I live in a low-income housing place where I have to ride a tricycle just to go anywhere. I have the routine down pat, and I usually bring a book along or play Pou on my phone as the trike chugs along the hills of Bagong Silang, Caloocan. On some days, I just watch the roadside.

On one of these trips, I noticed a sign that was hastily put up on a school wall. “Itaya sa Lotto,” together with six random numbers in indelible felt pen ink. I was curious. Who thought up the combination and recommended people to bet for these numbers? Why, in the name of the True, the Good and the Beautiful, did this person also write the numbers on a wall? Why did this person not bet on these himself/herself?

These are the things that have me labeled weird and creepy. But once, the late husband of my father’s aunt (I just call him one of my lolos) had a friend who he usually pestered for lotto numbers to bet on. Let’s call him “Ryo.” I was a very young kid back then and was not knowledgeable of laws for the protection of the mentally ill, and we kids frequently tormented Ryo. I was fascinated by the man. He doesn’t speak intelligibly. He doesn’t bathe. He doesn’t change his clothes. He doesn’t use a spoon and fork while eating. Yet my lolo frequently consulted him on winning numbers and let him loiter outside his sari-sari store. It was an article of faith that beneath the tattered dark gray clothes Ryo wore were a lot of paper money given by lolo as balato. Ryo was lolo’s lucky charm, and he said as much. We only knew him as a good-for-nothing who we often jeered at to await his reply of curses and highly intense claps. He clapped very hard like he had wood for palms when he was mad-angry. This got lolo angry and we got scolded at. We got out, our thrill for the day then was sated.


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