Pacquiao receives rousing hero’s welcome in General Santos

GENERAL SANTOS CITY — World boxing icon and Saragani Rep. Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquiao received a rousing hero’s welcome here on Friday morning as he returned home after his convincing win over American brawler Timothy Bradley in Las Vegas last Sunday.

Pacquiao arrived at the city airport here at around 9 a.m. aboard a Philippine Airlines flight from Manila, amid cheers from hundreds of well-wishers that crowded the arrival area.

He was accompanied by his family, mother Dionisia and his siblings, several close friends, political allies and members of his boxing team.

A contingent of officials from this city and Sarangani Province, relatives, close friends and around 100 beneficiaries of his scholarship program met the “fighting congressman” at the airport.

“I’m very happy to be back home. Thank you for all your prayers and support,” a beaming Pacquiao, who was wearing a red checkered polo, said upon arrival.

He was immediately whisked to a waiting float for a motorcade to the city’s downtown area, wherein thousands of cheering residents showed up by the roadside.

Pacquiao and his entourage then proceeded to his hotel here before joining the welcome program at the SM Mall led by City Mayor Ronnel Rivera and Sarangani Governor Steve Solon.

The eight-division world boxing champion, who decked Bradley twice before eking out a unanimous decision, grew up in Barangay Labangal here and is considered a local hero.

He received the World Boxing Organization international welterweight belt as “special recognition” for his win over Bradley, who remains its welterweight titleholder.

Pacquiao, who is seeking a Senate seat under the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) slate in the May 9 elections, earlier announced that he will officially retire from boxing after the Bradley fight.

In an interview with reporters, Pacquiao said that he has already made up his mind and has no plans of backing down from his decision to finally retire from boxing.

“I’ve already declared (to retire). Now I want to enjoy my retirement and spend more time with family,” he said.

Pacquiao said he will also focus on his campaign for the Senate and help other candidates under his own local political party, People’s Champ Movement (PCM).

The PCM had forged an alliance with the UNA of presidential candidate and current Vice President Jejomar Binay for the May polls.

The PCM-UNA coalition will hold a grand rally here on Saturday with the Vice President and its senatorial slate. PNA/