The Iloilo Paraw Regatta Festival: years of sailing culture

Iloilo Paraw Regatta Festival
  • Paraw Regatta Festival is dubbed as Asia’s oldest sailing event held every month of February.

  • Iloilo is the home to one of the best seafarers in the world.

  • Paraw is not just a festival but also a way of life of the Ilonggos.

Iloilo Paraw Regatta Festival is an annual festival every third weekend of February in Villa de Arevalo district. The main even is the sailboat race of the Paraw along Iloilo Strait. Also, this is the oldest and traditional craft event not just in the country but in whole of Asia. It started as half-day sailboat race event but through the years, it gave birth to other side events and the celebration is expanded to spread over a week.

Paraw Regatta
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Read also: Iloilo Dinagyang Festival

Iloilo Paraw Regatta Festival History

The word “paraw” or “parao” means to outrigger boats propelled by sails (layag). It is a type of bangka, with or without outriggers in the Philippines. Their leader was Datu Puti and they reached Panay in 1212 AD. They traded with local Aeta king Marikudo. The boats that these chieftains used is like the paraw.

In the 16th century, sailboat racing has become an entertainment for lloilo.

The first-ever race started in the year 1973. Its main purpose is to preserve the historical value of paraws. It is held every third weekend of February. Another objective of the festivity is to celebrate the skills of the paraw sailors. To share the spirit and culture to the participants, guest and tourists.

Before, in 1993, the Iloilo Paraw Regatta was called Iloilo-Guimaras Paraw Regatta after the Guimaras became a full-fledged province.

Iloilo Banca
Uploaded by: Nereo Lujan, Old Iloilo | Iloilo Banca in 1920-1930

Iloilo Paraw Regatta Festival Race and Categories

The Paraw racecourse is 36.5 kilometers long, running up the coast of Panay and then down the coast of Guimaras, before returning to the finish at Villa Beach. Thanks to the geophysical shape of the Iloilo Strait, the breezes are all year-round.
Participating paraws are categorized based on the waterline length of the boat and further classified according to their sails as “unpainted” or “painted”. They can paint the sails with colorful designs.

The racing breaks down into two classes. Paraws of length 16 feet and below of strictly traditional construction and those 16 feet 1 inch through to 22 feet with a wider range of materials allowed.

The Different Parts of Paraw

Paraw are the double outrigger boats. It is a native sailboat has been in existence for generations. People of the Iloilo Strait are still to this day using the paraw as a means of transportation and livelihood. Paraw is a fast boat. It can make 20 to 30 kph through the waves. It is indeed and inspiring prototype for Westerners to develop what they call the trimaran – the fastest sailboats now.

The Outriggers

The outriggers are out of bamboo to stabilize the Paraw. They are floating, not totally submerged in the water but just partly kissing the waters to ensure maximum speed. These also prevents the paraw from flipping over. Another purpose is to refine the impact of the waves. Paraw crew can also make the outriggers the platform where they can stand and use their weight to stabilize the paraw against the sloping force of the wind in the sails.

The Hull

The hull is built from keelson with plywood. This part is located at both front and back ends. The hull’s purpose is to free the boat from displacement constraints. The ratio to a length to beam is 20 is to 1.

The Sails

The sails are made with synthetic awning materials. In the olden ways, it was made from woven matting. The sail feeds the wind so it can sail close to the speed of the wind on ideal breeze conditions.

Iloilo Paraw Regatta Festival Side Events

Iloilo Paraw Regatta Festival has blossomed from a humble half-day event into a week-long celebration. It has paved its way and gave birth to side event. However, these side events are not permanent. Organizers may remove or add some in the celebration.

Iloilo Paraw Slalom

Paraw Regatta Slalom is an added attraction to the traditional Iloilo Paraw Regatta. In addition, it is schedule one day before the scheduled Iloilo Paraw Regatta. Obviously, the objective of the Paraw Slalom is to enhance the seamanship of the crew in handling and maneuvering the Paraw under all wind and wave conditions in a preset racecourse.

Miss Iloilo Paraw Regatta

Miss Iloilo Paraw Regatta is a beauty pageant. Young ladies will vie for the title and crown.

Pinta de Layag Competition

Pinta de Layag Competition is to showcase the potentials of Ilonggos on creative designing. Artist groups have their own paraw assignments. They can paint the one side of the main sail.

Pinta Tawo Competition

Pinta Tawo Competition is a body painting contest to celebrate the human skin as a perfect venue to showcase art. Also, this is to showcase the potentials of Ilonggos on creative design.

Miniature Paraw Race

Miniature Paraw Race is the race contests of the mini paraws. There are three categories: (a) 0-36 inches; (b) 36-48 inches; (c) 48-60 inches; and (d) above 60 inches. Only one paraw and its captain can race for the categories mentioned.

Rowing and Paddling Competition

Rowing and Paddling Competition has three categories. Category A is exclusive for JBLFMU sophomore midshipmen. Category B is Open to all Tertiary students. And Category C is open to all Barangay Folks.

Racing course for Categories A and B is a straight course of 50-meter distance. This is at the back of Iloilo Provincial Capitol; Drilon Bridge to Lapuz Bridge. And for Category C it is a long-distance course – Lapuz Bridge to Forbes bridge and going back to Lapuz Bridge.

Samba de Regatta

Samba de Regatta is a competition to express music and dance. It started as beach backdrop and since then, it has developed into another tourism attraction in the city. Participants are showcasing their musicality and choreography to entertain spectators.

Samba de Regatta
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Beach Football Tournament

Beach Football Tournament is open to all school, club and barangays. There should be maximum of 10 members per team. The game time is a continuous 10 minutes.

Beach Volleyball Tournament

Beach Volleyball Tournament must have maximum of two female players. This competition will use a two on two beach volleyball format.
Every year, thousands of people come to the beaches of Iloilo City and Guimaras to witness the Paraw Regatta Festival.

The festival is a reminder of the history of Iloilo people about their roots. That the history traces back to being dark-skinned people who established settlements in the island long time ago.

Iloilo Paraw Regatta Festival is also a reminder about the protection and preservation of the Visayan coral-reefs and marine life. The festival is an over-all celebration of the Ilonggos’ long and illustrious history. Most importantly, it is to showcase that the Ilonggos are great sailors and master craftsmen even in the olden times. Through such festivities, the tradition lives on.

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