‘Chasing Pacquiao’: A Soulful Coming of Age Queer Novel

Prepare for a Filipino queer coming-of-age story with boxing as the center of the novel. Want to know more about Chasing Pacquiao? Click to read my review!

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Rod Pulido is a huge fan of comics. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in film production from California State University. He founded the first Filipino graduation ceremony in Southern California. His movie “The Flip Side” became the first feature by a Filipino director to world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival. His stories always strive to uplift and entertain and highlight the Filipino-American experience. His debut YA novel Chasing Pacquiao is a poignant coming-of-age story. If you are a fan of Patron Saints of Nothing and Juliet Takes a Breath, then you’ll enjoy this story of humor, sincerity, and sweetness, focusing on a young queer man who wants to fight back and queer truths. This sweet soulful novel packs a punch and heals your heart.

The Plot of Chasing Pacquiao

Self-preservation. That’s Bobby’s motto for surviving his violent high school experience unscathed. Being out and queer would cause him to become a target of bullying, especially in a Filipino community that frowns on homosexuality. His only supporters are his mother, best friend Rosie, and boyfriend Brandon, who lives on the richer side of the neighborhood. Bobby wants to keep his head down and get good grades. But when Bobby is outed terribly, he doesn’t have the luxury of being invisible. When a terrible encounter with well-known bully Rex, he decides it’s time to fight back. Inspired by his hero, Filipino boxing champion Manny Pacquiao he decides to take up boxing and challenge his tormentor. 

But when Pacquiao publicly declares his stance against queer people, Bobby’s faith in his hero is shattered. He is shaken and loses confidence. But will he prevail and be able to become his own hero?


My Thoughts After Reading Chasing Pacquiao

Since I am a comic and manga reader, I gravitated toward Bobby and his boyfriend Brandon’s passion and joy for comics. I truly laughed when Pulino referenced them in the majority of the chapters. This novel navigates through issues of race, community, sexual identity, religion, intersectionality, and poverty.  All themes were carefully portrayed in Bobby’s struggles. Bobby’s experience as a gay Filipino and his boyfriend’s different experiences are based on his upbringing. Even though they were raised in different places, their views and opinions clash when Bobby gets outed and bullied by Rex.

Bobby’s personal life and his student life at Westlake High School are hard. His father passed away a long time ago, leaving them with little. His mother is the breadwinner, who’s barely scraping by. He has his best friend, Rosie, who is an artist that accepts him and makes school bearable. Brandon’s life is homeschooling in the nicer part of town where his parents accept him. His naivety and optimism make him a good boyfriend, but he doesn’t fully grasp Bobby’s experience.


Bobby is a driven character who is trying to advocate for himself; he must sacrifice time and work hard to achieve his goals. This underdog story teaches us that you can look up to heroes; even if they let you down, you can use that admiration and become your own hero. Despite the fears and the mockery of peers, Bobby had the support of his boxing coach, his sparring partner Vicki and his closest company, Rosie and Brandon.

Chasing Pacquiao is a quirky and feel-good novel that gives Karate Kid and Million Dollar Baby vibes.

Chasing Pacquiao will be released on May 2nd, 2023. This is Rod Pulido’s first book debut. Preorder Chasing Pacquiao on Penguin Random House.

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