just because you’re uncertain about how she feels about you. You’ll not make excuses to forget the words and promises you uttered while holding her hands when you were starting. You’ll hope and wait for her ‘Yes’. You’ll continue to court her even after she confessed that the feeling is mutual.

If you truly love her, you will not leave her hanging. You’ll be brave to tell her how you feel even if your whole body is trembling and the cup of coffee or hot lemon tea you’re holding is splattering brought by her presence. You’ll be honest with her even if you’re scared of being rejected because you know she’s worth it.

If you fervently love her, you will accept her flaws and imperfections. You’ll not use them as your reserved ammunitions and weapons in times of misunderstanding and quarrel. You’ll not bring up her past for you know it will hurt her. You’ll think about what’s best for her and treat her as a valuable vessel, a gift, an answered prayer. You’ll forgive her the same way you exonerate yourself when you commit mistakes and shortcomings.

If you earnestly love her, you will recognize her talents, dreams, and aspirations. You’ll not regard her as a blind, emotionless follower to all your wants and needs. You’ll honor and respect her all the time and view her as a partner in facing each morning’s challenges and surprises. You’ll celebrate her triumphs as yours and will be an unfailing shoulder to cry on in times of grief. You’ll support her in her own endeavors for you know that her success and yours are key ingredients for your connection to continue to flourish and bloom to a greater form.

If you authentically love her, you will set aside your ego and will listen to her thoughts and views. You’ll not degrade her person or abuse her confidence in you. You’ll be transparent in all your dealings and you’ll not hide critical information to her that has a direct effect on your relationship. You’ll safeguard her trust all days of your life.

If you seriously love her, you will shower her with your warmth, artistry, and poetry. With joy, you’ll write her essays and lyrics and letters not just on days or nights you feel like it. You’ll secretly take photographs of her or paint the minute details of her personage on a canvas. Yes, there will be times when you’re occupied, tired, and fed up with life’s expectations and demands, but you’ll make time to be with her even if she doesn’t ask for it. You’ll relentlessly remind her of her beauty, of her strengths, of her brilliance when you sense that she forgets them. You’ll vibrantly reminisce the moments in your past when she made you feel unsure whether she’ll accept you or not; how she single-handedly brought you into a peculiar world you’ve never been before. You’ll sing her songs and dance with her when she’s weary and frustrated and jaded; when failures unceasingly try to put her down and make her doubt the glaring possibilities of tomorrow.

And if you genuinely and sincerely love her, you will be faithful in her presence or absence; whether you hear her voice or not; whether she’s sitting next to you or hundreds if not thousands of miles away.

Because if the kind of love you have for her is pure and untainted, it will reveal itself over time and if you’re fated to be together, she will stay with you with all her thick, towering walls vanished forever.

(Thought Catalog published this piece on the 3rd of April 2018.)

20. Elon Musk

“Thank you for your efforts on building a better planet despite all the criticisms, despite all odds. Thank you for weathering the storms. Thank you for being brave.”

I ADMIRE the man for his conviction, for standing up for his principles, for not listening to his idols and mentors on what he has to do, for having deaf ears on their never-ending opinions for him to stop innovating, to back out and forget the idea of challenging this world’s perspectives.

He makes it seem like his bourgeois status is irrelevant whenever he speaks, when he tries to explain things. His eyes glitter like the stars in space. 

But aren’t we tired of the congestion, of inhaling toxic gases everyday from petroleum-fueled cars? 

We are all witnesses on the rising effects of pollution to humanity caused by petroleum-fueled cars. There’s tons of health problems and issues that the governments of the world have to deal with for its citizens. Global warming is happening not because of the of nature’s processes, or the imbalance in the ecosystem. It exists because of our own actions. 

And so, he built Tesla, Inc..

It takes guts to build a company out of nowhere and get over the hump of the financial crisis in 2008. 

Wikipedia described Tesla Inc. as an “American automaker, energy storage company, and solar panel manufacturer based in Palo Alto, California. Founded in 2003, the company specializes in electric cars, lithium-ion battery energy storage, and, through their SolarCity subsidiary, residential solar panels.” 

