Monday, October 31, 2005


Judy works at a law firm on Eighth Avenue and 52nd Street as a filing clerk while her husband, Benjie, is a car mechanic at 10th Avenue and 57th Street; both are in Manhattan. After work, they will meet at their son’s office at 23rd Street between 5th and 6th Avenues. From there, the three will head home to Brooklyn Heights, a quaint neighborhood on the edge of Brooklyn that overlooks downtown Manhattan.

They have been living as permanent residents in America during the past six years but it was only a year or so ago when they began enjoying life.

Judy could vividly recall the excitement of receiving their papers as legal immigrants after waiting for many years. Judy’s sister, Melanie, a naturalized American citizen, sponsored a petition on their behalf. Their son, Jaime, was only ten at that time. Judy was working as an elementary school teacher, while her husband Benjie was a mechanic supervisor at a Japanese car manufacturing plant in Laguna.

Enticed by a better life in the States, they gave up everything to pursue the American dream. But what they experienced during their initial four years of living in America was more of a nightmare.

Upon arriving in New York, they lived with Melanie and her husband, Renato. They have three boys whose ages ranged from six to twelve. Melanie is a nurse while Renato is a surgeon; both are making substantial incomes to afford two imported luxury vehicles and a sprawling four-bedroom house in the affluent Westchester County in New York.

Like most well-to-do Filipinos in the States, Melanie and Renato would scrimp when it comes to hiring domestic help. Thus, feeling heavily indebted to their hosts, Judy and Benjie, while waiting to find jobs, did most of the household chores. Judy took care of the kids and the cooking, while Benjie did the laundry and most of the yard work, which included shoveling the snow during the wintertime. This was to last only until the couple each got a job, which was supposed to be anytime soon.

With both Renato and Melanie always discouraging Judy and Benjie from pursuing certain job leads tipped off by friends, what was initially a temporary situation became more like a permanent arrangement that lasted almost three years. Nonetheless, the idea of working as household help for food and lodging gnawed at their self-esteem; threatening their general sense of well being.

Judy and Benjie finally gained the courage to tell Melanie and Renato that perhaps, moving out and trying to make it on their own might be better for their future. Although Melanie and Renato conceded, it changed the tone of their relationship. Melanie and Renato became spiteful and saw the other couple as ungrateful. Eventually, Melanie and Renato started giving Judy and Benjie the silent treatment.

The tension and stress of living under one roof in such circumstances began to take a toll on both Judy and Benjie, but they endured it quietly. It took another three months before they were able to find an affordable apartment in the South Bronx. The fellow Filipinos they met and befriended at the church loaned them money, as well as helped them move and find jobs.

It was tough in the beginning as Judy and Benjie adjusted to their full time jobs. Their son, Jaime, who was already fourteen at that time, had to fend for himself until both parents came home from work. They didn’t have to be too concerned for Jaime, though. The kid turned out to be very responsible. However, both parents were alarmed about his intense fascination with video games. Their concern reached its boiling point when Jaime’s thumbs became sore from excessive use.

The couple argued over what reprimand they should apply but in the end, they decided to just allow Jamie to pursue his interests. They reasoned the kid was very responsible and diligent with both household chores and school work anyway; a straight A student.

They also acknowledged that it hasn’t been all that much fun for Jaime during the past few years. He lost all his friends when they moved to New York, and there was also the stressful situation with Melanie’s bratty and loquacious kids who delighted in constantly assaulting Jaime with verbal taunts; from his being scrawny to having poor parents. After what the boy has gone through, out of kindness, Judy and Benjie let him be. As they allowed their son’s inherent intelligence to flourish and grow, they also resisted the urge to nag him with what to do or what direction to follow in life.

Both parents were to be astounded with what Jaime could accomplish after having received creative freedom from them.

First of all, Jaime had to put aside some money from his allowance to buy those video games, which took some time since his allowance wasn’t all that much. And whenever he was disappointed about a certain game’s features, he would write letters to the company that produced it. His mother who mailed his letters was at one point worried that Jaime was becoming bothersome to these people.

On the contrary, one company he was corresponding with appreciated his efforts. So much so that they started sending the boy freebies such as game consoles, cartridges and whatnot. In reciprocity, Jaime would write them detailed feedbacks about their products. Eventually, various electronic toys accumulated in the house that even his father got into it.

About a year of such arrangement, at only fifteen, Jaime was offered a job by this video/computer game company. He was to analyze – from a player’s perspective – every phase of a game’s development; from inception to pre-production. He was also to represent the company as a demonstrator at conferences and trade shows within New York City and the Tri-State area as long as there was no conflict with his regular schooling.

One of the lawyers at the law firm where Judy works negotiated Jaime’s contract pro bono. He successfully got the kid a lucrative deal. For working a couple of hours after school and half a day on Saturdays during the school calendar, and fulltime during the summers, aside from a weekly salary, Jaime also gets credit as co-creator and thereby earns royalty payments for every unit sold.

There was also a contract signing bonus, as well as the annual performance bonus in cash and company stocks. The company also pays for Jaime’s tuition at Trinity, an exclusive prep school in Manhattan’s Upper West Side. His college education will be paid for by the company as well, provided he maintains a certain grade point average.

With Jaime's earnings, the family since moved from their pitiful apartment in the South Bronx owned by an absentee landlord to a charming two-bedroom cooperative garden apartment in Brooklyn Heights.

Recently, a Wall Street Journal scoop revealed a major film studio has offered to buy the video game company where Jaime works. Should this transpire, Jaime, with his stock options, might just become a millionaire even before graduating from high school.

All this good fortune came about when Judy and Benjie gave their young son the confidence to follow his own bliss.


Game Development Resources

The Art, Business and Science of Computer Games

The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell

Brooklyn Heights, New York

Westchester County, New York


posted by Señor Enrique at 5:25 AM


Blogger g_mirage said...

Hi Senor! I was rummaging thru your older posts and this one piqued my interest. My son, 4 years old now started playing video games at the age of 3 (My daughter isnt much to it but she started with pcs at 2 1/2)....Though they are allowed to play on Fridays and Saturdays only, I am still against the idea of exposing (them) to video games and pcs at an early age. My husband, himself a pc techie and game 'nut,' gave them the go signal....Well, for Jaime something good came out of it....Hope is it so with my kids lol. thanks for sharing....

August 23, 2007 5:53 PM  

Anonymous cheryl joy said...

What wa wonderful story!

November 18, 2007 5:22 AM  

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Life in Manila as observed by a former New Yorker who with a laptop and camera has reinvented himself as a storyteller. Winner of the PHILIPPINE BLOG AWARDS: Best Photo Blog in 2007 and three Best Single Post awards in 2008.


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