MANILA — A mom has regrettably sold her baby while a young man lost nearly all of his family's life savings, all because they couldn't get out of their "e-sabong" obsession.
This is not surprising, as gambling, particularly e-sabong, is one of the most difficult addictions to manage, warned psychologist Dr. Randy Dellosa.
"Sabong is very culturally condoned and tolerated in the Philippines. [It] can be addictive is because of the culture and festivity. You're not only going there to bet. There's a whole culture and environment you are addicted to. Your friends are there; you're addicted to the noise," Dellosa said.
Dellosa also attributes the addiction to e-sabong to its accessibility, as people are now betting online, resulting in higher debts and stakes.
"It's easier to get the money and play. It's very convenient too, because you don't have to travel [to the actual cockfighting pits]," he added.
Recently, a mother went viral on social media after appealing to the "buyers" of her daughter to return her child. She sold her own child to pay her debts out of her addiction to e-sabong.
She sold her child for P45,000, but could not contact the buyer anymore when she changed her mind.
"As their debts grow, they become desperate to pay off their debts. They also become involved in high-stakes gambling. There's an urgency to find money through any means. They've lost much, so now they want to earn more from gambling," Dellosa noted.
Other factors that may lead to e-sabong addiction include role-modeling, especially when a person has family members or relatives who are also addicted to cockfighting.
But even though gambling addiction may be difficult to manage, Dellosa still recommends rehabilitation to help address the problem.
Persons willing to let go of the addiction, however, must still be wary of possible relapses, especially that there's a natural desire for something they've been deprived of for a long time.
"What really helps, aside from the rehab, are family support, spiritual renewal, having a greater sense of purpose in life, and staying away from anything that will remind the person of sabong," Dellosa told ABS-CBN News.
In a TeleRadyo interview, 20-year-old John Robin Manalili said he wanted to quit e-sabong for his parents. He lost up to P1 million to his addiction.
Authorities, meanwhile, are still continuing probes on 34 cockfighting enthusiasts or "sabungeros" who have gone missing.
"E-sabong" can easily be accessible to users through their smartphones, with transactions made via online-cash-apps.
Without the need to physically go to a venue to participate in gambling, there is no regulation over who is allowed or not to participate in the activity.
Online sabong license-holder Atong Ang bared in a recent inquiry that the business delivers at least P3 billion in gross income per month.