April 27, 2021 is the 500th year or quincentennial of the Victory at Mactan and part of the celebration is a competition to find the best design for a new Lapulapu Monument that would rise in Mactan, Lapulapu City, Cebu.
The National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) and the National Quincentennial Committee (NCQ) announced that from the dozens of entries, the design called “The Watch of Mactan” emerged as the winner. Designed by Tarlac-based architect Rex Sicat Jr., the proposed monument “showcases not only Lapulapu’s iconology but the bravery and unity of his warriors.”
“It depicts the pre-battle imposing stance, with Lapulapu preparing for the explorer’s arrival. The hero is a sentry facing the sea, portraying a leader who is a good strategist,” explains Rex. “I feel very honored to be chosen as the grand champion. It is such a memorable competition and celebration, and I’m truly overwhelmed to be part of the legacy of a national hero and be part of history since the grand quincentennial commemoration is a once-in-a-lifetime event.”
Rex graduated in 2015 with a BS Architecture degree from the Tarlac State University (TSU). He is now in the process of building his own start-up architectural firm called Sicat Design Services.
Beating the deadline
“I still can’t believe it!” This is what Rex posted on his Facebook page when recalling his journey to victory.
“On Dec. 9 last year, I was still anxious about my employment status at that time. I prayed for a sign on what I should do. Then I saw an online post shared by the NHCP and NCQ about the 500th anniversary of the Victory at Mactan. They were calling for entries for a design that will serve as a basis for the Lapulapu’s National Monument to be installed at the proposed Lapulapu Memorial Shrine and Museum in Mactan, Lapulapu City,” he says.
Without hesitation, Rex joined the competition. He researched online about Lapulapu’s history and rushed the requirements to meet the deadline. “I was not expecting anything at that time. I just want to join and make myself busy, and to shift my mind away from anxiety.”
On Jan. 18, 2021, it was announced that his entry is among the finalists. “That was really a challenging week before the grand finals,” recalls Rex. “It was stressful because I was also finalizing construction drawings for a residential project. I needed backup, especially for the two-feet maquette. I called for help and luckily I found them: Ace Navarro, Jayme Lucas, and Kadi Santos, who are all graduates of TSU, plus Lymuel Aguilar Bautista from Bulacan State University. I’m honored and grateful for their perseverance and patience.”
And like the Battle of Mactan, Rex considered his win as a “collective effort.”
Designing a hero’s legacy
In explaining the design, Rex considered the importance of Lapulapu—the first hero of our archipelago who fought against foreign subjugation—in our history. “His victory changed the course of our nation. We must honor his bravery and legacy and may all generations, especially the future, be inspired by him.”
Rex shares with us the details on how he arrived at the final design:
1. The setting: The battle happened on the rocky white shores of Mactan—a reminder of the death bed of Ferdinand Magellan and a victory site of Lapulapu and his people.
2. The sentry: According to the writings of Antonio Pigafetta, warriors were assembled and expected Magellan’s arrival. Lapulapu stands like a sentry of his domain, standing on top of a pedestal. The trapezoidal pedestal symbolizes the territory he protects.
3. The mangatang: Warriors are in a mangatang position if they expect someone to challenge their defense. Mactan’s name is believed to have evolved from the Visayan word mangatang, which is a strategy-like attitude of warriors who are waiting. Three warriors on each side of the monument represent the three divisions of more than 1,500 assembled warriors of Lapulapu.
4. The community: In commemoration, a mother and child are inside the balay as natives. Mother kisses her child as if she is assuring their safety, and expresses to her son that they are under Lapulapu’s protection. This is also an image to convey assurance and safety when the public approaches Lapulapu’s shrine. The livestock signifies the self-sustaining community and abundant resources.
5. The art and culture: The ladder or zigzag pattern outlining the balay represents achievements and is similar to tattoos of the Pintados. At the pinnacle is a typical kalaw (hornbill) carved roof beam projection recognized as a spiritual symbol. It is also a guide to the afterlife.
Elements of the monument:
a. HIERARCHY — Lapulapu as the chieftain, the ruling person, and icon. He is on the uppermost. Below are the class of Timawa, Horoan, and Bihag.
b. BALANCE — An equipoise of features as elements are present on both sides, represented by three warriors on each side.
c. PROPORTION AND SCALE — Based on the existing monuments of Rizal and Bonifacio, the height of sculpture is more or less two times the height of an average person. This scale will be used as an expression of monumental grandeur.
“Since this is just a prototype, there will be changes to the overall design. Inputs and suggestions from historians can have a considerable impact, especially on the elements of the warrior sculpture, the weaponry, and attire, as well as the overall image of Lapulapu,” says Rex. “What’s important is that the monument encapsulates his heroism and honors his bravery in the face of an impending invasion.”