Elmer Padilla has a wall full of action figures in his home. Hellboy, Deadpool, Bumblebee and even the Predator grace the walls where he lives in Cavite, but unlike other action figures that are sold in malls for thousands and thousands of pesos, he made all of his from scrap pieces of flip-flops.
Read Related Story: French social entrep sets up to biz in Bulacan
When he’s not making action figures out of scrap, Elmer is a pedicab driver, working hard to make ends meet. His family of four moved from Catbalogan City in Samar province to Imus City in Cavite to try his luck in the big city, but lack of money meant he couldn’t even buy food for his family, or even acquire papers to find a job.
On September 17, Elmer walked 5 kilometers to reach the Lotus Mall in Imus to create action figures from Hellboy and the Transformers out of flip-flops. Photos of Elmer’s skill and craftmanship as well as his products hit Facebook and went viral.
Photos of Elmer working on the steps of the mall quickly went around Facebook, and as of now has around 41K likes and 17,430 shares.
Read Related Story: Karaw Craftventures use art to empower inmates
Elmer’s craftmanship was borne out of extreme poverty, and he quickly taught himself to create toys from scrap from the age of 9. “Lumaki po ako na walang laruan kasi po hirap po talaga ang pamilya ko. Mahirap ang kalagayan namin. Ultimo nagkakahalaga ng P10 hindi po mabili-bili (I grew up without toys because my family was poor. We really had a hard life. I couldn’t buy even 10-peso toys),” he said during an interview with ABS CBN.
To create his versions of branded action figures, he visits toy stores in malls and studies them before crafting his own version.
“Ang ginagawa ko na lang po hinahawakan ko na lang tsaka tinitingnan. Sapat na sa akin na mahawakan ko siya tapos ginagaya ko na lang po siya gamit mga tsinelas (I would just touch them and look at them. That would be enough for me to be able to recreate them using rubber from slippers),” he added.
Believe it or not, this #Hulk doll is made out of recycled tsinelas (that's tagalog for flip-flops). Elmer Padilla made this for me so I just wanted to give a nice shoutout. Not only is this inventively creative, but it's sustainable and just pure awesome! Thank you Elmer! pic.twitter.com/JiA4E91LjZ
— Mark Ruffalo (@MarkRuffalo) October 20, 2017
His work has not gone unnoticed by his idols, as both Mark Ruffalo, who plays The Hulk, and Chris Hemsworth, who plays Thor have applauded Elmer’s craftmanship when they received their action figures made with flip-flops.
“Not only is this inventively creative, but it’s sustainable and just pure awesome! Thank you Elmer!” writes Ruffalo on his Twitter account.
“I bet he is fantastic,” Hemsworth told ABS-CBN News in an interview held in Sydney, Australia last week, before acknowledging that he never would have thought that the figure was crafted from discarded slippers. “It looks better than me.”
Despite all the fame, Padilla still struggles to make ends meet for his two daughters and his wife. But despite that, he’s still optimistic about the future and wants to open his own shop one day.
“Siyempre po napupusuan ko na po ang mga pangarap ko na gumawa ng maraming character at magkaroon ng sariling shop. Kaya nagpapasalamat po ako kung ganoon yung mangyayari na may tutulong at tsaka susuporta sa mga ginagawa ko. (Of course, in my heart I dream of creating many more characters and having my own shop. I would be very grateful to those who would help and support me towards making that dream come true,” Padilla says.