Manila (Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN) - He may have lost his battle inside the ring, but Filipino boxing icon and Sarangani Representative Manny Pacquiao believes he remains a winner in the eyes of God and the Filipino people.
Paquiao arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport early Saturday morning, a week after his defeat to American Timothy Bradley.
"It's okay. In the heart of God and the Filipino people, I am the winner," he said as he thanked the Filipinos for their support and prayers.
Pacquiao lost to Bradley in a split decision in a rounder-match June 9 in Nevada, USA. The result of the controversial match, which ended Pacquiao's remarkable seven-year unbeaten run, was met with widespread criticism.
But Pacquiao said he has no hard feelings over his loss to Bradley.
"It's not a problem with me. I don't think I lost anything," he said in Filipino when asked if he felt any different now that he has not brought home any championship belt.
He thanked the Filipinos for their support and prayers but urged them to move on and accept the verdict.
"I really thank you for your support, but let's just forget what happened and accept it wholeheartedly. God has a good plan for us; plan to prosper us and not to harm us; plan to give us hope in the future. God is good all the time," he said.
"I'm so happy and excited because God has a good plan for me. My plan may not be good but His plan is good and I'm excited for that," he added.
Unlike in the past, Pacquiao's arrival statement Saturday was preceded by a prayer offered by a pastor from General Santos City.
A welcome banner bearing the message "Welcome home Manny, ang aming kampeon [our champion]," greeted him at the airport.
Another banner carried by a group of his supporters read "Manny Pacquiao, boxer of the century."
He was also welcomed by former Manila Mayor Lito Atienza, among others.
But unlike Pacquiao's previous homecomings when people scrambled to get a glimpse of him, the crowd that greeted him at the airport was noticeably thinner.
This prompted a close friend of Pacquiao to quip: "Ganyan talaga, talo siya e. Pero kapag panalo [That's the way it is. He lost. But if he won], everyone wants a piece of him. It's true what they say, you would really know who your real friends are when you're down."
The Saranggani representative said he decided to come home to be with his constituents who suffered in the wake of flash floods earlier this week.
"I decided to return to my province because my constituents are there, they were affected by floods. They need my help," he said.
He added he had to cut short his vacation in the United States and leave his wife, Jinkee, and four children behind just to be with his constituents.
He said he would return to the US and resume his and his family's vacation but only after he attends to his constituents' needs.
"I'll return to my family once the problem at Sarangani is over," he added.
Sarangani was one of the areas hit hardest by flash floods brought by a shallow low pressure area earlier this week.