People in the Philippines had something of a celebration going on for a change, as their boxing champion, Manny Pacquiao downed U.S. champ Brandon Rios to go on to win the WBO welterweight crown in Macau on Sunday. The whole country cheered, despite their troubles.
Filipinos, trying to survive in temporary shelters in the typhoon-ravaged country, still managed to watch the match. As Pacquiao went on to win, it was a case of families, soldiers and aid workers all bursting into loud applause and cheers at the news.
In the typhoon-devastated city of Tacloban, Filipinos watched a free live broadcast of the match and despite their loss, managed to forget their misery for just a while. Authorities set up three wide screens in various locations in the city, including the airport, so that aid workers and security forces could also watch the game.
A huge crowd gathered in an open plaza, surrounded by buses and other vehicles, to watch the fight. Some people even climbed up into trees for a better view. Apparently at one stage even the soldiers climbed out of their tanks to sit and watch the event.
Mario Penflor, 41, cheered among the crowds, telling the media “I’m so happy that he won.” She added that it was a win for all Filipinos and not just Pacquiao, saying it would “surely uplift our spirits.”
Sonia Reyes, 35, whose home was badly damaged by typhoon Haiwan, told Reuters that she was so “very, very happy,” adding that Manny gave them “something to cheer about” in difficult times and that the victory would help them get back on their feet and recover from the disaster.
A statement was issued by Herminio Coloma, spokesman for President Benigno Aquino, congratulating Pacquiao on his win. He said that the victory would offer a “fountain spring of strength and inspiration” in the Philippines, as Manny Pacquiao wins the WBO welterweight crown and the celebration uplifts the people.
Pacquiao is the only boxer to go on to win world titles in eight weight divisions. An army lieutenant colonel and second-term congressman, he managed to dominate all 12 of the rounds, using superior footwork and hand speed, to go on and beat his opponent.
According to Vicente Olang, 66, Pacquiao showed champion form from start to finish. He said that watching the match helped him to forget the miseries surrounding him.
For his part, Pacquiao, 34, said in the ring directly after the match that it was not about his comeback. He said it was about his people’s comeback “from a natural disaster and a natural tragedy.”
Typhoon Haiyan, or Yolanda as it is locally known was the most devastating and powerful storm to hit the Philippines this year. Hitting the country on November 8, the storm has caused the death of almost 7,000 people, displacing 4.4 million from their homes and devastating crops and infrastructure in the country.
People struggle to survive in temporary shelters, with aid groups attempting to supply food and clean water. Others are now burying their dead, but at least for a while there were smiles on Filipino faces as they cheered each time Pacquiao managed to land a blow on his opponent Rios.
The Philippine capital, Manila, was like a ghost town during the fight as residents watched the match in bars, cinemas and also public parks. An interesting anecdote from the police is that every time Pacquiao fights, the crime rates drop in the capital.
As an added advantage, the people of the Philippines will no doubt continue their celebration as Manny Pacquiao wins the WBO Welterweight Crown.
By Anne Sewell