Iloilo Paraw Regatta: The Iloilo Paraw Regatta Festival is an annual festival held in Iloilo City, particularly in the Villa de Arevalo district. It highlights the ‘paraw’, a Visayan double-outrigger sailboat. The event is considered one of the oldest craft events in Asia, and the largest sailing event in the Philippines.
According to the Iloilo City Government website, the Paraw race course is 30 kilometers long, running up the coast of Panay and then down the coast of Guimaras, before returning to Villa Beach. Participating paraws are categorized based on the waterline length of the boat and classified according to whether sails were painted or unpainted.
“The Ilonggos take great pride in the celebration of a long and illustrious history, and, as such, so do the sailors and master craftsmen that continue the preservation of the old ways since the creation of this province, and its Hiligaynon birthright,” excerpts from the Iloilo City Government website.
The first race was in 1973.
Paraw Regatta 2023
The Iloilo Festivals Foundation, Inc. (IFFI), headed by event chairperson John Lex Espinosa Bayombong, confirmed the official schedule of the event for the 50th Paraw Regatta Festival. The event will be held from March 12 to 19, 2023 – a weeklong celebration.
Scheduled events include the Paraw Photo Contest, Miniature Paraw Making Contest, Pinta sa Paraw Mural Making Contest, Paraw Job Fair, Slalom Race, Pinta Layag, Beach Volleyball, Sinamba de Regatta, Pinta Tawo, Lechon Contest, Paraw Race Sailing, and Lighted Paraw Contest.
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 timbers.
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, travelling, wars, commerce or trading, and other activities.
Different types of boats were built according to its purpose. For instance, baroto is for fishing or travelling; 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.
Meanwhile, to celebrate the Ilonggo craftsmanship in boat-building, the Paraw Regatta Festival is celebrated in Iloilo every February. Expert boat-builders show-off their beautiful paraw to the public, and the coast of Arevalo district is turned into a beautiful canvas with colorful paraws lining the beach, with the sea and sun as backdrop.
Words by Merlyn F. Geromiano | NMWV
National Museum of the Philippines (2021)