There blow the Paraws!
Iloilo's 39th Paraw Regatta lives up to being the country's Best Sporting Event
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.•