From trash to treasure: Recycled Tokyo medal hits home for Carlo Paalam
MANILA, Philippines–For most athletes, winning an Olympic medal serves as the culmination of their hard work and dedication. To some, it’s for glory, validation, or gratification.
Of course, there are other reasons. But for Carlo Paalam, who came from nothing, it’s everything and more.
Before boxing gave him a chance at life, Carlo Paalam was a scavenger hoping to turn trash into treasure in landfills in Cagayan de Oro as a kid.
That’s why it’s only fitting that the silver medal he got in the men’s flyweight final at the Tokyo Olympics, where all medals are made from recycled electronic gadgets, hits home.
“This medal symbolizes my life. Because I used to be a scavenger and this medal is made up of broken gadgets. It’s from trash. That’s why I relate to it. And that’s where I drew my strength from,” Paalam, struggling to hold back his tears, said in Filipino after his split decision loss to Great Britain’s Galal Yafai.
Boxing certainly gave Paalam a way out of poverty and into bigger opportunities as he seeks to continue his quest for Olympic gold.
By taking home the silver medal, Paalam is set to receive at least P17 million in cash incentives.
A P5 million prize will come from the government through the Republic Act 10699 or the National Athletes, Coaches and Trainers Benefits Incentives Act while business tycoons and sports patrons Manny V. Pangilinan and Ramon S. Ang have also pledged P5 million each for silver medalists.
House Deputy Speaker Mikee Romero has committed a P2 million bounty for Tokyo runner-ups.
“The moment I started boxing, I never stopped. And I thank boxing because I am now able to help myself, my family, and my relatives. Boxing is really important for me and I will never forget where I came from,” Paalam told Inquirer a week before the Tokyo Games.
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