Would Rizal have won the Ultra Lotto prize money?

Last night, the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office’s (PCSO) Ultra Lotto breached the one-billion peso mark when the jackpot hit a whopping ₱1,026,264,340. The prize money —the biggest lottery prize in Filipino History so far— is expected to even grow much bigger with each coming draw date.

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The hopes and dreams of millions of Filipinos here and abroad have been abuzz for the past several weeks because of this. But why not? With the continuous rising cost of commodities and record-breaking inflation rates, how can we blame them not to gamble twenty-four pesos or more for an Ultra Lotto ticket in the hopes of escaping our country’s decades-old economic miseries for good? Even the president’s daughter was tempted to try her luck several days ago. But the only way to win the lottery, really, is by sheer luck. Mathematicians will attest to this.

Speaking of history and luck, we can now say that José Rizal was one heck of a lucky fellow. Writer, painter, sculptor, political thinker, ophthalmologist, land surveyor, anthropologist, polyglot, farmer, grammarian, fencer, etc., he was the 19th century’s poster boy of a true renaissance man. He lived the good life as a child, having been born to well-off parents. He even had some of the finest ladies during brief intervals as a lover boy. Daniel Padilla’s song “Nasa Iyó Na Ang Lahát” fits him perfectly. 😂 Tapos guinauá pa siyáng pambansáng bayani. 

But wait — there’s more! In case you haven’t heard yet, Rizal also had another least-known attribute. And that is luck which he was able to use to win the lottery! Playing the lottery was, in fact, his (only) vice. Even while in Spain, he made it a point to save three to six pesetas a month for lottery tickets.

During his exile to Dapitan, Rizal was able to use luck to finally win the lottery. During those days, the lottery was managed by the Empresa de Reales Lotería Españolas de Filipinas, the precursor of the PCSO (part of the proceeds of the lottery games was used by the Spanish colonial government to generate revenues). Rizal won second prize on 21 September 1892. The jackpot was worth ₱20,000, and the winning number was 9736. But since he had shared his money to fund for the purchase of the lottery ticket with two other people, he had to share the jackpot with them. Those two were Dapitan Governor Ricardo Carnicero and a certain Francisco Equilor, a Spanish resident in Dipólog. Each of the three received about ₱6,200 which was still a huge amount during the 1890s.

What did Rizal do with his prize money? Being a good son, he sent ₱2,000 to his father who had just finished paying off some debts in Manila. He also sent ₱200 to his friend José Mª Basa, known in Filipino History as the one who had smuggled Rizal’s novels to our country from Hong Kong (as an aside, Basa’s great granddaughter Cristina was the wife of the late and controversial Chief Justice Renato Corona). The rest of the money was used to purchase a 16-hectare land in Barrio Talísay, the exact place where he had stayed during his exile in Dapitan. He also engaged in abacá business as well as setup a small school for boys and a hospital. He even funded the installation of a street lighting system in Dapitan. That’s how selfless he was. Hopefully, whoever wins that fairy tale Ultra Lotto jackpot would be as generous as our national hero.

The 16-hectare land which Rizal purchased using his lottery winnings is now known as the José Rizal Memorial Protected Landscape. Photo: Gerald Patrick Harayo.

Would Rizal have won today’s billion-peso jackpot if he were alive today? It’s a lucky guess. But whatever luck he may have had in winning that lottery, however, wasn’t enough to save him from being framed by Freemasons as the leader of the Katipunan rebellion which eventually led to his execution by firing squad. Sa isáng bandá, hindí palá puedeng mapuntá sa isáng táo ang lahát.