International football superstar David Beckham danced with and read stories to at least 50 children when he made a surprise visit to Tacloban City on Thursday.
Beckham visited the Philippines to give comfort to victims of Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan).
Hundreds of survivors rushed out of their tent shelters to welcome the global celebrity, who is nevertheless unfamiliar to many citizens of the Philippines, where basketball rather than soccer is king.
“He’s so handsome. I heard he plays for the Azkals,” gushed mother-of-four Darilyn Bascug, referring to the Philippine national football team.
The 38-year-old former England international, who ended his illustrious career last year, is on his second visit to the Philippines in his role as a “goodwill ambassador” for the UN Children’s Fund.
He flew by private plane to Tacloban, one of the areas worst-hit by Yolanda.
The tattooed Beckham, casually dressed in a black UNICEF T-shirt, visited a tent city for several hundred families who lost their homes when giant waves crashed into Tacloban’s coast.
He entered one tent for an extended chat with its occupants.
Bascug, a carpenter’s wife who is among those waiting for a new home, admitted she did not really know Beckham that well. Neither had she heard of his wife Victoria, formerly of the Spice Girls.
Sen. Ferdinand Marcos said the children had fun playing with Beckham.
“We owe him a big gratitude,” Marcos said.
Beckham’s visit overwhelmed city Councilor Cristina Romualdez, wife of Mayor Alfred Romualdez.
She said the football star gave hope to the children.
“To fly across the world to come here to give support is such a big honor,” Romualdez said.
Lilebeth Sarmiento, 55, admitted escaping from her job to see her idol in person.
She said she idolized Beckham after her four children became football players.
“He has influenced my children,” she admitted.
ROBERTZON F. RAMIREZ AND AFP