Carlo Paalam has come full circle from being a scavenger to a boxer who won an Olympic medal made from scraps.
Paalam savored the silver medal he bagged in the men’s flyweight division in Tokyo as he looked back on a life of poverty in Cagayan de Oro that saw him earn a living through collecting garbage.
“Itong medal na ito ay simbolo ng buhay ko. Isa akong mangangalakal at itong medalya ay gawa sa mga sirang gadget po,” Paalam said.
(This medal symbolizes my life. I was a scavenger before and this medal was made from broken gadgets.)
“Sa basura siya galing, kaya nai-connect ko po siya sa buhay ko.“
(It came from trash so I am able to connect it to my life.)
Promising to deliver a green and sustainable Olympics, Tokyo 2020 organizers gathered millions of old cell phones, which were recycled to produce approximately 5,000 medals for the Games.
“‘Yan po ang pinanghugutan ko para makuha ko ito,” Paalam said.
(The medals being made from waste was one of the reasons why I wanted to win.)
A first-time Olympian, Paalam beat great odds to secure a podium finish.
He stunned 2016 Rio de Janeiro champion Shakhobidin Zoirov of Uzbekistan to reach the semifinal and dominated hometown bet Ryomei Tanaka of Japan to advance to the gold-medal match.
Paalam, though, fell short of capturing the Philippines’ first Olympic gold in boxing as he sustained a split decision loss to Galal Yafai of Great Britain in the championship round.
Still, the 23-year-old relished his accomplishment as he is set to receive millions in cash incentives for his Olympic silver.
Paalam has been promised a total of P17 million from the government and businessmen on top of other rewards (READ: LIST: Former scavenger Carlo Paalam to collect millions after Olympic silver)
“Nagpapasalamat po talaga ako sa Panginoon kasi nabago po ang buhay ko dahil dito sa medalya na ito,” Paalam said.
(I thank the Lord because this medal has changed my life.) – Rappler.com