Ilocos Norte

Guling-Guling Festival

Guling Guling Festival is a cultural and religious festival in Paoay, Ilocos Norte, Philippines as a prelude to the Lenten season. Its schedule falls on the Tuesday preceding Ash Wednesday, the day that marks the beginning of Lent so it can occur between February 3 and March 9.


Guling-guling originates from guling, a word in the Ilocano language that means “to mark or smear.”

The guling tradition

At the heart of the Guling-Guling Festival is the 16th-century tradition of guling. Originating in colonial times, it was introduced by Spanish friars to help the church establish meaningful and lasting connection with the people, to aid in in their conversion to Catholicism, and a rite that is conducted to prepare for the solemnity of the Lenten season.

Guling is the act of smearing the forehead with the sign of the cross using damp flour obtained from grinding white rice grains into fine powder. It is performed by the head of the pueblo—formerly the chieftain and currently the mayor—as a sign of purification, the absolution of one’s sins, and of cleansing the soul.

The age-old tradition is held the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. It is honored as the last day for the people to engage in merrymaking, an opportunity to celebrate in a last hurrah before the prayerful, ruminative air of Lent takes over.


At the break of the day, womenfolk wear native clothing from handwoven inabel fabric, jewelry, kimona, and pandiling. The men wear kamisa de chino and pants made of inabel. Ilocos Region is known for the production of inabel textile, a traditional fabric that has been noted in written history as early as 1572.


Folks head over to the place where the indigenous delicacy called dudol is prepared. It is also the site of the guling where they are marked by the mayor with the sign of the cross using white rice flour. Missing out on the tradition is thought to bring ill fortune for the remainder of the year.

Dudol is a tasty snack made of rice cake. Its recipe consists of rice flour (bel-laay), coconut milk, anise seed (anise), and sugarcane juice. It is cooked over slow heat in a makeshift oven called anawang. The anawang is a large pot fitted into a shallow hole dug into the earth, and its flame is fed by firewood.

The mixture is continuously stirred until it reaches a smooth and thick consistency. The delicacy is similar to that of toffee that is sweet, soft, nutty, and rich. It is considered uniquely Southeast Asian in origin, and it is stated that it was handed over to the ancestors of the locals by the Malayan and Indian settlers long before the coming of the Spaniards. It is also noted that it is of Islamic origin, indicating the richness of cultural cross-pollination and the vibrant culture and heritage of Paoay.


Festival-goers also drink basi, the traditional Filipino spirited drink considered the oldest Filipino alcoholic beverage. It is a native wine made from sugarcane extract.

A year-old sugarcane stalks are reaped and crushed through dadapilan (see Dapil Festival). The dadapilan is the traditional tool in extracting sugarcane juices. It is composed of two large barrel-shaped logs linked together through gear-like teeth. It is connected to a pole at the other end of which is a farm animal, often a carabao.

As the animal moves in a circle, the pole revolves and the wooden barrels rotate in different directions. In between them, sugarcane stalks are pushed and their juices squeezed out and poured into a container.

The juices are mixed with water and in large pots, poured over into earthen jars, and cooled to room temperature. It is then mixed with ingredients such as samak leaves, tree barks, and fruit that bring about a distinctive aroma and flavor of the wine. It is then left for fermentation for several months before it is served in special occasions.


People dance their way to the 18th-century St. Augustine Church, a National Cultural Treasure, and to the plaza. They participate in public display of celebration and joyfulness and dance with anyone. It is also a chance to forgive the wrongs committed by others and make peace with enemies by resolving conflicts.

Such celebration exhibits elements of native dance choreography and showcases many traditional dances such as curatsa, pandanggo, sabanganay, etc.

Guling-Guling Festival Activities

The Guling-Guling Festival is organized by the local government. It is a week-long, town-wide event that incorporates many contemporary public celebrations seen elsewhere in the country. There is a street dancing, parade, cultural shows, competitions, dudol-making fair, show down competition, cultural shows, Paoay inabel fashion show, etc.

How to reach Paoay, Ilocos Norte

Bus trips from Metro Manila are available going to Philippine North including Ilocos Norte.


Guling-Guling Festival Summary

NameGuling-Guling Festival
DateTuesday before Ash Wednesday
LocationPaoay, Ilocos Norte
OrganizerMunicipal Government of Paoay