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Cebu-based guitar duo wins grand prize in instrumentals as Filipinos turn out at finals

The 22nd Annual World Championships of Performing Arts (WCOPA) 2018 commenced on Sunday, July 8 in Long Beach, California with Team Philippines bringing home numerous awards including a total of 219 medals, after over a week of performances and competitions.

At the final WCOPA competition on Friday, July 13, Filipinos turned out with their flags to support their seven Team Philippines artists in the event’s grand finale.

Winning the high title of Senior Grand Champion Instrumentalists of the World was the Cebu-based guitar duo, M Squared.

“It feels amazing to win the title, Senior Grand Instrumentalists of the World,” Miguel Ibaseta, one of the two guitarists, told the Asian Journal just moments after winning.

Maxwell Soller, the other half of the duo, described the win as “satisfying.”

Other grand finalists from Team Philippines were Richlie Anton Sumido in Junior Dance Solos and Junior Models; Roshan Jill Borbon in Junior Models; Cyd Ira Pangca in Junior Singers; Aljun Cayawan in Senior Models; the AQC Performing Arts Studio dancers in Senior Dance; and Sophia De Vera in Senior Vocals.

‘Giving the Philippines a good name’

Often referred to as the Olympics of performing arts, WCOPA every year brings together performers from over 60 countries vying for gold.

Having joined the competition back in 2005 with only two entries being famous Philippine balladeer Jed Madela and singer Rizza Navales, the team has since gone a long way in terms of representation.

This year, the Philippines followed a trend of large numbers by bringing 87 entries over to the United States. Of the 219 medals won among them, 55 were gold, 83 were silver, and 81 were bronze. Of the 87 entries, 33 made it to the semi-finals.

The team also won first place in Best in National Costume, and its national director Gerry Mercado, was dubbed Best Superior National Team Director. Thirty-four division winner plaques were also awarded to the team.

Just before the finale performances in which artists had only 60 seconds to show their talents, Filipino performers and supporters swarmed in the lobby of the state-of-the-art Long Beach Performing Arts Center for photo opportunities with Madela who currently serves as the team’s Regional Director for the Visayas.

“Every year, Team Philippines always surprises people,” said Madela, who became the first Filipino to ever win the competition when he became the 2005 Senior Grand Champion Performer of the World.

Last year, Team Philippines won the competition’s highest awards in both Junior and Senior divisions. Kapamilya dance prodigy Nhikzy Calma was declared the WCOPA 2017 Junior Grand Champion of the World, while the Philippine Opera Company’s Cristiani Rebada became the WCOPA 2017 Senior Grand Champion of the World.

In 2016, Philippine dance crew JR New System took the WCOPA 2016 Senior Grand Champion of the World award.

Both Rebada and JR New System opened up Friday night’s finale competition.
Madela, who was inducted in 2013 to the WCOPA Performing Arts Hall of Fame, said that he noticed a lot of younger talents in this year’s Team Philippine batch.

Aside from meeting new artists and discovering new talents, Madela said the best thing he looks forward to every WCOPA is simply seeing the Philippine flag waved up in the air.

“There’s a different kind of high whenever the Philippines gets recognized when it comes to performance arts,” Madela told the Asian Journal.

“And as always, we try our best to promote the Philippines,” he added.

Touching on the current light the Philippines has been in internationally as a result of the current administration, he said he was proud that Filipino performing artists were bringing a positive name to the country.

“I think it’s the Filipino artists who are giving the Philippines a good name,” said Madela.

‘More than just a competition’

Taking home the title of Best Superior National Team Director, Mercado has had the opportunity to see Team Philippines grow throughout the years. In 2013, he brought in 35 artists which at the time was the largest the country ever brought over.

“WCOPA is more than just a competition,” said Mercado, emphasizing its opportunities.

“It has workshops and bootcamps by the people behind the Hollywood celebrities, so it’s an opportunity for them to be further educated in their passion for the performing arts,” said Mercado.

“Second, it’s an opportunity for them to gain the right confidence and bring out their talents by joining an international competition,” he added. “Third, it’s an opportunity to be discovered.”

This year’s judges included Grammy winners and nominees; top model agents who have worked on campaigns for clients like Gucci and Chanel; and top choreographers whose credits include the Academy Awards and the Golden Globe Awards among others.

But part of Mercado’s main goal for the Filipino artists is for them to not only grow in talent, but in character.

For one thing, he said — it’s difficult for artists to come to the event in the first place, considering the costs. And not all sponsors the artists approach say yes, which Mercado says teaches the artists humility, perseverance, and determination.

“And as I always tell them, ‘After these people help you, thank them,’” added Mercado. “So it also teaches them gratitude.”

Filipino representation all around

While Team Philippines drew out cheers from audience members and judges, a couple of Filipino artists representing other countries were also greeted with raised Philippine flags.

Winning the top award for Senior Vocal Solo was James Calacsan, who represented the United States, but received a great amount of support from the Philippines.

Calacsan moved to the U.S. five years ago with his family after being petitioned by his grandfather, a retired Philippine veteran. His past performances in the U.S. include singing the U.S. national anthem for National Basketball Association games in Minnesota where he and his family currently resides.

“What I was dreaming earlier, before performing, was that I wanted to see the Philippine flag together with the U.S. flag — to be waving in the air while singing,” said Calacsan, a mass communications graduate, now working in finance.

“That happened, so I am so happy right now,” he added. “I think it inspired me as well to sing earlier during my performance.”

Also representing the United Kingdom in Senior Vocal Solo was Mervic Monocillo, a Filipina who wowed judges and audience members with her clean operatic voice.

“I really encourage people, especially our kababayans, to really support the Filipino artists because they bring so much pride and a good name to the country,” said Madela, encouraging Filipinos and supporters to come out and watch in the following years.

Soller, after winning said: “It is worth mentioning to the Philippines and to the Philippine supporters, we are bringing home the bacon.”

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