In My Own Words - Ron Centeno

a collection of thoughts and my own words

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Jueteng: Why it's so appealing

Written by Ron Centeno

In the U.S., baseball is the country’s long-time favorite pastime that dates back in the 1860’s. In the ensuing years following The Great Depression of the 1930’s, many financially grief-stricken Americans found themselves at the ball parks to find solace in playing or watching the ball game. Since its inception, the likes of the legendary hitters such as Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson became iconic by raising the popularity of the game. Relative to this increased popularity, game attendance followed by radio and television viewership later in years, have dramatically surged, enriching the league’s players.

In recent years, baseball’s great sluggers including Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and Barry Bonds, all accused of steroid-abuse scandal of the mid-2000’s, have pushed the limit for the very fat salary offered by the team franchises. In turn, they have been put under pressure to break previous home run records and ultimately break the law in the process. Notwithstanding, baseball is America’s game, because for the most part, it is about tradition that connects the old and future generations at a time when different adversities divide them.

Elsewhere, the game of soccer is South and Central Americas’ all-time favorite. There is nothing more evident than the so-called Football War of 1969 between El Salvador and Honduras to prove such point. El Salvador is a small country with high population growth and a severely limited amount of available land. In contrast, Honduras is a larger country with a smaller population and a less-developed economy. By 1969, about 300,000 El Salvadorans had crossed over the border and squatted in the sparsely populated Honduras. The illegal incursion of the El Salvadorans had become a nationalistic sore point for Honduras.

To make up for his tarnished reputation, Honduran President Oswaldo Lopez Arellano (1963 – 71) revived a dormant agrarian reform law as a pretext to expel the El Salvadoran squatters from the country. The tale of the displaced refugees painted an ugly picture in El Salvador’s dailies and airwaves. In retaliation, when a soccer match was held in El Salvador, the Honduran team members were vilified and harassed by the Salvadoran fans. The ensuing event brought unintended or otherwise consequence called the Football War and as many as 2,000 people, mainly civilians, were killed in the action.

In the Philippines, their pastime is a uniquely different kind of game called jueteng. The game is an illegal numbers betting played by rich and poor alike. The mechanics of the game is to select a combination of two numbers between 1 and 37. Despite the high odds or 1/666 to be exact, the lucrative payout is nowhere difficult to resist which raises its mass appeal in all corners of the country. The game depends largely on the large number of wagers and there is no limit to the amount of the bets.

While the legion of wagers is bountiful, those who run the game have become extremely rich by sucking the hard-earned income from the poor. On the average, a mayor of one municipality who benefits from the game, earns a whopping P50,000 each draw. If my elementary mathematics serves me right, a mayor’s take home is about P150,000 given the three draws each day. One would wonder how much the country’s president gets a single day.

The exact amount is hard to determine. One thing is sure, however. In 2001, Erap Estrada was removed from office when Governor Chavit Singson, a known gambling lord in northern Luzon, blew his whistle and accused the former president of jueteng payoffs. Following their testimonies in the Senate, Estrada’s cobrador who turned state-witnesses, graphically described how they would unload sacks of money into Erap’s presence. In 2005,Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s relatives were likewise alleged to have received payoffs from jueteng operators.

What makes this game appealing to the very grassroots of the Philippine society?

Interestingly enough, the game of jueteng evokes the folkloric notions of good and bad luck. Wagers associate their dreams to the numbers from a combination of symbolic premonitions. For instance, if a bettor dreamed of his bald neighbor to have been shot dead with 45 caliber, and bald being represented by number 70 and 45 caliber being 45, the combination of 70 and 45 would be his notional winning numbers. The ability or inability to interpret such supernatural powers is perceived to influence forces of nature. Or so it seemed.

It is no coincidence that out of the three draws, morning, noon, and evening, the morning draw commands the most number of bets. The evening draw comes in second after the bettor took his siesta at noon.

