WHEN times are tough....people buy lottery tickets! Even with the most recent huge jackpot of about P347 Million (a little over $7 million), long lines can still be seen in lottery outlets as the public hopes to be the next lucky person to win a big prize in the other games still playing with relatively large jackpots. Many times, people ask me if I have ever won in either the Lotto (pari-mutuel game) or the Numbers (fixed odds games) games, and I have had to answer in the negative. I am not, after all, a gambler at heart, but do wander off to a nearby lottery outlet to take my chance once in a while. Those who ask the question are the ones who somehow know of my involvement in the conceptualization of the online lottery game in the country. It began with an invitation by my uncle Norberto Quisumbing, Jr. to help him when he had just taken over PAGCOR upon the assumption of power by the Cory government. He had in mind the transformation of PAGCOR into an authority able to operate like the Nevada state gaming authority. On the other hand, he wanted to try to introduce the concept of the online lottery here, having seen how successful lottery operations were in various jurisdictions around the world. So, armed only with this informal mandate, I gathered together a small team composed of my classmate Mon Abad, Atty. Gerry Geronimo--a former colleague of mine in a bank--and one other person whose name escapes me. We drafted a revised charter for PAGCOR that somehow got lost in the Palace, and we lost the initiative of getting a law in place before the deadline for issuing Presidential Decrees. Studying the operations of different lottery organizations around the world was a more pleasant task. Suffice it to say that I visited many countries, and, in the case of the US, some half-dozen of the larger lottery operations of different states. Sadly, the climate was not suitable yet for the implementation of the online lottery and so we shelved the study. Many years later, a friend contacted me and asked if I still remembered anything about the study I had made some five to six years earlier. When I inquired, this friend mentioned that Mamita Pardo de Tavera had just taken over the PCSO and wanted to try implanting the game. Knowing her to be an honest and wonderful person, I readily agreed to dust off the study and begin the process all over again. Turns out that PCSO did not yet have the firm mandate, but that we had to go through some sort of bureaucratic shootout wherein the President would select one appropriate government corporation or agency to start the process....but not after proving that the agency could do it. Well, to make a long story short, PCSO won the shootout because we already had the core study in place. Then began the long process of drawing up bidding requirements through an appropriate RFP, designing the parameters for the game in terms of hardware, software, and other considerations that would help make the game successful. We also had to struggle through various sessions with Congress and the Senate, a process that was not easy but which we managed to survive. Unfortunately, many people mistook the online lottery as a replacement for the jueteng and masiao informal games, and we had powerful people calling up to see if they could get franchises for entire provinces. It was not easy convincing them that the typical lottery outlet was either a Mom and Pop store, or an existing business that would have a terminal as a sideline. And when I told them of the (measly, it seems) 5% commission that each outlet would get for every ticket sold, they all realized that the game was not for them. Some of the changes we effected then were to keep the entire draw process televised, requiring winners of the grand prize(s) to be brought straight to the Chairman’s office for documentation and awarding, dispensing with the previous practice of issuing winning checks made out to “Bearer,” and so forth. But few are aware of the effort backstage during the draw to ensure that it is fair and beyond reproach. A committee of scrutineers selects a suitcase from a universe of many suitcases containing the balls used in the draw. The (pingpong) balls are taken (not by hand, to minimize human contact) from the suitcase and weighed carefully. Balls outside of a given tolerance level are discarded. Practice draws are made using the balls, and if any given ball comes out too often, it is examined again to see if it is too light, for example, since this would allow it to rise higher and more easily through the hole. After each draw, the balls are again scrutinized and examined to see if they really allowed for a random draw. This process is done every draw, and the idea is to make sure that the public gets a fair game. Yes, we did encounter some opposition from Church quarters at first, but we managed to convince them that the online lottery was just another form of entertainment and did not constitute hardcore gambling. Thus, by the time we held the bidding and the award was made by the President, most opposition to the game had quietly gone away. Did we get to savor the actual setting up of the game? No, this honor went to Mamita’s successor, Manoling Morato, who ran a pretty tight ship and managed to get the game going despite the usual carping from the sidelines. For personal reasons, Mamita quit soon after the selection was made, and since I came in during her watch, decided it would be best if the torch was passed on too. There is one thing that I would have wanted very much to do, based on the experience of lottery winners both here and abroad. Some studies have shown that winners, especially in the US, do not end up happier after spending or using their windfall earnings. This is why I thought it would be wise to have a professional (person or institution) give general advice to lottery winners to protect them from themselves and from the many investment and financial traps that they could be prey to. Not to mention a horde or old and newly minted relatives queuing up for a share of the now hapless winner’s earnings.
