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Photo from Tokyo 2020 pool

2020 Tokyo Olympics

Tokyo’s silver medal means more for former scavenger Paalam

When Carlo Paalam was given the silver medal that he earned after a gallant campaign in the 2020 Olympics’ men’s flyweight tournament, he took a hard long look at it.

The silver was not just a symbol of where his journey had led him but also a representation of where he came from.

“Simbolo siya ng buhay ko, kung saan ako nanggaling,” the 23-year-old native of Cagayan de Oro told Cignal’s Paolo Del Rosario.

It has been well-documented by the Filipino contingent covering the Tokyo Games of where Paalam came from.

Growing up in Takalag, Paalam had to make ends meet by selling metal scraps.

“Nakita ko ‘yan, nangangalakal, namumulot ng basura sa amin, binebenta,” national team coach Elmer Pamisa told’s Dodo Catacutan.

“Sabi ko, ‘Mag-boksing ka na lang, baka dito ka pa aasenso.”

Paalam would then be noticed by Cagayan de Oro mayor Oscar Moreno in youth tournament’s the city hosted. But with the pot so little, Paalam would go back to scavenging.

That’s when Pamisa stepped in and took Paalam under his cudgels.

Since then, Paalam has competed in international meets, winning bronze in the 2018 Asian Games and gold in the 30th Southeast Asian Games.

And just eight years since being part of the national team, he won silver in the Olympiad — a medal that is made of recycled scraps from mobile phones and computers.

“Scavenger ako dati, ngangalakal ako dati. Parang may simbolo siya sa akin, itong medal, kasi galing siya sa mga gadget na sira, parang may connect siya sa buhay ka,” he reflected.

“‘Di ko inakala na makukuha ko ‘to.”

Awaiting Paalam when he comes back home are pledges that have reached P17-million and counting.

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Despite all the accolades he has accomplished, Paalam remains hungry.

Yes, he will continue to scavenge as he now wants Olympic gold.

“Halos lahat ng mga magagaling nandito, mga second time Olympian, mga ilang taon nang naging Olympian … ako papasok pa lang.”

Written By

Oftentimes on the sidelines. Forever a student of the game. Morayta-bred.

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