By CARLO ANOLIN
Carlo Paalam once made a vow to his father and siblings that he will find a way to lift them out of poverty.
Before boxing flipped the new pages for Paalam’s life, he resorted to scavenging and collecting garbage to provide food for his family.
Now that Paalam made huge waves globally with a gallant stand in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, media outlets would report profile features highlighting his youth as a skinny scavenger-turned-boxer hailing from Cagayan de Oro.
Count Anthony, 17, the youngest among the seven Paalam siblings, as one of his biggest fans.
“Sinabi niya naman sa amin na iaahon namin kayo sa hirap,” recalled Anthony in a phone interview with the Manila Bulletin-Tempo. “Ang ama namin, sir, sinabihan niyan na iaahon niya kami sa hirap. Ayan, nagkatotoo na po. ‘Yon ang sinabi niya, sir.”
For Anthony, his kuya Carlo, 23, is one respectable and reliable brother – the one he leaned on and the one taking the cudgels for the good of the family.
Anthony also tried lacing up the gloves and fighting in the boxing ring at a tender age to support the Paalam family with Carlo serving as his “coach” in a place he called “Divisoria,” which is now known as the Golden Friendship Park.
“Ang sabi niya sakin noon, galingan mo. Minsan naglalaro ako, sir, round three lang ‘yon. Siya lang po ‘yong coach ko doon sir, naawa siya sakin. Naawa si kuya Carlo po sakin dahil sa mga suntok sa mukha ko,” recounted Anthony.
And so Carlo forced Anthony, the “bunso” of Paalam family, to hang up his gloves for good.
But Carlo, who was discovered in CDO’s “Boxing in the Park,” continued living through the sport and in his free time still scavenging for scraps and garbage.
“Nagpapasalamat ako sa kuya ko kasi naging part ako ng buhay nila. Magaling na tao po ‘yan si kuya Carlo. Magaling po ‘yan sa amin. Ang hirap ng buhay namin,” said the youngest Paalam, his voice, starting to sound emotional and high on nostalgia. “Siya lang ang umaahon, sir. Lahat ng problema namin, nandyan siya. Sa pamilya siya po nandyan.”
Anthony remembered that one of his fondest memories his kuya Carlo did for the family was to buy bigas (uncooked rice) after every incentive from a boxing match.
Though it was kept in utmost secrecy, Carlo carried on with boxing, which eventually paved the way to superstardom and now a silver medalist in the prestigious quadrennial meet.
“At bibigyan niya po ako ng pagkain, siya po ‘yong nagbibigay po sakin. Sobrang love niya po ako, ‘yang si kuya Carlo. Love na love niya po ako. Bilib na bilib ako sa kuya ko,” said Anthony, who was still on cloud nine knowing that a member of the Paalam family, who suffered from the grasp of poverty, became an Olympian.
“‘Di po kami makapaniwala. Akalain niyo naman ‘yong nangangalakal noon, may medalya na nakuha ngayon sa Olympics. Sobrang saya po namin.”
Paalam is set to receive P17 million at press time after settling for silver medal in the 2020 Tokyo Games after yielding to Great Britain’s Galal Yafai in their men’s flyweight finals at the Kokugikan Arena Saturday, Aug. 7.
By CARLO ANOLIN