The other reason for its apparent appeal is that the cobrador literally knocks at bettor’s door to solicit bets. This saves the bettor the time to travel to retail stores compared to say, lotto or other form of legalized gambling. A one peso bet translates into a prize-money of around four hundred to one thousand pesos. Winnings are then delivered straight to the bettor by the same cobrador.

The game’s rule of engagement evokes simplicity. Bettors do not have to sign any written contracts. The transaction between the bettor and the cobrador is done through informal negotiations. Despite the lack of any formalities, a relationship that is built on trust, provides security for the bettors.

Given the mass appeal of jueteng, it is no surprise that Filipinos from all walks of life, either tricycle drivers or parish priests, tambays or school teachers, mayors or the presidents of the country, have become part and parcel of what is now a cultural menace that would surely survive all the generations to come.

33 Your Thoughts/Comments Here::

Mac Callister said...

my dad is a suki of jueteng hehe
my uncle won 5thousand pesos for a bet of 5 pesos i think
its easy money with a small amount at stake.

Ron Centeno said...

Hahahaha! Good for him, Mac!

the donG said...

people take chances. desperate people take chances. but i never tried betting. not once.

thanks for dropping by eskapo.

^_edSie_^ said...

Naalala ko nung elementary ako, yung driver ng (school) service namin, hihinto sa tindahan (malapit sa school namin) bago kami umuwi para tumaya ng jueteng. Tapos sa umaga, dun sya nataya sa lugar nila. Grabe.. kahit saan may contact sya.. yun lang, na-share ko lang.

Ron Centeno said...

The Dong,

Yes people take chances to make money and I have not indulged in any betting so far.

Ron Centeno said...


Thanks for the visit despite your very hectic life. Thanks for sharing.

gillboard said...

lam mo, i'm already 27 pero di pa ako nakakalaro ng jueteng, di pa ako nakakakita ng naglalaro nito, at la pang nakikilalang kubrador... hmmm...

dagdag to do list before i turn 30... hehehe

shydub said...

Yeah I remember that,poor erap. well a lot of fil. politicians are into jueting. include the cock fighting as past time too lol

Steve Morozumi said...

wow. thanks for introducing me to the concept of jueting. i've never heard of it before, so it is informative to hear about this Fillipino norm/mores. thanks again Ron! hope you're having/have had a great weekend!

Ron Centeno said...

that might be a good idea!Hehehe!

Reggie Girl,
Yes the cockfighting! Maybe in another post. :-)

Thank you for reading, glad you got something out of it. :-) Have a great one!

john said...

Jueteng popularity are indicators of poverty specially in the countryside. Greedy businessmen called jueteng lords usually protected by politicians and even the police uses jueteng and sabong to lure ordinary villagers to win easy money. This people usually famers, laborers and peasants would choose jueteng as their pass time because the wager is affordable and at the same time they win big. In the end, the jueteng lords wins the bigger purse and so as the politicians.

dinajimenez74 said...

Hi 3M,

The Jueteng Lords can probably be compared to the Sicilian Mafia. Like political families, jueteng depends on grassroots support. Like politicians, jueteng lords are adept at tapping community notions of trust, familiarity, and goodwill. Take away the grassroots, and both jueteng and politicians fall like a house of cards.

Great writing 3M, I definitely still miss your posts on the lighter and lovelier side of life, your lovelife. Hahahahaha! It was just quite interesting.

Hope all is still well with both of you. Take care idol!

Shei says: said...

uso pa rin ang jueteng sa ilokos.. naranasan ko nga nanalo ng 9k eh..20 pesos tinaya ko.. last 2006 yun hehehe..=)

David Funk said...

I've never heard of Jueteng before either. It's even more interesting that the game had a direct effect on politics which should say enough about the popularity of it. I like how you tied in popular sports around the world, too.

Thanks for commenting on my last post.

Nice post again buddy!

Cecile said...

