Lt. Col. Pacquiao keeps beard and moustache
In the same way Samson jealously guarded his hair, boxing champ Manny Pacquiao is keeping his moustache and beard as secret weapons.
The newly commissioned Army reservist lieutenant colonel, who is also a congressman from Sarangani province, on Monday showed up at his “donning of rank” ceremony at the Army headquarters in Fort Bonifacio wearing his new Army cap and olive green uniform that showed his new rank.
The Army commanding general, Major General Emmanuel Bautista, and the Army Reserve Command chief, Brigadier General Alex Albano, pinned on Pacquiao the shoulder boards bearing two sun emblems that signify his new rank.
But the world champ also appeared unshaven, as he did during a formal Army ceremony in 2006 when he was enlisted as a sergeant in the reserve force. In a 2009 ceremony, he sported a thicker beard and moustache when he was promoted to senior master sergeant.
Military rules that apply without exception to everyone, from private to the highest general, disallow facial hair and prescribe a cropped haircut as part of the uniform. Being unshaven could be a ground for disciplinary action.
After the ceremony, some Army officials chided Pacquiao in private about his unshaven look.
“He was reminded about it but he said it’s his anting-anting, his amulet,” a senior officer said. He said Pacquiao seemed to feel he would lose something if he completely shaved his moustache and beard.
“At least, it’s not like before when he really had long hair and a long beard. Now, he has trimmed his moustache, if not his beard,” the officer said.
In biblical lore, Samson lost his God-given supernatural strength after his beloved, Delilah, betrayed him and had his long locks shorn. In captivity, Samson grew his hair back, recovered his strength and destroyed his enemies’ temple, dying along with them.
Tolerance, for now
Interviewed after the ceremony, Pacquiao made light of his looks and jokingly laid the blame on his wife Jinkee, who did not attend the ceremony. “I wanted to shave but Jinkee didn’t want me to,” he said, grinning.
According to the unnamed Army officer, the military can tolerate the infraction since Pacquiao is not on active-duty training. “But once he goes on active-duty training, that will be enforced,” the officer said.
Pacquiao also seemed to have come unprepared for the ceremony, struggling with a speech written for him in English by Army organizers. He stumbled over several words, suggesting he had not read the speech beforehand.
In an ad lib, Pacquiao shifted to Filipino and sounded defensive when he spoke about his recent controversial fight with Mexican Juan Manuel Marquez, whom he narrowly beat on points.
“If any soldier has doubts about my last fight, I will bring him along with me during my training,” he said, to laughter.
“It is not every time that Manny Pacquiao pulverizes an opponent,” he added. “There are times when you win only after a close fight but that is part of life.”
Following the law
Talking with reporters later, Pacquiao appeared to distance himself from his former political patron, former President and now Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Once an avid supporter of the Arroyo administration, he avoided a direct comment on Arroyo’s run-in with the Aquino administration.
“We have a law and she has her lawyers working for her. We should uphold the law, we should follow the law,” he said.
Regarding the order of a Pasay City court placing Arroyo under hospital arrest, he said: “We should follow whatever is provided for under the law.”
Only when not busy
Pacquiao showed no enthusiasm to visit Arroyo, who is suffering from a spinal illness, saying he might make a visit “if I’m available, if I’m not busy.”
But he wished the former President well. Asked for his message to her, he said: “First of all… she has to recover from her illness.”
Pacquiao endorsed Arroyo in 2004 when she ran for President and was treated like royalty when he visited Malacañang after every ring victory. Once, after a win, he took a congratulatory call from Arroyo while still in the ring.
When Benigno Aquino III captured the presidency in 2010, Pacquiao was among the first to jump ship and join the ruling Liberal Party.