Two Filipino celebrities who have brought prestige and honor to the country are on collision course.
Broadway superstar Leah Salonga, who won several awards for her performances in the hit musical Miss Saigon, has been very vocal in her support of the Reproductive Health (RH) Bill now being debated in Philippine Congress.
Last year, she took to the streets and protested when the village council in her posh subdivision enclave passed an ordinance banning the sale of contraceptives in their area.
A Tony, Olivier and Outer Critics awardee for best actress, Salonga says the RH bill allows women control over their futures.
Rep. Manny Pacquiao, a member of the Philippine Congress, is riding on the crest of his popularity in siding with the Catholic church to oppose the bill.
Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez of the Diocese of Marbel issued a pastoral letter urging voters not to elect candidates who are known to gamble and to womanize – traits that are not exactly lost in Pacquiao.
That aside, Pacquiao believes the use of contraceptives is against his Catholic faith. He said had his parents practiced family planning, he would not been born. Pacquiao has five other siblings.
Winner of eight world boxing titles in eight different weight classes, Pacquiao is a reverberating voice of the RH bill opposition.
On Wednesday evening, Pacquiao interpellated fellow congressman Edcel Lagman of Albay, one of the principal authors of the bill. What promised to be an exciting evening of verbose sparring was cut short when the issue of quorum was raised. Many, and perhaps Manny, were spared the nightmarish spectacle of watching and listening to a veteran legislator and excellent debater square off with a neophyte colleague who has been absent for more than four of the 10 or so months that the 15th Congress has been in session so far.
Pacquiao and his handlers have carefully built a populist image for the champion boxer cum politician although he never has extensively discussed issues and advocacies he paid attention to. Sometimes, though, he has shown political naivete such as when he tweeted his personal vote on the impeachment of an unpopular Ombudsman who has since resigned.
The RH bill will be his baptism of fire on how grounded the philosophies and practicality of his personal advocacies are and many will be exposed to Manny’s intellect or perceived lack of it.
Salonga, on the other hand, is one of the most intelligent and articulate artists to come out of the movies and theater and perhaps the most successful Filipina artist to crash into the international scene.
Blessed with a haunting and angelic voice Pacquiao could kill for, Salonga combines beauty and wit and was never embroiled in any controversy.
Both are living a family life although Pacquiao has often been romantically linked to numerous women other than wife Jinky. A few years back, Pacquiao found himself in a controversy involving a billiards attendant who claimed to have bore a child from him.
Two years ago, the 31-year old Pacquiao was also dragged into a similar controversy. He was rumored to be having an affair with a young movie actress who now is living in the United States and has since married another guy.
There are rumors of several other women with whom Pacquiao reportedly sired children. These cannot be substantiated however.
In contrast, Salonga appeared to be living a blissful marriage life and is still very much a Filipina despite the American and sometimes British twang of her tongue. She has a daughter with Robert Charles Chien, a high ranking executive of a California entertainment software company.
Salonga and Pacquiao are titans in their chosen field where they excelled.
They are the embodiment of Filipino success – against all odds.
And they will be at odds with each other on the issue of reproductive health.
Pacquiao may have the inside track being a member of Congress that will eventually vote for the measure – for or against.
But Salonga is not wanting with allies in the entertainment industry and academic community.
Pacquiao versus Salonga. Who wins?