Paano Kita Mapasasalamatan: Viral Pinoy toymaker gains Hollywood attention in a chain of life-saving miracles

We always search for a miracle in our lives—something that will lift us up from all the pain and suffering we experience daily.

In this episode of Paano Kita Mapasasalamatan on July 18, we see how a trail of kindness can become that sort of miracle people would search for all their lives.

Helpful daughter

April Zamora Cashiua, a 20-year old stuntwoman from Samar can be perceived as a very strong lady on and off camera. However, just like many of us, there was an unexpected point in her life where life dragged her down to her lowest. It was when she knew about the separation of her parents. The young lady admitted that it never came across her mind and thought it was impossible to happen. She and her siblings ended up abandoned. And April did not deny she still has grudges towards her parents for being selfish about the situation and for refusing to still assume their role as parents. April’s elder siblings also avoided responsibility towards her. Because of this, April was left alone to fend for herself. Fortunately, one of her teachers took care of her temporarily.

April would then receive news that her parents returned and decided to bring her siblings with them. April questioned why her parents seemed they did not bother to find her and bring her with them. But one day, to her surprise, April’s father came to take her but that started what she described as a living hell.  They stayed at the house of her father’s new partner, who would maltreat her repeatedly. Her father would not even defend her from her stepmom. That’s why April decided to leave them. And her boyfriend Benjamin Lucban was the one who saved her from that misery. They moved to Cavite but while they hoped for starting a better life together, April learned the devastating news that her mother had passed away. Even though she didn’t have a good and healthy relationship with her mother, April still regretted not giving importance to her mother when she was alive. Because of this, April said she did not want to experience the same regret with her father. Thus, when she found out that his father had tuberculosis, she still wanted to help him. And that’s when her close neighbor Elmer Padilla came in. At that time, Elmer was training to be a stuntman.

And since he couldn’t manage to attend all the trainings, he offered his position to April. He asked her if she’s game to attend the training instead and become a stuntwoman. And the moment she accepted was also the moment that changed her life for the better. April finally reached her dream of becoming an artist through playing the role of a stuntwoman. It became a source of income for April, and this definitely made it possible for her to help her family. 

To thank Elmer for the help he has given her, April gave him several packs of adhesives so that her savior could use it for his passion—creating toys out of used items, like rubber slippers.

Viral Pinoy toymaker

Meanwhile, Elmer is a devoted father to his children. He experienced working as a pedicab driver and a construction worker. But he’s most popularly known as the man who created action figures made of slippers. Elmer would not savor reminiscing about his younger years. He recalled it came to a point where they would just eat once a day, or worse, they would just ask food from their neighbors. But that did not stop Elmer from dreaming of the future he wanted for himself and for his family. At the age of 9, he discovered his talent of creating toys like boats and robots out of used materials like cartons and plastics. That became a way also for Elmer to still have toys that his mother couldn’t buy him. 

Elmer, being a responsible son that he has always been, decided to work while he was finishing college. His wife Rubelyn Padilla attests that he has always been a loving husband and a hard working father to their children. Elmer had been taking all sorts of jobs to make both ends meet, such as being a construction worker and a pedicab driver, which he both did simultaneously. He even tried joining boxing, swimming, bike racing contests, but it was still hard for him to earn enough to survive. But he went back to his old hobby of making toys out of used and old slippers. He thought he could use his talent as another source of income. And he did not have any idea that it would be the start of a significant change in his life. 

The photos of his toys circulated online which resulted to many people messaging and getting orders from him. And the greatest miracle that changed his life was catching the attention of Jerry Santos, a toy collector. He saw the viral photos of Elmer’s toy online and he knew that the toymaker was only selling it at around 150 pesos during that time. So in order to offer help, Jerry sent a message to Elmer saying that if he is interested in a job, he’s just a message away. And when the two knew each other more, Jerry started to help Elmer more by taking him to various toy exhibits and conventions. And this became his opportunity for his creations to become known all around the world, even in Hollywood, with Avengers stars Chris Hemsworth and Mark Ruffalo sharing photos of Elmer’s handmade toy versions of superhero characters they portrayed in the film series in their possession.

