MANILA - They are two young leaders hardened by circumstance to become the champions of their chosen field.
For Senator and Filipino boxing legend Manny Pacquiao, his admiration for Manila Mayor Isko Moreno is rooted in their common backstories.
"Itong mayor niyo, nakaranas din ng gutom, nakaranas din ng hirap. Kaya alam ko, ako mismo ang magtestify, alam ko na ang mga pangangailangan ng mahihirap, ng lipunan, ay nararamdaman niya," Pacquiao told city employees during a courtesy call at the city's weekly flag-raising ceremony.
(Your mayor experienced hunger and poverty, that's why I know, I personally testify that he knows what the poor feel.)
Pacquiao shares the same backstory with the first-term mayor, who rose from scavenging trash to entering showbusiness and eventually politics.
Pacquiao recalled how as a kid he spent nights sleeping in Rizal (Luneta) Park before selling flowers on church grounds in the morning.
On Monday, the People's Champ met with Moreno a week after his WBA welterweight title bout versus Keith Thurman in Las Vegas.
He said his and Moreno's rags-to-riches backgrounds were an edge over other politicians who never experienced hardship.
"Mahirap talaga ang lider na hindi nakaranas ng paghihirap. Iba kasi ang alam iyong problem at iba naman ang hindi lang alam iyong problema kundi naranasan dahil hindi siya makatalikod sa pinanggalingan niya," Pacquiao said.
(Having a leader that did not experience poverty is really difficult. Knowing the problem is different from experiencing the problem because with the latter, you cannot turn your back on your roots.)
Pacquiao told city employees they should be thankful for having an industrious mayor in Moreno. He also hinted at a wider political arena for Moreno, who failed in his 2016 senatorial bid.
"Mayor, ipagpatuloy mo lang ang ginagawa mo. Malayo pa ang mararating mo. Baka hindi lang dito sa Maynila ang iyong seserbisyuhan," the lawmaker said.
(Mayor, just continue what you are doing. You'll go far, maybe you won't only serve Manila City.)
President Rodrigo Duterte previously said he wants to make Pacquiao president of the country.