Pacquiao gives away cash, Bibles in Samar
Aside from what he described as the “usual stuff,” boxing star Manny Pacquiao gave away Bibles to evacuees who have taken temporary shelter in tents on the sprawling campus of Eastern Samar State University in Guiuan, Eastern Samar.
The usual stuff, in Pacquiao’s book, included a cash assistance of P1,000 to each of the 436 evacuees from Barangay 6.
To Pacquiao, however, giving away the Bibles was more important, urging each recipient to read the Holy Book. He went on to tell them in Filipino: “Please persevere. I also persevered. I did not stop asking help from God. I did not give up.”
He reminded them that at one point of his struggling life, he was homeless just like them.
“I slept [with a piece of] carton [as mat]. I did not lose hope and just continued in believing in myself and keep trusting God,” Pacquiao told the evacuees, as retold by Erlinda Sabarillo, 48, an evacuee.
Sabarillo said Pacquiao personally handed P1,000 to each of them. The cash-giving started from 11 p.m. on Saturday and ended around 3 a.m. Sunday, she said.
Linda Alharano, 48, said she could not contain her happiness seeing Pacquiao in the flesh, but she was more happy when she received the cash and a food package containing rice, noodles and tinned meat from him.
“He made us all happy. Indeed, he is generous and cares for the poor like me,” Alharano said.
Since Nov. 22, the evacuees, all residents of Barangay 6 of the town, where Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan) made first landfall, have been staying at their tents donated by the International Organization for Migration.
The eight-division world champion spent the night on Saturday in the tent city.
On the early morning of Sunday, Pacquiao decided to go around town, at some point joining residents to a “budol fight” (communal meal).
Pacquiao, who arrived here on a private plane on Saturday, toured the town in a coaster that was followed by several vehicles, including a police car.
Everywhere he went, Pacquiao was mobbed by the people who shouted out his name.
He checked on by the town’s relief distribution center on San Nicolas Street before he proceeded to Tanghay View Lodge, which is owned by his friend Susan Tan.
Guiuan, a major trading center with a population of 50,000, was among the hardest-hit areas in the province. Almost all of its structures and houses were destroyed.
Yolanda left nearly 7,400 people dead or missing, mostly in Eastern Visayas, with more than 4 million others displaced, according to an official tally. Its winds of up to 315 kilometers per hour and tsunami-like storm surges tore homes to pieces.
Mercedes, other towns
From Guiuan, Pacquiao’s convoy proceeded to the next town, Mercedes, where he was met by Mayor Enrique Cabos. Pacquiao led a distribution of relief items to typhoon survivors at the municipal hall.
For Elmer Pagatpat, 29, of Barangay 1 in Mercedes, seeing Pacquiao was a “great experience.” He was ecstatic that he received goods personally from his “idol.”
From Mercedes, Pacquiao and his group proceeded to the towns of Salcedo, Quinapondan and Giporlos, all in Eastern Samar; and to Marabut and Basey in Samar where he also distributed relief items.
By 5 p.m., Pacquiao was nearing the typhoon-devastated city of Tacloban in Leyte province, where he was scheduled to hold another round of relief giving.
He was to lead the aid caravan to the island on Sunday night.
A week ago, he lifted the country’s spirits with a comeback victory over American boxer Brandon Rios in Macau, following two straight defeats that had raised speculation the 34-year-old’s boxing career was over.
Pacquiao, the only man to win world boxing titles in eight different weight divisions, made the trip to the typhoon-hit areas despite complaining on Tuesday that the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) had frozen all his bank accounts, forcing him to borrow money to buy relief goods.
The BIR is threatening Pacquiao with a P2.2-billion bill for unpaid taxes in 2008 and 2009, saying it may otherwise seize his assets.
The boxer said he had paid the appropriate taxes in the United States, where the money was earned.
Pacquiao, a former street kid, was listed last year by Forbes magazine as the 14th highest-paid athlete globally, with an estimated $34 million (P1.5 billion) in earnings. With a report from AFP
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