Small Town Girl Diaries: The Modern Gypsies

For as long as I can remember, these what I call modern gypsies have been a permanent fixture in our small town’s fiesta celebration every summer. Five to 10 days before the fiesta and five to 10 days after, they occupy a substantial amount of real estate in town where they set up temporary tents and display their goods all day. Most of these gypsies are traders — selling everything from magic wallets to household wares.

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In my childhood, there would be one day when my grandfather would take us to these gypsies and he would allow us to pick one thing and he’d buy it for us. Most of the times, I choose school shoes. In my teenage years, I’d bring my younger cousins to these gypsies and we’d play perya games, often bringing home a bottle of ketchup as a prize, or bringing nothing at all. Fast forward to college, I developed my thrifting habit through these gypsies. Some of them sell second0hand clothes, or what we call locally as ukay-ukay, and I was so obsessed with printed skirts and t-shirts that I’d visit their tents almost everyday and spend my summer allowance on P10 skirts and shirts. This year, I didn’t buy anything, but I still pay them a visit, if only to find a treasure among their wares.

I never knew where they came from, but most of them speak Bisaya, so I’m guessing they either come from Negros Oriental, Bohol, or Cebu. I also always thought they just set up tent anywhere, but realized that they also pay taxes to the local government and the local government chooses where they can set up their tents. I’m concerned about their sanitation — where they take a bath, remove their bowels, urinate, and throw their trash — noticing they there were no visible latrines and trash cans in the area. I wonder how they knew our small town existed, and wonder if they have made friends in the town that they visit only once a year.

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