Manny Pacquiao's wife, Jinkee, has encouraged an extraordinary lifestyle change that has seen the boxing champion ditch his legendary late-night partying and gambling habits.
Shortly after his narrow victory over Juan Manuel Marquez in November, Pacquiao implemented major steps aimed at adding order and structure to his life, and improving his public image in the Philippines. Sources say Jinkee was behind the adjustments. Famous for keeping odd hours and often sleeping into the afternoon, Pacquiao has now taken to rising early in the morning, along with his wife, and throwing himself into an array of political, social and religious projects.
In the Philippines, it is hoped the new approach will improve Pacquiao’s sporadic attendance at congressional sessions, a spotty record that has given his political rivals ammunition. In 2011, he was the fourth most absent congressman in his homeland, attending just 27 of 59 session days. Of his 32 absences, official notice was given for only 21.
He also drew fire for failing to attend a House of Representatives plenary session on the impeachment case of controversial Filipino political powerbroker and ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, receiving so much criticism he was forced to temporarily delete his Twitter account.
"I do not neglect the responsibilities that others think I forget," Pacquiao said last year. "Just like when I met Barack Obama during my promotional tour, I may be absent in the Lower House but I still carried our country’s name."
Still he is repairing his reputation in other ways, as well. Pacquiao is selling the huge farm in Sarangani where he kept thousands of chickens and roosters used for cockfights, upon which the 33-year-old would regularly wager large sums of money.
Religion has become a focus for him, and he and Jinkee take bible study classes with a preacher several times a week. The fighter discusses religious verses and their meaning with Pastor Jeric Soriano and has encouraged his driver, bodyguard and other members of his entourage to take part. On his next trip to the United States, he will again seek out a local man of faith, Pastor Rice Brooks, whom he has turned to in the past.
The motivation for the Filipino superstar's makeover seems to be primarily political. He is currently Congressman for Sarangani province, but seeks higher office. He is expected to become Governor of Sarangani later this year, having struck a deal with reigning governor Miguel Rene Dominguez that will result in them effectively trade places. A future run for the Filipino presidency seems virtually certain.
However, it is unlikely that any change of lifestyle would have taken place without the efforts of Jinkee, with whom he has four children.
"(Jinkee) is a smart young woman and she knew it was time for Manny to put himself in a better position," said respected veteran Filipino broadcaster Ronnie Nathanielsz, a longtime friend of Pacquiao and columnist for the Manila Standard newspaper in a telephone interview with ThePostGame. "Manny knew it too, that it was time for the late nights and the gambling and the extracurricular things to stop.
"He is no spring chicken and Jinkee sat him down a couple of months ago and said that if he aspired to big things in politics it was time to change, to start saving money, investing well, and looking good in public.
"Of course as a boxer there is a lot of publicity, but in politics your life becomes an open book. It was time to clean it up, straighten it out, get a new lifestyle and a new image. The cockfighting has stopped and the farm is being sold. Now when we speak he always talks about his Bible studies and how they are helping him."
The "new" Pacquiao appears more committed than ever to domestic matters. Even though the inability of boxing’s two biggest names, Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather, to arrange a showdown has frustrated fight fans for more than two years, Pacquiao recently cancelled a trip to the U.S. to meet promoter Bob Arum. Instead he insisted the 80-year-old Arum to travel to the Philippines to present the champ with a four-man list of prospective opponents.
"Manny told me he is already preparing for when Congress returns to session," Nathanielsz said. "He is filming a television commercial this weekend but wants to have it all wrapped up so that he can be in the House on Monday."
Atop Pacquiao's political agenda is attempting to eradicate illegal mining and logging activities that are depriving Sarangani province of preserving its natural resources.
"He has always cared deeply for his people," Nathanielsz said. "But now he is more dedicated than ever, and he is much happier because of it."
And hopefully for Pacquiao the populace of his homeland will recognize his renewed commitment. And thank Jinkee for it.
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