While we all know that Carlo Paalam is that outstanding flyweight who brought honor to the country as a silver medalist in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, most of us had no idea about the struggles he encountered all his life.
In the Maalaala Mo Kaya episode “Silver Medal” aired on January 8, we get to know more about how Carlo suffered from a life of abject poverty, being scorned and abandoned, yet fought his way through life’s challenges and emerged a winner—an Olympic medalist, no less.
Carlo (CJ Navato) had a very difficult life growing up, with his mother Jocelyn (Rochelle Barrameda) abandoning him and his family due to the bleak future they faced. He and his siblings were under the care of relatives, including his grandmother (Aurora Sevilla). But after they had not received any remittance from their father Pio (William Lorenzo), Carlo’s family was evicted from their relative’s house, including his ailing grandmother.
They reunited with his Tatay Pio and told him that they were driven out because he had not sent any financial support to them. His father denied this, saying that he regularly sends money to them through a bus conductor. But since Carlo and his siblings had not received any of those amounts sent, the money had been siphoned off, leaving them with nothing.
But despite this, Carlo and his siblings were very much happy to be reunited with Pio, who also had his personal struggles in making a living for his family. Pio managed to have a small house made of scrap built for his family and even though they lived together, their ordeals were overwhelming.
By this time, Carlo plied garbage dumps to work as a scavenger to make money out of scrap items. The derision he felt was unfathomable, with people endlessly casting him off as worthless. But one day, as he scavenged, Carlo stumbled upon a boy in sparring session with his father, who was a boxing coach. The coach invited him to spar with his son, and after recalling all those painful moments in the past, Carlo suddenly showed fighting skills rarely seen. Because of this, the coach invited him to join his stable of boxing novices.
He then lit up small town boxing tournaments, winning one match after the other. Carlo first did not disclose his newfound “job” to his father, but because of his growing popularity in the circuit, Pio eventually knew about it. While his father was initially reluctant to fully agree to Carlo’s stint as a boxer, another coach who believed in Carlo’s promise as an international boxer, Hernan (Mon Confiado), persuaded Pio to have Carlo under his wings.
Under his care, Carlo initially bared his impressive fighting skills, but was not enough for him to land a slot in the boxing team for a major tournament. This broke his heart, and because of his frustration, he suddenly left the training camp and continued his life as a scavenger. But Hernan went to Carlo and imparted his wisdom in handling defeats and failures, saying that a real fighter doesn’t quit. Because of Hernan’s prodding, Carlo returned to training.
Since then, Carlo established himself as a tough local boxing champion, and the whole boxing community took notice and heralded him to the national scene. After winning several tournaments in his weight class, Carlo eventually represented the Philippines in international tournaments, including the Southeast Asian Games. During one of those tournaments, he suffered a painful setback that again pushed him into the throes of quitting the sport.
But with Hernan motivating and inspiring him, Carlo regained his composure and continued his impressive winning streak. His international victories led him to secure a slot in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, even when a pandemic had cancelled qualifying tournaments.
During the Olympics, Filipinos witnessed the superb technique, ring wizardry, and punching strength of this Cagayan de Oro native, as he won the preliminaries, quarterfinals, and semifinals, making him barge in the historic gold medal match. But in this final match, after suffering a knockdown, Carlo lost via split decision to the eventual gold medalist from Great Britain.
While he first shed a tear losing the match, Carlo found the strength to still consider his defeat as a learning experience to become an even better boxer, ready to take the gold in the 2024 Paris Olympics.
Finely executed as an inspiring piece for downtrodden people to reach their dreams, MMK “Silver Medal” is a conglomeration of impressive dramatic performances with brilliant creative direction. Under the helm of director Ian Lorenos, the episode effectively conveyed the difficult journey of this nation’s pride from being a “worthless” scavenger to being a priceless Olympic medalist.
Mon Confiado again showed the reason why he is among the most respected in the acting craft, with his gripping portrayal, shimmering with charisma and impact with his very presence onscreen and his effective pacing and delivery.
CJ Navato indeed gave justice to his role as Carlo, splendidly portraying a believable and identifiable character throughout his failures and triumphs. His performance was truly a revealing, eye-opening showcase of his exceptional acting talent.