Thursday, November 5, 2009

THE PHARELLISM ] The Pacman from Gensan wears Armani

pacManny makes it to Time Magazine Asia.

WHEN Eric Pineda first sat down with Manny Pacquiao in 2004, just when the boxer was near the tipping point of making it big, the veteran manager did not find it easy to spot the diamond in the GenSan boy’s rough coating. “He was just wearing jogging pants, a jacket and a beanie cap,” recalls Pineda, a veteran publicist, political and marketing consultant, who is white haired and speaks with a husky, imposing voice of a longtime sports commentator. He is now the business manager of Pacquiao after the boxer and Rod Nazario, the man who hired Pineda to sell Manny as product endorser, had a falling out a few years back. The publicist told Manny in those early days, “You win your fight with Morales and your whole world will change 360 degrees.” And that was what happened. And so the sparkle of celebrity began to surface in Pacquiao.

After the boxer won his second bout with Morales with a TKO in Las Vegas in 2006, there was no stopping the fast and furious pace of the Pacquiao phenomena. He was fighting in the biggest boxing venues in the world, knocking out Oscar dela Hoya in 2008, declared the number one “pound-for-pound” boxer in the world by boxing bible Ring Magazine, stopping for photo ops with the likes of Mark Wahlberg, and being followed by TMZ. Clearly, the 'siyano hiphop look Manny sported in ’94 is now but a blurry memory tucked in the farthest nook of his walk-in closet. These days he is making the rounds of parties and press appearances either in a bold colored argyle sweater and a matching painter’s cap ala Pharell Williams. Or speaking to fans in England in a windowpane-patterned grey Giorgio Armani suit paired with spanking new leather shoes in tan. Observers say people began seeing a new and improved Manny when he moved the parting of his hair from the Palito-style middle to the more proper and gentlemanly left. Suddenly Manila’s fashionable gay men were asking each other: “Would you do Manny?” And the answer would be: “Yes.”

After all, while he obviously doesn’t look like a fashion model, one could already say he embodies the modern GQ archetype : a successful man in a well-made suit, an athletic body underneath, supple skin thanks to years of training and discipline, and for that bit of edge, a neatly-trimmed moustache and goatee perfectly framing a smile that is simultaneously pleasant, naughty and aware of his place is in the world order. He was recently named by Time Magazine as one of the world’s most influential people of 2009, and he joins the likes of Tiger Woods and Kobe Bryant in this year’s Celebrity 100 List over at Forbes Magazine who reports that he earned $40 million from the second half of 2008 to the first half of 2009 alone, making him the sixth highest paid athlete in the world. Just recently, he appeared in the latest Nike TVC where he shares screen time with Bryant, Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova. You can’t get any bigger than that. On Philippine shores, his name these days is only associated with the top brands: McDonalds, San Miguel Beer, Ginebra and Smart. There is a string of other major endorsements that follow, of course, from flavored energy drinks to pain relief tablets.

He is our very own Million Dollar Man and he is playing it to the hilt. But the snazzy personal style didn’t happen overnight, or because a stylist was made to join his famously over-populated entourage. Eric and his wife Macy, who runs her own PR agency, began by giving Manny clothes as gifts, stuff he could wear to appearances and functions. “We tried to convince him that if you look at your contemporaries in his category, all of them wear suits. So dahan-dahan nasanay naman, simula sa jeans muna, then longsleeves, slowly the suit came into the picture.” The suit has another layer of attraction for Manny: he had recently seen The Godfather 2 and thought Al Pacino’s wardrobe was something he could adapt. Hence, the grey windowpane prints, the greys, the occassional vests over a crisp white shirt, finished off with a derby hat. He sometimes shops with his entourage or with family, going to stores like Banana Republic for casuals and relaxed suits, Salvatore Ferragamo and Armani for the more formal outfits. He likes going to the Metro Park Mall in LA and scouring the Ed Hardy stores there, also True Religion, Rock and Republic and Seven for All Mankind. For shoes, he prefers the ones with narrow square tips, from Ferragamo or Louis Vuitton.