My Aunts husband is a number 1 jueteng addict ih=n their place; no idea why it is very appealing to him, becuase he doesn't always win :-).

Btw, this is my other blog, Ron, i am Ces from life is good and beautiful.

Barry said...

Amazing. And I'd never even heard of jueteng before!

_el@i_ said...

never pa me tumaya, ;) malas eh!

Dinah said...

This is another well-written post Ron.

Jueteng is still alive in my hometown in Batangas. But the result is now based on the first two numbers drawn from the Lotto the previous night.
And its funny, but so true, that we Filipinos give a number interpretation to dreams, or on everything else. My lola used to pluck a leave from the bayabas tree and try to read numbers from there while my lolo has number codes for how early the rooster crows or how many times the carabao flung his tail against his back :-)

There are reasons why people bet on games of chance like Jueteng and Lotto, but I leave them to it.

JoShMaRie said...

mahilig kasi talaga ng mga noypi sa laro/sugal na involved ang "swerte"

Lionheart : Richard the Adventurer said...

Hehe :) Legal or Not... Sa province namin... Talamak iyan...

Sa hirap ng panahon ngayon.... Maraming Juan Dela Cruz ang umaasa sa swerte...

Hindi naman mawawala iyan e...

Mrs. Stevenson said...

good post. i'm not a gambler but lucky for those who won. hey thanks for visit and comment. thanks also for adding me to your friendster.

Chronicler said...

I reside in a gambling paradise, Las Vegas right now but I'm not a gambler at all. I remember when I was still in high school back in the Philippines, my parents were betting on "Masiao". I think its the illigal spinoff of the legalized Jai-Alai. I'm not sure if this is also popular in the northern part of the country but I knew that they were always waiting for the results every morning from an AM radio broadcasting from Manila. You probably can look into this also.

Ron said...

John, Dina, Shei, David,Cecile, Barry, Elai,Dina, Josh, Richard, Ria, Chronicler,

Thank you all for you comments and for dropping by.

I'm always honored by your continued support.

alone said...

wow. new thing for me.

Ron Centeno said...


Glad you learned something new. :-)

heidi said...

wow! I had never heard of this before but it sounds very interesting!!!

Midlife, menopause, mistakes and random stuff... said...

I loves me baseball and Prince loves his football as he calls it (which I call soccer, but whatever).
Thanks Ron for visiting my blog and always leaving such sweet and postive comments. I love to read yours as well and it always makes me smile and think :)

Steady On
Reggie Girl

Ratty said...

I can understand why it would be so easy to get into this betting. Sometimes I think it might be easier to make these things legal so they might be easier to watch.


Dahil salat sa pera ang karamihang pinoy, ang iba nating kababayan ay nalulong sa kung anu anong paraan para lang mairaos ang buhay ng kani-kanilang pamilya at isa na dito ay ang sugal.

At dahil ningas cogon ang ating gobyerno O walang ipin ang batas sa kadahilanang kinakandado ng ating mga bolok na opisyal ang batas na sumusupil dito kaya laganap ang mga ilegal na sugal.

At dahil laganap ang sugal, kaliwa't kanan naman ang mga krimen.

regine said...

grabe ang sugal..dapat puksain na

regine sexy said...

ang cute ni allen tobias grabeeehhhhhh!
tataya ako ng jueteng mamaya..
12345 ayan ang numero..
sana tumama ako..
lilibre ko kayong lahat|!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

..thanks sa mga comment niyo..ngwa ko na din ang thesis ko..

Anonymous said...

Requesting permission to use the editorial cartoon in the production of Tagalog language teaching materials for non-profit educational use only.
We are developers of foreign language teaching materials for learners of various languages at academic institutions and for employees of the U.S. government. We would like to include the editorial cartoon in our lesson units for print and on-line publication. We will include the appropriate copyright notice: Courtesy of Ron Centeno
Please respoind to:

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Defense Language Institute
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Arlington, VA 22209

Thank you for your attention on this matter.

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