The story behind the Pinoy-made ‘tsinelas’ action figures

Marie Lozano, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 21 2017 08:42 PM

He's usually the one associated with the word "incredible," having been cast as The Hulk in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. 

But Mark Ruffalo found himself handing out the compliment this time around, putting the spotlight on a Filipino pedicab driver who gave him a Hulk action figure made out of recycled flip-flops. 

On Twitter this Saturday, the actor gave a shoutout to Elmer Padilla, the action figure's maker, and wrote: "Not only is this inventively creative, but it's sustainable and just pure awesome!" 

But as it turned out, he was not the only one who received a gift from Elmer. The Pinoy toymaker also made a Thor figure for Chris Hemsworth, Ruffalo's co-star in the upcoming "Thor: Ragnarok". 

"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." 

During the same chat, Ruffalo called Padilla a "genius" for using recycled materials for his toys, while the film's director, Taika Waititi, added that Padilla's unique creations are poster-worthy. 

"Thor: Ragnarok" stars Mark Ruffalo and Christ Hemsworth pose with the action figures Pinoy toymaker Elmer Padilla made out of recycled rubber. Marie Lozano, ABS-CBN News

Padilla first shot to fame when a photo of him selling his self-produced toys on the streets of Imus, Cavite went viral online. 

Padilla said that he looks up to the characters as his main inspirations. 

So when he learned that ABS-CBN would have an opportunity to meet his idols, he started working on the rubber action figures with hopes that the Marvel Studios stars would accept them. 

"Ito po ginawa ko po iyong mga idol ko pong mga character si Thor at si Hulk. Pinangarap ko rin po na sana mabigyan niyong pansin po iyong mga gawa ko dahil idolo ko po kayo," he said. 

It was due to extreme poverty that Padilla taught himself how to make toys from discarded materials at the age of 9. 

He said his family used most of their income for necessities, which was why he decided to create his own toys out of the discarded slippers he found on the streets of his hometown. 

He recalled going to toy stores just to study the branded figures, before going home and trying to copy them. 

"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," he shared. 

"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." 

Elmer Padilla with the action figures he made for "Thor: Ragnarok" stars Chris Hemsworth and Mark Ruffalo. Marie Lozano, ABS-CBN News

Padilla worked as a pedicab driver and a part-time fisherman in Catbalogan, Samar before relocating his family in Manila. 

He dreamt of getting a job as a construction worker but he didn’t have the requirements needed, including the money for transportation from Cavite. 

On the day he ran out of cash to buy food for his family, Padilla decided to make his hobby into a business.

Today, he still struggles to make ends meet for his two small daughters and his wife. 

But Padilla said that he likes to believe that he is a modern-day superhero trying to do extraordinary things and working hard to save his family in his own little ways.