Thousands of people filled the streets leading to the picturesque Paoay Church on February 17 as the townsfolk celebrate the annual Guling-guling Festival, reaffirming the 600-year old tradition of faith and resiliency of Ilocanos.
In keeping with the town’s Catholic roots, the festivity is traditionally held the day before Ash Wednesday which marks the last day of merriment before the observation of the season of sacrifice or lent.
The festival highlights street dancing and the community feasting on “dudol”, a heritage delicacy made of rice and molasses and drinking “basi”, a sugarcane wine, to stir excitement and bliss all throughout the celebration.
A national pageantry of faith and resiliency
Governor Imee R. Marcos hailed the people of Paoay as the celebration is now regarded as a national festival in the Philippines.
“Being an authentic cultural festivity, the celebration of the Guling-guling Festival is backed by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts,” said Ms. Josefina Guillen, head of the national committee on dance of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA).
Paoay Church’s parish priest Msgr. Manuel Lamprea Jr. revealed that the tradition of Guling is entirely based on the bible, particularly the Book of Exodus which is a strong manifestation of the strong Christian beliefs of Ilocanos since time immemorial.
“Truly, this is a celebration of the remarkable faith and resiliency of Ilocanos. Despite the difficulties that surround us, we still find time to be resilient, to be proud and to remain Christian and prayerful,” said Governor Imee R. Marcos.
Enlivening Paoay Church
Local and foreign tourists marveled at the sight of the glorious Paoay Church where the street pageantry showdown was held.
“Paoay indeed has been the center of our lives, the center of our history. Through the celebration of Guling-guling, we have brought to life the glorious Paoay Church that is recognized worldwide for its tremendous architecture and for enduring natural disasters,” said Gov. Imee.
During the celebration, she reminded Ilocanos of the anonymous Filipino architect and extraordinary Ilocano engineers and workers who put together a church in 16th century “making certain that until today we will have a church that will stand a test of time, extreme weather and cruelty of mankind.”
Gov. Imee initiated several projects to enliven the Paoay Plaza which embraces and enshrines the world-renowned Paoay Church. This has then improved the economic situations in the town with more job opportunities as it has drawn thousands of local and foreign tourists.
Passing the tradition to the youth
Rosita Corpuz, 75, of San Roque, Paoay, reminisced the old days while watching the grand street pageantry. “On the day of the festivity, we would wake up early in the morning to cook “dudol” and proceed at the place of the “dadapilan” (sugar mill machine), to drink “basi”.
She noted that seeing more young people participating is an important aspect of the celebration “as passing the tradition to them will mean the preservation of the traditions and continuity of the rituals and practices in the next years to come.”
What makes Mrs. Corpuz more proud of the festival is that despite the obvious modern improvements, it still prioritizes to showcase Paoay’s traditions that withstood time.
Meanwhile, fourteen year-old Maria Cabrera, a first-time dancer in the street pageantry, said that Guling for the young people means “respect to the people before us, our ancestors, which is why I am here to perform the traditional dance ritual like the “binatbatan” that depicts the making of Ilocanos’ woven cloth called “abel” to honor the legacy our forebears handed to us.”
Ilocano men and women wearing abel-inspired traditional costume were sighted during the celebration as they swayed their hips and arms during the street-dancing parade. (J Michael Mugas, PGIN – CMO)