Back-to-back win? ‘Intimidated’ Pacquiao speaks at Oxford, Cambridge

Camille Elemia
Back-to-back win? ‘Intimidated’ Pacquiao speaks at Oxford, Cambridge
Senator Manny Pacquiao talks about his rags-to-riches story and his political plans before students of two prestigious universities in the United Kingdom

He may have dropped out of school due to extreme poverty but it’s no hindrance for neophyte Senator Manny Pacquiao to address two of the most prestigious universities in the world.

Pacquiao spoke before students of the Oxford Union on Monday, November 5 (Tuesday, Manila time), and University of Cambridge on Tuesday, November 6 (Wednesday, Manila time).

“I have fought some of the best fighters in history. And yet I have to admit, as I stand before you, I am intimidated when I think of the kind of main event headliners who faced you over the years: Sir Winston Churchill, American Presidents (Ronald) Reagan, (Richard) Nixon, and (Jimmy) Carter, Mother Teresa, the Dalai Lama,and Sir Elton John,” said Pacquiao in Oxford.

Pacquiao said he thought of what he would say to the students of the two of the best learning institutions in the world. He said he ultimately decided to tell them about his education in the “university of life.”

The senator recounted his rags-to-riches story in front of the students. Pacquiao, who quit school and tried his luck in boxing, finished high school in 2007 through the Department of Education’s Alternative Learning System.

“I am a fighter and I will always be a fighter not just because this is my profession. All my life I have fought to live…I have fought for survival,” Pacquiao told Oxford students.

“Miracles do happen. Dreams do come true…You, with your education, determination, and faith, you can change the world,” he added.

In Cambridge, the senator said: “I have not experienced how it is to pursue a degree like a regular university student. My circumstances were very different from yours. But I did not allow these circumstances to limit me… I continue to learn from the University called life.”

“I was born into poverty. There is a Filipino metaphor that goes “mas mahirap pa sa daga,” which translates to “more destitute than a rat.” From a very young age, I had to struggle daily to survive. I fought hard. I faltered. I failed. Many times. But I learned to rise again each time I fell. Each setback became a platform for a comeback,” he said.

In 2010, Pacquiao ran and won for the lone congressional seat of Sarangani province. He ran unopposed in 2013 for a second term. Many of Pacquiao’s relatives have since joined politics as well.

In 2016, he ran for the Senate and won. He is currently the chairman of the Senate committees on sports, public works, and ethics.

He is a known ally of President Rodrigo Duterte and has repeatedly defended the latter’s policies, including the bloody war on drugs, against critics. Pacquiao was also criticized for his conservative stand on lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgenders (LGBTs). (READ: Pacquiao: Couples in same-sex unions ‘worse than animals’)

When asked who wrote his speech, Pacquiao’s media staff replied, “Staff.” –

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Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation issues, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email