Press Release
November 6, 2018

Sen. Manny Pacquiao's speech at Cambridge Union


President Charles Connor and other esteemed officials of the Cambridge University; distinguished members of the Cambridge Union, other dignitaries in attendance, ladies and gentlemen, my fellow guests, good afternoon.

A famous pastor once said, and I quote, "The world is a university and everyone in it is a teacher. Make sure when you wake up in the morning you go to school." End of quote.

Today, I am not just in any obscure part of the global university. I am deeply honored to be invited by the Cambridge Union, the oldest debating and free speech society in the world and the largest student society in the University of Cambridge.

I am not a scientist, a mathematician, or a philosopher. But you have given me this privilege of addressing you. I am humbled to be in the midst of brilliant students in this prestigious university that has educated remarkable alumni, including British Prime Ministers, foreign Heads of states, monarchs, and royals . It is my distinct honor to stand before all of you.

I am delighted to learn that one of Cambridge University's historic colleges is Emmanuel College and that Harvard University, the first college in the United States, was organized after the model of Emmanuel.

I have not experienced how it is to pursue a degree like a regular university student. My circumstances were very different from yours.

But I did not allow these circumstances to limit me. I worked on and finally received my degree through the Alternative Learning System. More importantly, I continue to learn from the University called life.

So, here is Emmanuel Dapidran Pacquiao standing in front of you. I am not here to show off my left hook or my fluid footwork. I am here because I want to personally share my narrative in the hope that it will touch even just a few of you and persuade you to think differently about life.

I was born into poverty. There is a Filipino metaphor that goes "mas mahirap pa sa daga," which translates to "more destitute than a rat." From a very young age, I had to struggle daily to survive. I fought hard. I faltered. I failed. Many times. But I learned to rise again each time I fell. Each setback became a platform for a comeback.

That is what life was like to me as a child. But my hardships are not uncommon. There are so many others around the world who have faced even worse. But my hardships taught me one valuable lesson. Never quit.

If the world knocks you down, get up. If all things conspire against you, fight back. Quitting is not an option.

I was only 7 years old when I had to take responsibility for my three siblings who were left under my care because our mother had to earn a living. I took it upon myself to help her, "Mommy Dionisia", as she is fondly called by the Filipinos, to earn extra money so that we can eat even just one decent meal a day.

I was still in elementary school back then. I managed to attend classes even without sleep and without food. There were days when it was only water that kept me going. We were so poor that we could not even afford school supplies, I would use my pencil even if there was only about an inch long of it left that I could no longer hold it to write.

I remember when I was in the sixth grade, and my classmates would flock around me for our mathematics homework because they knew I was reliable when it came to numbers. I did their math homework for them, and in exchange they would share their food with me because they knew I rarely had any.

Boxing turned my life around. I was only 14 years old when I left my hometown in Mindanao so that I can train for it in Manila. My narrative took a turn because of that crucial decision to take a big step away from my comfort zone.

With the benefit of hindsight, I have realized that it is the grace of God that transformed me from nothing into something.

My circle became bigger and bigger because of the countless opportunities that boxing brought about. My victories in the ring pushed me right into center stage and ushered in fame and fortune. Opportunities came knocking at my door, one after the other.

But although I have savored the perks of luxury, the wages of poverty are etched in my memory. It is too much, I know , to wish that no one would have to live in poverty anywhere in the world. Unfortunately, poverty is a harsh reality we must accept. What I can do though is use my personal struggle to convince others that there is a reason to fight, that giving up should not be an option, and that winning despite the odds can happen.

Politics will never be my comfort zone. But public service is my clarion call. My compassion for the plight of my people is what motivated me to enter the world of public service in 2010 as a representative of Sarangani in the Philippine Congress.

Two terms after, I won a seat in the Senate with over 16 million votes. Now, I fight in a different arena.

As a legislator, I am waging war against modern-day slavery, supporting the cause of my fellow athletes, pushing for better healthcare services, and building more resilient communities.

One of my dearest advocacies is the welfare of Overseas Filipino Workers. The Philippine Statistics Authority reported that the number of Overseas Filipino Workers deployed in 2016 was estimated at 2.2 million. According to reports, there are over 200,000 Overseas Filipino Workers here in the United Kingdom alone.

I have authored bills for their additional protection and to offer genuine economic opportunities for their reintegration in Philippine society.


It is a big step towards protecting our Overseas Filipino Workers against a multitude of vulnerabilities such as illegal trafficking, illegal recruitment, contract substitution and the like.

I look forward to that day when our Overseas Filipino Workers would no longer have to be exposed to abuses just to earn money for their families back home.

I remain hopeful that the day will come when we no longer have to export our people as household workers who are treated like slaves; the day when people from all over the world would see and treat the Filipinos with dignity, honor, and respect.

In the Senate of the Philippines, I was elected as Chairman of the Committees on Sports, Public Works, and Ethics. I may not be comfortable with bureaucracy, but I have learned how to deal with the way things are done in government. We recognize processes, and we value debate.

As an athlete, I become agitated when I do not improve in terms of speed, style, and stamina. I keep pushing myself beyond my limits.

I apply the same principles in public service. As a lifelong learner, I must keep improving myself and I must not stop learning. That way, I remain relevant to my people and the world who deserve the best of Manny Pacquiao, inside and outside the ring.

For as long as I exist, I will keep showing up for life. I will continue to be a learner and always strive to be a teacher by imparting my hard-earned lessons to others.

Each one of you in this room can change the world. Have faith, persevere. Find your passion and heed your calling. I urge you, as the Roman poet Horace did: Carpe Diem -- seize the day.

And above all, FIGHT.

Thank you and a pleasant afternoon.

Speech delivered by
Senator- Republic of the Philippines
before the Cambridge Union
06 November 2018

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