Monday, February 21, 2011

Iloilo boat-sailing Festival Draws Acclaim

Filed Under: Sailing, Festive Events (including Carnivals)

ILOILO CITY, Philippines – Iloilo’s boat-sailing festival, the Paraw Regatta, has drawn acclaim beyond Philippine shores affirming its distinction as the oldest and one of the most colorful sailing events in Asia.

Tens of thousands of residents and tourists lined up along the shores of Iloilo City and Guimaras on Sunday to watch the annual boat-sailing competition.

Many waited since early morning to catch a glimpse of the colorful paraws before they took off from the coastline of Villa Arevalo District in the city for the 36.5-kilometer race along the Iloilo Strait between the city and Guimaras Island. The race started at about 10:30 a.m.

“The Paraw Regatta has truly evolved through the years from a simple boat race into a grand festival,” said Tourism Regional Director Edwin Trompeta.

The paraws are small and slim double outrigger boats made of indigenous materials traditionally used by Ilonggos for transportation and fishing.

The sails were originally made from woven matting but those using synthetic usually in striking colors are more commonly used today. The boats are designed to sail at fast at speeds reaching 20 to 30 kilometers per hour.

The native boats are faithful reproductions of sailboats that carried the Bornean datus and their followers who settled on Panay Island in the early 13th century.

The annual festival, which was first organized in 1973, drew 69 participants.

Manuel Villa Jr. president of the Iloilo Paraw Regatta Foundation Inc. (IPRFI) said the festival started from a one-event boating race into this year’s festival with 25 events. These include water and beach sports, beach mardi gras (festivity), body-painting and sail-painting contests.

Organized by the Iloilo city and provincial governments with the Department of Tourism, the Paraw Regatta was awarded the country’s Best Sports Tourism Event in 2009 by the Association of Tourism Officers of the Philippines.

But aside from being a foremost sports event, the festival is also a showcase of the Ilonggo’s rich history of boat-making and seafaring, said Villa.

Trompeta said Iloilo’s paraws are uniquely designed to adopt the big waves and strong current of the Iloilo Strait.

He said the paraws were integral to Ilonggo history and culture because the boats continue to be the cheapest means of transportation between islands and for fishing.

During World War II, the paraws were used by Filipino guerrillas to harass and raid Japanese detachments especially those along the coastline.

“We have to preserve the unique skills of the paraw-makers because it is difficult to develop mastery in designing boats using indigenous materials that are suitable to the water conditions here,” Trompeta said.

This year’s festival has drawn international support with the partnership of the Norwegian Ship Owners Association which donated P500,000 to the festival.

Stein Eriksen, managing director of the Norwegian Training Center-Manila, said the festival showcases the tradition and skill of seafarers of Iloilo, which are considered among the best globally.

Trompeta said the festival has continued to grow for nearly 40 years because it continued to introduce innovations.

“More importantly, it has grown more famous because more than its grandeur, the festival is part of Ilonggo history and legacy,” he added.



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