Nalzaro: Gambling during wakes as a pastime

Bobby Nalzaro

THERE are legal and illegal gambling. Legal gambling are those covered with permits and under government regulations, like the operations of Philippines Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor), which now includes the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations (Pogo), Philippine Charity Sweeptakes Office (PCSO), which operates the Lotto jackpot, three digits and the Small Town Lottery (STL), horse racing and the cockfight arena. Those classified as illegal are those that fall under Presidential Decree 1602 or the illegal Gambling Law.

Is holding gambling during wakes illegal? I pose this question after the police issued a stern warning against those who hold gambling during wakes, saying they will arrest participants. This, after Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Archie Gamboa ordered his men to intensify police operations against any forms of illegal gambling.

Police Regional Office (PRO 7) Chief Albert Ignatius Ferro warned the public that they would arrest those caught gambling during the holding of wakes. However, Ferro said that since gambling during wakes is considered a part of our culture, he would allow gambling, but only one table would be allowed during wakes. More than that, they’d arrest people caught gambling on extra tables.

Whether holding gambling during wakes is illegal or not, our authorities should be lenient and considerate since it is part of our practice, culture and tradition. And these are only for pastime.

It is part of the Filipino tradition, specially for Roman Catholic believers that when someone dies, it is customary to hold a wake. Practitioners of some religions, such as Islam, bury their dead immediately within 24 hours. Wakes usually last several days, especially when the family is waiting for the arrival of close relatives. In the provinces, they usually last nine days, which is the length of time for the novena (prayer) to conclude, because of financial considerations.

If they bury their dead early, they would prepare food for those who will attend the funeral. And in the last day of the novena or locally known as “tapus,” they would prepare food again and end up feeding those who will attend. In order to save money, they would prepare only a few times, which is during the burial and at the end of the nine-day novena. Magpreparar kag monggos, sawayon pa ka. Moingon nang uban, “Patuga-tuga ug kamatay, monggos ra man diay.”

Part of our tradition is allowing gambling like mahjong, pusoy, dama, chess, tong-its and other card games like blackjack, piyat-piyat, lucky nine, poker, baccarat and other derivatives that are popularly played on the streets and not in casinos to keep visitors awake and alive, especially in the wee hours of midnight. Gambling during wakes is for pasttime only. The people’s primary intention in going there is not to gamble, but to pay their last respects to the dead and to sympathize with the bereaved family. We will not be praying all the time for the dead. But in order to keep themselves awake, they indulge in gambling with only little winnings. Dili gyud pamugas ba. Lingaw-lingaw lang. Daginuton pa gyud na sa mga pulis. Gawas pa, ang “tong” ihatag man sa tagtungod para pang-snacks ug coffee.

The Ilonggos who are fond of playing mahjong usually hold wakes for several weeks or even months so they can play the game for a long time. They even sometimes rent an unclaimed cadaver from a funeral parlor so they can hold vigil and play mahjong. That is the tradition of the Illongos. Now, they want to put a stop to this kind of tradition because it is illegal? Why doesn’t the police intensify its operations against jueteng, masiao and the illegal STL, which disguises itself under the legal lotto three-digit combination? They cannot concentrate on these gambling activities because they are making it their “milking cow”? Just asking.