Gambling has always been a part of Filipino life, much more that life is hard, many are poor and with promises of instant cash, at the right number combination, both illegal and legal gambling proliferates. Jeuteng and last two which are prevalent in most areas in Luzon and masiao, formerly based on jai alai, which is also prevalent in Visayas and Mindanao are just a few of the countless forms of illegal numbers game. The sweepstakes, lotto – and its various incarnations form the legal front (via PAGCOR – the gaming agency). A few centavos/pesos bet translates to hundreds to thousands of pesos or even millions as in the case of the legal numbers game.
When the jai alai fronton in Manila as well as in Cebu was still existent, betting was very prevalent on what the winning 3 digit results would be. When it was stopped, the numbers game became masiao, an incarnation of the former. Still with 3 digits, each 25 centavos bet, when won, translates to P100 a few years ago. With the advent of the government’s lottery, wherein one’s P10 bet have a chance to win millions, masiao seemed to have been stamped out but with P10, the bet is still too high for most. Because of this, it resurfaced again. Sensing an opportunity, the PAGCOR came up with Suertres, derived from the words suerte meaning luck and tres, three – or lucky three. One just goes to a lottery outlet, place a ten peso bet and if drawn, P4,500 will be won.
This is a sample of the suertres official betting form.
However, for those who cannot afford P10 per bet, but can spare a few pesos and those that live in far flung villages without the benefit of betting stations, suertres became an opportunity to enterprising individuals. When I went to a hinterland village in Bukidnon last Friday, I was shocked to see that the Higaonon tribespeople there were agog about this numbers game. Above is what they call the computer, which harks back to the days of jai-alai/masiao wherein the day’s result is shown. The winning number is based on the drawn legal suertres. Just like the masiao computer, it shows also possible hot numbers or its combinations that one may bet and might be drawn in the next few days or weeks but clearly, it has no basis at all!
Illegal numbers game will always flourish. And really, there’s nothing the government can do even if it will offer legalized versions, under the protestations of the clergy. It is here to stay.