The “Pera sa Kweba” text raffle promo contest for the Puerto Princesa Underground River (PPUR) has a housewife from Malolos City, Bulacan as its first millionaire, it was announced by Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje, who also sits as the national campaign manager for the PPUR in the Search for the New Seven Wonders of Nature.

At the same time, Paje also announced that the “Pera sa Kweba” text promo for PPUR has been extended up to December 30, 2011. At stake in the grand draw, according to him, is a P25 million top prize. He urged the public to keep on texting. “Who knows you might be the next lucky winner like Marites Balagtas, our first millionaire in this campaign,” Paje stressed.

Lucky texter, Marites Balagtas, 38, narrated that when she received the text message informing her that she had won, she initially thought that the text message was part of a scam. Watching her favorite primetime show, however, erased all doubts.

“Naloko na po ako dati ng P300 sa isang scam kaya di po ako naniwala sa text (message) na natanggap ko nun. Pero noong nanood po ako ng Will Time, Big Time kinagabihan, narinig kong ina-announce ni Willie (Revillame, host of the show) ang pangalan ko at tinatawagan ako sa cell phone ko. Hindi nga po kami nun masyadong magkaintindihan sa telepono. Hindi po talaga ako agad makapaniwala,” Balagtas narrated.

The windfall could not have come at a better time. Her family had been one of the victims of typhoon Pedring which flooded large parts of Bulacan, including Malolos City, in late September. Her husband, a pedicab driver, had been sick for several days already. And, low on funds, she was forced to cut short her eldest son’s confinement in a hospital where he was then being treated for dengue fever.

Marites narrated that she joined the contest to try her luck. She had sent eight text messages over different dates costing her P20, for a total of 16 entries, since each SMS sent for the promo before November 10, 2011 was worth two raffle entries. She recalled that it was before November 6, when she received the text message and the televised call.

Asked how she would spend the money, Maritess, a mother of three, said she would invest it in her children’s education. She also wanted a better, though small and simple, house for her family. She was also thinking of giving some of her siblings a little “balato” as capital for their livelihood activities.

Marites was accompanied by two of her kids, her brother and his own kids, when she met with members of the Task Force Puerto Princesa Underground River (PPUR) at the Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife Center of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Quezon City.

There she received a facsimile of her winning check from Puerto Princesa City Mayor Edward Hagedorn and Interior and Local Government Undersecretary Austere Panadero as the other members of the task force watched and congratulated her.

As of November 17, the “Pera sa Kweba” text raffle promo has given away P10,000 each to 45 daily winners; P100,000 to each of three bi-weekly winners; P250,000 each to two monthly winners; and one P1-million prize. Additionally, 20 winners have each won P50,000 as drawn on the show Will Time, Big Time.

The contest was initiated by the private sector to promote the PPUR as an eco-tourism site, and to educate the public on why it deserved to be a finalist in the New Seven Wonders of Nature (N7WN) contest.

Paje said the extension of the “Pera sa Kuweba” promo up to December 30, 2011 was to give the people more chances of winning.

Paje also extended his gratitude to all who voted for the PPUR, either through text or the internet, saying the “collective effort would go a long way not only in promoting the PPUR as an eco-tourism destination for both the domestic and foreign tourists but also in encouraging the public to go into environmental protection.”

The PPUR has landed in the provisional list of New 7 Wonders of Nature as announced recently by the organizers of the competition.

To join the “Pera sa Kweba” promo, text the word PPUR and send to 2861 for all local networks. Each SMS costs P2.50, and entitles the texter one raffle entry. Winning mobile numbers are electronically drawn under the supervision of the Department of Trade and Industry.

The on-going promo is slated to give away more than P30 million worth of cash prizes, with the grand prize of P25 million to be given away to one lucky winner on the final draw scheduled on December 30, 2011. Lucky texters can win cash prizes ranging from P10,000 to as much as P1 million.