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How many rounds for the Philippines?

The streets of Metropolitan Manila, whenever he has a boxing match, are empty. The crime rate is zero whenever there is a game. In the provinces and in far-flung villages, people crowd in front of the only television set in town to witness another historic moment.

One cannot imagine how phenomenal boxing icon Manny Pacquiao has become here in the Philippines. Fans pass out. Some die over the minute-by-minute stress of watching him pound his opponent.

Mural of Manny Pacquiao in San Francisco. Photo by Eric Molina on Creative Commons licence.

This is Philippine society. Pacquiao, boxing champ-turned-lawmaker, has become the sole unifying force in the country whenever he has a game. Political colours are set aside. Lawmakers from varying parties skip Congressional sessions to watch his games in Las Vegas or Texas or whichever corner of the universe stands host to the ring.

There is nothing like it in the history of Philippine boxing. Last Sunday, Pacquiao had yet another game. I was perhaps among the handful that weren’t glued to the television screen because of other duties.

As such, I was able to ply the country’s busiest highway with no obstruction. Everybody else was home watching delayed telecasts for free, in pay-per-view movie theatres in every mall, or in somebody’s house with cable television.

I opened my laptop after driving home and I saw updates on almost every news and social networking site. Everybody watched with bated breath.

Of course, Pacquiao won. He won his 8th weight crown title on 14 November, beating Mexican boxer Antonio Margarito. The Filipino ring hero beat his opponent in 12 rounds.

Filipinos are a happy people. They set aside age-old problems gripping the country such as extreme poverty, hunger and corruption whenever there are achievements such as this.

This is a victory for the Filipino people, albeit momentary. Now, if only our problems could be solved with every smash, uppercut or head bang by Pacquiao.

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