February 2009 Archives
WHEN certain buddies of mine decided to once again take up the hobby of setting up and maintaining tropical fish aquariums, we vectored directly to our usual complete source for this enervating undertaking, our schoolmate Wilson Ang, founder and head of Bio-Research. This was after a fairly long hiatus, mind you, because time and circumstance had managed to pry many of us away from this hobby. In my case, I lost all my fish (accumulated over many years and placed in a humongous 400 gallon tank and a smaller 110 gallon tank) to a wrongly applied cleaning agent by a contractor many moons ago. Right then and there, I decided to spend more time – and money – in my other hobby, serious amateur photography, with the Camera Club of the Philippines as an ideal venue for this avocation. But this is another topic for another time. While in the main corporate offices of Bio-Research in Sucat Road in Paranaque, we realized that our good friend Wilson had gone beyond his traditional setting of tropical and marine fish. He had managed to accumulate distributorships for what looked like a serious water pump and waste-water treatment business, among other things. But more important, he managed to convert his 4 hectare property into what he hopes will be a suitable habitat for the various flora and fauna he has accumulated – and continues to accumulate – over the years, some for sale and some for keeps. (Read about some of what he is doing in this area in my son Jayvee’s blog, A Bugged Life. But what struck me was a little project that Wilson had started to undertake. In the herbal gardens that he has strewn all over the property, he has a specific medicinal plant that seems to be sprouting successfully. The name of this herbal plant is ASHITABA, one of the elite among plants considered for their medicinal qualities. Legend has it that an old Japanese man went off to an island basically to spend his last moments on this earth, having been diagnosed with terminal cancer. He is said to have observed a tribe of old, sickly, and decrepit looking monkeys head off to a certain place where he witnessed them eating some vegetation daily. The result? The monkeys that ate these plants – that turned out to be the Ashitaba medicinal plant – soon got well and went back to where they came from, only to be replaced by a steady stream of incoming sick monkeys. So, hoping against hope, our terminally sick man partook of these plants and, before long, found himself strong enough to go home where he was diagnosed free of the dreaded disease. It seems that Ashitaba is well known and has been documented in Ming dynasty Chinese medicine records of the 16th century. It is said that Ashitaba is, strictly speaking, a weed, which accounts for its ability to propagate so quickly. Containing a considerable amount of chlorophyll, it naturally does best in areas with full sunshine. I placed the samples Wilson gave me in different parts of my garden and validated this observation. Wilson Ang is now giving back, in a way, to people by propagating this plant and giving it for free to friends. Thus, the samples he gave me are being planted and, hopefully, will multiply so that I can spread them around to the sick people in my village. But what I plan to do is turn over a reasonable number of these plants to our village garden club, many of the members belonging also to the senior group, so that they can plant them and take care of distributing the leaves to those who need them. Another name of the plant is the TOMORROW LEAF. Why so? Well, it seems that the more one plucks leaves from these plants, the more they propagate new leaves even more lushly the very next day. And after a reasonable growth, one can cut the stem and plant the cutting to generate yet another plant. I found many related sites through Google Search and will post some of them here so anyone can do further research on this plant. It seems that the plant is good in tackling the following disorders (per the handout given to me by Wilson): Lungs, Coughing, Asthma, Digestive System, Intestinal problems, Kidneys and Kidney Stones, Urinary Tract bleeding, Liver, Gall Bladder, Hepatitis, Gall Stones, Suppression of growth of cancer cells, Constipation, Diarrhea, Vomiting, Blood Poisoning, Skin Allergies, Rheumatism, High Cholesterol levels, High Blood Pressure, Diabetes, and a host of others too many to list down. As proof of the effectivity of the plant, he trotted out a staffer of his who has had the unfortunate situation of living in an area with both air and ground pollution. She had developed a hacking, wheezing cough that was not amusing at all and extremely convenient for all concerned. After only three days of munching on four leaves a day, she improved dramatically. I have been taking the leaf (4 a day) for a week now, and noticed that my blood sugar level has gone down by a significant measure, since I self-test every other day. Does it work? I am betting that this medicinal herb is what it is touted to be. Wilson gives the plants to friends for free. But some others have taken advantage of his generosity, because he found that one person who had apparently gotten a couple of plants from him had developed a small patch somewhere in the north where he sells the leaves for P3 each. Oh well..... http://www.organicashitaba.com/ http://www.organicashitaba.com/articles.html http://www.helium.com/items/851529-ashitaba-chinese-herbal-medicinal-plant
One of the disadvantages of living in the southern part of the Metro Manila area is having to commute to the Central Business District(s), a commute that takes the better part of over an hour on neutral days, even worse when traffic piles up on Wednesdays, Fridays, and paydays. Fortunately, metropolitan commuters who cannot afford the convenience of a car have adjusted to this reality by taking advantage of a strange mix of light rail transportation, the point-to-point multi-passenger vehicles that leave and arrive on a regular basis, and a melange of the usual options such as jeepneys, buses, and FX vehicles that act like taxis that pick up and drop passengers anywhere along a given route. But the option of a light rail transit servicing people going to or coming from our southern area remains a pipe dream for the present. Pity, because this would be the best way to get to the CBD from the south.....or the north. My family decided to go to Trinoma last week by way of the MRT light rail for a couple of reasons. First, we didn’t want to get saddled with having to wade through traffic to get there from Makati. Second, my in laws and their son were in town from Chicago, and we just wanted them to savor the local mass transportation available. Getting to Trinoma before lunch was not a problem, because we beat the usual lunch crunch. But when I decided to try and get return tickets in advance, I caught the lunchtime crowd and beat a hasty retreat after seeing how long the lines – yes, plural, LINES – were just to get up to the platform and then to line up for tickets. Fortunately, we decided early on to make our return trip around 4PM, beating the crowd once again. But the sight of the long lines got my noggin working and asking why the system could not be properly addressed and steps taken to alleviate the situation facing prime time travellers. I also recalled one time that I had to make a transfer from the other light rail, the LRT, to the MRT, and gave up because of the extremely long line snaking all over the terminal. Surely, both managements – of the LRT and MRT – should be able to put their heads together to work out a solution to the problem of long waiting periods. This is true especially now that more and more people have decided to take the light rail to save time and money, avoid traffic and parking problems, and so forth. This is a challenge especially tailored for systems designers, the people who try to make things work in an efficient manner. Otherwise, people will flock to the alternatives: buses, jeepneys, tricycles, et al, alternatives that tend to leave a much larger carbon footprint. If the government is truly serious about a stimulus package (that will, hopefully, not bankrupt the nation or leave our progeny with an even larger debt burden that it hardly needs) it could consider improving mass transportation, especially light rail and regular train service. These are much needed and would certainly be appreciated even by the well-heeled denizens of business and residential enclaves.