Heroic triumphs in the volatile Year of the Ox

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Filipino ring icon Manny Pacquiao made boxing history this year by clinching an unprecedented seven world titles. Manny's dismantling of Puerto Rican warrior Miguel Cotto last November 14 bolstered his reputation as the world's current undisputed pound for pound king.


Year 2009 has been a mixed bag of lows and highs. As a nation we felt immense pride in Manny Pacquiao's unprecedented seven titles, we wept in great distress during typhoon Ondoy, protested against the Ampatuan massacre in utmost shame. But if it's any consolation, this year saw a marked increase in terms of making our presence felt on the competitive global scene.

With 2010 a few days away, PEP (Philippine Entertainment Portal) list down some of the noteworthy achievements during the outgoing year.

MANNY PACQUIAO. Filipino boxing sensation Manny Pacquiao was in a big hurry to put lingering doubts about his greatness to rest. In 2009 alone, the charismatic ring icon top-billed two highly promoted megabuck Las Vegas fights with both matches ending in his favor.

Pacquiao's first conquest was British fighter Ricky Hatton who ended up kissing the canvass for good in the second round of their "The Battle of the East and West" bout on May 2. A sharp left hook knocked Hatton out cold, handing Pacquiao the IBO and Ring Magazine light welterweight titles respectively.

Manny then faced an equally strong and determined opponent in Puerto Rican Miguel Cotto in a fight bannered under the title "Firepower." The match held on November 14, 2009 proved to be more physical and tough for Pacquiao as compared to his previous encounter with Hatton.

Although Miguel managed to hold his ground throughout the contest, the fight was stopped at the twelfth round with Pacquiao emerging victorious for an unprecedented seventh world title. Pacquiao's victory likewise bolstered his grip on the hotly contested pound for pound king title previously owned by his next opponent: the undefeated and thrash talking American boxer named Floyd Mayweather Jr.

And as if both impressive victories were not enough, Manny capped off his amazing run by making it to the cover of Time magazine's Asia edition. The honor placed Manny alongside international sports figures like golfer Tiger Woods, basketball legend Michael Jordan, Olympian swimmer Michael Phelps and tennis stars Serena and Venus Williams, who were all featured by the magazine in the past.

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But Manny is not the only boxer bringing pride to the country. Other Pinoy ring warriors currently making a name in the international arena include Nonito Donaire, Jeff Canoy and Bernabe Concepcion, among others. Boxing enthusiasts and critics are of course on the lookout for the next Pinoy ring hero to assume Manny's throne should the proud son of General Santos finally retires.

BRILLANTE MENDOZA. Beating the likes of Hollywood heavyweights Quentin Tarantino and Ang Lee even on paper is no easy feat. But that's exactly what Filipino filmmaker Brillante Mendoza accomplished on May 17 at the Cannes International Film Festival held in France after his crime film titled Kinatay earned the approval of the judges who had to screen a handful of movies done by well-known to budding directors.

Mendoza's triumph made him the first Filipino director to bag the coveted award for full-length film. Kinatay tells the unfortunate fate of a kidnap-rape victim who is severely battered before being murdered then chopped to pieces. The film as expected received mixed reviews with some foreign critics dismissing the movie as "harrowing... offering audiences no relief or redemption." Positive reviews, on the other hand, particularly Sukhdev Sandhu of The Daily Telegraph found the movie's dark undertone an "unforgettable denunciation of societal corruption."

Mixed reviews aside, Brillante's victory only stressed the bright possibilities awaiting Filipino artists in the international arena who continues to live under the shadows of the late great director Lino Brocka.

"To premiere there [Cannes] is something I can really be proud of... It's not easy to do these kind of films in a third-world country. It's not easy to find a producer. You often feel alone. Sometimes I would go home after editing, at about two or three in the morning so tired and ask myself, 'Is this really what I want to do?' But then I can sleep and feel happy because I don't have any regret with my choices," Mendoza told THR.com in an interview.

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EFREN PEÑAFLORIDA. "In the future, everyone will be world famous for 15 minutes," pop artist Andy Warhol confidently remarked in the '60s. Warhol's comment couldn't have been more appropriate today with the advent of modern technology and the Internet.

Not that advances in technology are a bad thing as mentioned by the local folk group Asin in one of their timeless songs. Technology, when put to good use, can be a great tool in spreading valuable information on a global scale.

Noticed by CNN for his innovative efforts in bringing education closer to his less fortunate countrymen, 28-year-old Efren Peñaflorida edged nine other contenders from different countries to be named CNN Hero of the Year. Efren's endeavor earned the attention of CNN after he was nominated by a Cavite-based youth group for its Hero of the Year search. An online voting opened for the public along with the recommendation of a designated panel—which reportedly included Whoopi Goldberg, Ted Turner and ex-US secretary of state Colin Powell—helped determine the winner.

Efren spearheaded the "Kariton Klassroom" in reaching out to poverty-stricken youth deprived of a proper education. Penaflorida singlehandedly founded his pushcart education program in the '90s until volunteers started coming in and pushed Efren to formalize the Dynamic Teen Company.

"My message to children of all races, please embrace learning and love it, for it will embrace and love you back and enable you to change your world," said Efren in his emotional yet brief acceptance speech.

EFFORTS AGAINST ONDOY. Much has been said and written about the devastating aftermath of typhoon Ondoy here in our country last September. With almost the entire of Metro Manila submerged under floodwaters, most of our celebrities went out of their way to help those in need. Days following the typhoon, the country's biggest networks initiated a massive fundraising charity drive to help the victims, with their respective stable of talents representing the efforts.

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Barely three months after the tragedy Ogie Alcasid organized a concert held at the Mall of Asia Concert Grounds in Pasay City. The objective of the event was to generate additional funds to typhoon survivors. Various artists from solo artists to bands graced the concert, which also saw the gathering of talents coming from different competing networks as a sign of unity and camaraderie.

OTHER TRIUMPHS. 2009 witnessed Filipinos rising above great adversities and earning global recognition. Young singer Rhap Salazar—who bagged the Junior Grand Champion Performer of the World at the 13th World Championships of Performing Arts—appeared as a guest at the Ellen DeGeneres show, following the path previously set by Charice Pempengco.

Comedienne Eugene Domingo's lead comedy film Kimmy Dora pulled off a huge welcome surprise that went beyond local comedy genre. Applauded and praised by critics and film enthusiasts for its originality and wit, Kimmy Dora exceeded all expectations, at the same sending the message that all is not lost in what many say is a moribund film industry.

The death of former President Corazon "Cory" Aquino on August 1 reminded everyone of her galvanizing effect on the nation as a whole. Aquino's passing likewise stirred nationalistic pride among the Filipinos way before the national elections on 2010.

The final installment of the reunion concert of the legendary '90s band the Eraserheads is arguably the biggest OPM live event of the year. With no front acts and guest artists, the badly missed rock n' roll quartet singlehandedly filled the vast Mall of Asia Concert Grounds in Pasay with paying fans all eager to witness their old musical heroes play as one unit for perhaps the last time. If there's anything to be gained from the spectacle, the reunion gig proved that Filipinos performing in their own country can generate huge gate attendance, something that we commonly associate only with foreign acts visiting Manila.

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