The shared road of Mary Jane Veloso and Manny Pacquiao
Mary Jane Veloso, a person whose name none of us knew two weeks ago, was just saved from her execution yesterday. Had the last-minute reprieve not come in, she would have been killed by firing squad for unknowingly transporting $500,000 worth of heroin into Indonesia.
Her death was so imminent that the next day's headlines expressed no doubt. If her execution pushed through, her name would have been known to us for a couple more months, maybe for another year if she became the subject of a film.
Her story was so familiar that it called to mind the last publicized execution of an OFW. Flor Contemplacion was executed as promised in 1995 and became a household name because the movie bearing her name starred Nora Aunor.
There was also a modest media coverage back then, but twenty years between these two wrongly accused Filipino workers have not changed the similarities of how both cases were mismanaged, where investigations were cloudy, and whose media attention only became apparent towards the very end. It was too late for Flor, but the pubic clamor and international press might have been the saving grace for Mary Jane.
Now that Mary Jane was able to buy more time, our collective attention will now be able to focus on another battle. On Sunday morning (May 3 in Manila), Manny Pacquiao will fight Floyd Mayweather in what is being called "the fight of the century." The cheapest seats at MGM Grand in Las Vegas sold for $1,500 (the most expensive at $180,000, pay per view rates are $100 for each of the USA's expected 3 million viewers, and the Philippines will once again be frozen for when its modern-day national hero stands on a world stage to fight for money and for show.
No rewards for Veloso
There won't be a single dollar payoff for Mary Jane Veloso even though she fought for her life on her own world stage. There were no back-and-forth negotiations between her and her adversaries in the past 5 years the way the Mayweather and Pacquiao camps argued about the tiniest details of drug testing, brand of gloves, purse size, promotional billing, and mouthpieces to wear.
Veloso was simply fighting for her innocence, most of it spent silently without any assistance. There were no flood lights, shiny belts, or well-dressed audiences, but hers was a fight she nearly paid for with her life on Wednesday after five years of waiting for someone to take notice.
If you think about it, Veloso and Pacquiao aren't much different. They were once both poor youth from the provinces hoping for some stroke of luck to change their lives. Mary Jane was only looking to feed her children, while Manny began fighting to survive. Mary Jane got a job overseas that could have spelled an education for her children, eventually breaking the cycle of poverty. Manny proved to be a great fighter, a true global contender and the best the country has known.
What we don't realize is that along the way Manny could have become a Mary Jane. He could have placed his trust in someone who would take advantage of him. Someone could have placed heroin in his suitcase en route to his first international fight. He could have met someone who would teach him to dope his way to success.
Along the way, Mary Jane's fate could have also been different. She could have met an honest person who would find her a good job that would support her family, instead of a recruiter who used her as a pawn, landing her in prison where she eventually waged her life.
The daily gamble
In order to survive, the average Filipino must take risks daily. Sometimes we win like Pacquiao, and sometimes we lose like Mary Jane. OFWs do this on a regular basis, waging their life savings and their families' unity for an overseas income. Yet we seldom hear them receive accolades for their efforts. OFWs are not athletes or performers, after all. Even with their meager successes, they will never lead lavish lives or be millionaires.
Mary Jane Veloso's fate will be in limbo for a while. Unless there is another miracle, she will likely remain incarcerated until her case is finally heard. Her children will still have to figure out how to get by without their mother whose only fault was that she tried to provide for their needs. When the publicity dies down, we can only hope that Mary Jane's defenders will not also lose interest in her situation, leaving her to many more years of waiting.
Win or lose, Manny Pacquiao will be on his way to taking home almost a hundred million dollars, eventually making his attempt at the Philippine presidency. He will still be guesting on American shows, exhibiting his karaoke skills, and showcasing his basketball powers. Even after the tax bills are paid and all the palms are greased in his camp, it goes without saying that Manny will still have fate on his side.
At the end of both stories, who did we end up cheering harder for? The billionaire boxer turned congressman, or the one whose plight could have easily been ours, our mother's or our sister's?
Who will we remember?
Whose name will we remember when both fights are over? Which one is the true hero? It's no wonder we're more drawn to the one-in-a-million chance of a story that is Pacquiao's, than the reality of everyday struggle that is Mary Jane Veloso's.
After all, Mary Jane's fate was an everyman's story that wouldn't even deserve mention had it not gotten so close to her death. On their own, OFW struggles don't make one feel good the way the lights of a performance fight could.
It feels good to dream, especially if that dream ends in the biggest monetary prize in history. It feels less encouraging to think of the risks ordinary Filipinos face on their own world stages as they work to send money back home.
Yet which reality is closest to us? How many of us rely on an OFW's salary? How many of our loved ones face risks on a regular basis just to be able to provide for those they leave behind?
Maybe when the big fight is over, we can also take the time to cheer for our real heroes like Mary Jane. Let's also try to be there when they are knocked down, desperate and hopeless, not just when they are near death, or just when they bring home prizes for us to brag about. – Rappler.com