Renejay: The Esports Superstar Who Started Out by Hauling Hogs at Piggeries
ILLUSTRATOR WARREN ESPEJO
Renejay Barcarse, 18, is the most popular pro player in Esports in the Philippines. He has over 14 million supporters across his social media platforms. He is one of the most valuable members of his team, NXP-EVOS. He is also a content creator, singer, and business owner—he has a clothing line, a restaurant, and has released his own music. But beneath everything he has today is a very humble background.
“Simple lang po buhay ko bago ako naging pro player. Isang kahig, isang tuka. Nagtatrabaho rin po noon ako habang nag-aaral. Nagbababoy po ako sa piggery dati,” Renejay Barcarse tells Esquire Philippines.
(“I had a simple life before I became a pro player. It was a hand-to-mouth subsistence. I used to work while studying. I worked at piggeries.”)
Hanggang ngayon po inaalala ko po yung time na nagbababoy po ako. Kung hindi ko po ginawa iyon, baka wala po ako dito ngayon. Wala po akong pang-load, wala po akong panglaro. Proud po ako sa sarili ko na napagdaanan ko iyon.
Renejay is fifth in six children, so he tried to help the family in making ends meet.
According to Renejay, when he was 15, he would wake up at dawn to work at piggeries in Bataan, where he would carry butchered hogs to the wet market. He was paid P150 for a hard day’s work.
“Yung P50, binibigay ko po sa papa ko, tapos yung natitirang P100, pinangloload ko po panglaro ng Mobile Legends.”
“Hanggang ngayon po inaalala ko po yung time na nagbababoy po ako. Kung hindi ko po ginawa iyon, baka wala po ako dito ngayon. Wala po akong pang-load, wala po akong panglaro. Proud po ako sa sarili ko na napagdaanan ko iyon. Natuto po ako dahil doon.”
Renejay pauses, then smiles.
“Alam niyo po, dati, two hours kong pinaghihirapan yung trabaho, tapos hindi naman po ganoon kalaki yung nakukuha. Tapos ngayon po malaki na yung nakukuha ko kahit two hours lang ako magtrabaho. Dahil sa experience ko sa hirap, napapahalagahan ko yung mga bagay ngayon.”
(“Up to now, I still look back on the time I was hauling butchered hogs. If I hadn’t done that, I might not be where I am today. I wouldn’t have cash for playing. I am proud of myself because I’ve experienced that. I learned from it. You know, I used to work my bones tired for two hours just for a meager sum of cash. Now, when I work for two hours, I earn a lot. Because of my experience with poverty, I am able to cherish things I have today.”)
Renejay at the June 2021 Announcement of Partnership Between NXP and EVOS
Aside from hauling hogs, Renejay also roamed his town looking for fruits he could pick from trees. “Laki po ako sa hirap,” he says casually. “Trabaho po ng papa ko, parang foreman. Gumagawa po sa mga mall ng electric. Tapos yung mama ko naman po all-around yun eh.”
(“I grew up poor. My father was like a foreman, he works on electric stuff in malls. My mother takes all-around jobs.”)
Alam niyo po, dati, two hours kong pinaghihirapan yung trabaho, tapos hindi naman po ganoon kalaki yung nakukuha. Tapos ngayon po malaki na yung nakukuha ko kahit two hours lang ako magtrabaho. Dahil sa experience ko sa hirap, napapahalagahan ko yung mga bagay ngayon.
His parents initially did not approve of his love for playing mobile games, and it came to a point when his mother had to lecture him about prioritizing his studies first.
But the source of ire for his parents became his big break. In 2016, he became the Philippines’ top player in the leaderboards on Star.
NXP-EVOS' 'Big Three': Renejay, H2WO, and Yawi
“Napansin po ako ni Boss D sa leaderboards, tapos ni-recruit niya ako. Simula noon, nag-stay na ako sa boot camp niya. Hanggang ngayon hindi pa rin ako umaalis.”
(“Boss D noticed me when I topped the leaderboards, that’s when he recruited me. Since then, I stayed in the boot camp and never left his side.”)
