MAASIN CITY, Southern Leyte, August 18 (PIA)  --  The slight drizzle on Saturday nearly spoiled a parade meant to celebrate the coming home here of a rising star in professional boxing many had hoped to be the next Manny Pacquiao.

But the rain droplets fizzled out, and so the grand hero’s welcome for International Boxing Federation (IBF) Champion Prince Albert Pagara pushed through, adding yet another festive color for this year’s fiesta celebration and Ajonay festival.

Riding atop a blue pick-up with City Mayor Maloney Samaco by his side, the native from barangay Lib-og, this city, gamely smiled and waved to adoring fans, his championship belt in gold and red prominently displayed by a young aide up front while the vehicle inched its way on the street behind the last ajonay dancing contingent.

Teen-agers swooned, shouted, shrieked to the top of their voices on seeing the 21-year-old boxing sensation in person, who can easily pass as a showbiz star than a boxer by his looks.

Many could not contain their excitement as they struggled to take selfies in handy mobile phones, and sophisticated cameras clicked non-stop as the vehicle barely moved on, the crowd simply enjoyed, relished the moment at hand, obviously with a mixed feeling of pride and awe.

The sense of euphoria overflowed into the cyberworld seconds after PIA posted photos of the motorcade in its facebook page (Timeline Pia Southern Leyte)  --  the very first photos uploaded -- with facebook user Atom Zyper apparently realizing that “aw Southern Leyte diay na cija?” (So he is from Southern Leyte?)

“So proud of him for putting Maasin City in the international arena,” commented Almira Leonor Miras, a feeling evidently shared by everyone.

“Proud jod ta ani nija kay Maasin City ang gidala nga lugar sa iyang international fight,” said Tabada Lee Yu. (We are proud of him because he carried Maasin City in his international fight.)

That fight happened in Dubai on August 7, 2015, Dubai time, where Prince Albert Pagara demolished Mexican Jesus Rios before the first round was over with a solid left upper cut, sending Rios to the floor.

The win improved Albert’s record at 24 wins, zero defeat, 17 victories by knockout.

Also on the same fight, dubbed Duel in Dubai 2, Albert’s elder brother, Jason Pagara, also won by a technical unanimous decision in the eighth round of his match against Ramon Alcaraz, another Mexican, and the victory improved Jason’s record to 37 wins, 2 defeats, 22 victories by knockout.

“A technical unanimous decision means the referee stopped the fight because of an accidental injury, so the judges’ scorecards were read,” Mayor Maloney Samaco, himself a sports buff, explained when PIA sought clarification.

So it was not just one but two Pagaras who should have been in the street limelight?  “Jason was still nursing his wound caused by the accidental head butt so he was not able to come,” announcer Zaldy Olita blurted in Bisaya through the public address unit perched on top of the blue pick-up vehicle, answering the puzzled faces of onlookers who expected to see not one but two Pagaras.

“Ang next Manny Pacquiao kay taga Maasin,” wrote facebook user Denver Che.  (The next Manny Pacquiao is from Maasin,)  The experts and the street smarts in boxing also have that same vision.

The next question is, who among the two Pagaras will fill in the Pacman’s shoes?

For now, they will still be wearing their own shoes in their next bout on October 17 in California, USA, reportedly the last rung of the ladder to catapult them in more international fights for their professional boxing careers should lady luck be on their side.

Will there be another hero’s welcome?  Only lady luck, fate, and faith can answer that, too.

Or is it just destiny waiting to happen?  (ajc/mmp/PIA8-Southern Leyte)