I was thinking about writing something about how tired I am of hearing news about Manny Pacquiao and everything (or everyone) he is getting himself into. But I thought that I would be contradicting myself by saying that he is getting over-rated and over-exposed; when writing about him, negative as it may be, would still be additional attention for him from me.
It’s a great thing Efren Penaflorida won the prestigious CNN Hero of the Year Award yesterday, because I found something better to put my attention on. I am impressed with Manny Pacquiao and his achievements, thankful as one of the Filipinos he always dedicates his fight to, but I personally has never been that moved by him. Same goes with the many other Pinoys who have currently made a name for themselves in the international spotlight; like Charice Pempengco, Arnel Pineda, etc. Their popularity has indeed shed some positive attention to our country; but unlike Penaflorida, they didn’t do it through means of selfless service and noble goals.
Pempengco, Pineda, Pacquiao to me have nothing on Penaflorida (funny how their last names all start with a letter P, isn’t it?). They are all skilled and talented in their own rights, but they all bank on fame and fortune as means to inspire others.
Hearing about Penaflorida’s nomination in CNN Heroes, was around the same time everybody was clamoring about Pacquiao’s latest bout. As my fellow Filipinos ate up Manny’s self-proclaimed humility, bad singing, and his mother’s colorful way of aging gracefully; I decided to take part in something a bit more meaningful in my opinion. I made sure that I allotted at least five to ten minutes a day in the internet voting for Efren as many times as I can. I never expected him to win though; I kept watch at the competition who all seemed worthy of the title. I just wanted to seriously take part in supporting a Filipino I can truly and irrevocably be proud of.
I had heard about Penaflorida and his portable class before and thought great of it. I have always been a fan of the making a small difference principle, and had I been a bit younger and braver; I would’ve probably joined his organization. Less than a decade ago, I did some community work myself, as a story-teller to impoverished kids with my aunt. With cardboard drawings by my brother, stories of David and Goliath and Sleeping Beauty made those kids gawk at me, attentively, some with their mouths open. I was surprised at how hungry to learn those kids were, that I felt so appeased of being able to share a bit of that to them. But even with the sense of fulfillment it brought, it is something I cannot do on a regular basis. I had my own selfish goals to attend to; friends to see, hobbies to work on, and dreams to fulfill. And that is another thing admirable about what Penaflorida and company is doing. It seems like something everybody can do, but when you seriously think it over, it isn’t as easy as it seems. There is nothing easy about giving up what you can have for yourself, doing something for others with nothing but a smile of thanks in return.
When I read that he had won Hero of the Year, I couldn’t help but smile. The last time I felt that proud to be a Filipino was when they ousted Joseph Estrada, and that was what, eight years ago? It also felt good to know that the world, especially Filipinos, still recognized selfless acts and ideals. For a while there, I thought my future children will have nothing but singers and boxers to study about in school.
I salute Efren Penaflorida more than the others because he showed the world that recognition can also be found not just in talent and strength but by benevolence as well. I salute him because what he chose to offer isn’t entertainment or greatness, he offered something you can use even though you have the singing prowess of a walrus or can’t (or won’t) throw a punch if your life depended on it – he on the other hand offered knowledge.