Pacquiao-Barrera rematch bares class divide

Pacquiao held on to his WBC international superfeatherweight belt via a unanimous decision after 12 rounds of boxing and sent the “baby-faced assassin” to his retirement.

Pacman's Dabawenyo fans flocked to public viewing places to watch live television feed on the rematch while others paid at least P300 in mall theaters and restaurants.

Those who could not afford the pay per view charge had to make do with radio coverage and television sets without cable connection as free live TV coverage was scarce.

But at the municipal gym in Toril District here, the 59th fiesta celebration of the Parish of Sto. Rosario gave residents and visitors a chance to watch for free Solar Sports TV’s live coverage of the fight, courtesy of local officials who put up a widescreen.

Thousands of fiesta revelers, their lunch postponed, watched the bout from the poorly ventilated gymnasium, drenched in sweat and cheering Pacman as if they were part of the audience at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, United States.

The crowd, composed mostly of Toril residents, also included fiesta-goers from other places who went directly to the gym instead of the houses of relatives or friends where traditional fiesta lunch was served.

Toril Barangay chair Wilberto Al-ag told MindaNews the obvious: the bout became the fiesta’s main public event. He said the city government funded the event but that private companies also hanged tarps and streamers above the bleachers. 

Al-ag said they used to watch Pacquiao's bouts at the garage of his residence where he could accommodate 200 viewers.

He estimated the crowd to be around 4,000. He said the gym has a capacity of 3,000 and that they only prepared 1,300 seats.

Al-ag's supporters wore t-shirts marked "Idol ko si Kap" and hanged streamers bearing his name and those of other barangay and city officials.

He just smiled when asked if the event had given him much publicity for the upcoming barangay elections.

But the audience did not seem to bother.

Andoy, 25, a factory employee said what matters is that they enjoyed the show even if they did not know yet whom to vote if village elections push through.

"I came here to root for my idol, Pacman, he is the winner," he said.

He said they are thankful the barangay thought of the treat. "We are lucky the match is on the same day of the fiesta," Rudolph, 26, of nearby Dumoy area said.

Some vendors from the public market closed shop just to catch free TV coverage of the boxing match which became the main attraction of the annual religious celebration.

Vegetable vendor Lina Carios, 39, cuddling her five-year-old child as she left the gym after the show said she could not expect to see celebrities now so the boxing match was the best treat to her family for the fiesta.  

Sensing the big crowd was in the gym, vendors of food, cigarette, soft broom and other goods went to watch the game, too.

Arnulfo, 32, said a viewer bought a piece of broom, which he brought from Kidapawan City.

Jonkie, 23, said his diminutive height is a disadvantage as he watched the show from behind where there were no more seats and the screen was partly covered by a basketball ring board.

Anita, 18, said they brought in their own chairs to catch a glimpse of the fight and see why people cheer and jeer every now and then.

The audience reacted blow by blow to the fight especially when Pacquiao got solid hits from his opponent in round five.

Many viewers took off their shirts and used handkerchiefs and hard paper to fan the noon heat in the 3,000-seater gym.  

In the 10th to the last round, the crowd was cheering loud as Pacquiao hit Barrera hard on the way to victory.

Outside the gym, vendors of ready to wear clothing asked those coming out who won.

"It’s business first for us here, we would have wanted to watch the free show inside, but who will tend to our goods?" said Manang Lita, 47.

Fewer vehicles plied the city's streets when the game started past 11a.m. and ended around 12:40 p.m. But those who managed to stay on the road tuned in to radio reporters covering the bout from their station's live television feeds.

When the referee declared Pacquiao the victor by unanimous decision, Toril's boxing fans cheered, many of the shirtless viewers waiving sweat-drenched shirts, jumping in jubilation.

As people started to leave the gym, Al-ag's jingle started to play on the sound system. Some said, "Finally we can have lunch."

Twenty-year old Ron-ron, a bum, said he got so hungry and thirsty watching the match and cheering for Pacquiao.

One of the village's volunteer police said he was disappointed Pacquiao did not knock out Barrera. "But it was a nice game, the people enjoyed it," he said.

The scene was different in Matina Town Square, where viewers pay P100 for a comfortable seat in Kanto Bar. Viewers can pay extra to have lunch. In SM City, viewers pay P300 in the air-conditioned theater to watch the show, with free snacks served.

Those who watched live television feed celebrated Pacquiao's victory before 1p.m. Those who tuned in to GMA TV Davao saw a delayed telecast of the match, with the match finished at around 4p.m.