One day they are nowhere and the next day they are there, quickly appearing like mushrooms and toadstools abruptly and jarringly after the coolness of a single night. Lianga's town fiesta on August 15 may still be weeks away but their sudden yet ubiquitous presence is a clear and accepted harbinger of the festivities to come, a necessary and expected prelude to the celebrations that mark the high point of the town's annual calendar.
I refer here, of course, to the itinerant or wandering traders and vendors whose makeshift stalls and stores are an integral part of the festival scenery of town and barrio fiestas anywhere in the Philippines.
In Lianga, these wandering merchants have been allowed to put up their stalls along the sides of the public market plaza, the reclamation area behind the public market, and certain sections of main town streets. There under canvas awnings, they set up shop and display a dazzling array of goods ranging from garden and hardware tools, kitchenware, mobile phone accessories, children's toys and knickknacks, men's and women's accessories, and all other manner of items and curios that might catch anyone's and everyone's fancy.
Then there are the usual ukay-ukay outlets with untidy, pungently smelly piles of used clothing, shoes and all manner of footwear, as well as shoulder bags and purses. And there are the stalls displaying cheap costume jewelry, imitation watches and gaudy trinkets of all sorts and colors.
When I was young, I used to think of the wandering merchant's life as exceedingly mysterious, exciting and full of adventure. As a boy I would wander through their displays, eagerly examining the goods on display and thinking of all the wonderful places they must have visited as they drifted from place to place. In my mind then there was no more glamorous and interesting life than to live your life on the road, to be always on the move and to call no place home.
Nowadays I am more wiser or maybe more cynical. But as I walk the streets of Lianga and see these mobile entrepreneurs hawking their wares in their improvised stalls, I still regard them fondly and with nostalgia like old friends and acquaintances.
Their seasonal presence, intrusive it may be, brings home to me the undeniable and reassuring fact that the fiesta season is indeed once again coming to Lianga and that the cycle of life and the seasons is continuing as it should be, as it is meant to be.
Bring it on then, I say.