The coast of La Villa Rica turns paradise every February. Tourists swamp along the beach of Sto. Nino Sur to see and photograph the beautifully crafted boats topped with colorful sails as they paraded along Iloilo Strait; running out the Coast of Panay Island and then down to the Coast of Guimaras Island before returning at the beach.
However, these sailboats, coined by locals as paraws, are not mere backdrops for selfies and groufies. More than just their pretty looks lie a more beautiful story. Every part of paraw is fortified with rich Ilonggo history.
Paraw was originally designed from the sailboats of the first settlers from Borneo who were in search of a peaceful home in 1212 A.D. Legend would say that these 10 Bornean datus reached The Philippines through paraws as their mode of transportation.
The propagation of Filipino civilization was made possible because of these paraws. And the theory that there might be no ‘you’ and ‘me’ existing today without these sailboats might be correct. So to preserve their historic value, 46 years ago the Ilonggos started to celebrate the what is now Paraw Regatta Festival; the oldest traditional craft event in Asia, and the largest sailing event in the country.
As we Ilonggos continue to take pride of this history and culture, so do our sailors and the boat makers who have inherited the so called “legacy” of seafaring which was handed down to them by the Bornean datus.
In this fast evolving world of ours, where there is an undeniable struggle between history and modernization, the festival is a living proof of the uncut connection between the past and the present. It has been the commitment of the Paraw Regatta Foundation, Inc.(PRFI) to continue making history come alive for a new generation.
This is a challenge for Dr. Ronald Raymond Lacson Sebastian, John B. Lacson Foundation Maritime University CEO and president of PRFI. He said they have been rebranding and re-envisioning the festival for the past two years by putting emphasis on Ilonggo culture and heritage, particularly our roots in seafaring.
As we celebrate the festival once again this year, Sebastian assured the public that many innovations will be showcased this year including the Paraw Furniture-Making Competition, Minature Galleon Showcase, Bangkarera Race, Jetski Amazing Race, Lighted Paraw Competition and the launching of the Festival Mascot, “Burong”.
The popular Sinamba sa Regatta Dancefest will also stage a comeback and will take place at the Esplanade.
“The festival is an avenue to exhibit the talent and craftsmanship of Ilonggos,” he said.
The 42-year-old IPRFI president is now on the double in taking a leap to popularize to the world that Iloilo is the home of finest boat-craftsmen and sailors.
“Epect that I will dedicate myself for the festival. Expect that I will continue to bring innovation for the festival, and expect that I will continue carry on the legacy of Paraw Regatta in a straight direction as provided with its mission and vision,” Sebastian said.
“This is my way of helping my beautiful home, Iloilo City ,” he added.
The efforts of Sebastian and the rest of his team in the foundation are a huge help in making our city a place to be, and in a way, protecting our very own heritage, culture, and history – our identity. And there is no better way to marvel the Paraw Regatta Festival, second biggest festival of Iloilo City, than to see it yourself.
Sail to Iloilo City now! See you at Paraw Regatta!