Seven hundred million

There's this strong belief among my mother's side of the extended family that I'm particularly lucky when it comes to raffles and draws.

I don't really know how they came to that conclusion. I just remember joining this raffle when I was a kid. Well, to be specific, I did not volunteer to join that raffle. My aunt, who used to work for a fast food restaurant. once went home with booklet after booklet of raffle stubs. The three nephews who could write - that'd be me, my sister and my cousin - were assigned a booklet and asked to sign all of them with our names. A hundred raffle tickets. I did not enjoy it.

But it somehow paid off. One of the tickets we signed won. One of the tickets I signed won. I didn't win the grand prize - I think it was a car, but I can't remember anymore, as I was around eight years old - but I won one of the consolation prizes: a gas stove. I didn't even get to bring my prize home: it went to my grandmother, with whom my aunt was living. Not that I begrudge that move - to be fair, their kitchen needed an upgrade of sorts. And what would I do with a gas stove? I love cooking shows, but I'm years away from learning how to cook.

Still, they came to the conclusion that I'm particularly lucky when it comes to raffles and draws. And I still don't know how they came to that conclusion. I've been signing all these raffle tickets for years; if there was indeed something in me I should already be the owner of a brand new car, or at least a brand new car circa 2004. Perhaps the only other time I won something was when I won a mobile phone in some contest in college that I joined out of a fluke. You all know what happened next.

And that belief still persists. Sure, I've gone a long way from being that eight year old (or was I nine?) who won a gas stove I never got to use. I've since learned the statistical concept of probability. Or, I've since resigned myself to the fact that I'll never win anything again. And yes, the raffle tickets don't come as often (or, well, as occasionally) as they used to, but they're trying my luck in some other thing: the lottery.

It's funny watching my friends go gaga the past few weeks. Yes, you probably know that the jackpot for PCSO's Grand Lotto has breached the P700 million mark. (As I write this, reports estimate tonight's jackpot to be around P725 million.) And that means everybody is scrambling for a piece of the pie, if not the whole thing. People betting by the boatloads. Politicians aiming to put a jackpot ceiling of sorts, because they know they can't possibly win. Journalists suddenly pouncing on many aspects of the lottery's operations. Priests begging people not to pray for the jackpot, because the Lord is more discerning than Bruce Nolan. At least the PCSO's intentions for launching the Grand Lotto - to have the more affluent people betting - has come true. After all, the rich also want a slice of what Ranice called "the best Christmas ever".

We're a pretty affluent family, or so I'd like to think. Still, it hasn't stopped my dad from trying his luck in the lottery. Nothing wrong with dreaming, yes. But if you want your dream to come true, you have to pull some strings - and that's where I come in. I'm lucky when it comes to these things, so I'm now the one tasked with falling in line at lotto outlets and putting in his bets. (To be fair, they've also asked me to put in bets of my own. I just haven't.)

Today, with my dad fresh from London and suffering from a painful foot, he asked me to put in his bets for this week's draws. He's been betting the same numbers all this time, save for two lucky picks which look more random than lucky. (36, 37, 38. Yes, I know the numbers that actually get drawn these weeks tend to go together, but this is just too much.) Now I'm asked to take the car and drive it to the nearest mall - not the posh ones, since there's this playful belief that people who bet in those posh malls don't win, because they're in a posh mall - and fall in line. My driving's slowly getting better, and it helped that the parking slot I found was pretty wide. My patience, however, hasn't improved.

The line was, unsurprisingly, pretty long. The lotto outlet was just outside the mall's entrance. The line went from there to the sidewalk - a good quarter of a kilometer, more or less. I ended up waiting an hour, and without a pair of earphones to tide me over, I was bound to get really bored. I ended up talking to the guy ahead of me, though. He's in his late 40s, and he looks a little unkempt - just the type of person you'd expect to have a really good conversation with. Sure, it helps that I know my way around this lotto issue, if we should call it that.

The guy is much luckier. He's gone pretty close to winning the jackpot - sure, not the current jackpot, but getting five out of six numbers right is no mean feat. You win P25,000! You get to claim your prize at the PCSO main office! You get the extra frustration you get when you realize that you're one number away from the big prize! And they think I'm lucky with these things. We only get three numbers, the thing they apparently call balik-taya - you know, a refund.

Unfortunately - and this is despite not having a pair of earphones to distract me - I forgot what we talked about. I do remember this little boy who approached the line and started asking everyone for loose change. The guy had sixty bucks in hand, the very money he's paying for tonight's draw. "Kapag tumama ako, bibigyan kita," he told the kid, with a smile you wouldn't see but definitely hear. That smile's the least he could do - he lives somewhere in Manila, and just happened to be in Cavite because it's a holiday today.

We just wanted someone to win the jackpot. The news reports are getting ridiculous already. Lotto outlets are running out of those sheets of paper where you mark your numbers. The long line today was partly because each bettor had to dictate his numbers orally, and it got a little messier when the security guard announced that newly-printed stubs have come in. People just had to get those stubs.

The news tonight went one step further: lotto outlets are running out of thermal paper to print lotto tickets on! Combine that with the politicians and the clergy and the thought that when you do win the jackpot, your family tree will suddenly rival one of the redwoods in California - imagine your dead relatives coming back from the grave to ask for a cut in your winnings - and you can say that this lottery thing is slowly becoming a pain in the ass. And still, it makes tonight the best time to really hope that my purported luck in raffles and draws kicks in. Not that I need P725 million - I just need enough to go to London, rough it out at Rough Trade and survive the whole thing. Please?

Two hours after this blog entry went live, the PCSO confirmed that someone won the Grand Lotto, which ultimately amounted to P741.2 million. Emphasis on the word "one". Everybody promptly vowed to hunt down Miko Morelos, the Inquirer reporter who wrote his name on the tweet that confirmed the existence of a winner - he has to - presuming he was the one who won. (I wonder what the mood at the Inquirer newsroom is.) Yes, things are still crazy even if someone already won. On second thought, this confirms my luck - I wrote this blog and hours later someone won...

And your responses...

omg niko just travel to london already.
it will be worth it.

Blogger jeany.12/12/2010     

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