Thank you to Esquire Philippines and Ms. Tanya Lara for this wonderful article. You can also read the original article here.
This New Miniature Shop in Boracay Pays Tribute to an Island Icon: The Paraw We All Love
Boracay’s most recognizable icon is finally getting the recognition it deserves. The island’s newest shop, Paraw World, is opening on Dec. 3 at Station 2. The shop showcases the wind-powered paraw in gorgeous handcrafted miniatures.
The wooden miniatures are made by craftsmen in Malay and painted by Paraw World’s studio artists in Boracay. The designs are very detailed, colorful and charming—and some of them will be limited editions with just one or two boats to be produced.
It takes hours for the craftsmen to shape wood into a miniature boat as many parts—like the double masts and outriggers— are very thin, and it takes an artist an entire day to paint the design.
Paraw World co-owner Elena Tosco-Brugger—who grew up in Tangalan, Aklan until she was 12 years old and later moved to Kalibo and—was at her villa watching paraws on the water with her husband and some friends one night when the question of why there weren’t quality souvenirs on the island propped up. As the sun slipped into an inky black night, they got to talking about the artistic movement that’s been gaining support in the past year—a gallery opening here, a resort training young artists there, and art activities being offered to tourists and kids.
In an aha! moment (the first of many), the idea of combining art, business and conservation was born. In the past years paraw crews have really suffered financially due to the island closure in 2018 and the pandemic lockdowns. Elena thought if they were to open a store, it should not only be to put the spotlight on the paraw, but more importantly to help the people that make their living from it, and to ensure that the tradition of building lifesized paraws by hand continues.
Paraw World is anchored on a unique and noble business model they call ABC (Art, Business, Conservation). The store supports craftsmen and artists by giving them sustainable livelihood from creating the artistic miniatures, and five percent of its net profit goes toward paraw conservation projects led by local organizations. Elena’s ultimate dream is to open a Paraw Museum in Malay to bring in tourists and educate them about the culture of paraw and Aklan.
“I fell in love with paraws from the first moment I saw them, mainly due to the simplicity and efficiency of its design and the way local materials are used to create such an elegant, wind-powered sailboat,” Elena says. “I started to research the history of our traditional sailing and discovered many interesting facts not only about the actual paraws and other sailboats used, but more so about the proud sailing heritage and sailing community in the country. It’s crazy to think that all these years, Boracay’s best known icon hasn’t been made into a quality souvenir.”
Elena says it took a long time to get where we wanted the miniatures to be. They scoured Aklan, Cebu and Iloilo for craftsmen for weeks. Sometimes they got the hull right but not the outriggers, sometimes it wasn’t polished enough, but they finally identified the craftsmen that did great work with some upskilling.
The workers use handheld tools—a bolo, sander, mallet, etc.—to make these boats. There is no “puwede na yan” when it comes to the miniatures. Every piece of wood is shaped into submission, every slant of bamboo is carved, and the scale of the two sails has to be perfect. After the models are made in Malay, they are transported to Boracay for the studio artists to paint. Paraw World’s miniatures are stunning little paraws that you can display to liven up any space and remind you of happy times in Boracay, sailing against a quickly setting sun that turns the horizon into colors that pass in your dreams.
Three young artists based in Boracay started off painting Paraw World’s miniature collection inspired by the world under the sea, gardens, mosaics and the sea and life around them. Each miniature is stamped with a unique number and comes with a certificate. You can even personalize it with your picture on the sail with the Boracay Blue model, the only boat with fabric sails (the seven other current models have plywood sails). Paraw World also offers an Art Box, which is a complete kit for you to paint your own miniature. The box comes with a small-sized miniature paraw, six acrylic paints, brushes, and a palette.
So, yes, finally there is a Boracay souvenir worth taking home. Because there is just something so romantic about a paraw not having an engine to direct its speed. Just the wind and the whim of the gods of the sea.
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Paraw World is currently running a photo contest until Jan. 15 for people to share their love for paraws and Boracay. Prizes for three winners are a smartphone, paraw cruise and a Boracay Blue miniature. The store is located at Station 2, Main Road, Boracay. Follow Paraw World on IG, Tiktok and FB @parawworld. Visit www.parawworld.com.