West Philippine Sea

Retired seaman builds mini BRP Sierra Madre models, symbol of West PH Sea struggles

Frank Cimatu

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Retired seaman builds mini BRP Sierra Madre models, symbol of West PH Sea struggles

CRAFT. Aldwin Pagaoa with a scale model BRP Sierra Madre in his workshop in Candon City, Ilocos Sur.

Mauricio VIcta/Rappler

The rusting second-world war ship defending against Chinese expansion receives its much-needed recognition from a retired seaman

Aldwin Pagaoa retired as a seaman 10 years ago and started in his hometown of Candon City, Ilocos Sur, a cottage industry to build scale models of ships mainly for seafarers like him. 

But recently, he has been busy building scale models of a grounded Filipino ship that has become a symbol of the country’s rights over the West Philippine Sea.

Pagaoa’s workshop, known as the AGP Sailor’s Souvenir, has been building replicas of the BRP Sierra Madre upon orders of Candon City Mayor Eric Singson to give away as tokens. One was recently given to Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Undersecretary Jesus Domingo, who recently inaugurated the new provincial satellite branch of DFA at the Candon City Arena.

Pagaoa said that assembling the BRP Sierra Madre has been arduous for the former seaman. He thought of depicting it in a decrepit state like it is now but decided to show it in its former glory, back when the country acquired the former World War II tank landing ship in 1976 and named it BRP Dumagat before quickly renaming it BRP Sierra Madre.

Pagaoa painted its hull, though, in rust and grime.

Furniture, Table, Adult
SYMBOLIC. A replica of the BRP Sierra Madre on display in Candon City, Ilocos Sur. Photo by Mauricio Victa/Rappler.

Mayor Singson is said to hand over a bigger replica of BRP Sierra Madre to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. as a gift.

“This symbolic gift signifies our deep appreciation for your unwavering commitment to upholding our sovereignty and resilience against external threats, as you have emphatically demonstrated in your strongly-worded messages, directives, and government actions,” wrote Mayor Singson in his letter to President Marcos. (WATCH: Orly Mercado on how BRP Sierra Madre ended up in Ayungin Shoal)

Pagaoa assembled the BRP Sierra Madre using 3D printing, and his eight workers did most of the tinkering. Pagaoa did the painting and had the whole ship mounted and sealed in a glass case. 

AGP Sailor’s Souvenirs makes mostly cargo ships and container ships, which most of the Filipino seafarers worked on.

Most of his orders are through word-of-mouth; the seafarers would email him about the ship that they wanted built, and Pagaoa would work on the schedule when the customer had already arrived in the Philippines.

Wood, Person, Transportation
CRAFTSMANSHIP. Aldwin Pagaoa’s workshop inCandon City, Ilocos Sur. Photo by Mauricio Victa/Rappler.

The biggest replica he made is a two-meter floating production storage and offloading unit, which he sold for P80,000 to a Filipino seafarer working in offshore oil production.

Pagaoa is also working on a replica of one of the world’s biggest luxury cruise ships, which he said is very demanding because of the details in the upper section.

His workshop usually assembles eight seacrafts a week.

Pagaoa said his passion started when he was a seafarer on a cargo ship. His friend from Iloilo introduced him to it, and he started practicing while still on the cargo ship.

He said at that time most of the ship was made of cardboard and later of Sintra board.

When he was getting numerous orders from Filipino colleagues, he quit his job and started his mini-factory.

In the past four years, the Department of Science and Technology has loaned two 3-D printers. A year ago, the Candon LGU also loaned him two bigger 3-D printers.

Right now, AGP Sailor’s Souvenirs is the biggest maker of scale models of commercial ships in the country. – Rappler.com

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