In Dallas, we stayed at the hotel where the PacMan was staying, the luxurious Gaylord Texan at Grapevine, Texas. It is centrally located between downtown Dallas and Fort Worth and about 30 minutes from Dallas Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, the venue of the the fight between multi-divisional champion, Manny "Pacman" Pacquiao and the larger "Tijuana Tornado", Mexican Antonio Margarito. We arrived the day before the fight and our Sudanese cab driver, Jamal told us that a lot of Filipinos had been arriving at Dallas since 2 days ago. Several boxing personalities were spotted around Gaylord- these are some of them, starting with the non-boxers (writers, commentators, promoters, relatives, etc).
Wakee Salud. At first I thought he would be an intimidating andboisterous personality but I was gravely mistaken- he is a gentle giant. The long time Pacman friend and promoter is really a kindhearted person, always willing to share his thoughts about his ward's fights. When I first saw him, he was limping in pain and I quickly asked him, "What's the problem"? He told me that the incessant walking since he arrived caused the pain which he thinks is muscular in origin. I asked permission to examine his legs, queried a few more questions, and gave him some analgesics after wards. He was very thankful. He kept on commenting that she is very "buotan" (kind), referring to my younger sister, Mary.
Another personality I encountered was Mr. Elie Seckbach. He is sports writer for Fanhouse and a prominent You Tube personality. I love watching his videos and reading his commentaries at Philboxing.com because he is a certified Pacmaniac. In one of his many interviews at the Gaylord lobby, he ask me who's gonna win the fight, and of course, I said the Pacman. He is a very likable person with a charming smile; he looks better though with his cap on due to hints of alopecia. He was also kind enough to give me an autographed picture after I asked for one.
At first I didn't recognized him because he looks too American. But, on closer inspection, I knew it was Michael Marley, the "White Gorilla". Mr. Marley is a sports writer of the Examiner.com and also a Pachugger. He loves Filipinos and knows more about Philippine culture than most Filipinos. An ardent follower of his column, my first impression of him was that he was a Filipino pretending to be an American writer. But I was mistaken, he really is an American with an American face and accent. He was having some pictorials with a Philippine celebrity when I approached him. "You should have pictures with her" he quipped, "No, Mr. Marley, I wanna have pictures with you". I told him I was from Cebu and is a regular follower of his column. He thanked me and wished me well. After I had photos with him, several of the fans followed suit. I was a little proud that I was the first one to recognize him.
We were fortunate to have dinner with Wakee Salud and his companion, Rowel Pacquiao, Manny's younger brother. He was shy and seriously quiet. We had dinner at the Old Hickory Steakhouse at Gaylord. The steaks were very expensive and not extraordinary. The best steaks in Dallas, for me, is the Ranch Steakhouse located downtown. He was seated far from me so I was not able to strike a decent conversation with him. I wanted to ask him how Manny was as a kid and if they ever had a fist fight? I was quite sure who'd win if ever they had one.
At the Gaylord store, my wife got a Pacquiao-Margarito official T-shirt. I got a limited edition poker chip (only 500 copies made) and the official event boxing glove for US$60. When we had our lunch at the Mexican restaurant, we saw Mr. Freddie Roach and had the gloves signed. I expected Manny to sign the other side of the glove the next day, however, I was disappointed that he had to fore-go with the signing due to his painfully swollen hands. Roach was smiling and was very accommodating in spite of the bodyguards. I also had a picture taken with him. As he walked down the corridor, an young American fan was shouting at the top of his lungs "the trainer of the greatest boxer in the world, Mr. Freddie Roach" He just walked on.
The day before the fight, we attended the mass with Manny Pacquiao. After the mass, we approached Buboy Fernandez, Manny's long time buddy and assistant trainer, for a photo op. He was very busy packing all of Pacs belts that were blessed during the mass. He then smiled and lifted Manny's boxing shoes, for a perfect shot. He has remained humble through all these years.
There were several other boxing personalities I met and had a photo op with. These include Chino Trinidad, a boxing writer and commentator, Mommy Dionisia, Pacman's mom, Alex Ariza, Pacman's conditioning coach and Mayor Bing Leonardia, Bacolod mayor and an avid Pacman supporter. I was looking for Mary Dumon and Dennis Guillermo, boxing writers, but unfortunately was unable to spot them. I'm so glad to have met these people and will forever cherish these encounters with them. Come to think of it, I never had a picture with an entertainment celebrity- except perhaps Mommy D?
Pictures above- with the mentioned personalities and my brother-in-law, Lyndon S. Uy.