Paalam victory brings jubilation to kin, fans in Cagayan de Oro

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 5 Aug) – Jubilation rang out inside the small house in Pasil, Barangay Kauswagan here when the judges proclaimed home bet Carlo Paalam over Ryomei Tanaka of Japan in the men’s flyweight semifinal of the Tokyo Olympics Thursday.

Family and friends of Carlo Paalam and girlfriend Stephanie Sepulveda break into applause at the Sepulveda household after the judges proclaimed the boxer as winner against Japan’s hometown bet Ryomei Tanaka in the men’s flyweight semifinal of the Tokyo Olympics. It has become the practice of the Paalams to watch his fights in the Sepulveda household. MindaNews photo by FROILAN GALLARDO

Carlo’s father, Piorio Paalam, stole glances to the sky as if to ask God for mercy moments before the judges announced the verdict.

“Thank you, God. Thank you, Cagayan de Oro. Thank you, Philippines,” the elder Paalam exclaimed when the decision was announced.

Paalam earned a shot at the gold medal when he bested Tanaka in the three-round match of the flyweight semifinal in Tokyo.

His win is a welcome respite for Cagayan de Oro, which is being battered with rising COVID-19 cases every day, spiked with the discovery of 13 Delta variants in the past weeks.

The elder Paalam, a construction worker, said he is happy that his son reached his dream years after his career started in the “Boxing in the Park” at the old Amphitheater in Cagayan de Oro.

Stephanie Sepulveda, girlfriend of Carlo Paalam, breaks into tears as her older brother Kyle embraces her after the judges proclaimed her boyfriend as winner. MindaNews photo by FROILAN GALLARDO

From the Boxing in the Park, Paalam was recruited to the boot camp of Mayor Oscar Moreno where he began his professional training.

Part of his training included carrying weights made of concrete and old truck tires.

“I never forgot when he brought to me his winnings of P150. Carlo wanted to give it all to me but I told him to keep it so he can buy soap and something to eat,” the elder Paalam said.

He said their family is poor that the electricity in his house in Upper Carmen was disconnected because he could not pay the bills.

During the fight Thursday, Paalam and two of her daughters went to watch the game in the house of Eddie Sepulveda, father of Carlo’s girlfriend, Stephanie.

“The family of Carlo is always here in the house every time he has a televised fight. Our families have become that close,” the 21-year-old Stephanie said.

Her father Eddie, a small sari-sari store owner, said he does not mind because Carlo has been good to his daughter and family.

A Sepulveda neighbor cheers for Carlo Paalam. MindaNews photo by FROILAN GALLARDO

Eddie said they became so close that they shared the dream of seeing Carlo get the gold in the Tokyo Olympics.

Eddie, however, was worried of the crowd that gathered in his home that he imposed the use of masks on everyone. Aside from the Sepulveda and Paalam families among the few dozen people inside the house cheering loudly were neighbors, including children.

While the adults wore their masks properly, they were too tightly packed together.

Many of the children, however, were wearing their masks the wrong way, mostly covering their chins, their mouths and noses exposed. (Froilan Gallardo / MindaNews)