Tuesday, February 19, 2013


"Oww... shoot!!"

The one peso missed its mark by a few centimeters. The silver coin should have landed on the small circle on the game board's checkered surface.

I should have won 10 pesos.

"Try ulit."

Garppp and Rocco were on the opposite corner of the deck, hurling their own coins and trying to land it on a square box with an assigned prize. Meanwhile, I squeezed the last coin in my hand before aiming it at a new target.

This time, the piso barrelled across the blank squares and disappeared behind the patch of potato chips and soft drinks. So much for being a gambler. I've had enough.

My friends and I were at the UP Fair to watch some local bands perform on Valentines Day. But we ended up checking the game tables, food kiosks and rides on the other side of the fair grounds.

The fair, with all its modern features had the trappings of the perya. The neighborhood fair that lasts for a week or a month, depending on who gives permission to operate it.

The game tables where we throw coins to win a prize were there, and so was the shooting galley where a player needs to hit a number of plastic birds (or stacked cans) before receiving a prize from the game master's sundry merchandise.

For a moment, I was brought back in time; back in the days when I would sneak out of the house at night and scurry towards the peryahan a few streets away.

There, among the company of gamblers, and kids who were allured to the sights and sounds of the clandestine casino, I would spend the spare change from my school baon hoping for that one chance to bring home something I could show off to my mom.

I would have made thoughtful reference to the amusement rides often seen in the perya. But sadly, I had no memory to speak of. Not when I was forbidden to ride those mechanical throwaways - those cheap thrills with their grease covered joints and pre-war hydraulics.

They are not for the faint-hearted like me.  

Instead, I would fondly remember the booth, (or hovel, depending on how you see the perya during the day) where colored light bulbs run across a large table and a spinning wheel horizontally placed next to the game master decides the prize.

One time, I placed my bet on a glassware and to my surprise, the flashing light bulbs stopped where I laid down my 10 pesos. Racing towards home with an amber-colored dining plate pressed against my chest, I gave the spoil to my mom to her amazement.

Never will I win a prize again.

The neighborhood fair lasted for a week or two, returning only a year after to attract more people to spend their cash on their gaming attractions. I didn't know how much money I lost, neither did the money I win. It is safe to say that I went home empty handed one evening and decided then and there that I won't be coming back.

Only now did I realize that somehow, the place taught me the basics of gambling.

But at the UP Fair Grounds, where a much older and stingy me walked past gaming boards and rode - for the first time - the Octopus, I felt a sense of loss, knowing too well that the sights and sounds of today's perya, is but a near-extinct novelty for the kids who found themselves there.

For those of us in the 90's, who had very few distractions, (apart from street games that we play at dusk and the Tokusatsu TV series we watch on weekends) the perya - with all its hidden vices and freak shows; its joy rides and occasional fist fights, affords us a night of spectacles and surprises to forget the troubles of tomorrow.

No comments: