Filipinos set aside guns, fears of calamity for Pacquiao bout

Filipinos across the country and overseas are setting aside everything — time, fears of calamity and even a decades-old armed conflict — to rally behind boxing champ Manny Pacquiao, who is set to face off with Mexican-American boxer Antonio Margarito on Sunday.

Residents who were forced to leave their homes in Sorsogon province due to Bulusan Volcano’s heightened activity are busy thinking not of a potential volcanic eruption, but of the Pacquiao-Margarito fight on Sunday, a GMA News report said on Saturday.

Iba ang puputok bukas—ang mukha ni Margarito," said Roberto Dolende, one of the almost 200 local residents brought to evacuation centers in the province after the volcano spewed ash thrice this week.

The evacuees are even looking for ways to watch the Pacquiao fight on Sunday because they had to leave their television sets in their houses, according to the report.

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As of 8 a.m. Saturday, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) has retained Alert Level 1 over Mt. Bulusan, and continued to advise residents to stay away from the four-kilometer permanent danger zone from the volcano’s summit. (See: Mt. Bulusan spews ash anew, Phivolcs says)

Pacquiao, dubbed as the world’s number one pound-for-pound boxer, will battle it out with Margarito on Sunday at the Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas for the World Boxing Council’s super welterweight title. (See: Pacquiao fights Margarito for eighth title)

The Filipino boxer called “Pacman" by the world’s media, who was also elected last May as a member of the Lower House representing Sarangani province, is gunning for his eighth world title and his 12th consecutive win.

Soldiers, rebels drop guns for Pacman

Even an official of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) admitted that both government troops and rebels usually drop their guns on days of Pacquiao fights.

“We don’t declare a ceasefire, pero [but] usually, ganoon ang nangyayari kapag may laban si Pacquiao [that’s what happens when Pacquiao fights]," AFP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Jose Mabanta told GMANews.TV in a phone interview on Saturday night.

He added that a Pacquiao fight is a rare moment when Filipinos unite regardless of ideology.

“The whole nation, regardless of ideology, unites to cheer and express support for Pacquiao," he said.

Mabanta likewise said that there will be a free screening of the Pacquiao-Margarito fight at the AFP headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City.

Pacquiao also holds the rank of senior master sergeant in the Philippine Army’s reserve force.

Hometown all geared up

In General Santos City, Pacquiao’s hometown in southern Mindanao, local supporters eagerly await for the Filipino boxing champ’s fight.

The city’s gymnasium, where the bout will be screened for free, is expected to be filled with 12,000 people cheering for Pacquiao, according to a separate GMA News report.

Pacquiao’s father, Rosaleo, said he is overwhelmed by the public’s support for his son. He likewise said that he believes Sunday’s fight will not be the last time Filipinos will see his son in the boxing ring.

Naisip ko na mayroon pang pangalawang laban. ‘Yung kay [Floyd] Mayweather Jr. na ang susunod diyan," he said. (I think there will be a next fight. The one with Floyd Mayweather Jr. will follow this one.)

Free and pay-per-view screenings of the Pacquiao-Margarito fight are also expected to be held across the country on Sunday, from the province of Ilocos Norte up north to Koronadal City in South Cotabato down south.—JV, GMANews.TV