Pacquiao victory lifts spirits of typhoon-ravaged Philippines

Pacquiao victory lifts spirits of typhoon-ravaged Philippines
Fans celebrate while watching a live stream of the boxing match between Pacquiao and Rios, at a park in Marikina city

TACLOBAN, Philippines - Filipinos in the storm-ravaged city of Tacloban joined the nation in celebration on Sunday 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, those 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 uplift our spirits, especially the victims of typhoon (Haiyan)," said Mario Penaflor, 41, amid the joyful crowds in Tacloban.

The World Boxing Organisation (WBO) International welterweight title clash was broadcast in four public areas in Tacloban to lift the spirits of residents who suffered the brunt of Super Typhoon Haiyan's fury.

The super typhoon has left almost 7,000 dead and missing after its rampage through the central Philippines earlier this month.

Whole families, including children and the elderly, had 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.

Spirits were high despite the grim evidence of the storm's destruction that, more than two weeks on, still surrounded them: the damp seats, the stadium's ruined ceiling, and the crowded conditions.

The crowd proudly sang the national anthem as it was played in Macau and then cheered wildly all through the fight.

The celebration began 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 over our current problems by working together."

He added: "In the face of a tough fight, he has displayed the strength and the character of the Filipino."

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