Renejay was referring to Mobile Legends impresario Setsuna Ignacio, also known by his other names Akosidogie, Boss D, and Dogie, who took him under his wings and has since become his closest brother.
Dogie (Left) and Renejay
“Parang kapatid ko na po siya. Pag nag-uusap kami, kahit anong sabihin ko sa kanya, hindi kami nagkakagalit. Ako po yung lagi niyang nakakasama kumain pag umaga, tapos kung saan po siya pumupunta sumasama po ako. Dikit po talaga kami noon, kung nasaan po siya nandoon din ako.”
(“He’s like my brother. When we talk, we rarely get into each other’s nerves no matter what we say to each other. I am the one whom he always gets to bond with in the morning, and everywhere he goes, I tag along. We’re really close, wherever he is, I am there too.”)
In 2019, Dogie took Renejay out to look for a school where he could study while playing Esports. Dogie wanted to put him through an international school, whose tuition was P200,000 per semester. It would come from Dogie’s own pocket.
But Renejay rejected it.
“Gusto ko naman po talaga mag-aral, pero sabi ko sa kanya, ‘Boss D, kaya ko naman magtapos sa hindi ganyan kalaki yung tuition!’ Kahit mag-public school na lang ako,” says Renejay.
“Kahit sobrang close na kami, syempre nahihiya pa rin ako sa kanya na gagastos siya ng ganoon kalaki para sa akin. Sapat na po sa akin na tinulungan niya po ako, kaya sabi ko sa kanya ayaw ko po pumasok sa mahal na iyon.”
Renejay hesitates for a moment and then adds, “Kasi public lang po ako galing, tapos ganoon yung tingin niya sa akin.”
(“Truthfully, I really want to study, but I told him, ‘Boss D, I can graduate from a school with a less expensive tuition fee!’ I can go to a public school. Even if we’ve become so close, I would still feel ashamed if he’d spent that kind of money on me. It’s enough that he helped me, that’s why I couldn’t accept entering that expensive school. I came from a public school, and that’s how he treats me.”)
Renejay Posing Outside the NXP Boot Camp
Now that Renejay earns a lot more than P150 a day, is there anything he’s proud of that he’s done for his family?
“Siguro po yung pinahinto ko sa pagtatrabaho yung papa at mama ko. Sabi ko po sa kanila ako na po bahala sa amin.”
One of the things Renejay regularly prays for is for his family to never go back to poverty.
“Kaya mas lalo ko pong pinag-iigihan pa, para lalo pa pong magtuloy-tuloy yung mga biyaya at hindi na kami bumalik sa dati naming kalagayan.”
(“I guess [I am proud] of the time when I told my father and mother to stop working. I told them I would take care of everything. That’s why I always work hard so that the blessings keep coming and we’d never have to go back to poverty again.”)
Renejay Wearing Justin Bieber Crocs
It has not escaped Renejay that Mobile Legends will someday become less popular, and he’s preparing in case that happens.
“Hindi natin alam kung mawawala yung ML o habambuhay ba, kaya gusto ko rin mag-invest sa mga business.”
He founded his clothing line, Baka Renejay To, which is run by his family. He has also put up a restaurant in Bataan called Z Barbecue, also run by his family.
“Natatakot po akong dumating yung araw na hindi na sikat yung Mobile Legends, kasi mahal ko yung ML community. Tapos, araw-araw ako naglalaro, nasanay na rin ako. Malulungkot din ako pag nawala yun, pero siguro kailangan gumawa ng bago.”
(“We don’t know if Mobile Legends will stay or will be gone, that’s why I also want to invest in business. I am scared of the day when Mobile Legends will no longer be popular, because I love the ML community. I play every day, I got used to that routine. I will get sad it that is gone, but we have to make a new livelihood when that happens.”)
In everything Renejay has gone through, he always gives credit to God.
“Lahat naman po ng bagay na nakuha ko ay dahil kay Lord. Wala naman tayong pag-mamay-ari dito, lahat ng to hiram lang sa Kanya.”
(“Everything that I have today is because of the Lord. We don’t own possessions here, everything comes from Him.”)