To show his gratitude to Jerry, Elmer gave him a special, personal toy creation he had previously kept for his own to add to his collection.

In search of a miracle

Jerry Santos grew up from a middle class family. His dad was a businessman while his mom was a housewife. He shared that he had strict parents and that prompted him to be a rebel son through having a secret relationship with his girlfriend when he was still in high school. They were together for nine years, but it still came to an end because Jerry was not ready to get married at that time. So he promised to himself that the next time he’ll have a girlfriend, he would right away ask her to be his wife. And so he did. And they had a child. But this time, his partner did not understand his hobby of toy collecting and even considered it an immature act. So they broke up after being together for three years. 

On the brighter side, Jerry has already established many toy, game, and gadget stores that reached 17 stalls. However, when the era of gaming consoles and downloadable games started, his business started to wane. He admitted he was very depressed that time that he almost wanted to end his life. But later on Jerry decided to go back to his hobby of creating life-size statues which became a successful business. And it was also during that time when he met the love of his life, Ericka, a cosplay enthusiast whom he first met at a charity event. He felt like everything was finally falling into place that time until a very alarming news hit their lives - his partner had a brain tumor. He felt like his world fell apart once again and he was unsure if he could still handle it. He asked for a miracle and that miracle was Vladimir Opiana, a comics enthusiast. He helped Jerry financed Ericka’s hospitalization. Vladimir even initiated a charity event just to help Jerry and Ericka. And it saved her life forever as she was able to undergo surgery and now, Ericka has miraculously recovered.

As a symbol of his undying gratitude to Vladimir, Jerry presented a pop vinyl figure of Ericka’s favorite cosplay character Supergirl.

How God’s grace changes lives

Vladimir, the one who strengthened the faith of both Jerry and Ericka, did not really have a strong relationship with God. He said he did not grow up in a very religious family but he shared they would always attend mass. But he admitted he did not have before the idea of who God really is. When he reached college, his parents couldn’t provide everything for his school expenses that’s why he was forced to transfer to another school, finish his studies and work at the same time. But he has not even graduated when he got a job from a BPO company, until he was promoted to handle an account of an international bank as a quality assurance auditor. 

But Vladimir didn’t consider thanking the Lord for all the blessings he’s been receiving. For him, it was all just the result of his efforts and hard work. But one incident changed his view. His sister was diagnosed with a cyst below her heart, and she needed to undergo an operation. That time, his whole family except him was praying. And a miracle came while he and his family were all hoping for the best of his sister’s operation. The doctor told them that the cyst unexplainably just vanished. But Vladimir refused to believe it was God’s work, until one of the most life-changing events in his life happened. His longtime girlfriend broke up with him and that time he felt devastated, until one friend invited him to a Christian church. And that was the start of the huge change in his life. He was introduced to God in a way he never expected. He learned to offer everything to Him and always reflect on the things he does. He came into the realization that he and all of us have a God who is the most capable of guiding our lives.

Indeed miracles start with God’s saving grace, which changed Vladimir’s perspective about life and strengthened his faith. This is the same trust in the Lord Almighty that he passed on to a desperate Jerry, who was searching for a miracle to save the life of his beloved wife Ericka. This living testament of healing made Jerry a redeeming instrument for Elmer who would rise above poverty and show his talent to the world. Elmer’s witnessing of Jerry’s generosity encouraged him to help a grief-stricken April find a better source of livelihood so she could help her family. 

This chain of kindness seem endless and truly brings miracles to those in need. We narrate these inspiring tales each week on Paano Kita Mapasasalamatan, presented by Judy Ann Santos-Agoncillo on the Kapamilya Channel every Saturday at 6:45pm.