Some fashion statements stand the test of time. High heels. Denim jeans. And a personal favorite, the Barong Tagalog.

So imagine my delight when my beloved national costume/formal attire got another opportunity to shine at a formal event, its first in over a year. And yes, I’ll wear it over any business suit or tuxedo.

More than a year ago, my friend Gepay announced that she was getting married to her boyfriend/officemate Giane after what I initially described as a “whirlwind romance”. She then invited me to take part in the event by hosting the reception program. Needless to say, I assured her it would be an honor to help celebrate perhaps the single happiest day of their lives.

So I had the date down. November 12, 2011 at 4:00 PM. The historical Malate Church was the wedding venue, with the equally historical Manila Grand Opera Hotel & Casino as the reception venue. I even managed to file my leave just two weeks before, and I was clearly relieved when I found that my leave request had been approved.

Two days before the big day, I had my Barong Tagalog dry cleaned at a laundromat. On the day itself, I was in touch with my friend and the wedding planner and I promised I would be there early for the event. With time passing quickly, I managed to have the laundromat deliver my Barong Tagalog at home and I made preparations in haste.

I left home after having a light lunch and took a taxi to the hotel to meet up with the bride. However, a sudden downpour caused traffic along the way to build up and what would have been a 20-25 minute trip slowed to a 45-minute crawl. Fortunately, I arrived at the hotel with plenty of time to spare and I met up with the wedding planner to discuss the event details. I would be hosting the event with Rudolph, a close friend of the groom who also happened to be the bride’s brother-in-law (as he was married to the bride’s sister). Rudolph would also serve as commentator for the wedding ceremony at the church, and I would ride shotgun along with his family to and from the wedding.

We arrived at the church before the ceremony time of 4:00 PM, and the ceremony was soon underway. At the wedding itself, I met up with their officemates from TrendLabs (including the one I had given a stuffed toy tiger the year before). With Giane dressed in a neat grey suit and Gepay dazzling in a brilliant white gown, it felt like a truly wonderful day. With the conclusion of the wedding ceremony, we soon posed for pictures with the newlyweds and gave then the traditional send-off at the cathedral door by releasing butterflies in their path.

I felt a sense of dismay, however, when some of the butterflies ended up being stepped on and crushed amidst the festivities. But this was soon replaced by relief and wonder when one of the butterflies ended up landing on my Barong Tagalog and staying there for most of the evening. It would become the subject of many a picture then and I actually took pride in showing off my “living” corsage.

My friends Giane and Gepay formally tied the knot as a married couple and everybody was in a great mood. An epic event worth celebrating, it was.

We arrived back at the hotel where I got to interact with the couple’s respective family and friends before the reception. Soon after, Rudolph and I went into full hosting mode as we ran through the program. We were treated to many memorable moments, such as a surprise dance number by the newlyweds, messages from family and friends and even contests for those in attendance. We even got to watch a very touching set of video presentations, one of which re-enacted the day that the groom proposed to his lovely bride. And to cap the night off, pictures of the guests with the newlyweds soon overflowed from camera to camera, each a testament to the uniting power of an event showcasing the greatest of human emotions.

We were treated to a sumptuous dinner and even got the chance to ham it up with a rented photo booth where we could try on all sorts of wacky costumes and outfits. And after receiving warm gratitude from the organizers and the newlyweds, I even got a neat bottle of white wine to take home along with wonderful memories of a great night.

Rudolph was even so nice as to drop me off at the nearby SM Mall, where I could easily take a taxi home. I even left my butterfly for his youngest daughter to take care of, as she was attracted by the lovely insect.

And that is how once again, my Barong Tagalog was the highbrow hero of the day.

I managed to get home before midnight, and I was greeted by my sisters upon arriving. My younger sister Fran had managed to get five tickets (courtesy of her officemate) to the third bout between Manny Pacquiao and Mexican nemesis Juan Manuel Marquez to be shown at SM Mall of Asia live in the morning. As my elder niece Noelle decided not to go after an exhausting day at Ocean Park Manila, it was left to me, my elder sister Mitzi and her son Mikhail, Fran and our cousin Nico (who by the way passed the civil engineering board exams held recently) to take advantage of the freebies.

We left past 9:00 AM of Sunday and despite initial difficulties with getting parking due to a recently concluded running event, we managed to secure good seats and had a lot of great food in tow for the event. We were treated to the undercard bouts, which provided some very interesting moments of their own.

The featured bout began past noon, with Filipino Internet sensation Maria Aragon performing the Philippine national anthem “Lupang Hinirang”. Maria, who gained fame with her rendition of Lady Gaga’s hit “Born This Way” going viral earlier in the year, was even invited by Lady Gaga herself to perform live with her and later led to the young Filipina gaining much acclaim and praise from all over. Rendering the American national anthem “Star Spangled Banner” was another Filipina, Thia Megia. Thia gained fame as a contestant on Season 10 of American Idol, where she made it to the final group before being eliminated.

Longtime rivals Manny "Pac-Man" Pacquiao and Juan Manuel "El Dinamita" Marquez hoped to settle their feud once and for all in their third meeting. Alas, controversy would hound this bout as well.

After a slow start in the first four rounds with neither boxer gaining a clear advantage, Marquez started landing more solid punches while Pacquiao seemed somewhat hesitant to engage in a slugging match with his adversary. In the last four rounds, Pacquiao managed to negate some of Marquez’s advantages and landed some great punches of his own. In what appeared to be the most decisive of their three fights (considering the draw in their first bout and the split decision favoring the Filipino in the second), it appeared the Mexican had finally gained the upper hand in their intense rivalry.

