Pacquiao’s win boosts morale of survivors
TACLOBAN CITY—Thousands of survivors of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” erupted into wild cheers on Sunday to celebrate Manny Pacquiao’s victory, giving them a brief respite from the enormous destruction the storm had brought to their country.
“It felt like I got my house back,” said street sweeper Ardel Nebasa, who lost his home in the storm surges that ravaged Tacloban City on Nov. 8.
Officials hoped that watching Pacquiao’s triumph against Brandon Rios in Macau would help traumatized survivors take their minds off the devastation wrought by Yolanda (international name: “Haiyan”) and inspire them to pick up the pieces from the calamity that killed more than 5,200 people.
“I was so happy and I wanted to cry, but there were too many people,” said Nebasa, who watched the match with his son and thousands of others on a television screen set up in a public plaza in Tacloban.
“It would have felt like another storm has hit if he lost,” he added.
Rogelio Talisayon, 28, said Pacquiao’s win somehow “lifted the burden” he and his family suffered in Yolanda’s wake.
“I am happy that Pacquiao won his battle. Somehow, I forgot the miseries brought by Yolanda to our family,” Talisayon said.
Talisayon, his wife and 3 children were among more than 1,000 survivors who watched the fight at Tacloban Astrodome, one of the few structures left standing after Yolanda slammed through the city.
The Astrodome, now a refuge for survivors, lost part of its ceiling during the typhoon.
The Astrodome crowd roared and clapped with glee when they heard Pacquiao dedicate his victory to the typhoon victims and make a promise to visit the affected areas.
It did not matter that they watched the fight while squatting on a rain-soaked floor. Some carried Philippine flags picked up from the typhoon debris and waved them during the fight.
The free viewing was courtesy of SkyCable in coordination with the city government, owner of the Astrodome.
Jaja Juares, head of the cable company here, said they decided to show the live telecast of the fight for free to give the typhoon-battered people a momentary relief.
“I am sure our people got some hope that there is a way out to the miseries they are experiencing,” Juarez said.
‘Back to reality’
SkyCable put up a giant white screen at the center of the Astrodome aside from two big television monitors and a small white screen on each corner.
After the fight, Talisayon returned to his temporary makeshift shelter in the premises of the Astrodome, which now serves as temporary home for more than 1,400 families.
“The fight is over and it’s back to reality,” Talisayon grinned.
Genaro Obera, 48, had no time to watch the fight. He was more concerned with finding food for his family.
“It’s been almost a week now since we received relief from the DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development). It’s good Pacquiao won but our stomachs are empty. Food should be our priority now,” Obera said.
Obera lost his house and his sole source of income, an Internet shop, to Yolanda.
For the past few days, he said, he relied on the few biscuits and coffee that were looted from one of the business establishments in Tacloban.
Obera said he and his wife have four young children who fortunately had been fetched by a relative and brought to Manila.
At the Guiuan town plaza in Eastern Samar, around 1,000 typhoon survivors gathered to watch a live feed of the fight and cheered for a Pacquiao victory.
In General Santos City, Pacquiao’s hometown, businessman Rey Golingan described Pacquiao’s victory as “spirit lifting.”
“We were hit by a triple whammy—the Zamboanga siege, the Bohol quake and typhoon Yolanda—but because of his win, we managed to cheer once again,” Golingan told the Inquirer.
‘Our hero is back’
Pacquiao’s town mates jam-packed every establishment showing pay-per-view telecasts of the fight and those with free viewing offered by the city government at a covered court.
They cheered as Pacquiao baffled Rios with his speed.
The court was so packed that many people had to stand up just to be able to watch the fight on a large screen.
“Our idol and hero is back,” they chanted as the “Pacman” pummeled Rios.
As in Pacquiao’s previous fights, the streets of the Cagayan de Oro were almost empty as people converged in malls, restaurants, movie houses and coffee shops to watch the fight.
Vice Mayor Shirly Nograles said she could not thank Pacquiao enough for making his countrymen happy amid the sorrow Yolanda had brought.
In Davao City, hundreds of people who gathered to see the telecast at a village gym in Matina district cheered when Pacquiao knelt at his corner to pray before the bout started.
The Inquirer noticed that the people at the gym cheered louder each time the cameras focused on Pacquiao’s mother, Mommy Dionisia.
In northern and central Luzon, traffic was again lighter than usual as people spent the day at home to watch the fight, although some still took advantage of public screenings in private and government facilities.
In Baguio City, scores occupied a pedestrian overpass and portions of Abanao Street to watch the bout on a giant screen of the Abanao Square shopping mall.
In Zambales province, the streets of the capital Iba town were nearly empty starting at 10 a.m. as tricycle drivers stopped work and proceeded to their respective terminals to watch the fight.
In Isabela province, people trooped to watch free live broadcasts on screens set up in various places.
“Unlike in some of his previous fights, Pacquiao showed mastery over his opponent but he lacked firepower despite landing too many punches,” said banker Sergio Garcia, who watched the fight at the Ilagan City Hall.
About 3,000 people watched the bout at the Ilagan City community center. Many of them were newly elected village officials who waited to watch the fight after taking their oaths of office.
Malacañang cheered, too
Malacañang joined in the cheering for Pacquiao.
“The entire Filipino nation celebrates anew the victory of Congressman Manny Pacquiao,” Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said in a statement.
“Manny’s victory serves as a source of strength and inspiration for the entire nation, after typhoon Yolanda devastated a large part of the Visayas,” Coloma said. Reports from Joey Gabieta, Inquirer Visayas; Nico Alconaba and Aquiles Zonio, Inquirer Mindanao; Melvin Gascon and Villamor Visaya Jr., Inquirer Northern Luzon; Armand Galang, Anselmo Roque and Cesar Villa, Inquirer Central Luzon; TJ A. Burgonio and AP.