In a lotto station a block away from my home was a long line of people handing out their lotto cards to the cashier. There was a woman in her duster dress who seemed to cast a prayer on her lotto card before giving it to the woman manning the machine. Observing from a few feet away, I could feel her dream. I knew each one of these people had in their minds an elaborate plan on what to do with the jackpot prize should they win. Each one had a story to tell. Everyone was ready to gamble their lives in the uncertainty and hazards of being an instant millionaire.
I worked for the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) back in the day when a single lotto bet cost only P10. I was assigned as a support staff to help promote the lotto and develop the perfect narrative. The campaign was carefully crafted and we all agreed that the best and most efficient way of promoting the lottery was to tell the amazing background stories of the lotto jackpot winners and the incalculable journey of the sick, the dying and the healed. I was assigned to do the interview with the jackpot prizewinners. I wasn’t prepared for their stories.
There was an elderly male vendor in Baclaran who after a whole day in the sidewalk selling vegetables earned only P20. He decided to bet half of his earnings and presented the ticket to his wife. It was her birthday. The couple became richer by P40 million.
I met many of the jackpot winners. And in a couple of instances, there were times when the winner had no idea of how big the money was. I asked myself, could it be that they were the same as most of us —Bobo sa [poor in] Math?
When asked about what he would do with his P27 million prize, a tricycle driver from Antipolo who earned his living by driving part-time on weekends said he dreamt of buying his own tricycle so he could drive full-time. He had no idea how much money he had.
It was the same with this middle-aged man who worked in an ice plant in Mandaluyong. He was a father and a husband who did not seem to mind how he looked. He was toothless. He said his look catapulted him to the role of comedian among his co-workers in the plant. He was indeed funny judging from the short conversation I had with him. “What would you do with your money?” I asked. He replied: “Magpapagawa ako ng pustiso [I’m going to have my dentures made].” Poverty failed to disfigure the spirit of this happy man.
TICKET TO FREEDOM
Many jackpot winners tell us one thing about winning: money will liberate them from poverty. And we accepted this as fact. But there are others whose stories are more than just liberating themselves from being poor.
There was this mother of three from Tondo, Manila who on the day she won the lottery was beaten by her drunkard husband. She was tied to a post and beaten repeatedly. She confessed that the beating was a daily routine; a regular occurrence witnessed by her children.
But she was wise enough to keep her lottery ticket from her husband.
Black and blue and with all her children and their belongings in tow, she went to the PCSO to collect her prize. In between sobs, she told us her story. She asked us to help her get to the bus station so she and her children can go up North to be with her parents. Her prize was her ticket to freedom.
A widower in his senior years brought home a lotto prize of about P80 million. He requested the agency to have his bank account (where the prize is deposited) shared with his son—a professional working as a medical representative. A week later he went back to the office and asked us if the agency could recover his money. His son apparently withdrew everything and ran away.
A priest tried convincing a male farmer lotto winner to transfer the money to the farmer’s “educated” sister, saying the money could be managed better that way. As it turned out in our conversation, his sister promised to donate a large portion of the farmer’s winnings to the church. “Kailangan nating magpasalamat sa Diyos [We need to thank the Lord],” she said, wearing a glittery shirt with a face of a roaring tiger at the center. But the farmer had other plans. He intended to buy the land he had been tilling for years. Towards the end of the conversation, he folded his hands in prayer, exposing the dark bits of soil lining his fingernails. He had two words for the priest, “Ayoko po [Don’t want].”
Whatever happened to him, his sister and the priest afterwards, no one knows for sure. We could only pray for their happiness.
At the PCSO, hundreds of patients greeted us everyday. Not all were dying but everyone was sick. Of course, the extent of charity support is realistically balanced by the degree of sickness or the amount of time left for the dying.
Seated in one corner was an old woman who said that she was following up on her request for medical assistance. She was a “regular,” said the staff. The staff interviewed the woman to check if her documents were complete.
To our surprise, the woman was a 1997 lotto winner—the first to win more than a hundred million pesos. She admitted that she made a series of wrong decisions and bad choices on where to put her money. Investing heavily on the search for hidden treasure, she lost all her money in just a matter of years.
“I have stage IV cancer, I am dying,” she said.
As of this writing two winners shared more than P320 million jackpot prize for the Lotto 6/58 and a single winner of P65 million for lotto 6/55. If it were you, what will be your story? G