Tacloban (Philippines): Hoping to lift the spirits of thousands of people left homeless by Typhoon Haiyan, cable operators on Saturday set up TV screens inside a sports stadium, near a church and in other landmarks in the devastated region to broadcast Filipino boxing icon Manny Pacquiao`s comeback fight.
Officials said that rooting for Pacquaio in Tacloban and other places ravaged by the typhoon two weeks ago would help inspire survivors as they struggle to pick up the pieces in the aftermath of the destruction that killed more than 5,000 people.
Cable inspector Allan Larano said he and other technicians from the country`s largest cable provider, Sky Cable, were setting up a screen at the Tacloban stadium, around which displaced people have taken shelter in tents and inside ground-floor shops.
Much hope in the Philippines is pinned on Pacquiao, who is returning to the ring to fight Brandon Rios in Macau tomorrow. It will be his first fight since his knockout loss to Juan Manuel Marquez last year, following a defeat by decision to Timothy Bradley.
Boxing analyst Ronnie Nathanielz said that Pacquiao has always dedicated his fights to the Philippines, but that tomorrow`s bout "takes on a special significance because of the devastation."
"His impressive performance will lift the spirit of the people, no matter what," Nathanielz said.
Civil defence chief Eduardo del Rosario said that win or lose, Pacquiao`s performance is "a very, very welcome opportunity for us to relax and unite as a people."
"At least we will see the Filipino spirit fighting for our country," he said.
In Tacloban, Pacquiao fan Anatolio Cabalida eagerly awaited the fight. "He`s my idol," the 70-year-old said. Dioscoro Balano said he hoped to be able to watch the fight with a neighbour who has a generator.
"If he wins, it will be a big boost to the morale of the typhoon victims," Balano said.
Army Cpl Joseph Reyes looked forward to Pacquiao`s donating some of his winnings to typhoon victims. Reyes is stationed at the seaside Tacloban airport, whose terminal was among the buildings severely damaged by walls of water.