Paraw Regatta Festival or Iloilo Paraw Regatta Festival is an annual festival held in February in the Villa de Arevalo district, Iloilo City, Philippines. Its main event is a sailboat race in Iloilo Strait that features the Paraw, a Visayan double outrigger sail boat. It is the oldest traditional craft event in Asia and the largest sailing event in the Philippines. It is one of Iloilo City’s tourism events along with the Dinagyang Festival, Kasadyahan Festival, Chinese New Year festival and La Candelaria Fiesta. The Iloilo Paraw Regatta began as a half-day sailboat race but is now a multi-day, multi-event festival.
The Paraw race course is a 30 kilometres long, running up the coast of Panay and then down the coast of Guimaras, before returning to the finish at Villa Beach. Participating paraws are categorized based on the waterline length of the boat and further classified according to their sails as “unpainted” or “painted”. The sails are painted with colorful designs.
The first race started in 1973 with the mission to preserve the historic value of the paraws. It is held every 3rd weekend of February at Tatoy’s Manokan, Sto. Nino Sur, Villa, Iloilo City. Today, the event has grown from being a boat race to a festival with various interesting activities.
The Ilonggos take great pride in the celebration of a long and illustrious history, and, as such, so do the sailors and master craftsmen that continue the preservation of the old ways since the creation of this province, and its Hiligaynon birthright.
Dinagyang began after Rev. Fr. Ambrosio Galindez, the first Filipino Rector of the Agustinian Community and Parish Priest of the San Jose Parish introduced the devotion to Santo Niño in November 1967 after observing the Ati-Atihan Festival in the province of Aklan. On 1968, a replica of the original image of the Santo Niño de Cebu was brought to Iloilo by Fr. Sulpicio Enderez of Cebu as a gift to the Parish of San Jose. The faithful, led by members of Confradia del Santo Niño de Cebu, Iloilo Chapter, worked to give the image a fitting reception starting at the Iloilo Airport and parading down the streets of Iloilo.
In the beginning, the observance of the feast was confined to the parish. The Confradia patterned the celebration on the Ati-atihan of Ibajay, Aklan, where natives dance in the streets, their bodies covered with soot and ashes, to simulate the Atis dancing to celebrate the sale of Panay. It was these tribal groups who were the prototype of the present festival.
In 1977, the Marcos government ordered the various regions of the Philippines to come up with festivals or celebrations that could boost tourism and development. The City of Iloilo readily identified the Iloilo Ati-atihan as its project. At the same time the local parish could no longer handle the growing challenges of the festival.
Dinagyang was voted as the best Tourism Event for 2006, 2007 and 2008 by the Association of Tourism Officers in the Philippines. It is the not the only one festivals in the world to get the support of the United Nations for the promotion of the Millennium Development Goals, and cited by the Asian Development Bank as Best Practice on government, private sector & NGO cooperatives.