Mighty Manny Pacquiao lifts spirits of typhoon victims with victory in Macau
Families crowd into Tacloban sports stadiumto revel in their boxing hero's victory in Macau
Filipinos in the storm-ravaged city of Tacloban joined the nation in celebration yesterday after watching boxing hero Manny Pacquiao defeat American Brandon Rios in a comeback fight he dedicated to victims of Super Typhoon Haiyan.
For a brief moment, people who lost their homes, their livelihoods and even loved ones in the storm forgot their misery as they watched a free, live broadcast of Pacquiao's overwhelming points victory over Rios in Macau.
"I'm so happy that he won. This is a win for all Filipinos. It will surely lift our spirits, especially the victims of the typhoon," said Mario Penaflor, 41, amid the joyful crowds in Tacloban.
The World Boxing Organisation International welterweight title clash was broadcast in four public areas in Tacloban to raise the spirits of residents who suffered the brunt of the typhoon.
The super typhoon has left almost 7,000 dead and missing after its rampage earlier this month.
Whole families, including children and the elderly, trooped into Tacloban's main sports stadium - which served as a major evacuation centre during the storm - in a festive mood, ushered in by police and military.
Despite the grim evidence of the storm's destruction: the damp seats, the stadium's ruined ceiling, and the crowded conditions, residents were obviously happy.
The crowd proudly sang the national anthem as it was played in Macau and cheered wildly all through the fight.
The celebration lifted in the last round as Pacquiao's victory became obvious. Despite their troubles, people jumped up and down, cheering and laughing in jubilation.
President Benigno Aquino's spokesman, Herminio Coloma, congratulated Pacquiao, saying: "As our people's hearts and minds were united in facing the challenges of the numerous tragedies that faced our country, just like Manny, we will triumph by working together.
"In the face of a tough fight, he has displayed the strength and the character of the Filipino."
Rainier Panquinco, 29, who lost his home in the storm, said: "It's a super good day. For a while, I forgot my suffering."
He prayed hard for Pacquiao and did not line up for relief goods yesterday just so he could watch the fight.
"It will give us hope here in Tacloban, and in Leyte and Samar," he said, referring to the two islands that suffered the worst of the typhoon.