From slippers to superheroes
Stories of Filipino ingenuity and creativity have always been a source of inspiration for us, much more when they are recognized globally.
In September last year, Elmer Padilla made headlines when his handmade action figures, made of recycled slippers, were posted on Facebook. The viral post earned him an appearance on Kapuso Mo, Jessica Soho. His work was then handed to Thor: Ragnarok actors Chris Hemsworth and Mark Ruffalo, who praised Padilla’s depictions of their characters.
Padilla has always loved action figures, but he could never really afford them as a child. He turned to his creativity at a young age so that he could make his own.
“Nine years old po ako noong mag-start ako sa paggawa. Hindi pa po character ang mga ginagawa ko noon. Bangka-bangka lang po gamit ang mga tsinelas na sira hanggang sa nakakabuo na ako ng mga robot sa sarili kong imahinasyon. Hanggang sa nahilig ako sa mga action figures sa movie. Sinubukan ko na po gumaya ng mga action figures (I was nine years old when I started making these. At the time, I didn’t make characters. I just made boats out of broken flip-flops until I was able to make robots of my own imagination. Then, I began taking an interest in action figures from movies. At that point, I tried imitating action figures),” he related.
From Samar, Padilla, together with his family, moved to Imus, Cavite to try and fulfill his dream of making and selling action figures. It was here where he was discovered selling his tsinelas action figures on the streets, and from there, his fame skyrocketed.
Today, the toy creator receives guidance from Jerry Santos, a toymaker who makes life-sized statues for his store, Jerry’s Life-Size Statues and Collectibles. Orders for his work have piled up so much, he can barely keep up with demand.
“Actually, sa isang araw, nakakatanggap kami ng 70 orders. Yung iba hindi na niya nasasagot sa social media dahil nga medyo busy na rin talaga. Akala nila suplado si Elmer pero marami lang talagang dating ng order. (Actually, in a single day, we can receive up to 70 orders. He can’t respond to other orders on social media because he’s really busy. They think Elmer is being snobbish, but really, there are just so many orders coming in),” shared Santos.
Padilla’s primary expense in making his action figures has been the purchase of Mighty Bond adhesive. Sometimes, when he runs out of money, he’d just buy ordinary shoe glue, but this lowers the quality of his work.
“Kapag ordinaryong shoe glue lang talaga, madaling matanggal ang dikit kapag natutuyo na. Kapag Mighty Bond ang gamit ko, mabilis dumikit at matibay kahit na yung sa mga parte pa ng action figures na mahirap dumikit gaya nung mga wires at plastic. (When I use ordinary shoe glue, the adhesion easily fades when it dries. When I use Mighty Bond, it sticks quickly and it stays sturdy, even the parts of the action figures that are hard to glue like wires and plastic),” he said.
Although Padilla’s income from his craft remains a little slow, as it’s just him working on fulfilling the orders, he’s being courted by international flip-flop brands hoping to become his supplier.
In spite of rising fame and fortune, the Filipino toy maker dreams remain squarely grounded at home. He wants to be able to buy a house for his family, and buy whatever they need. With all the hard work he puts in for his family, he truly is as good as the superheroes he depicts.