The culmination of the 10th Tuna Festival in commemoration of the 40th Charterhood Anniversary of Gen. Santos City was made even more significant not only with the attendance of Senator Mar Roxas who was the Keynote Speaker but also of the participation of the city’s prized possession, WBC World Flyweight Boxing Champion Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao.

Congresswoman Darlene Custodio hands to Boxing Champ Manny Pacquiao the trophy and cash prize that they will together give out to the winners of the Tuna Float Competition on the culmination program for the 10th Tuna Fest at the oval plaza on September 5, 2008.  They are both flanked by Mayor Jun Acharon, Festival Director Bebot Haw (to the left) and Vice Mayor Flor Congson. (foto by Jing Velos)

Manny was warmly received by his former political foe and the only woman who gave him a knockout, Congresswoman Darlene Antonino-Custodio with his Wedding Ninong (godfather), GenSan Mayor Jun Acharon.

They seemed to be more comfortable with one each other onstage,  now that the boxing champ himself has clarified on national TV that, yes he is running for congress (again); and that no, he is not running in South Cotabato’s First District (up against Mayor Acharon, among others) but in Sarangani Province where he has been very visible lately.

The champ, smartly dressed in white long-sleeved shirt and black pants gave out the prizes for the winners of the Tuna Float Competition and gamely posed for pictures with what could have been the entire population of the oval plaza stage.  🙂

Congresswoman Darlene Custodio (standing, extreme left) and Champ Manny Pacquiao in a photo with seven of the 10 Karagatan Awardees for 2008, at the oval plaza on September 5, 2008. (photo by Jing Velos)

That is one thing you should hand out to Manny Pacquiao.  He never says no when asked for a photo op and it’s usually his aides who tell his fans that GenSan’s hometown hero has to move on.

Nevertheless, his presence at the oval plaza stage that day together with the mayor and the congresswoman not only pleased his fans but including those people who earlier were turned off by his first foray into the dirty world of politics in 2007.

I hope Manny wakes up to the fact that he is at his best at unifying his country in his capacity as a private citizen and a Filipino champion.   By now, he should have awakened to the hard lessons he learned last year when his entry into the political arena divided the country and drove his millions of fans in disarray.

But Manny Pacquiao is Manny Pacquiao… and we can only say, Good luck Champ!