‘GOLDEN REBIRTH’: Paraw Regatta gears up for physical comeback this year

By Joseph B.A. Marzan

The Iloilo Festivals Foundation, Inc. (IFFI) on Monday confirmed that the 50th Paraw Regatta will return to the shores of Iloilo City’s Villa Beach in Arevalo district for the first time in four years, from March 12 to 19, 2023.

The IFFI held a press conference on Wednesday to discuss the festival’s impending return.

The festival will feature a whole slew of activities including Paraw Photo Contest, Miniature Paraw Making Contest, Pinta sa Paraw Mural Making Contest, Paraw Job Fair, Slalom Race, Pinta Layag, Beach Volleyball, Sinamba de Regatta, Pinta Tawo, lechon Contest, Paraw Race Sailing, and Lighted Paraw Contest.

Miss Paraw Regatta, a fixture of previous editions of the festival, will not be held this year, but organizers are mulling “borrowing” one of the winners of the Miss Iloilo 2023 pageant, which was held during the Dinagyang Festival in January.

The main event, which will take place on March 19, will showcase the race of wind-driven boats that stretches around 30 kilometers from Villa Beach to Guimaras Island, and vice-versa.

John Lex Espinosa Bayombong, the festival’s chairperson, said that almost all the events will be held at Villa Beach, while some will be staged in malls and in other major public places.

Dr. Robert Somosa, race director for the festival’s sailing events, said the contests will follow the same rules as in previous editions.

“The people of Iloilo [and its] adjacent provinces, as well as the whole country, can witness once more this spectacular sailing event in Iloilo’s strait,” Somosa said.

Registration will start on February 13 and will be handled on a first-come-first-serve basis.

Festival co-chairperson Fulbert Woo said the festival’s physical return was a wish granted for Ilonggos who wanted to personally witness the colorful events.

“It’s the hope [of] every Ilonggo for [the Paraw Regatta Festival] to come back [in its physical form]. We are hoping that we will be able to continue that this March 19. Hopefully Ilonggos, especially on our coast, could witness our Paraw Regatta race and our side events,” said Woo.

The Paraw Regatta Festival was last celebrated in 2019, with the 2020 edition cancelled after the emergence of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in February of that year. It was presented digitally in 2021 and 2022.

This would also be the first time that IFFI will manage the annual sailboat event.

Touted as Asia’s largest and oldest sailing event, the Paraw Regatta Festival started in 1973, as a way to preserve the historical value of the “paraw” sailboats, which were the main mode of sea transportation during precolonial trade.

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