Last year, tickets to the March 15, 2008 match between Manny Pacquiao and Mexican boxer Juan Manuel Marquez for the World Boxing Council (WBC) super featherweight title—priced at $100 and $200—were all sold out. If you still wanted to watch the pound-for-pound bout live at the 12,000-seater Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, you had to pay $300 to $600 for a ticket.
In the United States, subscribers to HBO pay-per-view could enjoy the fight in the comfort of their home for about $50. Boxing promoter Bob Arum projected that half a million people would tune in to the fight—and that figure didn't include viewers overseas.
Manny, who has earned the moniker "People's Champ" in the Philippines and "Republica Enemy No. 1" in Mexico, was reportedly being paid $8.5 million—that's roughly P348 million at the current rate of exchange—for the Ides of March match, win or lose. He would also be getting a hefty cut on pay-per-view rights. And don't forget his income from local TV rights and his numerous endorsement deals.
Jinkee Pacquiao, Manny's wife, admits that her husband's talent for delivering a left-hook knockout has given their family a very comfortable lifestyle: "Isang fight lang sa boxing, okey na kami, e." But she's also the first to admit that such a lifestyle can come with a high price.
"Minsan, iniisip ng mga tao, may pera ka, happy ka," she says at a point in the interview when the stories of Manny's "girlfriends" come under discussion. "Hindi naman ganoon, e. Mas maraming problema. Sabi ko nga, 'Mas gusto ko pa 'yong simpleng buhay kaysa ganito.'"
WHEN MANNY MET JINKEE. As the woman behind Emmanuel "Manny" Pacquiao, the slim, fair-skinned, five-foot-four Jinkee Jamora (that's the name on her birth certificate; Jinkee is not a nickname) has herself become a celebrity hounded by rumors and intrigues. But she has always tried to stay away from the limelight, and only faces the press to answer pressing issues about her husband.
"Nahihiya ako, e," she tells YES! "Pag may camera na, nahihiya na ako." Jinkee says she hasn't always been this withdrawn.
"Noong nag-aaral pa ako sa high school, sumasali ako sa beauty pageant. Sumali pa nga ako ng Binibining General Santos dati, e. Hindi ako masyadong mahiyain. Pero ngayon, ano na, nahihiya na ako. Ewan ko, noong nag-asawa na ako, nahiya na ako. Hindi ko alam kung bakit."
The soft-spoken housewife, who still speaks with a nice Visayan accent, has been married to Manny for nine years, and she has stood by her husband through his rise to boxing stardom. She reveals that she never thought she would end up marrying a boxer, much more one whom no less than the President of the Philippines, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, would call the country's "modern hero."
Both Jinkee and Manny are residents of General Santos City in Cotabato, and it was in Gen San, as the city is fondly called, that the two first met. She was then working in a mall, as a beauty consultant for Pond's skin-care products. He was already making a name for himself in the boxing arena. He was the WBC international super bantamweight title-holder, and in GenSan he had acquired the nickname "Kid Kulafu," after a brand of native wine known for its strong alcoholic content and the right punch. (The wine itself is named after Kulafu, a Tarzan-like komiks character created by Francisco V. Coching.)
"Parang mabilis 'yong pangyayari na nagkakilala kami ni Manny," she recalls.
When Manny came along, Jinkee noticed that her other suitors were slowly disappearing, as though backing down from a fight with a world champion. "Natatakot sila," Jinkee laughs a bit.
She would later tell Manny, when they were already married: "Noong nanliligaw ka pa, may nanliligaw sa akin. Hindi na niya itinuloy, kasi natatakot sa 'yo, e. Baka boksingin mo daw."
But beneath Pacman's tough image is a good man, Jinkee reveals.
"Mabait naman si Manny, e. Tahimik. Basta hindi siya 'yong mayabang na tao... Ayun, hinahatid-sundo niya ako sa trabaho. Ilang months lang, nag-on na kami—mga three months long."
Jinkee says her family—her parents, Nestor and Rosalina Jamora, and her four siblings, including her identical twin sister Janet—was fond of Manny from the start.
Unfortunately, the same could not be said of the Pacquiaos. Manny's family was against the relationship.
"Sa side niya 'yong ayaw. Kasi, before, may girlfriend siya na taga-GenSan. Ilang years na sila. Parang pinangakuan niya 'yong pamilya na magpapakasal na sila, something like that. 'Tapos, noong bigla niya akong nakilala, nagbago ang lahat. Nagbago ang plano."
Early in the relationship, along with the disapproval of Manny's family, she got her first taste of intrigue.
