Iloilo Paraw Regatta | Largest in PH; oldest in Asia

Iloilo Paraw Regatta, the largest sailboat race in the Philippines and the oldest in Asia, will sail “digitally” on May 30, 2021. 

The Coronavirus pandemic prevented the holding of the sailboat festival last year.

This year, however, the sailboat festival will push through, yet virtually, as disclosed by Iloilo City Mayor Jerry P. Treñas in a May 5 public announcement

Similar with other big ticket annual tourism events in Iloilo City, Iloilo Paraw Regatta also suffered two cancellations last year because of the health crisis.

Read: Iloilo Paraw Regatta Festival to virtually sail this year

Iloilo Paraw Regatta
The Iloilo Paraw Regatta is every 3rd weekend of February. (Photo by Iloilo Metropolitan Times)

The regatta holds a permanent date every third week of February in the annual calendar of events.

Understandably, the City Government has to push back the scheduled event set February 23 to March 1 to April 1 to 5, 2020 and then to November. 

The November schedule did not proceed for wind and sea conditions between Iloilo and Guimaras strait appeared unfavorable for the summer event.

The Iloilo Paraw Regatta Foundation (IPRF) and the Iloilo Festivals Foundation Inc. (IFFI) – the foundations formed to manage the regatta event and Iloilo City festivals – proposed to hold it on May 23 to 30 this year.

Eventually, the green light for the Iloilo Paraw means a virtual event for this year.

Iloilo Paraw Regatta is 48 years old

This year will be the 48th Iloilo Paraw Regatta yet it will be its first time to sail out for a virtual audience.

Similarly, it will now share the same platform with its big sister event – the Dinagyang Festival in Iloilo City which is held annually every third weekend of January.

Also read: Iloilo Dinagyang Digital Festival made Ilonggos proud

The sailboat race started in 1973 as organized by both Iloilo and Guimaras local governments.

Sailboat historians consider the Iloilo Paraw Regatta the oldest sailboat race or traditional craft event in Asia and the largest regatta organized in the Philippines. 

The first paraw regatta was organized by the Dept. of Tourism and by the local governments of Iloilo and Oton and by Jordan and Buenavista from the Guimaras side. 

Its organizing was also a “public and private sector collaboration” for it involved individuals like the late Antonio de Oteyza, Philippine Coast Guard, businesses like Negros Navigation and Anhawan Beach Resort in Oton.

In addition, socio-civic organizations like Iloilo Boat Club, Panay Amateur Radio Club, and Iloilo Jaycees or JCI Iloilo.

Tatoy’s is the landmark of Iloilo Paraw Regatta

The Paraw Regatta started as a half-day race which kicks off at Tatoy’s Manokan and Seafood Restaurant in Sto. Niño Sur in Villa de Arevalo.

The race participants are mostly from Iloilo, Guimaras, or neighboring towns and provinces who have a tradition of using sailboats for fishing and other activities.

The race is a 36.5-kilometer sailboat dash from Tatoy’s crossing Iloilo and Guimaras straits and ends up again at Tatoy’s where an awarding ceremony is usually held. The paraw race can be seen from different vantage points, especially with its colorfully painted head and main sail.

Iloilo Paraw Regatta
Paraw Regatta by Tara Yap posted at the Manila Bulletin

Paraw is a locally-made double outrigger

The “paraw” is a Hiligaynon word for sailboat. It has three major components: outrigger, hull and sail.

Specifically, the paraw is a double-outrigger sailboat. 

An outrigger, in particular, serves as a stabilizer especially that the wind-powered paraw moves to a speed of 30-kilometers per hour. 

Several write-ups retraced the origin of paraw in 1212 AD from the sails used by Datu Puti that allowed him to reach Panay Island and which started trading with Marikudo, the Aeta king. The boats used by the group of Datu Puti were described as paraw.

By the 16th century, paraw racing had become a popular event in Iloilo and the tradition was handed down across generations of paraw makers and fisherfolks who had mastered sailing the seas of Iloilo and Guimaras and beyond.

The holding of the Iloilo Paraw Regatta intends to preserve its historical value and to celebrate the time-honored craft of sailboat-making and its makers. 

Iloilo Paraw Regatta is a major tourism event

From its simple inception, the regatta has expanded with numerous side events held in different days ahead of the highlight.

Subsequently, the Association of Tourism Officers of the Philippines (ATOP) recognized it as the “Best Sports Tourism” event in 2009.

The sailboat race has expanded with a slalom, Pinta de Layag (Sail Painting); Pinta de Tawo (Body Painting), Miniature Paraw Race, Samba de Regatta, music and Mardi Gra competition, and even a beauty contest.

Moreover, sports enthusiasts participates in Rowing and Paddling Competition, Beach Volleyball and Football. 

The event is under the management of the Iloilo Paraw Regatta Foundation since 2005 and now with IFFI. 

The activities that shape the Iloilo Paraw gave it a unique character becoming a popular tourism event. It invited attention from other regatta or boat festivals by neighboring Asian countries like in Myanmar, Vietnam, Thailand, or Indonesia.

The Iloilo Paraw Regatta literally converts the long shoreline of Villa Arevalo lined with seafood restaurants into a festive mood. 

Visitors and locals alike, unquestionably, populate the beach to enjoy food, drinks, and watch grand fireworks display. 

Iloilo Paraw Regatta
Iloilo Paraw Regatta (Photo from Iloilo Festivals Foundation)

Leave a Reply