MARAWI/METRO MANILA – As before, a Manny Pacquiao fight provided Filipinos respite from worrying over daily problems like traffic and crime, but Sunday’s “Battle of Brisbane” was special even more to many of those in the South–where watching the senator-boxer eased, though fleetingly, the woes of soldiers and civilians alike weighed down by the siege of Marawi.
Soldiers and evacuees felt the “Pacman Fever” even for a few hours, as special viewing stations were set up for them in separate locations in Lanao del Sur. While the troops in Marawi watched the “national treasure” onscreen, wounded comrades recovering in Metro Manila also watched in special screening rooms at an Army hospital.
Early Sunday, the local government of Lanao del Sur had set up the 9×12 feet LED screen at the social hall of the provincial capitol, to allow some 500 evacuees who had taken shelter there to watch their idol battle it out with Australian Jeff Horn.
Pacquiao’s feat as one of the best boxers of his generation and his consistently proud representation of the Philippine flag in many parts of the world was just one reason they were excited to see him again on the ring.
They all needed him to uplift the morale of soldiers and policemen battling the Maute Group-led extremists since May 23; as well as the morale of over 200,000 residents of Marawi forced to leave a once-bustling, progressive city now in ruins from the air strikes and artillery fire.
Some of the evacuees said they hoped that, win or lose, Pacquiao their senator and champion would visit them when he returns from Brisbane, and cheer them up and perhaps offer some help.
“Pacman” had said earlier he was offering his fight to the brave troops who have risked their lives to fight terrorists.
Lanao del Sur Vice Gov. Bombit Adiong Jr expressed confidence Pacquiao, a Mindanaoan, would not forget the people of Marawi: “Kilala natin ang ating pambansang kamao na manalo, matalo, pagdating dito sa ating bansa kung ano man ang napanalunan nya shineshare nya sa ating kababayan. Lalo na ngayon dito sa Marawi city, nangangailangan talaga tayo ng tulong sa ating mga kababayan.”
Adiong was pleased that even for a brief moment, they were able to provide the internally displaced people of Marawi a break: “Kasiyahan ito ng mga IDPs na mapanood nila ung ating pambansang kamao. Maski konting kaligayahan man lang.”
Win or lose, soldiers for Pacman
Earlier, before the fight, some soldiers had told News5 they expected Pacquiao to win. But after the judges handed down a decision in Horn’s favor, the soldiers praised their idol just the same.
Mohammad Ansari said,“Kahit natalo man, Manny Pacquiao pa rin kami. Wala tayong masabi kay Pacquiao, pinakita nya ang totoong tapang ng Pilipino.”
Corporal Roger Morillo for his part said, “Manalo man sya o matalo dun masaya sa atin na sa kabila ng armed conflict dito sa Marawi eh nasaksihan pa rin natin yung laban nya. At the same time yung stress ng mga bakwit dito at ng ibang troops eh kahit papano, sa sandaling minuto, eh nabawas bawasan.”
Sergeant Rhey Floren sounded like a boxing analyst: “Sa tingin ko kanina sa laban nila, kumpyansa si Pacman sa first to five rounds, palagi sya papasuntok sa kalaban. Doon siya nalugi. Kasi kahit mahina pag natamaan ka, puntos yun.”
Corporal Rommel Lihay Lihay was not happy at all: “Sa akin hindi fair ung laban. Mas lamang si Pacquiao dun eh.”
Wounded soldiers watched, too
Over in Metro Manila, soldiers also keenly watched the fight in Brisbane.
Giant screens at the Philippine Army gym in Taguig City provided free screening for over 1,000 troops and their families.
Even at the Army General Hospital, wounded soldiers left their hospital bed to go to the hospital’s conference room for the free viewing.
Some had to be brought in in on wheelchairs, their arms attached to dextrose bottles. They all wore smiles, however.
The hospital staff and nurses joined them, ready to assist those needing immediate medical attention.
Gensan, where it all began
Over in General Santos City where Pacquiao hails from, the Lagao Gym was set up for public viewing.
Pacquiao’s relatives flocked to his home in Gensan to watch the fight together.
Inside the Pacquiaos’ mansion, meanwhile, his five children – left behind in the country because they still have schooling – watched the fight.
Click and watch this video clip below from Renz Ongkiko, filed from Marawi City: