There is a Filipino idiom, “pera na, naging bato pa“, which literally translates to, “what should have been money on hand just turned into stone”. The following true story that I witnessed when I was in the Philippines illustrates this idiom perfectly.
During my stay in the Philippines, I had neighbors who are a couple and were quite cordial to me. Sometimes, they’d invite me to hang around in their house. They have three kids and they all liked to play video games and other games such as checkers with me.
One morning, while I was playing with the kids, someone rang the doorbell. When we checked who was it, it turned out that it was an old lady, who said to me, “I have the ability to see into the future. Do you want me to read your fortune? For a fee, of course…”
“Thanks for asking, but no,” I replied.
“I can tell that you have come from a faraway place and I feel that many remarkable things will happen to you.”
“Yeah, indeed. But as I said, I’m not interested so, please try to ask the others. Sorry.”
I had the urge to say something like, “You don’t say!” as I obviously look like Chinese, but that just would be rude.
During our exchange, the couple arrived to see who’s the visitor. After the fortune-teller explained to the couple her aptitude, the couple decided to humor her.
The session lasted for almost half an hour. Before the fortune-teller left, she told the couple to give her a pen and paper and she’d write the “winning numbers” for that day’s lottery. She insisted that they should buy a ticket immediately as “it won’t work again”.
Just for fun, I memorized the six numbers to see how well the fortune-teller did.
That night, I watched the lottery draw at home. As each number was announced, my level of incredulity increased as the numbers were the same as the fortune-teller wrote. At the time, my thought was, “Did the fortune-teller really foretell the winning number combination?” As the sixth number was drawn, it was confirmed that the fortune-teller indeed got it all!
This lottery is called Super Lotto 6/49. As the name implies, a six-number combination is selected out of 49 numbers (numbered from 1 to 49) and the odds of winning is 1 in 13,983,816. Therefore, you are more than likely to be hit by lightning during a sunny day while purchasing a lottery ticket than hitting the much-coveted jackpot.
The jackpot was said to be around 130 million Philippine pesos (around US$2.5 million). Not bad, as they only paid the fortune-teller 200 pesos. Personally, I was happy for them as they could use the money for their children’s education and still have more savings left.
The next day, I went to their home to congratulate them. I was surprised when I saw the couple arguing. What I gathered from their argument was they didn’t buy a ticket! Then I picked up a newspaper that was lying around and I read that nobody won the first price. So, even the fortune-teller didn’t buy a ticket. What a shame!
When the couple calmed down, they told me that since it was raining that afternoon, they decided to not go to a lottery outlet that day. Incredible! They didn’t become millionaires because they procrastinated.
I wanted to sympathize with them — I really did. However, no matter how I look at it, it’s their fault. They had a lot of time to buy a ticket, but they opted to take their sweet time. I was tempted to utter some wisecracks but I refrained and shut my mouth as they wouldn’t help anyone.
Afterward, I excused myself and quickly left since I may not be able to stop myself from bursting out into laughter as the entire situation was too hilarious and absurd.
The couple had told this story to our other neighbors but a number of them didn’t believe it which is not surprising as I would find it hard to believe it as well if I hadn’t seen it.