Main Event: Manny Pacquiao vs the Manila Polo Club

Lots of populist huffing and puffing going on again after Filipino boxing champ Manny Pacquiao was allegedly refused membership in the über prestigious Manila Polo Club (MPC), which reportedly counts only people who are “the country’s A-listers belonging to the influential and affluent level of the Philippine status quo” as worthy to join its ranks. According to “sports writer” Recah Trinidad, Pacquiao is a “national treasure” and quoted “Golf godfather” Louie Reyes’s personal indictment of the MPC:

Rod Feliciano and I are pissed. Manila Golf Club and Manila Polo Club rejected the membership of Manny Pacquiao. Damned elitists. Manny earned his fortune without stealing from the Filipino and brought pride and glory for Pinoys. How many members of the club can claim the same? How idiotic. They deserve to be censured.

I’m not sure exactly on what basis the MPC Board should be “censured” as, last I heard, the MPC is a private club and therefore well within its rights to determine (1) who will and will not be admitted into its circles, (2) the criteria for making such decisions, and (3) whether or not anyone outside of the Club are privy to those criteria to begin with.

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As a matter of fact, the MPC is not the only instance of arbitrary exclusion criteria applied by a private enterprise to the greater public. Look around and behold the thousands of fortified cul-de-sac residential subdivisions. In a society that pretends to be one where “equality” rules, the presence of limited-acces enclaves has long been the proverbial elephant in the room, something I highlighted in an article I wrote way back in the early days

Consider this: Makati and its cousins, Ortigas, Alabang, and Greenhills are world-class reality suspensions. If only we could put all of them in an island and make like another Singapore with the rest of the country treated as its bread, fruit, and cheap labour basket. It is a closer reality than one thinks.

Entering one of the satellite residential enclaves of these capitals of commerce is just about as challenging as securing a visa to visit America. The security outposts of any of these “villages” are the equivalent of consulates and embassies where every visitor is looked on with a presumed intent to make trouble. “Visitor’s visas” are granted in the form of passes that are obtained in exchange for a temporary surrender of one’s driver’s license (which you have a legal right to decline). “Multiple entry visas” are extended for a fee of up to Php1,000 for a year’s access privilege (of course on the condition that you are endorsed – call it “petitioned” – by a resident). Even the neighbourhood parish church reserves prime weekend wedding and baptism slots for residents.

These enclaves are served by their own guest workers that are subject to rigorous security control procedures – body and luggage searches – the works. They levy their own taxes in the form of association dues on their residents; money far better spent than the taxes we pay the national government. Public service is first-class: a security force better-equipped, trained, and disciplined than our police force, grade-A asset management, first-world environmental policy (within the perimeter at least), and community-spirited (among themselves) residents who support and are compliant with the rules and regulations of the association.

Indeed, living in these “villages” is great. It affords the well-heeled a special place to withdraw from the Third World reality that is the rest of the Philippines into an antiseptic world governed using sensible, well-thought-out by-laws and populated by beautiful tennis-court-tanned people. Money is a fair enough passport to such orderly social coherence, as Pacquiao himself had recently proven having recently purchased for himself a cozy Php388 million mansion in tony Forbes Park in Makati City, home to the even tonier MPC the Champ aspires to be a part of.

Unfortunately, money can get you only so far in the free market. Prestige, pedigree, and (even harder) breeding is what gets you into the circles that really matter. For Pacquiao, that sort of social capital is stuff beyond the reach of his fat bank account.

Tough luck, champ.

13 Replies to “Main Event: Manny Pacquiao vs the Manila Polo Club”

  1. Nothing against Manny, because I am a big fan…of his excellent demonstrations of a talent for punching people in the face really hard. I always had the impression he was a pretty decent guy as well, which is why I find it a little disappointing that he’d actually want to join up with a clatch of pompous d-bags like the MPC.

    But that’s between them and him, I think you’re right in pointing out that “private club” actually does mean “private”. What really strikes me as ridiculous, however, is the assumption that everyone should have the same assessment of what a “national treasure” is. IMO, if “being the best in the world at punching people in the face really hard” and “being a generally congenial and respectable person” are enough to qualify for “national treasure” status, this country ought to think about raising its standards a wee bit.

    1. if being a world class boxer is only about “punching people in the face really hard””, then yes, he wont be a national treasure.

      1. That’s exactly what it’s about. He has achieved many victories and been judged to be (probably) the best athlete in that particular sport, because he is able to punch people in the face really hard until either a) his opponents fall down and can’t get up and continue, b) they surrender, or c) a panel of judges deems that he has punched his opponent with superior force and efficiency.

        If one of those three things did not happen in every fight (save for a couple rare exceptions a long time ago) that he was in, he would not be a world-class boxer.

        Stop over-complicating everything.

    2. Yes, the issue is between the MPC and Pacquiao, and the decision is MPC’s alone to make. Trouble with these “reporters” (reflected by the broader Philippine media) is this trial-by-media sentiment over matters that are private in principle — a tradition coming out of the bloated sense of self-importance they gained after their much celebrated role in the Edsa “revolution” of 1986.

      1. Media hyping is a chronic disease in Philippine Media. good thing there’s the internet where all information delivered by major news corporations can be validated without bias.
        Similar to Manny’s decision to run for congress, I also don’t agree with this one. And since nobody can do anything about a private club’s decision, scrupulous mediamen just put these people in bad light, guess who get’s the limelight.

  2. private clubs are just that – the name speaks for itself. If they dont want you in, why sour-grape? Seriously folks, are we still in high school when everyone is still dreaming of joining the cool kids’ table?

    having joined several country clubs over the past 2 decades, its the same everywhere (as long as the club is still worth joining in the first place, the really run-down clubs have no right to be picky about membership) Luckily, I could always count on my personal and business friends to sponsor my membership to a few local golf clubs but there is still politics involved. Your face (together with bio-data and resume) are posted in the clubs’ community bulletin boards where existing members can evaluate potential applicants. If they have complaints, they bring it up to the board and your membership could be vetoed for whatever reason. Palakasan din minsan even if you have the cash to actually buy shares. Not everyone who can afford the “entrance fee” is allowed in, members are especially wary of people who’s source of funds are highly questionable like drug lords and smugglers. For the most part, the system works for everyone. It keeps the prestige of the place, and their club share value along with it. If you let every nouveau riche social-climbing wannabe in, you’ll soon see a mass exodus of the old boys and soon your shares will be worth nothing.

    1. Indeed. The snottiness of a club is precisely what makes membership in one such so appealing. Basic human condition. We all want what we can’t have.

  3. I can imagine the MPC telling Manny in the most snotty manner, “I’m sorry, you can’t sit with us!”

    I love Manny, but seriously, you don’t need this.

  4. Actually private clubs don’t have the absolute right to refuse members. In the US there have been class action lawsuits against private clubs which allegedly discriminate on the basis of sexual preference or race. So maybe we don’t have such anti-discrimination laws in the Philippines, and that it’s okay for private clubs to impose their own laws. But that doesn’t mean it’s ideal. If their only reason for refusing Manny is his “breeding” then we got a big, big problem right there.

    1. Then perhaps that is one initiative Pacquiao should add to his legislative agenda – a more robust legal framework for furthering anti-discriminatory aspirations of our society. What remains to be seen is his ability to turn what he learns from this experience into concrete outcomes as far as his job as representative and legislator to the Filipino people.

  5. If Manny can buy the joint: Maybe he can do a “Caddy Shack 2” on the MPC. In this case, Manny can…rent out ponies to the public. 😛

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