[Editor’s note: today’s article was written by Poch. ┬áCheck out more of Poch’s writing at Plato Press.]

My small Manila hometown is very near the Philippines busiest international airport (I will not mention the name to avoid libel charges). Its main attraction and big income producer is a world-famous church which also triggers corruption among the town leaders -our town thrives on underground economy.

Illegal gambling is everywhere -it’s already part of the town’s culture. The town leaders allow vendors (and anarchy) to occupy sidewalks for a fee which collectively isn’t small -there are hundreds of illegal vendors creating street anarchy. Even some police officials get their take too.

From time to time when the corrupt leaders are taking heat from higher officials, they make a show of chasing the vendors away from the streets which turns violent sometimes causing death among vendors or law enforcers. These battles have been going on for decades until now.

I have a cousin who is an ‘official’ of one illegal gambling (locally called ‘Sakla’) that’s permitted most of the time during funerals. It’s organized if the family of the deceased wants or needs money for the funeral. The family gets a percentage of what the gambling earns from bets. After the local elections this year, this particular gambling was stopped by the city mayor. The reason? The mayor’s brother lost in our town elections and because his brother’s opponent was earning or ‘on the take’ from Sakla, he stopped it to punish his brother’s opponent. So now my cousin gets poorer and poorer everyday because Sakla is his main source of income and he’s feeding 4 children of his own. Now imagine the other many gamblers who earns less than him and also have families to feed. I really wonder how the gamblers go on for decades living this way. But mostly, I wonder why I’m being forced by fate to come back and live here again and again.