The sweet croonings of Filipino boxing sensation Manny Pacquiao whipped a Vallejo gathering of more than 250 into a frenzy Wednesday night.
Some attendees ended the evening happy with the rare occurrence. Others who lined up to meet Pacquiao and get his autograph, however, yelled complaints and demands for refunds when he left early.
The evening's entertainment by the 31-year-old champion boxer, politician and singer, was billed as an intimate $150-$200 fundraiser "meet-and-greet" with Pacquiao, better known as Pacman.
Pia Pena, tasked to promote Vallejo's event at the Hiddenbrooke Country Club clubhouse as well as one the previous evening in Tahoe, conceded Thursday that the Vallejo visit did not run as smoothly as planned.
By Thursday morning, accusations of false advertising for alleged promises of photos and autographed books by Pacquiao funneled to the event promoters and volunteer organizers. Many complaints also spilled over onto online forums and Facebook pages.
Pena said she was kept busy Thursday offering explanations to those sending blame her way for something "which was totally not (her) fault."
"Some of (the callers) kind of gave me an insight on what's going on," Pena said. "I've been hearing from the ticket-buyers that I am the one that is being put on the spot. It is my production company (Fremont-based Prime Media Unlimited) that is responsible for bringing Manny Pacquiao to Vallejo, but it was not my fault that it got out of hand."
Pena said in coming to Vallejo, she worked with the local Filipino Chamber of Commerce, and paired with 600 LBS, the San Francisco-based company promoting Pacquiano's biography, launched this week. Pena said she repeatedly made clear that autographs for attendees were not guaranteed and that photographs with the star would happen only if the process were "managed well."
"I never guaranteed this is going to happen," Pena said. " 'The minute that it becomes chaotic it's over,' I kept repeating myself over and over, and they agreed."
Book signings were nixed, Pena said, "because of Manny's condition, he had just come from a fight." Pacquiao had defeated Antonio Margarito on Saturday for the super welterweight title in Cowboys Stadium.
As for an intimate meet-and-greet, Pena said it appeared that more people were allowed into the Hiddenbrooke event than just ticketholders.
Early event attendees, said volunteer ticket seller Irene Sunga Bernabe, were able to grab photos with Pacquiao during a short period between when he was in a private "green room" and his 6 p.m. performance.
She added that the crowd may have swelled to more than 250 due to the presence of all the event's organizers and promotion teams.
Bernabe and Pena both said they did not know the origin of small slips of paper that were dispersed, promising ticket holders photo time with the boxer.
Bernabe's father, Vallejo City Councilman Hermie Sunga, said Thursday he believed the fundraiser went well and was good for the city.
"Everything that was planned didn't happen just because of the time frame of the guest," said Sunga, who joined Mayor Osby Davis on the stage to welcome Pacquiao. "I talked to a lot of people who were impressed that Manny picked our city for a show."
As for unsatisfied customers, he added, "It's just like a movie; if you don't like a movie, you don't get a refund."
600 LBS partner Sione Tangen said those who bought the Pacquiao biographies were warned that the company could not guarantee autographs, despite what he described as small 3-inch fliers promising "signatures and/or photos."
Following Pacquiao's departure Wednesday night, a small but angry group accosted the 600 LBS vendors for refunds, Tangen said.
"We did not produce the event," Tangen said Thursday night. "We never collected any of the $150 and up (ticket costs). We did not sell any of these tickets. Follow the money. How could we be held responsible for refunding money if we didn't organize the event?"
That said, Tangen said the company has already, and will continue to, refund patrons for the books "no questions asked." He offered his e-mail address, firstname.lastname@example.org, as a contact point.