People began seeing a new and improved Manny when he moved the parting of his hair from the Palito-style middle to the more proper, gentlemanly left. Suddenly Manila’s fashionable gay men were asking each other: “Would you do Manny?” And the answer would be: “Yes.”

But the Pacman’s accessory of the moment are clearly the hats. He recently bought $2000 worth of them in LA, from the Justin Timberlake fedoras to the painter’s cap to the raffia hats which reminds Manny of home. “Buri ‘yan,” he would say. “Gumagawa kami niyan sa Gensan.”

If there is anything left from what the Pinedas call Manny’s “hiphopper”days, it’s his fascination for bling. “As most Asians and Filipinos, you associate your success with the watch you wear, so when he won the Barrera fight, he bought his first Rolex watch, a Daytona with a mother of pearl face.” This was followed by another piece from the same brand after the last Morales match, a bezel diamond-studded piece. Recently, Pineda reports, Manny has taken to wearing a Patek Philippe for the more formal occasions. Manny also has an 18k gold necklace with a pendant shaped like two boxing gloves, also diamond-studded, a gift from a fight sponsor.

These days, when in the Philippines, Manny shuttles from his palatial home in General Santos to the the family residence in Brentville in Santa Rosa Laguna, a property the Pacquiaos acquired because of its proximity to the Brent International School where Manny’s two sons are enrolled. When work demands that he be mostly in Manila, for tapings of his show Pinoy Records, for example, and the Robin Padilla-headlined teleserye Totoy Bato, he mostly stays at the Renaissance Hotel where he and his entourage of ten to fifteen people (which includes his lawyer, bodyguards, personal masseur) occupy top money suites.

Team Pacquiao drives around the city in a couple of bullet-proof vehicles: a Hummer 2 and an Escalade. Pineda says his ward is really not a diehard car fan anyway. “For him its just a way to get from point A to point B.” Still, the right car is part of the star package. “When we started working, I asked him to buy a new car. ‘Manny Pacquiao ka eh.’ He bought a brand new Pajero which he uses when he’s in Manila. And then he bought a big trailer, a Porsche Cayenne na binili sa US tapos inuwi dito, a Mercedes SL 500 sportscar. He wanted to buy a Lamborghini but I advised him not to. ‘Di mo kelangan yan, baka maaksidente ka pa.’”

Clearly, he is more keen on acquiring real estate property. Apart from the Gensan and Brentville homes, the Pacquiaos, says the Pinedas, have several other properties: a townhouse near Medical City in Ortigas, a house in BF Homes Paranaque and another in Davao, all bought within the past four years. The house in LA is already in its finishing touches, with wife Jinkee being very hands on when it comes to the choice in furniture--in consultation with an American interior designer. The house, a 4,500-square meter property located in an upscale neighborhood dotted with celebrity homes, is reported to have cost $2.17 million and was bought March this year.

While the Pacquiaos are clearly learning the ropes of living large, Pineda insists his ward’s character hasn’t changed much. His idea of a party is still a big celebration with all of his friends where everything is happening all at once: drinking, darts, billiards, singing, dancing, card games. “He is still as grounded as when I first met him,” says Pineda.

And the guy knows how to give back. He has consistenty partnered with the PCSO and PAGCOR for charity projects. He is building a village called Pacquiao Heights in General Santos which will have factories that will give jobs and benefit the people of Saranggani.

Indeed, the poor boy from Gensan who dropped out of school at a very young age to help his mother sell bread has done very well for himself. He hangs out with Hollywood stars, shakes hand with state leaders and tycoons, shops in the best stores and dines in the best restaurants.

How does a Manny Pacquiao order in a place like, say, the upscale Nuvo at Manila’s Greenbelt restaurant row? “I would usually order for him,” says Pineda. “Alam ko naman ang gusto nya eh, basta may beef, chicken, fish. No pork.”

Pacquiao may not be the best person to peruse a fine dining menu, but the guy certainly knows how to reward excellent service. The last time Team Pacquiao checked out of the Renaissance in Makati, the staff bid their very important guest goodbye with bigger smiles than usual. The tip Manny left them: P100,000.

In style parlance, that’s what you call a flourish.


Appeared in the May 2009 Filipino Style Magazine.

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