Thursday, February 10, 2011

Iloilo Paraw Regatta: A Tribute to Filipino Sailing Ambassadors

The Philippines has emerged as the foremost producer of skilled, experienced and well-trained seafarers in the international shipping arena many, many years ago. At the international maritime industry, everyone knows that Filipino seafarers possess the best traits and attitude and has serviced as the country’s “sailing ambassadors” in the world’s oceans and seas accounting for almost 30% of the global seaborne manpower. This makes them a vital component of the Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) economy.

Our country has a proud and great seafaring history stretching to over thousands of years ago. It had long been a seafaring nation. Early Filipino inhabitants came from across the seas in frail boats. For centuries, seafaring natives living along the coastal areas of the country have sailed across the unexplored waters of the surrounding seas. The Filipino seafarers engaged in a very active trade and made regular journeys to neighboring countries in Southeast Asia and the Far East.

The significance of the seafaring culture in the Philippines was demonstrated by the wealth of naval-related vocabularies found in the 17th century Spanish dictionaries of Philippine languages.

When the Spaniards arrived in the Philippines, they found the early ships of the Filipinos to be of excellent quality. This is mainly due to the abundance of thick forests in the area that is teeming with first class hardwoods matched with the artistry and skill of the natives, specifically of the people from the Visayas that were known for their native sailing techniques. From the book “Swish of the Kris” by Victor Hurley, an account from Spanish friar Padre Crevas mentioned that the Southern Filipino ships were faster and swifter than the European ships of that period and they enjoyed the supremacy of the seas.

The paraw is attributed to the Visayan region. It is made up of a bangka (canoe without outriggers); a katig (outriggers); and a layag (sail). It was said that when the Borneans sailed to the country and landed at the mouth of the Siwaragan River in historic San Joaquin in 1212 AD., they used big sailboats that resembled like paraws. It was used for cargo, raiding purposes and significant in spreading settlements of people around the Philippines and neighboring regions in the Malay Archipelago.

Through centuries, paraws became a fundamental part of the maritime life of the Ilonggos. These paraws are used for livelihood in most coastal communities and transportation to nearby destinations in the island of Panay.

As a fitting tribute of its historic significance, an annual boat race of colorful paraws in the straits between Iloilo City and the island of Guimaras is organized. The Iloilo Paraw Regatta Festival, known to be the oldest sailing event in Southeast Asia and the largest sailing event in the country.

The Iloilo Paraw Regatta Festival on the beachfront of Villa, Iloilo City is a metro favorite for the entire family. The event is much more than racing, appealing to so many with a festival atmosphere of food, live entertainment, art show, children's activities and more.

The Iloilo Paraw Regatta Festival will run from the 13th till the 20th of February 2011. The much-anticipated boat race is scheduled on February 20 with the Registration of participants and Measurement of paraws at the Villa Beach shoreline at 6 a.m.; judging of the Pinta Layag competition is at 6 a.m., Villa Beach shoreline; 1st Iloilo Paraw Regatta Airsoft competition finals at Punta Villa Resort, 7 a.m.; Pintawo, a body painting competition is at 7 a.m., Breakthrough Restaurant; Opening Program and declaration of the Race is at 7 a.m. at the main festival stage in Tatoy’s Manokan; Sinamba sa Paraw Regatta Mardi-Gras finals is at 8 a.m. the main festival stage in Tatoy’s Manokan; Mini-Paraw Beach Race at 8 a.m., Tatoy’s beach shoreline; National Invitational Women’s Beach Volleyball, 8 a.m. at the Villa Regatta beach front; Rapid Chess Tournament at 8 a.m. in Breakthrough Restaurant; Iloilo Beach Ultimate Finals at 10 a.m. in Villa Regatta beach front; arrival of the Deep-Sea Fishing competition, 12 noon at the main festival stage in Tatoy’s Manokan; Awarding ceremony at the main stage in Tatoy’s Manokan at 3 p.m. and, GMA Network Beach Party with live band and Manila artists from 5 p.m. till midnight at the main stage of Tatoy’s Manokan.

This event for the last 39 years is a celebration that entertains and educates everyone, and encourages a greater understanding of the impact our seafarers play in our country’s history. It is through this unmatched and globally-recognized celebration that our country be worthy of the recognition as the leading producer of seafaring ambassadors.

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