Owgwen: When You’re Poor, Your Only Currency is Kindness

Ogien “Owgwen” Unigo is always beaming. It’s a habit he has lived with ever since he was young. Even when AP BREN loses a match, Owgwen and his teammate Vincent “Pando” Unigo, who happens to be his cousin, are sources of relief from stress.

There is nothing in Owgwen’s smile to suggest he lived a life of poverty. 

Ogien Unigo, aka Owgwen
Photo: Richard Dizon Esguerra

“Sa akin, ang turo ng tatay ko, palaging maging mabait kahit anong mangyari. Kasi mostly, ako, bottom pick kami. Mahirap kami,” Owgwen told ALL-STAR. “Iyon na lang yung way para makitungo sa mga tao. Yung tatay ko, friendly, so iyon ang palagingg itinuturo niya sa akin. Maging mabait.”

(“My father taught me to be kind at all times, whatever happens. We were poor, we had no choice. We were bottom picks. When you’re poor, your only currency is kindness. My father was so friendly, he always reminded me to be kind. Always be kind.”)

Ogien Unigo, aka Owgwen
Photo: Richard Dizon Esguerra

It was a revelation that even some of his teammates were unaware of. 

“Ang definition ng mahirap ay mostly araw-araw, in one week, sabaw lang ulam namin. Yung sabaw na iyon, lagi naming hinihingi sa kapitbahay na karinderya. Tapos yung kanin, kanin pa ng lola namin.  Nakikitira lang kami sa kanya, wala kaming sariling bahay. Pito pa kami noon,”  said Owgwen. 

(“We were so poor that we only had broth and rice every day, every week. We asked for the broth for free from our neighbor who owns a roadside eatery. The rice was from our grandmother, who allowed us to live in her house. We don’t have our own house, and there are seven of us siblings.”)

But everything changed when Pando and Owgwen came into esports. Pando joined AP BREN in 2022, while Owgwen followed in 2023. 

“Noong napasok kami sa esports, natuwa sila kasi at least may income kami ni Pando na magpinsan. Natutuwa sila kasi halos every week, may naibibigay kami, may naitutulong kami. Noong napasok na kami sa unang boot camp namin, syempre tuwang tuwa sila kasi…” said Owgwen. He was briefly lost for words. 

(“When we made it to the professional scene in esports, our families were happy because we could finally send a bit of income every week. We are able to help the family now. When we came to our first boot camp, of course our family was very happy because…”

“Umalis na sa streets namin!” supplied Pando. 

(“Because we left our street!”)

“Nakaalis na kami sa street namin! Natuwa sila,” said Owgwen. 

It was practical: there were fewer mouths to feed while more income was coming in. Owgwen’s siblings now have a brighter future now that he’s helping to send them to school. 

Ogien Unigo, aka Owgwen
Photo: Richard Dizon Esguerra

But it wasn’t an overnight success for Owgwen. Although he’s been competing in esports since 2021, it was only in 2022 when his biggest break occurred. 

“Medyo nakaahon po talaga kami ay noong Season 11 po. Noong time na hindi pa po ako nagtatrabaho, sobrang hirap po ng buhay. Pero noong time na nanalo po kami sa IESF, iyon po talaga ang breakthrough namin, simula noon, unti-unti kaming nakahinga. 

(“We felt a bit of relief in Season 11. When I was out of a job, life was so difficult. But in Season 11, we won at the IESF, that was our breakthrough. After that, we slowly felt relief.”)

“Naka sustain na,” added Pando. 

(“We were able to sustain it.”)

“Mostly ako ang nagta-take ng bills pero tumutulong rin po sila. Ako po ang panganay sa pito naming magkakapatid. Tumutulong rin po ako sa pagpaparal sa kanila at daily needs nila,” said Owgwen. 

(“I mostly take care of the bills but they also help out. I’m also the eldest among the siblings. I help send them to school and cover their daily needs.”)

With a baby boy on the way, Owgwen continues to fulfill his role as a second father to his siblings, ensuring they have a brighter future. 

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