*By Kate Aubrey G. Hojilla*


When I was a whole lot younger, one of my early childhood fantasies was to become one of the beautiful young ladies dressed in Filipiniana costume parading along the streets of my hometown, Pavia. But what amazed me most was that, instead of the usual floats of muses, they were riding in beautifully-decorated carrozas that were pulled by carabaos.

            My fantasy did come true. But there was more to it than what I’ve always imagined, I realized. Behind those graceful waving and the charming smiles of the muses and those pleasing line-up of carrozas pulled by carabaos lies a story of a humble community which started with limited resources but, equipped with artistic inclinations, came up with a splendid event. This event was eventually called The Carabao-Carroza Festival, now one of the biggest tourist attractions in the province of Iloilo.

            The annual Carabao-Carroza Festival of Pavia, Iloilo is a brilliant collaboration of Pavia’s three main attractions namely the Carabao-Carroza Parade, the Carabao-Carroza Race, and the Search for the Festival Queen. These attractions are all celebrated on May 3 during the bisperas or the day before the annual town fiesta, which is May 4. The festival showcases the ingenuity and artistic inclinations of Pavianhons.

            For the benefit of those who are not aware, a carabao is simply a domesticated water buffalo. This humble animal is popularly known all throughout the Philippines. Being the country’s national animal, its industrious nature has been very significant in aiding farmers in their not-so-easy job of cultivating and harvesting crops. On the other hand, a carroza, like the kalesa, is a carriage or a cart. Only that a carroza is pulled by a carabao while a kalesa is pulled by a horse and a carroza is used to carry the produce of the farmers while a kalesa is used for transportation of the people. What’s unique in our festival is that the carrozas serve as the floats for the muses.

            What we see every time we witness an event is the result of long, grueling preparations. What we do not know are the stories behind its success. Now, what stories am I talking about? These are what I’ve experienced first-hand when I became a part of the festival by joining the Search for the Festival Queen.

            The Carabao-Carroza Parade, for as long as I can remember, has never failed to meet the expectations of the crowd by showcasing the artistry of Pavianhons in coming up with the designs of the carrozas that vie for the title of the Most Well-decorated Carroza. The designs, believe it or not, are collections of indigenous materials that can only be found in any of the eighteen barangays that join the competition. Like for example, Brgy. Jibao-an is famous for its pottery works and is currently known as the pottery-making capital of Western Visayas. And since it’s famous for making fine pottery, you can very well expect a gigantic pot carried by the carroza. Sometimes, the muse is amusingly inside the pot.

The themes of the carrozas, which serve as floats, are deliberately planned so as to give you an idea about the contribution of a barangay in making Pavia the Regional Agro-Industrial Center (RAIC) of Western Visayas.

What add to the beauty of the parade are the costumes of the muses. Like every other year since I can remember, the Filipiniana costumes worn by the muses are designed by  Mr. Cristituto Rogador, known as Sir Cris to many. Being a part of the pageant, it was completely different when I was already the one waiting to have my vital stats measured for the Filipiniana costume. Of course, it wasn’t so easy. There were actually a couple of adjustments before wearing the costume. But it was worth it at the end, and I realized that the smiles and the waves that muses give to the people were actually genuine. Maybe that was the reason why I fantasized being one of them, so that I can also share real smiles to all of my kasimanwa.

Moving on to the next event, the Carabao-Carroza Race has always been fun in a unique way. I mean, it’s not always that you can see carabaos racing. But they can be really fast, I tell you.  Of course, it requires an expert rider in urging the carabao pulling the carroza (minus the muse of course) to run as fast as it can. 

What adds to the fun of this race is the Filipinos’ customary tradition of betting called pusta or taya.  Any race won’t be complete without this tradition. Even we, the muses, actually give our bets for our own carabaos. I lost five hundred pesos, but the anticipation and excitement in almost feeling the urge to race the carabao myself was worth it.

On the eve of May 3, The Search for the Festival Queen marks the end of the Festival. The search is a well-anticipated pageant and also a one-way ticket to Miss Western Visayas competing with other festival queens like Miss Dinagyang. I was second runner-up and Best in Interview. But what actually made it worth-remembering and worth-joining were the challenging rehearsals for our production numbers under Sir Cris, the make-up sessions with the artists & their magic wands(my make-up artist was Joel Delim), the fitting of gorgeous gowns made by the province’s sought-after designers, (my evening gown was by Lai Suel0),  the healthy diets that should be maintained, the constant reminder of the organizers to uphold the pageant and the festival’s ideals, and of course, the friendship that I have started with my fellow muses.

