One by one, the empty lots are slowly occupied. A tent for ukay-ukay (used clothes and gear) had already set shop, with neat piles of second-hand sneakers, shirts, shorts, jackets and bags being readied for sale.
Three spaces next to it are transformed into gaming stalls, complete with a row of dartboards, a bingo table, a duck-shooting gallery, as well as hoops and others. Along the aisles come food stalls, with cool drinks, sandwiches and all sorts of candies. There’s one for cheap toys, hats and printed T-shirts of various prints, designs and colors. The most imposing of all, and slowly rising on the biggest space available, looms the starting skeletons and structures of a Ferris wheel.
Perya, our generic term for carnival, is one of the most common outdoor attractions whenever there are big celebrations, and the incoming season of Christmas is no exception.
Nope, there are no animals, jugglers, or acrobatic clowns here, like in circuses and carnivals of other countries. However, I remember back in the 60s, they used to have the “big tent” at the PTA grounds (now People’s park), with main attractions that included high-wire acts like flying trapeze, tightrope acts, cowboy clowns and some exotic animals. The side attractions of the time featured special shows that highlighted a hairy lady, a “mermaid” and a dwarf.
Lastly, in the open areas could be found fun rides for both kids and adults, plus a long line of food and game stalls that stretched from the entrance to the middle area of PTA.
Sadly, some of these carnival attractions have long gone from today’s perya. Despite that, a feel of excitement has remained, rooted in memories of a once- seven year-old, whenever a perya rolls in. A part of this is the sweet expectation that some of the iconic foods of old are still available, and have not yet been forgotten.
The loss of these usual carnival features may not be the only reason for it to slowly lose touch, though.
Setting up a month early for Christmas, with school still on, is one. The student segment of the prospected clients cannot patronize it. Also, as it nears Christmas break, another percentage would have gone home to the provinces. Then, a there will be those who prefer the malls, where free shows abound for their yuletide entertainment. Nowadays, it is only in the provinces where a perya can still hold top spot when it comes to fiesta entertainment.
So what of it? I remain a firm believer that every child should at least experience the fun of the perya. The adolescents may flex their wings where they may, but for the younger ones, kiddie rides and games, cotton candies and large spiralled lollipops, all in a perya setting, will always be lingering fun memories they can always look back on later when they are older. At the very least, this outdoor activity is also much better than another day spent on video games, gadgets and Internet. I swear.