D” Pacquiao belts
out her favorite
Imelda Papin ballad
“Bakit Ikaw Pa,” in
themusic room of
her new house in
General Santos City,
with the apple of her
Yamson, who is also
her constant singalong
It is 10 a.m. and a group of nuns has come to visit the most famous “Mommy” in General Santos City.
The unannounced visit happens quite often, says Dionesia Dapidran-Pacquiao, mother of the world’s best pound-for-pound boxer Manny Pacquiao and whom the Philippine media has nicknamed Mommy D. The nuns just wanted to see her, she explains, “wala lang,” a sort of courtesy call, and then the obligatory picture-taking.
Her real nickname, she says, is Inday.
Inquirer Lifestyle is here for a chat, since she’s in the news lately, not because Manny is gearing up for another boxing match, but due to her exciting, if controversial, romantic relationship with a man 26 years her junior.
She’s 65; Michael Yamson, a seaman from Iloilo, is 39.
She’s animated in person, her loud speaking voice shifting from Tagalog to Bisaya as she engages her makeup artist in small talk.
“I called for the makeup artist para maganda si Nanay,” says Dr. Cathy Juliano, a dentist who also manages Mommy D’s business schedule, which has, in the past few years, included product endorsements, a movie and the occasional song-dance performance.
She’s actually blessed with prominent cheekbones and has a charming smile.
“Nag-perform na ako sa Singapore,” she says, “dalawang singing, isang dancing.”
She sits in a formal way, her body straight, hands folded on her lap, in the living room of her new house in a modest subdivision not far from the Gensan national highway.
She likes it here because the house is a bungalow; she feels comfortable here, she says, whereas she found it difficult to climb the stairs in Manny’s house dubbed “Mansion 1.” She actually fell from the stairs: “Papunta ako sa ballroom dancing, hindi natuloy kasi nahulog ako sa hagdanan, sumabit yung takong ng sapatos ko sa carpet.”
There’s nothing lavish about the new house, which Manny built for her and she moved into on Nov. 28, 2012. If there’s anything that looks expensive, it’s the grandfather clock at the corner of the living room, with a taped price tag that has not been removed: P34,000.
What passes for décor are frames upon frames of her photos placed on the sofa’s center table and shelves around the living room.
The house is on a 1,000-square-meter lot with wide, open spaces at the back. It’s equivalent to 10 regular lots in the village, she says, and has extra space for a chapel she wants built to house the Our Lady of Fatima image that stands on the porch.
She derived her Marian devotion from her father, Florencio Dapidran, and mother, Cristina Mejia, who were both Catholic, though her mom converted later to the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
The third among seven siblings, she wanted to be a teacher but had to drop out in grade school. She got married at 16.
She now moves around with bodyguards, provided by Manny, because of “threats,” she says, which her dutiful son is not taking lightly.
As she opens up to recall the hard life she and her six children went through before Manny started making money as a boxer, her bedroom door opens—with a guy taking a peep.
It must be Michael, we surmise. As he walks behind us to go to the kitchen, Mommy D calls out a househelp who is busy cooking for lunch.
There was a time, she recounts, when all she ate for eight months was niyog (coconut). “Hirap ng buhay,” she points out, especially since her husband, Rosalio Pacquiao, was jobless. They separated when their youngest child was in third grade.
When Rosalio left, she continued raising her kids, waking up at 4 a.m. to sell kakanin; in the afternoon she’d still be out on the streets distributing to other vendors the peanuts she had cooked.
A few times she collapsed out of sheer fatigue. A Muslim took pity and helped her regain consciousness using White Flower (oil).
When Manny won his first World Boxing Council crown, she recalls he told her: “Ma, huwag ka nang maglako ng mani ha. Mahihiya na ko.”
As Michael returns from the kitchen and sits near us, Mommy D’s eyes twinkle as she gets sidetracked to recall how they met.
Eight months ago, on Feb. 14, she spent a night-out at High Five, a KTV club in Gensan.
Michael, who was with his seamen friends, approached one of her bodyguards and asked permission to have his photo taken with her. Later, when she was about to leave, Michael asked for another photo-opportunity.
There were no sparks in that first meeting, she says. “Mataray ako.”
But then he managed to strike a conversation during the second photo-op, introducing his group as “taga-barko kami.”
When Michael offered to shake her hands, he also handed her a piece of paper with his phone number.
“Dun na nag-umpisa ang pagkulit niya sa akin,” she says.
Is she happy?
And so we ask her, is she happy with Michael?
“Tinanong ko siya,” she says, “bakit ganun ang feeling mo sa akin? Natutulog na ang puso ko. Hindi ko na ’to binubuksan. Takot na ako.”
After her separation, she’s had three other relationships, all of which did not last. Manny himself has told her that just because his father left them, it doesn’t mean she could play the field.
We turn to Michael, asking him why he’s still single at 39. He had a girlfriend, he says, who got married because she couldn’t wait for him since he has committed to support his ailing mother first.
His mom died recently, leaving him free to live his own life, which he now shares with Mommy D.
A typical day in the house is filled with music; she and Michael love to sing in the music room. Where is that, we ask.
The music room is stacked with boxes of household appliance so that it now looks like a small warehouse. But we persuade Michael to turn on the videoke set so we can hear him and Mommy D sing.
They proceed to render Imelda Papin’s “Bakit Ikaw Pa?”—Michael a bit embarrassed as Mommy D gets into performance mode.
Singing is in her blood, she says. A sibling had won a singing contest in Polomolok.
As Mommy D gamely poses with Michael in her bedroom, she says she’s not getting married again anytime soon. “Maghanap-buhay at mag-ipon muna kami.”
Michael is preparing for his first international shipping assignment.
Skeptics may frown on the relationship, but Mommy D insists: “Wala naman siyang hinihingi sa akin. Iba siya sa lahat. Baka binigay siya sa akin ng Diyos.”
Her children have stopped voicing their objections, though Manny is said to be against her getting too much publicity with Michael.
It is almost lunchtime and Mommy D is rattling off her daily diet: “Gulay—alugbati, camote tops, radish… ’Pag nagsawa na, paksiw o pritong isda. Dili parating prito kasi ang oil, ’yan ang nagapataba.
“Kung sa chicken, native dapat, turbo (roast)… Ang karne once a week na lang, kasing-laki ng posporo (matchbox) ang hiwa.”
Oatmeal for breakfast
The helper serves her plain oatmeal for breakfast.
Approaching the dining table, we imagine having the freshest tuna straight from the GenSan fishport. We are served Jollibee Chicken Joy, spaghetti and palabok in delivery boxes.
And what did Mommy D eat? If our eyes did not betray us, it’s tuna, but overgrilled.