Many fans have noticed a change in boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao of late.
From a celebrity hounded by rumors of gambling addiction, marital infidelity and other vices, the boxing star has turned into a highly religious sports figure – in the mold of football player Tim Tebow – who constantly quotes the Bible and preaches about his faith.
In his Thanksgiving Celebration held at the SMART-Araneta Coliseum Saturday, Pacquiao told a crowd of about 16,000 supporters the reason for his transformation.
“Maraming nagtatanong paano si Manny Pacquiao nagbago (Many people ask what brought about a change in Manny Pacquiao),” the longtime pound-for-pound king and member of the Philippine House of Representatives said. “Maraming nagdududa, baka pakitang tao lang (Many are doubting, thinking it might be just an act).”
He shared the story of how God spoke to him in a dream, and how it scared him straight.
“Nanaginip ako isang gabi, hindi ko ma-explain kung gaano kaganda yung lugar kung nasaan ako. Nasa ilalim ako ng gubat. Nakaluhod ako at umiiyak na humihingi ng tawad sa Panginoon (I had a dream one night, I was in a place so beautiful that I can’t begin to explain how beautiful it is. I was in a forest. I was on my knees, crying and asking forgiveness from God),” he said.
In the dream, he saw rays of sunlight so strong that they passed through solid objects, including Pacquiao’s body. He wanted to look at the source of the light, but was unable to lift his head up for a peek.
He then heard a booming voice, one that he said seemed so big that he could feel it in his bones, speak to him. According to Pacquiao, the voice asked him “Anak, bakit ka lumayo sa akin (Child, why did you stray far from me)?”
“Pag narining niyo ang boses ng Panginoon, lahat kayo matatakot gumawa ng kasalanan (Once you hear the voice of God, you’d be afraid to commit any sin).”
Pacquiao didn’t pay attention to it at first, because of old beliefs in his province that say dreams usually mean the opposite of what they say. But somebody gave him a Bible as a present, and after giving it a read for about a week, he stumbled upon a verse that said God spoke to his people through dreams.
He continued reading the Bible regularly and found that it was almost as if it was speaking to him directly.
“May nabasa ako adulterous, may nabasa ako drunkenness (I saw the word ‘adulterous’, I saw ‘drunkenness’),” he said. “Ako ito eh. Guilty ako sa sarili ko (That was me. I felt guilty about myself).”
“Yun ang umpisa ng pagbabago ko (That was the start of my transformation),” he added.
Even before the recent change, Pacquiao had always been expressive about his religious views. He was often seen performing the Sign of the Cross inside the boxing ring and said he prayed three times a day and went to mass every week.
The big difference, though, was his lifestyle. He admitted in front of his fans that he had plenty of vices, from womanizing to gambling to alcohol and had even experimented with drugs. “Halos ‘di ko na iniisip yung pamilya ko (I was rarely thinking about my family).”
Nowadays, though, he’s gotten rid of many of his vices, reportedly giving away his prized gamefowl, eliminating his late-night drinking and gambling and even giving up his favorite sport, basketball. Pacquiao also admitted that he has eyes only for his wife, Jinkee, who was in attendance at the event.