Monday, December 8, 2008

Pearl Harbor Day and Pacquiao Fight

“December 7, 1941. A date that will live in infamy.” - FDR to a stunned nationwide radio audience.

In the Philippines, on the other side of the International Dateline, it was already December 8. Soon all of the major military installations were as badly damaged here as Pearl Harbor had been, despite an eight hour heads-up. Thus, 67 years ago today, World War II began for the United States, something it tried to avoid since Hitler had begun his conquests in Europe more than two years earlier. Before it was over, millions of Americans would be in uniform, and over 400,000 would be killed. Over one million Filipinos, mostly civilians, would die during the war.

Although we have never been to Pearl Harbor, we hope to be there on the 75th anniversary in 2016. We suspect that there will still be a few surviving veterans in attendance, although they will be in their 90’s.

There are many reminders of WWII here, especially on Corregidor, which houses the Pacific War Memorial. Along the Bataan Death March route, nearly every kilometer has a marker. There are numerous other reminders, such as memorials where the main prison camps were located. And the American Cemetery in Manila is the largest American cemetery in the world outside of the United States, bigger than Pearl Harbor’s Punch Bowl Cemetery.

It will be interesting to see how much if any of today’s news coverage is about the anniversary of the start of the war. That’s because yesterday afternoon a sporting event took place in Las Vegas whose outcome might have produced the biggest hero in recent Philippine history. Manny “Pac Man” Pacquiao defeated Oscar de la Hoya in the most anticipated fight in a long time. De la Hoya had held 10 different titles in his career, and at 35 was the favorite. Pacquiao at 27 is 4 inches shorter. They had fought once before to a controversial draw.

The fight was shown here at 1:00 in the afternoon. Because it was also on pay-per-view, it was delayed but aired on a broadcast station. Steve gathered with a couple of dozen island staff to watch the fight, already knowing that de la Hoya would fail to answer the bell at the start of the ninth round. There were numerous commercials before the fight began, and each one minute break between rounds was crammed with 8 minutes of commercials, so the fight, which lasted 32 minutes in real time, took about an hour and a half to watch. This did not blunt the enthusiasm of the guys who watched their hero dominate from start to finish.

The broadcasters spoke in Tagalog during the pre-fight, although it is impossible to speak Tagalog without using some English words. During the fight, the blow by blow announcer spoke English. The color commentator would begin most sentences in Tagalog, only to finish most sentences in English, almost as if he was forgetting to speak English and the other announcer was having to point to a sign to remind him. In any case, it is so common for the two languages to be mixed here, even on TV and radio, that no one seems to notice.

There are very few world-class athletes here, since height and size play such a factor in most sports. We’ve heard that a Filipino won a bronze medal once in an Olympics, but we aren’t sure if it’s true and if it is, in which event. There is a very good young woman race car driver who is trying to give Danica Patrick a run for the money in Indy cars. But outside of Pac Man, the best known athlete of the Philippines is probably Efren Reyes, one of the very best billiards players, who probably would have been a multiple gold medalist if only billiards were an Olympic sport.

Pac Man has been dominating the news here the past few weeks, and he will certainly dominate the news today. We just hope that there will be a mention of the start of the war as well.

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