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Pacquiao victory enthralls adoring Philippines

Steve Lunt for CNN
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Manny Pacquiao is the new WBO welterweight world champion
  • Fans throughout the Philippines watched the 'People's Champ' win
  • Pacquiao quickly blew away any fears over Cotto's strength and size
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(CNN) -- If you have tried to call a friend in the Philippines today, chances are you would have been waiting an awful long time for that phone to be answered -- because just about everyone here has been fixed on the nearest TV screen.

Manny, Manny, Manny! So many uplifting cheers resounded around Filipino homes and bars in cities and towns across the islands. Millions were urging their inspirational hero, Pacquiao, onto victory as the new WBO welterweight champion of the world.

I was there in the midst of all the revelers in a very busy Makati bar -- but managed to miss the 12-round fight completely. My job was to ignore the action on the screen and look the other way -- to capture audience reactions to the fight, on film. And it was an absolute pleasure of an assignment, to see hundreds of Filipinos immersed in enjoying such an unqualified good news story for their country.

Initially the Filipino fans fretted at Miguel Cotto's strength, size and resilience in the early rounds -- but then relaxed into more regular and joyous cheering, as they realized with growing relief that their engagingly humble "Lord of the Ring" was again executing a carefully planned demolition of yet another world-class fighter.

After taking so many beatings from all those unwanted "typhoon tourists" queuing up to visit the Philippines recently, it was at last a fine sunny day for Filipinos to "fight back" -- by enjoying hearty celebrations with friends and family, united in admiration for their hero, and renewed pride in their country.

After watching the fight, one man spoke for many when he said: "It's a big boost for the morale of the Filipinos, and he's gonna be an inspiration for generations to come."

Another very happy woman accurately summed up the overwhelming mood of this very special occasion: "We are really proud of Manny, and it makes us feel even prouder to be Filipino." Her husband, similarly ecstatic with the result, was also inspired by their "People's Champ" and his historical achievement: "Manny Pacquiao is like the heart and soul of the Philippines right now. He just carries the whole country... the Philippines needs an icon, which we haven't had in a very long time."