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"I owe to God everything that I have right now".

As Filipinos around the world erupted in jubilation after their boxing hero Manny Pacquiao outclassed American challenger Chris Algieri to retain his WBO welterweight title in Macau last week, the pugilist is well on his to his next big challenge.

But this time, it has nothing to with world boxing titles.

It's a fight to bring the word of God to the masses.

"It's important for me for all of us--to spread the message," Pacquiao said.

That message involves the church, school and community center he's building on 5.7 acres in General Santos City, Philippines.

"What we're doing by building this church is obeying what the Bible says," Pacquiao told reporters before his bout last weekend.

"We're going to feed the poor, help the widows and teach and inspire the children about the greatness of the Lord. That's what we're told to do and that's what I am doing.

"People need to understand His word. Imagine if God is with you, you lack nothing. If God is with you, you lack nothing, you need nothing. So if we're going to build a house to praise the Lord, why build a small one? We want to build a big one so that we can help as many people as we can."

Pacquiao purchased prime commercial real estate at a cost of $1 million U.S. in General Santos City in order to build the Christian-based facilities.

Michael Koncz, Pacquiao's adviser, said construction costs, which are fully funded by the fighter, are budgeted to be $3 million U.S. but could go as high as $5 million.

"The Holy Spirit tells me what He wants and I tell them [the architects] what to do," Pacquiao said.

After investing millions on a number of real properties and business ventures here these past years, the world boxing icon and Sarangani Rep. Pacquiao non-profit "dream project." is located at the back of his 40-room Roadhaus Economy Hotel that opened two years ago.

A tarpaulin signage recently unveiled at the site showed a modern structure that features various facilities and amenities.

It named Pacquiao's congregation, the two-year-old The Word for Everyone Movement Inc., as the project's owner.

Based on its site development plan, the planned complex will have a prayer mountain, bible study sanctuary, tennis court, fish pool, rock garden, picnic ground and waterfalls.

"We'll have a nice place for our praise and worship every Sunday," a beaming Pacquiao told a local television show.

"I owe to God everything that I have right now--wealth, health, fame, success, a dutiful and beautiful wife and my wonderful children. I have to give it back to Him. The amount is nothing compared to what God has done to my life," Pacquiao said in another interview.

Pacquiao said this is his way of glorifying and thanking God--building a church for Him and His flock.

"We came into this world bare and naked. In our final rendezvous with the Great Beyond, we can bring nothing," Pacquiao added.

Rey Cortez, project engineer, bared that out of the five-hectare lot, around two hectares will be devoted for the church facility--a two-storey main building and an annex, with a total project cost of around P200 million.

The two-storey building, Cortez claimed, will serve as the main worship area while the annex building will house the Bible school, Bible study room, a pastor's lounge and the commercial offices.

"We target to finish the project in an 18-month period. But Cong. Pacquiao asked us to expedite the construction so it can be used by December 2015. I think the two-storey main building would be finished and ready for use by then," Cortez said.

The Fighter of the Decade wanted to be more active in helping spread the Word of God once he retires from boxing.

Wherever he goes, he always makes sure he has with him a Bible, aside from bringing along one or two pastors.

"The Words of God strengthen my faith and protect me from Devil. That's why I always bring and read my Bible," Pacquiao said.

"Aside from my legacy in boxing and politics, I want to leave something more important and special--a legacy of faith and a House of God. This one is much, much self-fulfilling than my achievements in boxing and politics," the Filipino boxing superstar said.

"God is with me. He will protect and strengthen me on the day of the fight. If God is with us, who can be against us?" he said.

Pacquiao, dropped out of school at the age of 14 in General Santos City in the southern Philippines.

His single mother was unable to support him and his five siblings, so he made his way to Manila and ended up living on the streets.

When someone suggested to the young Emmanuel Dapidran Pacquiao that he divert his energies to a local boxing gym, it turned out to be a shrewd piece of advice.

"I kept winning and almost became a boxer without knowing," said the man who went on to make history as the only winner of "world" titles in eight weight divisions.

He soon caught the attention of national amateur selectors and made the Philippines team. With lodging and subsistence provided, it proved the beginning of one of the most glittering careers the fight game has known.

Manny, as he became known, Pacquiao's natural talent and speed, coupled with a fearsome work ethic, saw him work his way up to being lauded as the best fighter in the world, pound for pound.

Pacquiao, whose professional record had grown to 56-5, with 2 draws, was set to earn more than $20 million dollars for fighting Chris Algieri.

His philanthropy and generosity are well known. He paid for two Airbus A320s, emblazoned with his face, to fly his 300-plus entourage the two hours from General Santos to Macau to watch the fight.

His fame and fortune in the ring also enabled him to study and finally pass his high school exams at the age of 28.

A college degree followed and a further qualification in legislation and governance paved the way for him to be elected with 66 percent of the vote in May 2013 as a congressman in his wife Jinkee's home province of Sarangani. He was re-elected unopposed last year.

Now, just a week away from his 36th birthday, he shows no little sign of slowing down.

He is also a singer, actor, church minister, army reservist.

Pacquiao won his first world title at flyweight in 1998 and added a super bantamweight title a year later. But it wasn't until he teamed up with Roach in 2001 that his career really took off. They forged one of the most successful partnerships in boxing history.

"Pacman" went on to win multiple world titles, sweeping aside the world's best--Marc Antonio Barrera, Oscar de la Hoya, Juan Manuel Marquez, Erik Morales, Ricky Hatton and Miguel Cotto.

Two defeats in 2012, a devastating knockout against Marquez and a controversial points decision against Timothy Bradley, led some to think Pacquiao's star was fading.

But a year ago, also in Macau, he regained his momentum with a comprehensive win over Brandon Rios, and then took Bradley apart in their rematch.

And then the victory last weekend.

Just one thing remains missing on his CV: a mega-fight with the unbeaten American Floyd Mayweather.

Caption: Filipino boxing hero Manny Pacquiao outclassed American challenger Chris Algieri to retain his WBO welterweight title in Macau last weekend.
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Title Annotation:Top Story
Publication:The Filipino Post
Geographic Code:9MACA
Date:Nov 27, 2014
Words:1243
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