MANILA, Feb 16 (Mabuhay) – “This is an unforgettable moment in my life.”

Eight-division world boxing champion and Sarangani Rep. Manny Pacquiao made this statement as he went to Washington D.C. for the first time to meet with United States Senator Harry Reid on Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila).

Pacquiao, who helped campaign for Reid last year, is the first reigning boxing champion to be invited to the White House.

Muhammad Ali got the same privilege when he was no longer a champion.

“It’s my honor to be here in Washington. This is my first time to visit Washington and the Capitol. I want to thank everybody (who are here),” Pacquiao told members of the media.

He continued, “I just want to personally thank Senator Reid for his help to the Filipino people and I hope that the relations of the Filipino people and the US will grow.”

Reid gave Pacquiao an American flag which serves as a “keepsake of his trip to Washington” and a certificate that honors the boxing champ’s accomplishments.

Pacquiao, for his part, handed over a Philippine flag, which symbolizes the “good relationship between the Philippines and the United States.”

“He’s said to be the greatest fighter of all time. But of course, he’s also a member of Congress in the Philippines,” Reid said.

Pacquiao and his wife Jinkee also had a chance to meet US President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden over lunch at the White House, a private, closed-door meeting.

The Associated Press reported that the 8-division boxing champ invited the American President to his upcoming fight against Shane Mosley in Las Vegas on May 7.

It added that Obama gave Pacquiao 3 grocery bags full of light blue M&M candies and a watch, which were all adorned with the US presidential seal. (MNS)