Pre-Lent Mardi Gras draws tourists in Ilocos town

By: Freddie G. Lazaro, PIA 1, Ilocos Norte


PAOAY, Ilocos Norte- Thousands of tourists, visitors and residents trooped to the parade routes surrounding the centuries- old Saint Augustine Church in Paoay town and watched the street dancing pageantry of the 2014 Guling-guling Festival last week.

The festival is derived from an Ilocano word: “guling” – meaning to mark or smear the forehead of a person with an image of cross using wet and white rice flour.

Its white color signifies purity and it is believed that through this procedure, a person is cleansed from all of his past sins.

Traditionally, the festival is held on a Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. It was a day replete of drinking, dancing, and merry-making as it was the last day for the Paoay folks to enjoy earthly pleasures before the advent of the Lenten season.

This year, the Guling- guling festival was set on March 1- 4.

During the street dance parade, Mayor Dolores Clemente and Vice Mayor Jessie Galano led the 10 street dancing contingents from the town’s clustered barangays.

“I am very glad for the successful celebration of our festival this year,” Mayor Clemente noted.

The usual highlights of the festival were the holding of  the concelebrated mass at the world heritage Saint Augustine Church, a trade fair featuring the different home grown manufactured goods of Paoay such as the renowned inabel, garlic and kornik; dudol (native rice cake) making and the street dancing parade.

The ‘guling- guling’ dance parade involves street dancing by men and women clad in their native costumes– the antique and attractive ‘abel kimona Paoay’ with matching tapis or pandiling, adorned with century old jewelleries.

During the street dancing parade, the participants integrated folk dances in their presentation such as the Pandango Paoayeñna, Ariquenquen, Curatsa, Amorosa and La Jota Paoayeña with intricate steps and hand movements (kumintang) that depict the traits of courtesy, gentleness and peace.

After the street dancing parade, local officials imprinted the “guling” or the sign of the cross using pounded rice instead of gray ash on the forehead of the residents.

Following the ritual, the crowd partook of dudol and basi (sugarcane wine). Afterwards, the showdown of the 10 contigents street dancers was held.

The “Guling – Guling festival” is considered the oldest festival in the Ilocos as local residents claimed that this was introduced by friars of the Spanish regime in the 16th century.

From then on, Guling- guling has become an annual festivity in Ilocos Norte that has drawn more tourists in the province for the past years due to its cultural and religious significance.#