There blow the Paraws!

Iloilo's 39th Paraw Re­gatta lives up to be­ing the coun­try's Best Sport­ing Event

Cebu Living - - Travel - By Hazel Villa

Kiss­ing the sur­face of the wa­ter for max­i­mum speed, the paraws race with the air cur­rents, their small for­ward sails feed­ing pow­er­ful winds to the big­ger main­sails or “ layag” painted with scenes of Ilonggo sea life. Tens of thou­sands of on­look­ers and fans cheer the paraws or na­tive dou­ble outrig­ger boats as their sin­gle or two-men crew race up Iloilo Strait to the coast of Panay and then down to the coast of the is­land-prov­ince of Guimaras and all the way back to the fin­ish line at Iloilo City’s Villa Beach. This is a Sun­day, the cli­mac­tic day of the week-long 39th Paraw Re­gatta held Feb. 13 to 20, 2011. The day be­fore, the slalom rac­ing on a course also drew in the crowds but not as many as Sun­day’s dis­tance race cov­er­ing 36 kilo­me­ters.

Said to be the old­est tra­di­tional craft event in Asia, and the largest sail­ing event in the Philip­pines, the Paraw Re­gatta race has two cat­e­gories: Cat­e­gory “A” –Paraw hav­ing a water­line length rang­ing from 16 feet and be­low and us­ing strictly in­dige­nous ma­te­ri­als, and Cat­e­gory “B” – Paraw hav­ing a water­line length of 16.1 feet up to 22 feet with the hull strictly made of wood though alu­minum for out­rig­gers is al­lowed. Paraw par­tic­i­pants are also clas­si­fied into painted and un­painted with sep­a­rate prizes.

For the paraw skip­pers, the cash is just ic­ing on the cake of be­ing crowned Paraw Re­gatta cham­pion. The greater prize is to be on the list of sto­ried Re­gatta cham­pi­ons of decades back from since 1972 when the Paraw Re­gatta first kicked off with the paraw sail­boat rac­ing par­tic­i­pants copy­ing the ma­te­rial and de­sign of the orig­i­nal na­tive out­rig­gers that car­ried the first Bornean set­tlers to Panay Is­land dur­ing the 13th cen­tury.

Ilong­gos are a sea­far­ing peo­ple, with the re­gional Depart­ment of Tourism say­ing that more than 50 per­cent of Filipino sea­far­ers who work in dif­fer­ent ships abroad com­ing from Iloilo. “Sea­far­ing has been wo­ven into our psy­che and we should take pride in it,” said DOT 6 Di­rec­tor Ed­win Trompeta, also an Ilonggo.

He also em­pha­sized that younger gen­er­a­tions should try us­ing the paraw be­cause it is en­vi­ron­ment friendly. It does not use gaso­line and is de­pen­dent on nat­u­ral wind.

De­clared 2009 Best Sports Tourism Event by the As­so­ci­a­tion of Tourism Of­fi­cers of the Philip­pines (ATOP), the Paraw draws many par­tic­i­pants for com­pe­ti­tions such as the very pop­u­lar sail paint­ing competition called Pinta de Layag, Minia­ture Paraw Race, Row­ing and Pad­dling Competition, Gov­er­nor’s Cup Fish­ing Competition, and beach vol­ley­ball and foot­ball tour­na­ments.

Pride of the Bornean da­tus and the mod­ern Ilonggo fish­er­man and sailor’s best fried, the paraw has lit­er­ally gone a long way, un­known to many as the pro­to­type of the West­ern tri­maran, an ex­tremely fast sail­boat with shal­low draught sim­i­lar to a cata­ma­ran but hav­ing three sep­a­rate hulls.

When the paraws start rac­ing ev­ery third week of Fe­bru­ary, there is no stop­ping Ilong­gos from wear­ing their pride barefoot or on beach san­dals as they run to Villa Beach cel­e­brat­ing the skill and prow­ess of the highly es­teemed paraw sailors.•

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