As a child, young Elmer Padilla never experienced playing with an expensive toy because of poverty. But instead of having tantrums and being envious of others, he instead started to use his extraordinary talent of making action figures just out of discarded flip flops. Years have passed, little did he know that he will rise to popularity and become ‘Boy Tsinelas’.
Elmer and his family are living at the slum of Brgy. Gahak-Marulas, in Kawit, Cavite known as ‘Kalye Onse’. His home province is at Catbalogan, Samar. In order to financially support his family, Elmer tried to become a fisherman, a pedicab driver and a construction worker.
“Mangingisda ako noon sa Catbalogan. Marami kaming magkakapatid kaya hirap kami sa buhay. Dahil din sa kahirapan kaya napaluwas ako sa Maynila,” he said in an interview with “Kapuso Mo Jessica Soho.”
But, his life started to change when he realized that he can use his talent to meet their ends. At the age of 13, he began transforming old slippers into his first-ever toy which is a replica of movie character Predator. It was just a hobby for Elmer back then until he discovered that he can sell his work as a source of their living.
“Dati, hindi ko binibigyang pansin ‘tong talento ko kasi mas inuuna ko yung para sa ikabubuhay ng pamilya ko. Hindi ko akalain na pwede ko pala itong pagkakakitaan. Saka ko lang to pinag-focus-an,” he further narrated.
Aside from slippers he found at trash bins, rivers and streets, Elmer uses scissors, cutter, and glue in order to make his obra maestra. It usually takes him at least two to four hours to finish. His original work costs from Php 500 to 600 and other costs less of Php 100 to 300.
“Sa paggawa ng Tsinelas Transformer, yung ulo yung pinakamahirap. Ang ginagawa ko, ginugupit saka pagdidikitin. Di na nga siya nababasag, nakakatulong na rin ako sa kalikasan. Hindi na kailangan ng pintura,” he added.
Elmer also recalled the very first time when he was able to sell some of his works. The happiness he felt at that moment is till fresh in his memory.
“Masayang masaya talaga ako. Noong unang araw, naka-dalawang benta po ako, yung transformer at deadpool,” he said.
However, not everyone are pleased with his work. He also remembered a time when a security guard shoo him away. Elmer used to make his action figures in front of public establishments.
“Ang sakit sa pakiramdam. Nabubuhay naman ako ng marangal,” he emotionally said.
Elmer rose to fame in 2017 when a Facebook post showing his work went viral online. He was then featured multiple times by TV and print media here and abroad. But his greatest achievement is when he was able to give his action figures to Hollywood actors Mark Ruffalo and Chris Hemsworth.
As the saying goes, if there is a will, there is a way. Elmer is creative enough to not just make a toy for him and his children to play. He is also blessed with a talent that he uses to become a superhero for his family.
Those who are interested to buy Elmer’s action figures made out of old slippers may send him a direct message at his Instagram account @elmerboytsinelas.
Cover Photo via Elmer Padilla’s Facebook Profile