MARAWI CITY - Fight to the end.
Renowned boxer Sen. Manny Pacquiao on Saturday had this message to troops slugging it out with Islamic State-linked terrorists in Marawi City as he thanked and cheered the soldiers for pursuing their mission.
In his speech before members of the Philippine Army's 103rd Infantry Brigade in Camp Ranao here, Pacquiao, an Army reservist ranked Lieutenant Colonel, likened the battle to a boxing match.
"Kumbaga sa boxing, last three rounds na lang, huwag tayo magmenor. Hanggang sa last round, tapusin natin ang laban," Pacquiao said.
(Just like in boxing, we're in the last three rounds so we should not waver. We have to finish the fight until the last round.)
"Daghang salamat sa inyong pagdepensa sa ating bansa. We are always praying for your safety. Ako'y narito para ipaalam sa inyo na ako'y sumusuporta ng buong puso sa kasundaluhan na lumalaban para sa kapakanan ng ating bansa," he added.
(Thank you for defending our country. We are always praying for your safety. I'm here to let you know that I fully and wholeheartedly support members of the military who have been fighting for the welfare of our country.)
The boxer-turned-lawmaker also said in jest that he is willing to join soldiers in the war zone.
"Kung pwede maiimbitahan sa nagpuputukan na 'yan, hindi ako magdalawang isip na samahan kayo," Pacquiao said, drawing cheers from the soldiers.
(If you will invite me to fight in the war zone, I will not have second thoughts to join you.)
"Kaya lang, kung isama niyo ako at may nangyari sa akin, wala na kayo mapanood sa itaas ng ring," he said.
(But if I join you and something happens to me, you won't have someone to watch inside the boxing ring.)
Aside from giving soldiers a pep talk, Pacquiao also distributed relief packs to the troops.
"Kayo ang pinaka-hero. Si Manny Pacquiao, one-on-one lang 'yan sa boxing, pero kayo, buhay itinaya ninyo para sa ating bansa," the senator said.
(You are the true heroes. Manny Pacquiao just engages in one-on-one fights in boxing, but you have placed your lives on the line for our country.)
Pacquiao arrived in full military garb at Camp Ranao around 9 a.m. with his staff and received a security briefing from military officials before his interaction with the troops.
Firefights in Marawi City have been going on for more than two months, leaving more than 600 dead and forcing some 400,000 residents to evacuate from the city and nearby areas.
Officials earlier said the fighting was limited to just two villages in the city, with 60 terrorists remaining in the battle zone.