Carlo Paalam Kisses Silver Medal, Looks Back to Scavenger Roots

'Simbolo siya ng buhay ko, sa'n ako nanggaling'.

Carlo Paalam kissed his Olympic silver medal for featherweight boxing on Saturday, reminded of his roots picking trash in Cagayan de Oro City over a decade ago.

The medal is made partly from recycled gadgets, which Paalam used to scavenge for in garbage heaps as a kid. Now he is one of just three Filipino boxers to finish with a silver medal at the Summer Games.

"Ito po kasi malaking bagay sa buhay ko eh... Nangangalakal ako dati," Paalam said, his voice shaking in near-tears during a post-match interview.

"Bago ako nag-start dito sa boxing, nangangalakal ako dati. Alam natin galing 'to sa mga gadget na sira... Parang gusto ko talagang mag-medal kasi gusto ko isalita yung buhay ko sa medal na 'to kasi simbolo siya ng buhay ko, sa'n ako nanggaling," he said.

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Early this week, after Paalam secured his ticket to the finals, coach Elmer Pamisa was beaming with pride. A former national boxer, Pamisa discovered Paalam, the son of a bakery helper, as the kid was roaming the streets, looking for discarded items to sell. 

"Nakita ko 'yan, nangangalakal, namumulot ng basura sa amin, binebenta," Pamisa told in Tokyo. 

"Sabi ko, ‘Mag-boksing ka na lang, baka dito ka pa aasenso," he said.

Yielding to Britain's Galal Yafai, Paalam equaled the feat of compatriot boxers Nesthy Petecio also in Tokyo and Mansueto "Onyok" Velasco in Atlanta in 1996. 

Together with Petecio, weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz (who won gold) and another boxer Eumir Marcial (who took bronze), Paalam sealed the Philippines'  best finish ever in the summer games.

He is expected to receive at least P17 million in incentives. 

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