PAOAY, Ilocos Norte, Feb. 22–Thousands of people lined up the streets here leading to the picturesque Paoay Church last February 17 when the townsfolk celebrated the annual Guling-Guling Festival, a 600-year old tradition of faith and resiliency of Ilocanos.

In keeping with the town’s Catholic faith, the festivity is traditionally held the day before Ash Wednesday which marks the last day of merriment before the observance of the season of sacrifice or lent.

The festival highlighted street dancing competition and the community feasting on “dudol”, a heritage delicacy made of rice and molasses as well as drinking “basi”, an aged native wine fermented from sugarcane juice.

(Prior to the show, the revelers had their foreheads dabbed with ash in cross mark by the priest and church volunteers. Hence, the Guling2 revelry reminds us that the Ash smear  symbolizes that “man came from dust, thus, man shall return to dust”.–Editor)

Gov. Imee Marcos, clad in Filipiniana attire, was visibly seen with cross-sign ash on her forehead when she spoke before the crowd. She said Guling-Guling 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 one of the special guests from Manila,  NCCA head Josefina Guillen of the national committee on dance arts.

Parish priest Msgr. Manuel Lamprea Jr. revealed that the Guling-Guling tradition is entirely based on the bible, particularly the Book of Exodus which is a strong manifestation of the strong Christian beliefs of the God-fearing 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 Marcos.

Local and foreign tourists marveled at the sight of the glorious Paoay Church. The street pageantry showdown was held at the church’s front yard. During its finale, a fireworks display lighted the skyline showing the amazing beauty of the towering church and  belfry.

(The famous centuries-old St. Augustine Paoay Church gained international fame when it was listed as UNESCO World Heritage site in 1993.–Editor).

“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 the governor.

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  have a church that stands a test of time, extreme weather and cruelty of mankind.”

In recent years, she  initiated several projects that enshrines the world-renowned Paoay Church. Thus, it resulted in the town’s economic growth  with more job opportunities and business activities  as it draws thousands of local and foreign tourists.. –J Michael Mugas, PGIN – CMO