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Pacquiao is new face of disaster preparedness

By: - Reporter / @TarraINQ
/ 04:27 AM May 23, 2014

MANILA, Philippines—From the way Manny Pacquiao is talking these days, one would think he has forgotten his duties as a member of Congress.

After promoting pain relievers, energy drinks, sports apparel, the word of God and his singing career, the 35-year-old boxing champ and congressman is now lending his name for free to a cause priceless to all: saving lives and surviving natural disasters.

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Pacquiao is the new face of a public service campaign to spread awareness of disaster preparedness in the most disaster-prone region in the world.

Prudence Foundation, charitable arm of life insurance firm Prudential Corp. Asia (PCA), and Fox International Channels’ (FIC) National Geographic on Thursday launched Safe Steps.

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Safe Steps aims to bring easy-to-understand information on preparing for calamities through television spots, infographic cards and a comprehensive website accessible to all.

“Mr. Manny Pacquiao was our only choice. He is a survivor, he is a fighter, he is a man of the people. As a Filipino, he understands the devastating impact of disasters,” Prudence Foundation executive director Marc Fancy said at Thursday’s launch of the campaign in a Pasay City hotel ballroom.

That’s nothing new for the man from Sarangani province.

‘Knockout advice’

Pacquiao has also tried singing, movie-making and preaching the Bible. He is also going into pro basketball as a playing coach for team KIA in the Professional Basketball Association tournament.

As a Safe Steps ambassador, Pacquiao stars in five 60-second educational videos providing “knockout advice” on what to do before and during a natural disaster, whether it be a typhoon, an earthquake, flood or fire.

A fifth video instructs one on how to prepare an emergency kit.

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Filmed in English, the Safe Steps spots will start airing Friday in 13 FIC international channels, including the Nat Geo, FOX and Star channel lineups, with a combined reach of 24 million viewers in Asia.

Prudence Foundation is also finalizing a partnership with a Philippine network to carry the public service announcements.

Eight languages

To maximize reach, the videos will carry subtitles in eight languages: Bahasa Indonesia, Bahasa Malaysia, Cantonese, Khmer, Mandarin, Filipino, Thai and Vietnamese.

In the videos, Pacquiao opens with a spiel about his life experience: “All my life, I have been fighting to survive. I’m here to show you safe steps on how to prepare for natural disasters.”

He told the packed ballroom of how he readily agreed to serve as Safe Steps ambassador while working around his busy schedule.

“Every time I’m asked about my life and how it led me to where I am, my answer is simple: I am a survivor,” said Pacquiao, who grew up in an underprivileged family in General Santos City.

“It is no secret that my family was very poor. I know what it’s like to have nothing to eat, and live day to day not knowing how you will get through the week,” said the eight-division world champ, whose earnings Forbes Magazine pegged at $34 million as of June 2013.

Lesson on preparedness

He recounted how his family’s struggle got worse whenever natural disasters struck, an experience he has shared with millions of Filipinos.

“When there were natural disasters, our hardships would multiply. Through courage, determination and some help, we survived,” Pacquiao said.

“I am sure my experience is repeated a thousand times by everyone who has survived and continues to cope with natural disasters,” he said, citing the devastation caused by Super Typhoon Yolanda in the Visayas.

Pacquiao said the typhoon left the Philippines with a lesson in preparedness.

“Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) became personal for all of us … Imagine losing more than 6,000 brothers and sisters in the blink of an eye. The question we were all asking … is: How can we help? How could we have been better prepared? How could we have better ensured our safety?” said Pacquiao.

“We cannot control the occurrence of natural disasters. There is no way for us to stop typhoons from coming, earthquakes and floods from happening. But we can … prepare for these,” he said.

Before disaster strikes

That is the information Safe Steps hopes to fill in order to build resilient communities across Asia.

“While we believe in the importance of responding to disasters after they occur, it is simply not enough,” said PCA chair Don Kanak. “Prevention is half the cure. It’s more important now than ever to improve community resilience and prepare for disasters before they strike.”

This means education and training, Kanak said.

“People need access to life-saving information and skills so they are prepared to deal with emergency situations … to protect themselves and their families,” he said.

Easy to access

Safe Steps will make available life-saving information through infographic handouts “similar to what you find on airplanes” that will be distributed across Asia.

A one-stop website, www.safesteps.com, brings together all information from the videos and infographic cards in a location one may access anytime.

“Across the region, we identified that there was a gap in simple, easy-to-access information on how to prepare for a natural disaster. In a nutshell, that is Safe Steps,” Fancy said.

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