Wilaine Balenton, Filipino gamer and future psychologist tells her life story so far.
A cold chill cut through the air while street lights beamed out into the evening. After her Research Methods in Psychology class at Saddleback College Wilaine Balenton, a current Saddleback student, walked out of the BGS building. In a car, parked in lot nine, Balenton talks about her life.
In her hometown of Mabalacat City in the Pampanga province of the Philippines, she attended school, wandered freely throughout the city, and learned to play video games by watching her older brother. Through those online games Balenton learned how to read and write English by communicating with players from around the world.
“Mostly I played video games and interacted with other people around the world, so that’s how I learned [English],” Balenton said. Gaming has become a fantastic hobby for Balenton and a way for her to make friends in the United States. Her favorite game is League of Legends, an online battle strategy game, where she can relax, talk to people, and buy different outfits for her characters.
She has formed deep friendships with gamers in the United States lasting over five years. “I don’t think distance is an issue when it comes to friendship,” Balenton says of being friends with people she met through online games.
“It’s just crazy to do rank,” Balenton says about how she plays for the fun of the game and not necessarily to move up the levels. The degrees of accomplishment in League of Legends are called ranks and competitive players try to improve up through the eight levels.
This video from League of Legends explains the game for new players.
When she and her family moved to the United States her older brother couldn’t because he was 21 and no longer considered dependent on his parents for support. Missing her country and her brother Balenton became depressed for two years.
“I don’t even remember how many times I asked my parents—that they should send me back to the Philippines.” she says. Still homesick, depressed, overwhelmed by school, and feeling her parents treated her like a child, she saw a psychologist for a week towards the end of her sophomore year of high school. Describing her brief therapy experience, Balenton explained how nice it was for someone to just listen and focus their attention on her. Seeing this psychologist sparked Balenton’s interest in learning more about psychology.
While attending Dana Hills High School, the summer after her sophomore year, Balenton stayed with family in Texas for a couple months. “When I came back, I don’t know, everything went away and then I wasn’t homesick anymore,” she says. She hasn’t seen the psychologist since returning from Texas, and her depression is more manageable now.
During senior year, Balenton took an Advanced Placement Psychology course that helped her decide to major in psychology, hoping to become a clinical psychologist or psychiatrist. “I have so much empathy in me, like I care about people a lot, and I don’t want them to feel alone,” she says.
At the same time, she also planned her return to the Philippines. Balenton wanted to attend college there and had to leave the day after graduation because college classes start in June. She would already enter three weeks late as in back in her home country, Balenton realized how behind she was in her knowledge of Tagalog, the national language.
Professors were unsympathetic to her late entrance, one giving a quiz on a famous historical figure she took without any preparation. Balenton says the Filipino language and culture class was especially difficult because she speaks a different dialect of Tagalog.
As a result she dropped out after two weeks and waited another seven months for some paperwork before she could apply for another visa to the United States. During her time in the Philippines, she took advantage of the opportunity to see the sites, visit family, and spend time with her older brother.
Going into the U.S. immigration office alone, she warned her cousins, who were planning to pick her up afterwards, if she walked out crying it meant her application was denied. “Just staring at the wall with the numbers, where they call you. I was thinking what if I get denied,” Balenton says.
She walked out crying, but they were tears of joy. She gave her cousins a thumbs up to let them know. After a stressful meeting, Balenton’s visa was finally approved. She flew back to the United States and enrolled at Saddleback College for the summer semester last year.
While she hopes to raise a child of her own, Balenton has no desire to go through pregnancy herself. “I’m adopting, but I don’t know if I’m gonna get married. Although, I have a dream wedding. I mean, who doesn’t?” Like other millennials Balenton doesn’t want to have a child until she’s closer to her 30s and doesn’t care too much whether or not she ends up married. Also, Balenton has no preference as to the sex of her future baby.
Like most millennials, she was raised with religion but doesn’t. “I’m not that religious, but I’m Catholic…I guess I would christen the baby as a Catholic, but as he or she grows up, he can decide or she can decide for himself or herself,” Balenton said. “I want to educate them to be a good person.” She hopes not to be a controlling parent, telling them which career they must go into.
“I like flying, I like traveling alone,” Balenton said, “I would love to travel by myself.” Once her career gets going, Balenton wants to travel the world by herself, starting with Paris, Rome, and Jerusalem. She has wanderlust and would like to start traveling by going on road trips with her friends, to places like Texas, Virginia, and San Francisco.
Balenton wants to visit the Philippines often when she gets older, but after living in the United States and listening to the crimes in her home country, she never went out alone during her visit last year. Unlike when she was a kid, roaming uninhibited, Balenton made sure a cousin came with her wherever she went.
She admits to being more introverted and kind of socially awkward.“I like my alone time… That’s why when I play computer games in a way I’m alone,” Balenton said. After Saddleback, Balenton plans to transfer to either California State University, Fullerton or University of California, Irvine, however, her dream school is Harvard University. Whether Balenton ends up becoming a psychologist will be determined by her hard work. But if her past is any predictor Balenton will likely get through stressful times playing an online game with friends around the United States.