[PHOTO - Pound-for-pound boxing king and Habitat hero ambassador Manny Pacquiao is joined by his wife Jinkee and Habitat for Humanity Philippines Capital Campaign chair Fernando Zobel during a dinner Monday night.]

MANILA, JUNE 4, 2011 (STAR) WBO welterweight champion and pound-for-pound boxing king Manny Pacquiao has another title under his belt – Habitat hero ambassador.

At a small private dinner at Habitat for Humanity Capital Campaign chair Fernando Zobel’s home held in honor of the Pacman Monday night, Zobel said he was impressed upon meeting Manny.

“For a person that has accomplished so much fame, he continues to be incredibly grounded, humble, down to earth and very sincere. It is such an honor for the sports hero to lend his name and trust the work that Habitat has been doing all these years.”

“I Build Filipino pride” is Pacquiao’s campaign statement. As Sarangani representative, Pacquiao says he has a bigger opponent than those he’s faced inside the boxing ring – poverty.

“Gusto ko i-knock-out ang kahirapan. Gusto ko tapusin ang kahirapan sa anumang paraan at magpatayo ng mga bahay na diretso talaga sa tao. Natutuwa ako sa magandang adhikain at trabaho ng Habitat. I assure you, you will always have my support (I want to knock out poverty, to end it in whatever way and build houses directly for the poor. I’m proud of the advocacy and work of Habitat).”

The Pacman has committed to having a “Manny Pacquiao Build” in Sarangani.

“Bumili ako ng lupa, 3 hectares, nasa tabi ng kalsada pa iyon, gusto ko mapatayuan na natin yon ng mga bahay para sa mga mahihirap na residente sa amin (I bought some land, 3 hectares, by the road. I want to build houses there for our poor residents).”

Habitat for Humanity has in turn pledged to raise counterpart funds needed to build the homes. Pacquiao said he will take the lead in building the homes brick by brick with thousands of volunteers, like that of the recent successful youth build in Calauan, Laguna where over 1,600 students volunteered to paint and build 80 houses.

Habitat Youth Council president Isabel Martel Francisco and Youth Ambassador Alex Eduque promised to “rally behind Pacquiao by inviting youth volunteers.”

“We are one with Congressman Pacquiao in finding a solution in uplifting the lives of Filipinos. Habitat is honored to be working with him in this worthwhile endeavor,” remarked Ricardo Jacinto, Habitat for Humanity Philippines managing director and CEO.

Pacquiao joins the ranks of Habitat Nation-Builder Ambassador Kris Aquino; Habitat Ambassadors Kim Atienza, Arnold Clavio, Karen Davila, Alex Eduque, Derek Ramsay, and Chris Tiu; and Habitat Youth Ambassadors Matteo Guidicelli and Cris Villonco.

Atienza, who fondly calls Pacquiao his “brother,” is elated with Manny’s joining Habitat.

“Our family knew and supported Pacquiao (even when he was not yet famous), he hasn’t changed at all,” Atienza said.

It was an evening that was truly special. Pacquiao brought his wife Jinkee and four kids who ended up playing with Zobel’s children.

A memorandum of agreement was signed between Zobel and Pacquiao but what sealed it was a song – Pacquiao was game enough to sing when egged on to duet with concert queen Pops Fernandez.

Habitat for Humanity Philippines started building homes in 1988 with General Santos City, Pacquiao’s hometown, as one of its first communities. Since then, the organization has built communities nationwide, particularly in the southern provinces of Kidapawan, Midsayap, Davao del Sur, and Sarangani. Apart from houses, Habitat has also constructed classrooms in Mindanao.

For the past 23 years, Habitat has served over 32,000 families, built and enabled more than 170 communities and has completed more than 300 classrooms and community centers throughout the country.

As it gears up for its 25th year in 2013, Habitat recently launched its four-year “I Build” campaign, which aims to create a community building and development model through innovative and sustainable solutions to address poverty housing that can be replicated nationwide.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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