Iloilo Paraw Regatta Festival is an annual festival held every third weekend of February in the Villa de Arevalo district, Iloilo City, Philippines. The festival is mainly to celebrate the Ilonggo craftsmanship in boat-building. Ilonggo boat-builders show off their beautiful paraw to the public. “Villa Beach”, the long coast of Arevalo is transformed as if it is a beautiful canvas with the sea and sun as a backdrop.
Early Visayans: Master Boat-Builders
In a post by the National Museum of Western Visayas, the early Visayans were known to be master boat-builders even before the coming of the Spaniards. This craftsmanship is attributed to the country’s archipelagic nature, rich marine water, and lush forests that were abundant sources of timber.
The term ‘baroto’ or ‘bangka’ generally refers to every type of boat in Western Visayas. However, this sea vessel is also referred to as paraw, balanra, subiran, and tanggo in other parts of the Visayas. As observed by Spanish chroniclers like Colin, Loarca, and Morga, early Visayans, particularly the inhabitants of Panay, were expert boat-builders. They made boats for fishing, traveling, wars, commerce or trading, and other activities.
Different types of boats were built according to their purpose. For instance, baroto is for fishing or traveling; batil is for transporting passengers as well as agricultural products like rice, corn, etc.; paraw are vessels with decorative edges powered by sails; bilo is used in ferrying goods, and has a small rectangular sail.
Another popular sea vessel is the “balangay” which was described by chronicler Jean Mallat as “very big, very light, and fast-sailing.” The balangay or barangay was made of wooden planks put together by wooden nails, and sailed using sails or paddles.
Another Spanish friar-chronicler Fr. Francisco Alcina noted another Visayan larger type of boat called karakoa. The karakoa resembled the brigantines of Spain and was considered suitable for war.
The Timeline of Paraw Regatta
The Paraw Regatta Festival is inspired by history which dates back from this date.
The first paraw regatta race was organized in 1973 by the Department of Tourism, the City of Iloilo, municipalities of Oton, Jordan, and Buenavista, the Philippine Coast Guard, Negros Navigation, the late Antonio de Oteyza, Iloilo Boat Club, Panay Amateur Radio Club, the Iloilo Jaycees (JCI), Anhawan Beach Resort, and others.
The Iloilo Paraw Regatta Foundation, Inc. (IPRFI) was conceptualized. The half-day sailboat race event has become bigger and turned into a multi-event festival. There are already other contests and activities like Samba De Regatta Music & Mardi Gras Competition (main festival); Rowing & Paddling Competitions (Iloilo River); Pinta Tawo (body painting); Pinta de Layag (sail painting design); Miniature Paraw Race and Making Contest and Iloilo Paraw Slalom.
There are also other activities through the years like the Miss Paraw Regatta pageant, Reggae-ta – a beach shindig, and Luces by the Sea – grand fireworks display.
Paraw Regatta is dubbed ‘The Oldest Traditional Craft Event in Asia’ and ‘The Largest Sailing Event in the Philippines”, and received another recognition from the Association of Tourism Officers of the Philippines (ATOP) as the “Best Sports Tourism of 2009”.
Timeline credits here.
The Perspective of Paraw
The perspective of Paraw was first posted on iloiloparawregatta.com website.
The principal attraction of Iloilo Paraw Regatta is the double outrigger boats called “paraw”. This native sailboat has been in existence for no one knows how long. But the fact remains that the people of the Iloilo Strait are still to this day using the paraw as a means of transportation as well a source of livelihood. With a fresh breeze and an Ilonggo at the helm, the paraw is a strikingly fast boat, making 20 to 30 kph through the waves. Indeed, the paraw was the inspiring prototype from which the Westerners developed what they call the trimaran, the fastest sailboat now on the planet.
Built up from a carved keelson with plywood planking for the sides, the hull is pointed at both the front and back ends, with the rudder hung off the side astern. The key feature of the hull is its slim shape, with a length-to-beam ratio of 20 to 1. Such proportions create a knife-like effect to cut through the water, freeing the boat from displacement constraints. Also, sideways drift, or leeway, is largely eliminated. For racing purposes, the boats are divided into classes based on waterline length.
Originally made from woven matting, sails nowadays are stitched up from synthetic awning materials. The small forward sail, or blade jib, feeds the wind into the powerful, low-aspect driving mainsail, the boom of which extends several feet beyond the boat’s hull. In ideal conditions, the paraw can sail close to the speed of the wind. For racing, no limits are imposed on the size of the sails.
The geophysical shape of the Iloilo Strait provides year-round breezes. The working sailboat still predominates. The objective of the Regatta is to celebrate the skills of the paraw sailors and bring a fiesta spirit into their lives. And with the colorfully painted sails, this spirit is brought into the lives of participants and tourists as well.