EYES WIDE OPEN - Iris Gonzales - The Philippine Star

It literally means a person who oversees the cooking done in a barbecue pit, the pitmaster.

The pitmaster, in this case, is a female boss, executive director Atty. Caroline Cruz.

There’s no barbeque, however, but there’s a lot of planning and cooking – ideas, that is. And lots of food, too.

Pitmaster is a foundation, and this is its story.

Atty. Carol explained to me that Pitmaster is actually an acronym that means Providing Indigents Timely Medical Assistance Service & Targeted Emergency Relief.

I first met Atty. Carol some years back when she was still working at the House of Representatives as a legislative chief of staff. Now she is busy running the  Pitmaster Foundation, chaired by e-sabong kingpin Charlie “Atong” Ang.

And this is where it gets interesting. Pitmaster is just like any other foundation, but Atty. Carol said that, indeed, part of the foundation’s funding comes from e-sabong and Ang himself. This, of course, seems nuanced – a foundation funded by bets from gamblers.

But it is what it is.

After I wrote about e-sabong and Ang last Monday, I received quite a lot of feedback – good and bad. Some sent me memes about e-sabong, throwing shade on its negative effects on addicted gamblers.

Others, on the other hand, said the foundation was able to help them so I asked Atty Carol what the foundation specifically does, and for over an hour, she explained to me that it’s a non-profit organization that provides healthcare and targeted emergency relief to communities in need.

In just a span of one year, she said, the foundation has given close to P1 billion in support to partner communities.


During the pandemic, the foundation actively engaged the government in fighting COVID-19.

“We spent P150 million on mass testing, healthcare kits and other medical supplies, and helped vaccinate 11,000 people,” Atty. Carol said.

She said this has contributed to the steady and uninterrupted decline of the moving average of COVID-19 cases in the National Capital Region and nearby cities.


At the core of the foundation is a regular dialysis program that provides financial assistance of P4,500 to dialysis patients.

As of this writing, the number of patients served has reached 50,225 across 350 partner dialysis centers.

Why dialysis?

Atty. Cruz shared with me that Ang specifically wanted the foundation to focus on dialysis because he is well aware of the financial burden and difficulties of the procedure because his own mother is required to undergo dialysis three times a week.


During calamities and disasters, the foundation also extends emergency assistance.

When Typhoon Odette struck last December, the foundation extended assistance to small islets between Bohol and Cebu in partnership with the Philippine Navy.

“We extended help to small islands facing the Pacific, along Quezon coastlines, which were not reached by any assistance, on top of our resources distributed in other affected areas in Visayas and Mindanao,” said Atty. Carol.

The assistance, in this case, mostly comes in the form of food packs and other relief or emergency items.


There are also efforts to help the environment, particularly a greening program to cover 250 hectares of land in the mountain ranges of Siniloan in Laguna and Real, Quezon. For this project, a total of 6,656 mostly fruit-bearing trees have been planted so far – guyabano, avocado, bamboo, mahogany, narra, etc.

The next target, she said, is another greening program covering 101 hectares around Mayon Volcano in Albay. This is in partnership with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and other stakeholders.


For now that e-sabong is suspended, the dialysis program is also on hold, but Atty. Carol said the emergency assistance continues.

In a country where the desperate and the needy don’t always know where to go in times of emergencies, foundations like Pitmaster are able to respond.


Critics of e-sabong may scoff at this, but at the end of the day, charitable organizations and foundations are merely filling a void; responding to needs that the state isn’t able to provide.

Charities funded by money from games of chance aren’t new. During the Great Depression, which was characterized by severe economic slump worldwide between 1929 and 1939, gamblers and gambling operators in America set up soup kitchens to save millions of people from starvation. Even motorcycle gangs in California had their annual charity events for children, while the Yakuza’s gambling operations also funded natural relief efforts in Japan.

It takes a nuanced kind of thinking to understand and even appreciate things like these, the kind of thinking that does not easily dichotomize or simplify the world into true or false, or good or bad.

It’s complicated, one might say. But isn’t life like that?

Dmitry Muratov’s Nobel medal

Speaking of charities, Dmitry Muratov, the Russian journalist who won the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize, has put on the auction block his Nobel Peace Prize Medal, considered a highly collectible art, to help the children of Ukraine displaced by war.

“It is fitting that the bidding opens on June 1st, International Children’s Day, with the auction to conclude on June 20th, World Refugee Day,” said Heritage Auctions. Current bid as of this writing is at $155,000.

I was blown away reading this admirable move.

May we all do our part in helping others in need, especially today, in our constantly turning and chaotic world.



Iris Gonzales’ email address is [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @eyesgonzales. Column archives at eyesgonzales.com.

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