Filipino student applauds receipt lottery
By Johanna M. Sampan
July 10, 2012, 12:40 am TWN
When I was awarded with a scholarship grant for my Master's Degree in Taiwan two years ago, I felt like Alice heading toward that small rabbit hole not knowing what whimsical adventure awaits.
I could still remember the feeling of frisson excitement leaving everything familiar and at the same time, nervousness to be away from the comforts of home.
I filed a "study leave" from my current employment then, had several despedida parties from family and friends, packed my bags and flew here in Taiwan.
Nestled in eastern Asia and just two hours away from my beloved country, The Philippines, I was easily captivated by the wonders of this picturesque island paradise — from the azure seas in Hualien, vibrantly colored flowers in Yangming Mountain, exceptional underground military tunnels in Jinmen, to the scenic Lover's River in Kaoshiung, the natural landscapes are simply picture perfect.
But besides these magnificent sights, the countless memorable experiences made my time in Taiwan worthwhile.
One unforgettable moment was when I had my first cup of coffee. I headed toward a small, quaint coffee shop located near my place in Taoyuan City. When I went out of the shop, an old disadvantaged lady came up to me and asked a question in Chinese that took me completely by surprise. Though I didn't understand Chinese, the gesture seemed that she wanted my receipt.
I stared back at her speechless and puzzled for a moment, but then willingly gave her my receipt. She gladly accepted and consolidated it with other receipts in her hand.
To satisfy my curiosity on why she asked for my receipt, I did my own little research and later discovered that these receipts are more than just proof of purchase, but can actually turn into "gold."
Touted as Unified Invoice or famously known as Taiwan receipt lottery is a form of state lottery managed by the Ministry of Finance (MOF) in Taiwan. Each receipt has a lottery number that can win a corresponding amount of money. Every month, winning numbers will be drawn by the Finance Ministry, and if it matches your receipt number, cash prizes will be given that range from NT$200 to NT$10 million.
Since then, I figured out the reason behind receipt-drop boxes outside various grocery stores and restaurants. Non-government organizations tend to ask for receipt donations rather than money for advocacy projects such as extending help to people with disabilities, natural calamity victims, aboriginals and even new immigrants among others.
I applaud Taiwan's government for this campaign that was launched almost 60 years ago. This campaign aims to collect taxes properly by encouraging people to take receipts; in return everyone has a chance to win without even actually spending an extra dollar for this "lottery ticket."
I also had a better appreciation of the culture in Taiwan, and that the "face" is very essential. Symbolically, this campaign also saves a "face" for disadvantaged people because they are not asking for money, but for something that might be insignificant to other people such as receipts.
I realized then that I might able to help that old lady if she wins a prize from the simple receipt that I gave her. As they say, someone's trash might just be the other's treasure.
Johanna M. Sampan
Nationality -- Filipino
Occupation -- Student