April 16, 2024

(Editors’ note: The Courier is reprinting the columns of the late Atty. Benedicto T. Carantes as a tribute to one of its long-time columnists. This piece was published on Nov.11, 2007.)

This will probably spark a debate, but of the three vices known to man – alak, babae, sugal (ABS), or wine, women and song, (hit tunes sung by the Four Aces, and composed by Bert “Baccarat” of Las Vegas fame) sugal or gambling, is undoubtedly the most harmful.

As any brew lover will tell you, liquor provides an escape from the painful realities of life, a magic potion that cures half if not all the ills pervading your body and heart; gives you the courage to express your unspoken love for the girl of your dreams; and also loosens your tongue so you can speak your mind out and still be right even if you are wrong – that is, if you are the one buying the drink.

Womanizing, on the other hand, is both an art and a sport, the excitement of infidelity, a forbidden fruit, made more thrilling knowing you can be shot in the back by an irate husband while cavorting with his wife under the bed sheets.
Pretty soon too, your reputation as a lothario will loom larger than your manhood, and for a while you become the idol of many – until you metamorphose from being a horny tadpole into a serves-you-right asshole when your wife leaves you; a pathetic SOB if she deserts you for another man, and a pitiful buffoon if she shacks up with another woman.
Don’t laugh, it’s been known to happen.
Gambling, alas, can undo everything that you are.
But wait up. These vices are not exclusive to the men.
Women drink, fool around, and gamble too, perhaps even more boldly than the men.

Now, where was I? Oh yes, gambling.
Over at the Fiesta Casino in San Fernando City, Pampanga on any given night, a gaming table, which normally sits seven players, will feature four Cordillerans, two women, and one local.
Oftentimes, one of the two women is a mountaineer.
Percentage wise, about 80 percent of the Fiesta Casino patrons are from Baguio and Benguet.

One of the sorriest stories I have heard about a gambler was this mathematical whiz who was being wooed by several American universities to join their Engineering faculty, with an annual salary of $500,000.
The genius scoffed at the offer, claming that with his talent, he could make more money doing the rounds of the casino circuit.
Five years hence, the poor fellow, for all his God-given gift, was still down by 10,000 dollars.
Had he put his brains to better use, he would have been a millionaire nearly three times over.

Closer to home, I had this client, in the days when I was still a private practitioner, who made millions plying his nefarious trade in Bangkok, Thailand.
A known card sharp, tourists were usually his victims, and the day came, in partnership with a Thai police general, that he introduced jueteng in Thailand.
Two years ago, he came home on vacation, and within six months, he lost all his fortune, about P12 million, in the casino.
Funny huh, since both are supposed to be in the same racket.
I have not seen nor heard from his in the past year, and Thailand presently under martial law, I do not think he is back in Bangkok.
I suspect he is either in Cebu or Boracay, playing his old trade.

And there is this bright young lawyer who practices his profession as a sideline, with the casino as his principal occupation.
From what I hear, he does not seem to be doing well in either.
Too bad, because like the math genius, he is using his brains for a wrong purpose.
I have many more friends similarly situated, like the cockfighting “tahores” who since disappeared from the derby scene, now fixtures in the casino, day after day after day.

I should be the one to talk, of all people.
Like my Lolo Quidno, I am a “dyed-in-the-wool” gambling man, but my luck hasn’t been too good lately – not that I haven’t had my winning moments.
One month I am on a roll, the next month I go into a tailspin.
Like old Blue Eyes sing, “riding high in April, shot down in May.”
Only Divine Intervention can prevent my eventual crash, but it seems that at this time, God is taking a nap.
I know that my mom and dad, my sister and my bro, who are all in heaven, are frantically trying to rouse God from His slumber so He can pay attention to poor me.
Like 80 million other Filipinos, I am hopeful to win in the lotto, then I can breathe easier.
If not, seppuku is always an option.

Right now, I am hysterical, imagining myself furiously chasing Lawit Chan with my machine pistol as he hides in the high grass, pleading that he is my friend.
The poor bastard still doesn’t get it – it is friends like him who laugh and snicker behind my back that I intend to hunt down and shoot down with my fully-loaded gun.
Riding shotgun beside me is my partner, Bonnie Tanduyog, like he says, till “debt” do us part.
Boy oh boy, will our so called friends get the jolt of their lives.
Hysteria never felt so good.