When I first heard that company name years ago when I was still studying electrical engineering in the university, I remembered right away the inventor and engineer Nikola Tesla, who I look up to because of his genius and passion for science. As someone who wanted to work in one of the hardest and most challenging fields ever, he inspired me. There I was, imagining who I could become someday. I also once told myself that it’s so fitting that Elon named his company after Nikola Tesla because of his contributions. It’s a form of respect. 

All creatives works, all novel ideas come from those pioneers and thinkers who are courageous enough to question everything, to take the status quo head-on. They are those who do not dwell too much on the “now” but on what the future holds. We are where we are today because of the continued search of humanity for advancement and progress. But sometimes, we hinder each other, demotivate those who oppose us, those who are different from us, and tell ourselves that we are right without conducting objective examinations. Sometimes, we unknowingly victimize the creative genius in all of us. 

While it is true that owning an electric-powered Tesla car will cost you a fortune, still we should appreciate the attempt to turn this world upside down. 

I hope to meet Elon Musk someday. I hope to have coffee with him. I hope to finish reading all of the books that influenced him. And I hope to personally tell him: “Thank you for your efforts on building a better planet despite all the criticisms, despite all odds. Thank you for weathering the storms. Thank you for being brave.” 

Dear words, ideas, and letters

Dear words, ideas, and letters,

Let me sleep tonight. I’ll listen to you as soon as I wake up. You can bug me the whole day all over again if you want to. Or if you get tired, find someone else. You’re free to do so.

Sincerely yours,

Your writer

17. The sun’s up

“We are spirited away from the meaning of everything because of all the noise, news, frenzy, trends, and flash reports.”

WHEN DID you last look up at the sky to appreciate the heat and light coming out from the sun? When did you last pause to see the finer details of life?

We’re all busy doing a lot of stuffs. There’s a mountain of responsibilities and deadlines that have to be met and sometimes, these things exhaust us. I know the feeling. I understand. But because of all these things, we sometimes forget to give ourselves a break; to reflect and once and for all determine to ourselves the essentials of everyday existence, the reason behind everything, our ends.

While we understand that everything that we see is fleeting, we’re consumed by our own doing. We are spirited away from the meaning of everything because of all the noise, news, frenzy, trends, and flash reports.

Today is a start to do otherwise.

Give thanks and smile at the Starbucks crew who prepared your drink and wrote your name on its container. Help that old woman at the stairs on her way to the train station’s ticket booth. Press that up or down button when you see a hopeful passenger rushing to get inside the elevator when you got off. Yes, even if she’s few meters away; sacrifice a lit bit.

If you have spare time, remind yourself of the joy you had when one afternoon you just stared at how nature moves: the ants as they transport their food or tirelessly search for one, the waves of the ocean that bring peace inside, the wind that caresses you every time, and the sun as she continuously glows with your appreciation or not.

And say, “There’s more to life than this.”

12. Discovering that you are a creator, an artist

“Fail. Stand up. Discover the creator, the artist in you even if sometimes it’s scary.”

IF YOU see yourself as a creative, do not give up. If you believe that you are an artist, embrace and nurture your craft. If you think that every cell of your body directs you to do more, to work on your passion, to reach the farthest limits of your imagination, try. And if an idea pops up in your head out nowhere, while you’re brushing your teeth, while taking a bath, while pouring tomato sauce on your plate to make your special dish, while walking, jogging, or sprinting, while waiting for the one that you love in a cafe, Japanese restaurant, or on a bench somewhere, while reading a book, or while riding a bicycle, a car, or a seesaw in a park, listen.

The world is filled with people who call themselves artists and poets and writers but do not know when to listen and be brave enough to spend their time to give their art its own form, life, and space. They do not want to feed themselves with new perspectives. Everyone is born a creator but not all of us are courageous enough to face its inexplicable faces, its inescapable enigma.

Fail. Stand up. Discover the creator, the artist in you even if sometimes it’s scary. I know because it frightened me to write this.

But we both know that there’s no other way.