But in yet another highly controversial ending, Pacquiao would win the bout via a majority draw decision, with two judges favoring the Filipino pugilist 115-113 and 116-112 and another judge calling it a draw. The decision was met with boos from most in attendance, and in his frustration the Mexican left the ring before he could be interviewed.

The crowd in the movie theater had an almost stunned reaction after hearing the verdict and after a few more seconds, some mild cheering ensued. Instead of my usual cheer with a Pacquiao victory, the first words I uttered as the decision was read by veteran ring announcer Michael Buffer were these:

“He won? Seriously?!”

The controversial decision prompted me to post on Twitter that I felt that somehow, Marquez should have won the bout considering the punches he managed to land and Pacquiao’s somewhat hesitant approach to his rival. It then reminded me of the International Boxing Federation heavyweight title bout between famed boxer George Foreman and his German opponent Axel Schulz in 1995. In a bout where Schulz was clearly the aggressor landing blow after blow on the aging American, Foreman retained the title in a highly controversial decision. My dad, who was watching the bout with me, theorized that the decision had been made to build up Foreman in a future “dream match” with Mike Tyson, who was also working to rebuild his boxing career. Nothing came about of the said bout and after losing the heavyweight title as the oldest champion in boxing history, Foreman would retire for good and gain new-found fame with endorsing the George Foreman Grill.

Soon, I was made aware of the stats that had come out of the fight favoring Pacquiao, where he managed to throw and land a higher percentage of punches than Marquez. In addition, many boxing analysts pointed out that in a title bout, the challenger has a prerogative to be more aggressive and keep coming at the champion, something which Pacquiao displayed but Marquez did not leading to his loss on the judges’ scorecard. And finally, footage of the bout showing the Mexican stepping on the Filipino’s foot in several instances in an alleged attempt to allow him to hit the champion has circulated on Facebook, with many decrying the tactic and reversing their formerly adversarial stance on the controversial win.

A friend of mine pointed out that points on a boxing judge’s scorecard are like points in a basketball game. The target is to have more points than your opponent at the end of the contest, and even if the way in how they gain these points can always be questioned, they will still count as long as the officials consider them valid. So clean or dirty, get enough points and you get the win.

So the verdict now is that more than the champion’s failure to knock out his challenger for a decisive win, Marquez’s inability to clearly dominate Pacquiao put his efforts in vain.

So am I ready to take back my statement that Marquez deserved the victory and heap praise upon Pacquiao’s shoulders?

Not so fast, folks.

True, I accept the numbers as being accurately tracked by trained ring officials and thus, Pacquiao could have very well landed more punches without my being totally aware of it. After all, the TV camera can only see so much from a certain angle.

True, Marquez did not impose his will on Pacquiao as he should have despite doing some things right.

But it was still a close call. The match could indeed have gone either way. And while Pacquiao did just enough to win, Marquez had things in control from the middle and the champion had to play catch-up before the bout ended.

What has me concerned is that Gayweather will call this bout a clear case of officials partial to the reigning pound-for-pound king of boxing and this may make him even more hesitant to set up their much-awaited fight. Sure, once can call the unbeaten American a coward who constantly hides behind (or even under) his mother’s skirt, but he has clearly gained some confidence after his recent victories over Victor Ortiz and Shane Mosley (the latter whom Pacquiao had beaten before the rubber match with Marquez).

And while I am confident that Pacquiao never intended to win this way, it will not rank as one of his better bouts. The Filipino has found the one Mexican he could never kill (despite his Mexican Killer” moniker owing to his success against Mexican boxers). It is also a sign that he is not getting any younger either as shown by a noticeable drop in his usually blinding speed. Quitting while he is ahead may be the next decision he has to contemplate. And while it may mean the grand bout that happens each generation may never take place, he has more than enough to rest on. And I’ll call his legacy probably the greatest thing he has ever done, for proving that the Filipino can truly be great if he sets his mind to it.

And while not being the most gracious in defeat, I still salute the Mexican challenger for showing plenty of guts and heart against an eight-division world champion. Whenever he decides to retire, he’ll go down as Pacquiao’s main nemesis and a true world-class world champion quality boxer.

So what of Pacquiao-Marquez IV, one may ask. Much as I crave a decisive victory, I think three controversial down-the-wire matches is enough. I still squarely root for Pacquiao, and ugly as the win may be, it still is a win.

*****

And finally, I celebrated yet another candle on my cake 11 days ago. 130+ greetings on Facebook, Twitter and my mobile phone is a pretty sweet deal. And while my original celebration plans did not push through, I am still doing my best to enjoy myself.

To those of you who remembered and celebrated my natal day, thank you all. And to those I have met along the way and became a part of my history, thanks as well.

And I’m not done with November yet. Not by a long shot. Cheers!

*****

Joe Frazier, one of boxing's legends, passed away on November 7, 2011 at the age of 67 after battling liver cancer. He will be regarded by many as a superstar who gave fellow great Muhammad Ali his toughest challenges to date, including their "Thrilla in Manila" rubber match in 1975.

Speaking of boxing, the great Joe Frazier coincidentally passed away at the age of 67. A former Olympic and world heavyweight champion, “Smokin’ Joe” was best known for his rivalry with fellow great Muhammad Ali in which they sparred with each other inside and verbally outside the ring. They fought in three great bouts, none of which was more famous than the “Thrilla in Manila” held on October 1, 1975 at the Araneta Coliseum. He was a swarmer who could wear down opponents by giving and taking punishment, setting them up for his patented left hook when they were most vulnerable. And while he struggled with financial and health concerns in his last years, Frazier took to training many young boxers and remained well-respected by most of his peers.

Rest in peace, Smokin’ Joe.

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