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Festivals: Guling-Guling Festival

The annual Guling-Guling Festival in Paoay, Ilocos Norte is traditionally held the day before Ash Wednesday. While Catholics officially mark the fasting and penitence as start of the Lenten Season, it is the day of merry-making and street dancing for Paoay folks. The residents dressed in their Ilocano costume adorned with antique jewelries, dance and sing around the town while being given the sign of the cross where pounded rice is used instead of gray ash. Also, it is the town mayor who imprints the sign of the cross among the Paoay villagers instead of a priest.

This festival of Paoay, Ilocos Norte started in the olden days since the Spanish regime. The friars have introduced this event in the 16th century. It is a celebration held on Tuesdays before Ash Wednesdays to signify that this is the last day for the townsfolk to enjoy all forms of merrymaking before they observe the Lenten season. The Ilocano word “guling” means to mark or smear. Using wet and white rice flour, the town mayor would smear the sign of cross in a person’s forehead. Its white color signifies purity and it is believed that through this procedure a person is cleansed of all of his past sins.

They conduct street pageantry where the locals show off their terna (traditional national costume for women), gowns made of the indigenous abel cloth or the kimona and pandiling. There is a dance parade showcasing the Spanish-inspired Ilocano folk dances and they made a giant dudul, a native delicacy made of rice and molasses.

From Ilocos Norte Government Website – Foods and Festivals

HOW IT IS CELEBRATED as soon as they wake up, the Paoayeños don their colorful traditional clothing. The women dress up in their abel (hand woven material) kimona and pandiling, with matching local flowers and other accessories. For the men, it is the camisa de chino and abel trousers. Husbands and wives usually have matching outfits.

Traditionally, the townsfolk dance their way to the place where binugbug, a native delicacy cooked from rice flour and sugarcane juice on a slow fire, is made, is made. There you will find the anawang, a makeshift oven made from dried sugar cane pulp. They are then met by the town mayor imprints the sign of the cross (guling) on their forehead. The locals believe that it is a sign of a bad luck not to have this guling. After this ritual, the crowd partakes of this binugbug and basi. The parade then continues to the church, the streets and finally, to the town plaza where the merrymaking reaches its peak. Anybody can dance with whoever they please. The evening is filled with music, laughter and gaiety.

DANCE PARADE during the Guling-Guling celebration, the Paoayeños dance like there is no tomorrow. They dance with those whom they have had petty squabbles as a means of forgiving them for these past understandings, for the townsfolk, this is a time to forgive and to have a good time with everyone.

The folk dances such as the Pandaggo Paoayeñna, Ariquenquen, Curatsa. Amorosa and La Jota Paoayeña are lilvely and delightful. The intricate steps and hand movements (kumintang) depicits the traits of courtecy, gentleness, peace and perceverance.

ULNAS PARADE (wooden Sled) is one of the farm implements of Paoayeños has been handed down from generations to generations. Used as means of transportation for farm products, it is pulled by the sturdy Carabao. However, this custom is becoming extinct because of the proliferation and introduction of modern farm equipments.

To promote this culture as well as to inculcate in the minds of the young generation the importance and the role of the Ulnas and the carabao in shaping the history and tradition of the town, an Ulnas is held as part of the festival.

DUDOL is a native delicacy made from rice flour (bel-laay), coconut milk, sugarcane juice and anis. The secret to making a good dudol is to keep stirring the ingredients under a slow fire.

During the celebration, the crowd proceeds to the place where dudol is made to partake of this delicacy. It is shared with family, friends and all their guests.

BASI comes from sugarcane extract and samak, a plant commonly grown in the Ilocos region.

The juice from sugarcane stalks collected and boiled in large, open kettles. The brew is poured into earthen jars (burnays) and once it reaches room temperature, the samak leaves, bark and fruit are added. The mixture is stirred and poured into a jar that is tightly covered with banana leaves to allow fermentation. After the aging period, the basi is then transferred to bottles.

Basi is the official drink of the Guling-Guling merrymakers because of its enervating effect.

General Information

  • Location: Paoay, Ilocos Norte
  • Date(s): February 05
  • Brief Description: Exciting and calendrical rites in Paoay where townsfolk and their guests participate in singing and dancing in the street, dressed in their native costume, the antique and attractive “Abel paoay Kimona” with matching tapis or pandiling, adorned with century old jewelries.
Guling Guling Festival, Paoay, Ilocos Norte