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Locals play a Spanish card game known as "sakla" in an underground casino in Manila.
Reuters/Erik De Castro
A Spanish card game known as “sakla” is popular at wakes in the Philippines.

In the Philippines, mourners honor the dead by placing bets

In the Philippines, gambling isn’t just a past time, but a way to honor the dead. Betting games, mah jong, and card tables are often set up at Filipino wakes, or paglalamay, where the tradition is to keep a 24-hour vigil over the deceased until the burial.

“It has its functions, it is a way of keeping mourners around,” Randolf David, a sociology professor at the University of the Philippines, told Reuters. Businesses dedicated to operating these games go from one wake to another, David said.

A wake in the Philippines can last up to a week or more, especially if far-flung relatives who are part of the country’s over-10 million diaspora, are coming home from abroad for the funeral.

The wake is meant to be a lively affair—a way to keep the grieving distracted and those keeping vigil awake. The proceeds of the bets usually go to the family. Music, singing, and other games are common as well.

Reuters/Erik De Castro
Mourners play cards near a coffin during a funeral wake in Paranaque city in Manila.
Reuters/Erik De Castro
Women play bingo inside a house in Quezon City in Manila.
Reuters/Erik De Castro
Making bets on fighting spiders is popular among schoolchildren.
Reuters/Erik De Castro
Women play a Russian poker card game in Angeles city, north of Manila.
Reuters/Erik De Castro
Youths play a form of pool on a carom board in Las Pinas city, Manila.
Reuters/Erik De Castro
A teenager places bets on a numbers game along a road in San Fernando city, north of Manila.
Reuters/Erik De Castro
Residents play mahjong in Malabon, Manila.
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