Manny Pacquiao still a hero in defeat at home

Sadness and disappointment gripped Filipinos after Manny Pacquiao’s defeat in his much-anticipated fight against American Floyd Mayweather Jr. but they still considered the boxing icon a national hero.

Gymnasiums and other public venues where the 12-round fight was shown for free on Sunday lunchtime local time were quickly vacated after it was announced Pacquiao lost by a unanimous decision.

Herminio Coloma, a spokesman for President Benigno Aquino III, said ‘’the country still holds its head high in the admirable fight of our National Fist.’” He said Aquino thanked Pacquiao, who is also a congressman, for being ‘’an inspiration to every Filipino who is struggling with life’s challenges to achieve a bright future.’’

Some fans said Pacquiao should retire from boxing while others demanded a rematch. For thousands at a plaza in Marikina city, part of metropolitan Manila, the party mood was dampened not just by his loss but also a sudden downpour.

Roland Purificacion, a 45-year-old pedicab driver who watched the fight on a huge television screen outside the Quiapo Church in central Manila, was disappointed but spoke for many of his compatriots when he said Pacquiao ‘’is still the people’s champ. He is still our hero.’’

Security guard Melchor Yaba, 48, said he lost 5,000 pesos, a half month’s salary, betting on Pacquiao. ‘’I can’t accept that he lost. I now regret it,’’ he said, referring to his bet. ‘’He cannot retire yet. Let’s have a rematch.’’

In Pacquiao’s hometown of Kiamba, a fishing and farming town in southern Sarangani province, which he represents in Congress, mini-buses brought villagers who have no television to watch the fight in the town’s 2,500-seat gymnasium.

Winning or losing, Pacquiao’s fights with the world’s top boxers often lifts the spirit of Filipinos amid troubles brought by corruption scandals, a decades-long separatist insurgency in the south, and natural disasters such as the November 2013 super Typhoon Haiyan that killed more than 7,000 people a month after a killer earthquake struck the same region.


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