"Maraming nagsasabi ng bad comments na sinagot ko long daw si Manny because of his money, mga ganoon-ganoon. Hindi na long ako kumikibo, pero 'yong sa pamilya niya, sinasabi ko na hindi ganoon. Hindi ako ganoong klaseng tao na porke makapag-asawa ka ng sikat, pera naang habol."
In fact, despite Manny's initial successes, Jinkee says they had money problems in their early years as a couple.
"Bago lang siya nakabili ng bahay noon. 'Tapos, noong nagsama nga kami, naka-try nga ako na mangutang ng pera sa mga kaibigan, e. Hindi naman sobrang daming pera, e. Pag may laban lang siya 'tsaka lang siya may pera, 'tapos marami pa siyang gastos dati-sa pamilya, sa kaibigan. Noong nag-uumpisa pa lang kami, marami kaming mahihirap na nararanasan."
ON THE SIDELINES. Manny Pacquiao, former New York Times sports editor Michael Katz once wrote, "...is on the cusp of becoming perhaps the greatest Asian fighter to conquer the West since Genghis Khan."
Manny, indeed, is one of the few boxers to win titles in two weight divisions-super featherweight and super bantamweight. For the past three years, he has been the reigning WBC international super featherweight champion, beating mostly Mexican opponents and thereby adding "The Mexican Killer" to his list of monikers.
Before each fight, he trains with his coach, Freddie Roach of the Wild Card Gym, in Hollywood, California. For two months, the Pambansang Kamao begins his day with a jog at six in the morning to increase his endurance.
On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, he runs the paved streets of Los Angeles. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, he jogs up the hilly Griffith Park, which leads to the famous Hollywood sign.
After his warm-up, he proceeds to the gym for a rigorous three-hour training, which includes 300 sit-ups, several rounds on the mitt, and numerous punches on the heavy bag.
On Sundays, he goes to Mass and prays.
"Minsan naiiyak siya," Jinkee says of Manny's state of mind during training. "Kasi siya lang mag-isa, wala kami. Sabi niya, nalulungkot daw siya. Bisitahin ko naman daw siya. Sabi niya, 'I-surprise mo naman ako dito.' Sabi ko, 'Baka isipin ng mga tao na kung ano ginagawa ko diyan. May fight ka pa.'"
She says that she doesn't want her presence to be misconstrued, which is why she goes to wherever he is only after the training is over and the fight is about to start.
"Ayoko kasi 'yong may sasabihin 'yong ibang tao na, 'Asawa ni Manny, nandiyan na naman. Baka matalo na naman yan.' Kaya sinasabi ko nga, 'Eight years ko na 'tong ginagawa. Mula sa simula, ganito na ginagawa namin.'"
When Manny fights, the whole nation stops to watch the blow-by-blow. Statistics have shown that the crime rate drops to zero between the hours of the fight. Manny's mother, Dionisia, prefers not to watch and, instead, prays the rosary for her son from her home in GenSan. Jinkee chooses to be at ringside.
"Noong nagkakilala kami hanggang sa ngayon,pag may fight talaga siya, nandoon ako. Hindi ako absent. Before the fight, inoobserbahan ko siya kung kinakabahan ba siya sa fight. Depende kasi kapag may kalaban si Manny na magaling. Ayun, kinakabahan talaga ako para sa kanya. Pero pag feeling ko naman na 'yong mga kalaban lang na hindi masyadong magaling, ayun, confident ako."
Still, even after years of watching her husband get punched by world greats, she still cringes whenever she sees him get hurt.
"Siyempre, natatakot ako kung ano'ng mangyayari sa fight. Sobrang nerbiyos na minsan, pag-ring na 'yong bell, pag mag-start na 'yong fight, minsan hindi ko ma-explain 'yong nararamdaman ko. Napi-feel ko 'yon, e, 'yong pag nahihirapan siya."
GAMBLING AND DRINKING. Jinkee acknowledges that Pacman has been known to "work hard and play harder" after his bouts.
"Sobrang focused talaga siya sa training, kaya after the fight, kailangan niyang maglibang-libang."
Libang for Manny usually means gambling and drinking.
"Billiards, casino, poker, lahat," Jinkee says candidly. "Sa basketball, ganoon din. Sa karera... Kasi marami ding nagi-influence sa kanya ng mga ganyan, e."
It has been tough, she admits. "Dati, kahit magkasama kami sa labas, talagang kahit nandiyan ako sa gilid. Si Manny, nakainom, siyempre. Hindi na niya alam na may asawa siya na andiyan sa likod niya. Diyos ko!Ang ginagawa ko, nagte-text na lang ako."
