Pacquiao still the Pride of the Philippines despite loss, says ST's Rohit Brijnath

Fans watch a live telecast of the welterweight unification bout between Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiao and US boxer Floyd Mayweather, at a plaza in Marikina City suburban Manila on May 3, 2015. -- PHOTO: AFP
Fans watch a live telecast of the welterweight unification bout between Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiao and US boxer Floyd Mayweather, at a plaza in Marikina City suburban Manila on May 3, 2015. -- PHOTO: AFP

MANILA - A woman raises her hand to her face despairingly as if to ward off the inevitable. Defeat is coming in the drizzle. Out here in Freedom Park in Marikina City, east of Manila, sorrow is braided with disappointment. The wet crowd look at the large TV screen resting on a truck, waiting for the decision. There is no miracle. Manny Pacquiao has lost.

There are no tears, no riot, no ruckus, no whining, no hand-wringing. A fight has been lost, not pride. "He's a Filipino," says Marlo Gonzales, 60, a legal researcher, as if he doesn't need to say any more.

On the local radio, they're saying Manny came out too slow, he lacked a plan, he was a puppet on Floyd Mayweather's string. But it is said without rancour, it is uttered not in anger. Everything, even analysis, is tempered by pride. "People's champion," they say, again and again. Was and is.

It's been a long day of sun, sweat, drumming rain, a lost TV signal and now a lost fight. They, over a thousand at least, have gathered on the square, on the street, on sidewalks, on parapets. Teachers, housewives, college students, even a German TV crew based in Tokyo. The army of Manny.

When he arrives on screen they cheer, when he takes a selfie on his way to the ring they grin, when he lands a punch they holler, when Mayweather clinches they gently boo. It is a crowd without hostility but only with hope. They stand behind each other, all tension on tiptoe, and wait for the knockout punch that Manny needs but never comes.

Eb Lindayao, 39, who does maintenance on crewships, says: "Mayweather just keeps running. I am upset."

Carlito Bergonia, 77, a retired textile operator, has seen every Manny fight and feels the same. "If Mayweather would have engaged, he would have hit the canvas."

They've waited five years for the fight, waited through the hype, waited through the rain. It would seem for nothing but nothing on their faces shows it. Quietly they exit the square and it is clear: They came to win but they know how to lose.

Marlo Gonzales is disappointed but hasn't lost his smile. "Filipino," he says again, proudly, and raises his fist. And then he goes home.