Supernova, noun—the explosion of star in which the star may reach a maximum intrinsic luminosity one billion times that of the sun (Merriam Webster)

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THE LAST observed supernova, said to have briefly illuminated the whole galaxy, was in 1604. The discovery was made by Johannes Kepler.

Though not as equally bright in proportion, the Philippines had its own supernova, which emanated in General Santos City, in the 21st century.

Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao took the Philippines by storm with his world dominance in professional boxing. Known for his exciting fighting style—a combination of power, speed, skill, and gamble—Pacquiao was the first boxer to become world champion in eight weight divisions, in which he won ten world titles.

It was enough reason to regard him as a local hero and icon for the Philippines, which is still an understatement compared with the totality of what Pacquaio means to the country.

On Dec. 4, 2012, however, Filipinos grieved over the sight of “the greatest boxer,” the Filipino hero, lying senseless on the canvas of MGM Grand Arena after being knocked out with a single punch by his Mexican rival, Juan Manuel Marquez, in their fourth bout. It was the first time Pacquaio got knocked down since 2001.

Perhaps his dominance made people forget that Pacquiao is not immortal. Somebody’s bound to hit his Achilles’ heel sooner or later. In this case, it was Marquez.

Post-fight questions included: Is this the end of an era, the denouement of the supernova? Maybe. Who knows?

But it is important to note, meanwhile, that Pacquiao’s athletic conquest alone did not make him what he is today.

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He’s somebody most Filipinos can relate and sympathize with, and be proud of, having risen from poverty to riches and greatness; somebody who despite his success, still keeps faith to God and his feet flat on the ground, which makes me wonder whether he uses the superglues advertised during commercial breaks in his televised fights to keep his feet on the ground. No camera tricks!

Even in defeat, Pacquiao retains his humility, unlike his former colleague Amir Khan who, in loss, blamed referees and his trainer.

In a Twitter post, journalist Teodoro Locsin, Jr. said Pacquiao’s loss was not a case of “How are the mighty fallen,” quoting 2 Samuel 1:27 of the Bible, because he was never proud in victory “and met every win with wonder and gratitude, like a surprise present from God.”

When Pacquaio’s era comes to an end, when all the succubi—greedy politicians and shady pastors—swarming around him leave and all he has left is his family, he will still be the legend that he is, for at that moment he was knocked out cold, the world, as far as Filipinos were concerned, stopped. Many were horrified and angry, some even wept. And from there we knew that Pacquiao is not merely a gladiator for the Philippines. He is a true hero, someone people cheer and cry for.

Neither Marquez’s single punch nor the mediocre singer and Grammy-snubbed Justin Bieber’s insults can diminish Pacquiao’s greatness, for he has already been immortalized way beyond boxing rankings.

Another Filipino will eventually replace Pacquiao as the world’s greatest boxer, yes. Nonito Donaire, Jr., coming from four consecutive impressive victories this year alone, seems to be on his way. But Donaire, with all due respect to his achievements, can never be half of what Pacquiao was.

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It was never Manny Pacquiao the boxer, it was Manny Pacquiao the athlete, the actor, the endorser, the politician, the poorman, the Catholic, the evangelical Christian. More importantly, it has always been Manny Pacquiao the Filipino. And there can be no supernova like him for a long, long time.

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