Gambling’s face in the 1600s
In relation to the article titled “Gaming instinct: Growing casino industry in PH” (Inquirer 10/23/11), which is about the seriously erosive effect of the culture of gambling on the moral values of our people, here is an excerpt from a letter in the University of Santo Tomas Archives. The letter tells about the game of chance known as “metua,” which was played during the Chinese New Year in “Parian” or “Chinatown” (Binondo, Manila) in the 1600s. “Metua” ultimately disappeared. So, why can’t “jueteng”?
The letter, dated Aug. 30, 1699 (translated by me from Spanish), was written by Fray Juan de Paz, O.P., from Manila.
“A Royal Decree dated 10 June 1679 instructed the government of these islands not to allow the Sangleys [Chinese] to play the ‘metua’ except on their New Year…
“In a journal by Fray Alberto Collares found in the rectory of Chinatown, the following is recorded: ‘Today, 6 May 1664, the Sangleys staged a revolt, which was occasioned mainly by the public games in this Chinatown. Those who lost became so angry and so desperate that they instigated the uprising. I have witnessed three revolts during my 31 years of stay in these islands, and all of them were staged by Sangleys who had lost the game and had ended up dirt poor…’
“Some of the Sangleys who came to this land carried enormous amounts of money loaned to them by mandarins and other wealthy men in China. They lost this money in the games during their New Year and they did not dare to go back to China, because they feared for their lives. They stayed here and became christians, but with little faith, as can be suspected from the speed with which they decided to become such.
“There were also Sangleys who borrowed considerable money from Spaniards and who lost all of it in the games. And since there was no way for them to pay their debt, they fled to China, leaving behind in these islands their respective wives and children poor and helpless.
“Every year, we see that most of the stores (tiendas) in Chinatown, after the games of the New Year, have different owners. The former owners lost everything they had in it. They used to be wealthy businessmen but, after the games, they are obliged to look for job to support their family. Others hang themselves.
“These evils are so serious that everybody will agree, I think, if I say: ‘Those who play these games and the governors who allow them are blind and are enemies of the common good.’”
Fray Juan de Paz adds: (1) The alcaldes mayores and other ministros received money in exchange for the chocolate and food they sent to the gamblers. (2) The alcaldes mayores received money in exchange for the candles which they sent to the gambling venues. (3) Twelve thousand pesos were collected to be doled out by the winners as “barato” (written with an “R”). (4) Six thousand pesos were collected for the Royal Treasury (cajas reales). (5) Two thousand pesos were given by the Sangleys to the governor on the occasion of the game.
—FR. EDILBERTO V. SANTOS,
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