LOS Angeles — Not too many competition organizations in the world consider the Philippines as a powerhouse team.
But in the World Championships of Performing Arts (WCOPA), considered as the “Olympics of the Performing Arts,” the country’s team is held by its rivals in high regard. It is constantly being measured for strength and the depth of its bench year after year.
Filipino WCOPA hopefuls might never get the same esteem accorded to national athletes competing in the real Olympics but it must be made known that these talents also go through an almost exact physical and mental ordeal (putting in the same discipline, passion, focus, intensity and sacrifices) in their training and in fighting for slots that would enable it to compete in the world competition. And just like our national athletes, these artists and performers will no longer be seeking individual glories when they get to the WCOPA stage.
“These talents are no longer competing for themselves. They will be competing for our country, the Philippines,” says Gerry Mercado, WCOPA-Philippines national director, during a dinner and press conference on Thursday (July 7) at the Filipino-American Community of Los Angeles (FACLA) house in downtown Los Angeles.
Mercado adds that among the best ways to promote the Philippines to the world is by showcasing the talents of its people.
In WCOPA, the country is able to display the faces of ordinary Filipinos who possess extra-ordinary talents and fighting spirit.
Around 95 competitors, ranging from age 8 to 53 years old, flew in to Los Angeles on Wednesday. They will compete against talents from 50 other countries in downtown Long Beach when the eliminations begin on Sunday.
The powerhouse status of the Philippine team at the WCOPA is hard to deny, having won the Senior and Junior Grand Champion Performer of the World awards for two consecutive years. This feat, according to Mercado, has not been surpassed in WCOPA.
In 2014, Xtreme Dancers and Lloyd Montebon won the Senior and Junior Grand Champion Performer of the World awards respectively while in 2013, it was Beverly Caimen and Aldeza dela Torre who won for the Philippines.
The country also holds the record for the most number of Grand Championship Performer of the World Awards at 10 titles since 2005.
Jed Madela, the 1st Filipino to win the Senior Grand Champion Performer of the World in 2005, was inducted in WCOPA’s Hall of Fame in 2013. He has since been accompanying the Philippine contingent, providing moral and technical support to the hopefuls. The singer has also become a regular performer at WCOPA programs.
Last year, six Filipinos –Sienna Chantelle Marie Holmes – Junior Models (Female), Jona Marie Soquite – Junior Vocals, Hazel Joy Ortiz – Senior Models (Female), Mike Mendoza – Senior Models (Male), Y-Fi – Seniors Vocal Group and Jet Barrun – Senior Vocal — made it in the final cut of the competition.
WCOPA is the first and only international competition to find and crown the best aspiring performing artists worldwide, held annually in Hollywood, California. Arts.” Competitors of every age are judged in acting, singing, dancing, modeling, musical instrument playing and variety categories.
The hopefuls need help of Filipino-American community
The turn over of political power to the new chief executive of the country, President Rodrigo Duterte, had adversely affected government financial support for the WCOPA Philippine team.
Mercado discloses that they were able to secure financial support from the Department of Tourism (DOT) last year. However, due to ongoing turn over processes in most government offices, the team failed to get any money from the said department for this year’s competition.
Thus the WCOPA-Philippine national director took the opportunity to appeal to the new administration “to give equal attention to artists and performers,” explaining that these young talents also bring recognition and honor to the country.
In a related development, Rose Sarreal, an LA-based event producer and avid supporter of WCOPA hopefuls, is asking benevolent Filipino-Americans to chip in whatever they can to provide food for the members of the contingent.
“They get some meals from the hotel as part of their check-in package but those are not enough. These kids spend a lot energy in their rehearsals and training,” Sarreal explained.
Sarreal has been providing all sorts of help to WCOPA competitors since about three years ago. At the moment, Sarreal’s efforts to assist the group is reinforced by concerned Filipino-Americans that include performer and former entertainment editor Lou Sabas, veteran photographer Joe Cobilla and FACLA leaders Austin Baul and Fender Santos.
Thursday’s dinner was provided by Fiesta Catering owned by Jose and Minda Valdecantos Chin.
The Philippine team is billeted at the Westin Long Beach Hotel at 333 E. Ocean Avenue, Long Beach.