GUIUAN, Eastern Samar – Philippine boxing hero Manny Pacquiao handed out Bibles, tinned food and cash Sunday to lift people’s spirits in areas devastated by Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan).
The former eight-title world champion toured Samar with his own aid caravan after spending the night Saturday in a tent city in Guiuan, the first town to be struck by the typhoon, an AFP reporter with the convoy saw.
Pacquiao attended a prayer meeting in Guiuan early Sunday 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.
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 315 kph and tsunami-like storm surges.
He handed out 1,000-peso bills each time to families who are now living in makeshift shelters.
Yolanda left nearly 7,400 people dead or missing, with more than four million others displaced, according to an official tally.
Pacquiao, who is also a second-term member of the House of Representatives with ambitions to run for president someday, is scheduled to lead the aid caravan to neighbouring Leyte island on Sunday night.
He lifted the country’s spirits a week ago with a comeback victory over American boxer Brandon Rios in Macau, following three 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 $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 United States, 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 $34 million in earnings.