Yes, my fantasy did come true.  The pageant’s over and it’s now a piece of memory that I’ll keep for the rest of my life.  What remains after the festival are the memories of friendship and camaraderie not only with my fellow candidates but also with the organizers of the festival and the people of the town where I lived for more than half of my life already.

I’ve proven that fantasies do come true and I feel so fortunate that I have enjoyed mine because I’ve always known in my heart, that from the very eve when the festival was over, I’ve grown into a better individual, better in finding and keeping new friends, better in respecting my town’s customs and traditions, and better in appreciating the art of my very own kasimanwas, the Pavianhons.


pageant-pictorial.jpgpageant-pictorial.jpgpageant-pictorial.jpgpageant-pictorial.jpgpageant-pictorial.jpgKate was part of the Carabao-Carroza Festival last May 2007.  Next month, its the Carabao-Carroza Festival once again and although Kate will no longer ride on a carroza, she will most likely be busy entertaining friends coming over for the fiesta.  She is an incoming sophomore Communications & Media Studies major at UPVisayas.


  By Rizelle F. Navarro*


As I was looking across the endless horizon, several shadows slowly appeared and became clearer into my vision as it approached the shoreline. Those were small boats carrying determined brave men who aim to win the race. Their success depends on how fast they paddle and the mobility of their boats. The first racer to touch the flag at the finish area would be declared as winner. This is how the baroto race is done.

Barangay Nipa is one of the 25 barangays in Concepcion, Iloilo which practice the tradition of palumba or baroto race or small boat racing. The baroto race is a competition of speed among small boats usually operated by sail, paddle or motor engine.

Concepcion is small coastal town located on the northern part of Iloilo. Aside from the mainland barangay, the town has under its wing more than 10 island barangays. Fishing is the main livelihood of the residents. This mainland barangay produces good quality baroto for palumba. Builders of these baroto are usually fisherman themselves. They make boats when there is an order. They are only paid for their labor because the materials are provided by the customer. One can also acquire a boat for the race by purchasing other fishermen’s boat.


Normally, fishermen usually buy or make boats of their own. The carpenters or panday makes different kinds of boats depending on its purpose. It is either for fishing, transportation of goods, ferrying of passengers or for sports competition.

According to the book authored by Prof. Henry Funtecha, “The Fishing and boat building Industries in Western Visayas: History and it’s Significance,” smaller kind of boats such as baroto or bangka are usually used for fishing or for the palumba. Baroto or bangka is the general term nearly referring to every type of West Visayan boat. Baroto is made up of wood from different type of trees found in the locality. It has a katig or a wooden framework attached to each side of the boat for support. It is usually operated by motor engine, sail or bugsay (paddle).

The tradition of palumba in Barangay Nipa started in the 1940’s with the use of bugsay (paddle) or layag (sail). According to 78 year-old Vivencio Navarro Sr. (he’s actually my lolo ), a former Bgy. Captain of Nipa, a fisherman and a panday himself, fishermen on their way home would compete with each other. They would paddle as fast as they could in order to arrive first at the coastline and be declared as winner. That motivated those who were left behind to improve their baroto for better chances the next time. Back in the 40s, baroto race was merely for leisure, a past time activity. Tuba or bino was their bet. The loser buys the tuba and they would altogether enjoy in simple celebration. `As time went by, fishermen in Nipa tend to pangayaw (to wander); the tradition of going to other sitios or barangay to challenge other fast paddlers there to a palumba. The information of having rivals in other places triggered this event.

Aside from bugsay (oars), the fishermen also used layag (sails). This was during windy season. Layag were made of katsa (cheese cloth) or bandahan, large and thick sacks. During 1945-1948, banig was use as alternative because katsa became expensive due to the war. Banig was locally made by women in Nipa.

Thirty years of informal palumba, the baroto race was turned into a formal competition in 1970. This was usually done during fiestas, promotions and festivals. Fishermen and boat racers from different barangays joined to show their skill and pride in their trusted baroto and hoping to gain prizes too. The 70s was also the time when a new palumba category was devised —barotos with motor engines.

Wilfredo Bonito is a skilled boat builder and a participant in the palumba. He focuses on making his baroto faster and competitive. According to him, baroto should be light and easy to maneuver. The materials to use are very important such as the type of wood and propeller to be used. Most importantly, one should be optimistic in boat racing, he advised.

The palumba continues to be held during fiestas and other special occasions. I really enjoy watching it and hearing the loud voices around me cheering for their bets. Families and friends are gathered together to experience the excitement and fun. Fiestas would never be complete without the baroto race for it is one of the highlights. Why?

Because the baroto is the symbol of the hardworking Concepcionanon whose life is so closely tied to the sea.


*RIZELLE F. NAVARRO.  “I love to play chess and basketball.  For your comments about my article please email at”