To demonstrate how she coped, she buries her face in her cellphone, as though totally unaware of the world around her. With a sadness and a shame in her voice, she says:
"Kunyari hindi ko alam, hindi ko alam 'yong ginagawa niya. Nagpe-pretend na lang ako na hindi ko sila [Manny and the girls] nakikita, para hindi ako masaktan. Minsan, pag nasa bar kami, aalis ako sandali, iiyak ako doon sa gilid, 'tapos balik na naman ako sa table. Text na naman ako kunyari."
MOPPING UP & MOPING. In June 2006, FLT Films International produced a movie based on Manny's life. Pacquiao: The Movie starred Jericho Rosales as Manny Paquiao and Bea Alonzo as Jinkee.
Unfortunately, the biopic, reportedly budgeted at P50 million, bombed at the box office, grossing (according to the online encyclopedia Wikipedia) a total of only P4,812,191.
Jinkee says she was actually hesitant to make their life story public.
"Hindi nga ako 'yong in-interview doon, e. Si Manny lahat. Kasi ang inaano ko, baka isama nila 'yong tungkol sa mga babae. Pero 'yon, 'sinama pa rin nila."
There was a particular scene in the movie that Jinkee says confirmed something for her.
"Nag-check-in kami sa hotel," recounts Jinkee, who was with Manny and her twin sister in Metro Manila at that time. "Umalis ako sandali.
Pumunta ako sa Parañaque, sa bahay namin. Kumuha ako ng damit ni Manny. Mayroon siyang kasama, 'yong uncle niya na bading.
"E, ma-traffic pa noon. Nagtaka ako na bakit tawag nang tawag sa akin 'yong bading, 'Saan ka na? Saan ka na? 'Sabi ko, 'Bakit ba? Bakit mo ba tinatanong?' Pero na-ano ko na, na-feel ko, na parang may ibang ginagawa.
"Pagdating ko sa hotel, nagmamadaling umalis 'yong bading. Dumaan sa may hagdanan, ako sa elevator. Pagdating ko doon sa kuwarto, naabutan ko 'yong uncle, katok nang katok sa kuwarto. Manny, bilisan mo! Andiyan na si Jinkee!'"
When she got into the room, there was no girl. But Jinkee, whose instincts told her there had been a girl in there minutes before, was fuming.
"As in, nagwala ako sa kuwarto, sa hotel," Jinkee says animatedly. "Yong mga lampshade, binato ko sa kanya. Pati 'yong remote ng TV, binato ko kay Manny. Ayaw talagang aminin ni Manny.
"Tapos, 'yong kapatid ko naman, ang ginawa niya, sa mga cabinet, sa kama, hinahanap niya. Sa mga closet, doon siya ano. Ako, dakdak nang dakdak. Siya, tingin-tingin na baka nagtago lang. Tapos, si Manny, kunyari tulog lang siya. 'Ano? sabi niya. 'Ano sinasabi mo?'"
Pacquiao: The Movie finally confirmed that her instincts were right. In the movie, Manny's lady friend was shown leaving the hotel room through the fire exit.
Just like the other times, Manny successfully wooed back his wife and promised not to do it again.
"Minsan hindi mo maintindihan," Jinkee says in a somber tone. "Ayaw nilang mga lalaki na mawasak 'yong pamilya nila, pero nakakalimutan nila. Parang naiisip niya na, 'A, 'yong pamilya ko, nandiyan lang. Nandiyan naman sila, e. Okey lang.'
"Ginawa ko 'yong sinasabi ng iba na, 'Set them free.' Yong hindi mo siya tsine-check. Mayroon pa rin ako naririnig, pero hindi ako nagagalit, 'tapos kausapin ko siya nang mahinahon."
But things didn't seem to change.
"Diyos ko! Sabi ko, 'Parang ganoon pa rin?' Kasi sabi nila, pag 'yong sabon daw, pag hinigpitan mo, dumudulas. Ginawa ko rin 'yon. Sabi ko, Parang ganoon pa rin, a. Anong gagawin ko dito?'"
Jinkee admits that she gets hurt every time Manny "forgets" that he has a wife, but in the end she still finds her husband endearing and hard to resist.
"Bumait naman siya," she pauses and giggles. "Isang buwan, 'tapos balik na naman. Inom dito, sugal dito."
