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OF TREES AND FOREST

By MANNY VILLAR

Manny Villar Jr.

Manny Villar

It is a safe bet to say that the country has gone loco over lotto.

And there are one billion reasons to go crazy over the 6/58 lottery game of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO). Before the last Friday’s draw, the jackpot was expected to reach P1.07 billion. This is the reason you see kilometric queues at all lotto outlets. People want that chance to hit it big time, one time.

And the bettors come from all walks of life — rich, poor, powerful, marginalized, longtime and first-time bettors. But why do people keep on betting on a game that has very lousy odds?

According to statisticians, the odds of choosin

g the winning six-digit combination out of 58 is one in 40.4 million. Just to put that in perspective, the odds of getting struck by lightning is one in 3 million and being attacked by a shark, one in 11.5 million.

Many critics would say that playing the lotto is futile because of the odds. Or that the people have been coopted by the bandwagon effect and marketing blitz of lotto. I beg to differ. I think playing the lotto is a sign of hope.

More specifically, it is a sign that our people have not lost the aspiration for a better life. Despite all the travails in life — you probably lost your job, or your family have been poor all your life, or you are not happy with your current job, or simply, you want a comfortable future for your family — playing the lotto is a display of the Filipinos’ fighting spirit. I won’t lose hope. I will not be defeated. I will win this against all odds.

PCSO officials revealed that many of the previous winners, the so-called Lotto Millionaires Club, were poor and were rescued by the lotto out of poverty. It is their version of the rags-to-riches story. PCSO data shows that there have been 40 lotto millionaires from January to August of this year. This is another argument — “the odds might be 1 is to 40 million, pero may nananalo pa din!”

In a way, the popularity of the lotto also exposes the difficulties we face in our war against poverty. Despite the tremendous economic performance of the country under the Duterte administration, a number of Filipino families remain poor. The lotto is viewed by many as their ticket to a better life.

This brings me to my final and most important point. It is okay to dream of becoming a millionaire one time, big time. After all, hindi ba ang sabi nga nila, libre naman mangarap? Well, maybe it’s a P20 dream.

But I hope we realize that the greater majority of those “rags-to-riches” stories were not stories of instant wealth creation but a product of hard work and perseverance. Sipag at tiyaga is still the most reliable combination to a better life. I would say that the odds of making it big the hard way is better than 1 is to 40 million.

I am very sure that many lotto bettors exemplify hard work and perseverance in their lives. They are those who work hard to give their children the best possible education, they persevere in order to put food on the table and roof over their heads. These are the people who deserve to hit the jackpot of a better life.

So, may manalo man o wala, life goes on. Our struggle to beat poverty continues day by day until the day comes when all our countrymen have the decent and comfortable life they truly deserve.

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