Philippine boxing hero Manny Pacquiao handed out Bibles, tinned food and cash yesterday to lift people’s spirits in areas that were devastated by Typhoon Haiyan.
The former eight-title world champion toured the central island of Samar with his own aid caravan after spending the night on Saturday in a tent city in the town of Guiuan, the first town to be struck by the typhoon, a reporter with the convoy said.
Pacquiao attended a prayer meeting in Guiuan early yesterday with survivors, and later handed out Bibles and food packages containing rice, noodles and tinned meat.
“Let us find hope in God’s Grace to help us get back on our feet and recover from the devastation,” he said.
“I want to encourage them not to lose hope. I will tell of my life,” he said over radio station DZBB from Guiuan, which suffered at least 106 dead when Haiyan smashed into it on Nov. 8.
In two instances during the drive around the devastated areas of Samar, Pacquiao had the convoy stop at coastal communities where homes had been torn to pieces by the typhoon’s winds of up to 315kph and tsunami-like storm surges.
He handed out 1,000-peso (US$23) bills each time to families who are now living in makeshift shelters.
Haiyan left nearly 7,400 people dead or missing, with more than 4 million others displaced, according to an official tally.
Pacquiao, who is a second-term member of the Philippine House of Representatives and who has ambitions to run for president someday, was scheduled to lead the aid caravan to neighboring Leyte island last night.
He lifted the country’s spirits a week ago with a comeback victory over US boxer Brandon Rios in Macau, following two straight defeats that had raised speculation the 34-year-old’s boxing career was over.
Pacquiao, the only man to win world boxing titles in eight different weight divisions, made the trip despite complaining on Tuesday that the government’s Bureau of Internal Revenue had frozen all his bank accounts, forcing him to borrow money to buy relief goods.
The bureau is threatening Pacquiao with a US$50 million bill for unpaid taxes in 2008 and 2009, saying it may otherwise seize his assets.
The boxer says he paid the appropriate taxes in the US, where the money was earned.
Pacquiao, a former street kid, was listed last year by Forbes magazine as the 14th highest-paid athlete globally, with an estimated US$34 million in earnings last year.