She adds, smiling despite herself: "Ganoon siya pag may kasalanan. Sobrang bait! Two weeks, three weeks, one month ang pinakamatagal. Pag guilty, kahit ano ipagawa mo, puwede. Kahit ano! Puwede siyang utus-utusan dito. Maglilinis siya. Magma-mop ng kuwarto namin, kasi alam niyang ako mismo ang nagma-mop. Kung puwede lang, siya na magligpit lahat! Sabi ko nga, 'Ilang ulit nang ganyan.'"
FAME & MANNY. From panadero, labandero, and trabajante, Manny has gone on to become a world-class boxer, not to mention a celebrity endorser, a singer and recording artist, and a movie actor, producer, and writer.
He has not always succeeded in his endeavors—in the last election, he lost in his bid to become the congressional representative of the first district of South Cotabato—but it cannot be denied that he has come a long way. This is most likely the reason why most of his poverty-stricken countrymen admire him.
But Jinkee, the person Manny has been with for the past eight years and the person who probably knows him best, thinks that popularity is taking its toll on Manny.
"Too much fame," Jinkee says. "Parang iniisip niya na marami siyang pera, hindi siya mawawalan. Iniisip niya na, 'Walang makakapigil sa akin.' Parang hindi na siya nakikinig sa asawa.
"Pati mga kaibigan, mga ninong, ninang, tinatawagan siya. 'Bakit ganyan si Manny? Ano na naman 'yan?' Sabi ko, 'Hindi siya makikinig ngayon. Sa isip niya, siya ang pinakamataas.' Ganoon.
"Parang siguro, sa kanya, 'Wow! Ganito pala pag sikat ka. Lahat ng babae, puwede.'"
In the course of the two-hour interview with YES!, Jinkee answers each and every question with conviction, without batting an eye. But at a certain moment, her voice begins to crack and her eyes begin to well up. This is when she admits that she is often in tears.
"Lagi, as in. Kapag nasasaktan ako, umiiyak ako. Kung puwede nga lang, pigain 'yong unan, di ba? Halos gabi-gabi, mula noong mga isyu [referring to the Ara Mina rumors]. Gabi-gabi ako umiiyak.
"Minsan, pag siya lang mag-isa, nare-realize niya, lalo na pag nasa States siya lang mag-isa, na nasasaktan daw niya ako. Ayaw na daw niya ako umiyak.
"Pero ganoon lang lagi kasi, e. Sabi ko, 'Nare-realize mo lang pag ikaw lang mag-isa. Pag nandito ka naman, parang inuulit mo.' Sabi ko, 'Sana ma-realize mo na paano kaya pag nawala kami sa 'yo?'"
Successfully holding back the tears, Jinkee regains her composure.
"Ayoko ng ganito," she says, managing a chuckle.
She also says she hasn't lost hope in Manny. Especially because last Christmas, while on a rare long vacation with the kids in Boracay, the two of them had a chance to have a heart-to-heart talk about the recent issues hounding their marriage.
Before this, she reveals, "Isang buwan kaming hindi nag-usap. 'Yon ang first ano namin na matagal. Super. Kasi gusto ko ma-realize niya na kung wala ako, wala kami.
"Naayos na noong nagpunta kami sa Boracay. Kasi nagplano siya na sa States kami Christmas hanggang New Year. Sabi ko, 'Ayoko. Ayoko sumama sa iyo. Kung gusto mo, mga bata dalhin mo.' Ayaw naman niya. Siya naman nagplano na Boracay kami.
"Doon kami nag-usap nang masinsinan. Talagang ano, bonding ng mga bata. Ayun—'yong New Year's resolution niya, hindi na siya iinom. Basta good boy na daw siya. Sabi ko, 'We'll see!'"
Jinkee proudly announces that Manny hasn't drunk or gambled since he made that promise to her.
"Ang dami ko nang napagdaanan," she muses. "Ang dami ko nang natutunan. Kailangan maging strong para makayanan ko lahat. Hindi ko nga ma-imagine na nakayanan ko lahat ng napagdaanan ko. Minsan, iniisip ko na gusto ko na mag-give-up, pero hindi puwede.
"Siyempre, tayo din, nasasaktan tayo, di ba? Pero kung 'yong sobra-sobra na at paulit-ulit, ayoko naman ng ganoon. Napapagod din naman kasi 'yong tao. Napapagod din naman ako. Pero sa akin, ayoko ng hiwalay. Ayoko na 'yong mga anak ko, iisipin nila na wala silang ama, walang daddy. Yon ang iniisip ko na sana 'wag mangyari."
She ends with a quiet wish: "Gusto ko lang naman 'yong respeto."