LOS ANGELES—In a brilliant display of raw talent and impeccable showmanship, Filipinos dominated the recent 2013 World Championships of Performing Arts (WCOPA) with almost all of its 35 team members clinching gold, silver and bronze medals in their respective categories.
The 17th WCOPA, is an annual competition for vocalists, dancers, actors, instrumentalists, models and variety acts. It is widely viewed as the Olympics of performing arts.
At the finals held on Friday night in Downtown Los Angeles, Beverly Caimen from Batangas and Ianna Dela Torre from Nueva Ecija were crowned Grand Champion Performers of the World in the seniors and juniors division, respectively.
Dela Torre, 11, said that she was extremely happy with the outcome. She sang “What Kind of Fool Am I?” (popularized by Regine Velasquez) as the last singer to perform in the Junior Solo Vocals group. Her performance was met with a roaring ovation, leaving little doubt that it just catapulted her as a contender for the title. The outcome was more than the rookie WCOPA contestant ever dreamed of.
“First time ko po sumali dito, first time ko din po makapunta dito sa Los Angeles, at super saya po (It’s my first time to join here [in the WCOPA], and it’s my first time to travel to LA, and it’s super fun),” Dela Torre gushed. When her name was called out as the Grand Champion Performer, she fought back tears. “Masayang masaya po ako na mga Pilipina pa rin ang nakakuha (I’m very happy that Filipinas won the championships),” she said.
Showstopper Caimen was widely seen as the dark horse entry of Team Philippines. During the elimination round, she was often inserted last in the performers’ lineup, which Caimen later attributed to the late submission of her WCOPA application form.
However, as early as the eliminations, Caimen easily showed that she was a force to be reckoned with in the competition. For the Finals, Caimen performed Whitney Houston’s “One Moment In Time.” Caimen belted out the bridge of the ballad and hit all the right notes in the last few lines of her uniquely arranged rendition, leading to another standing ovation for Team Philippines.
“Sobrang blessed po ako (I’m so blessed),” Caimen told Asian Journal. She admitted that she did not expect to be crowned as the Grand Champion Performer in the Seniors category, owing to the number of talented acts in their group, which included the Filipino vocal group Gollayan Sisters and Russian violinist Stepan Mezencev.
“Sobrang dami naming magaling, speechless po ako nung natawag po ako, (There were a lot of great performers in our group, I was speechless when I was called [as Grand Champion Performer]),” Caimen said.
Both Caimen and Dela Torre competed in the Solo Vocals category in the Finals, before being awarded the biggest prizes of the night. The two soloists competed with three other Pinoy acts in the finals for Team Philippines: EJay Yatco (Senior Instrumentalist), Reynaldo Gorospe (Senior Male Model), and the Gollayan Sisters (Senior Group Vocals).
The Gollayan Sisters and Gorospe went on to clinch the grand championships in their respective categories. Meanwhile, Yatco bowed out to Mezencev. Yatco, who performed Buencamino’s “Mayon Fantasya Concerto,” held his own and garnered an ovation after his performance.
According to Team Philippines’ National Director Gerry Mercado, Yatco’s performance was no less commendable than Mezencev’s. Meanwhile, the Gollayan Sisters felt that it was a blessing in itself to make it to the Finals, much more to win gold in their category.
“Napakalaking honor po ito para sa amin, at para po ito sa Pilipinas (This is a big honor for us, and it’s for the Philippines),” Irene Gollayan said. National Director Mercado noted that he couldn’t help but feel blessed for the all the success that the Filipinos enjoyed at the competition. “I felt God’s hand in everything. We went through a lot from the very beginning,” he recounted.
Although the team was teeming with talent, bankrolling team operations became a challenge. Mercado admitted that he had initially found it difficult to secure sponsorships. He attributed the outpouring of support (and eventual success) to Divine Intervention. “When it rains, it pours. He’s [God is] giving us beyond our expectations,” Mercado said.
Another highlight for Team Philippines at the Finals was the induction of Jed Madela into the Performing Arts Hall of Fame. In 2005, Madela was part of the first Team Philippines to compete at World Championships. He won all major industry awards and became the first Filipino to win as the Senior Grand Champion Performer of the World.
Hall of Fame inductee
On Friday night, Madela was lauded as WCOPA’s 2013 Achievement Award Honoree and was inducted into the Hall of Fame, which includes big Hollywood names such as Dione Warwick, Bob Barker, Robert Finkel, Liza Minelli, and many more.
Madela is the first Grand Champion to be inducted into the Performing Arts Hall of Fame. “It feels great to be home,” Madela said of returning to the WCOPA stage. For his special performance on Friday, Madela sang “Home to You,” a single from his latest album. He said that his song was meant to inspire other young artists to pursue their dreams of making it big in the industry, while remaining grounded. He also said that he was immensely proud of the young artists who competed for Team Philippines.
“These kids really worked hard para manalo,” Madela said. “Sana hindi sila tumigil diyan. Sana maging inspirasyon sila sa ibang artists na gustong sumunod sa mga yapak nila (I hope they don’t stop there. I hope they go on to become inspirations to other artists that want to follow in their footsteps),” Madela added.
The team to beat
Besting all the other contestants from as many as 53 countries, Team Philippines dominated all throughout the competition, and even the other nations were noticing. Both Mercado and Madela reported that they were approached on multiple occasions by participants from other nations, saying that Team Philippines had a strong chance of going all the way.
Julie Peeters, 22, a vocalist from Belgium, admitted that she was intimidated by Caimen’s performance at the qualifying and semi final rounds. “I was intimidated by Team Philippines. And once I saw them I knew… I’m not going to make it to the finals,” Peeters said.
Jeff Krapf, event host for the World Championships, even made a prediction as early as during the eliminations and semi finals that the eventual winner would come from the Philippines. “Well, the prediction I thought towards earlier this week was right on. The Philippines swept both categories in the Junior and Senior Grand Performer of the World,” Krapf said.
After seeing the Filipinos perform through the qualifying, semi-final, and the final rounds, Krapf said, “There’s nobody that could have beat.” He noted that every single finalist of Team Philippines was “pitch perfect, even the models. Reynaldo Gorospe also did a fantastic job out there.”
While only five acts made it through to the finals, nobody from Team Philippines left empty-handed. Many of the team members were awarded gold, silver, and bronze medals in their respective categories for their showing in the qualifying and semi final rounds.
Many also received invitations for Go Sees with Hollywood talent scouts and talent managers, who were willing to give the Pinoys a chance for greater glory. Danica Reynes, a Filipino vocal soloist who didn’t make it past the qualifying round, remained positive and upbeat. She received three Go See invitations during her WCOPA stint and is looking forward to all the other opportunities that may come her way.
“Masaya ako. Sabi nga nila, thank God for the good and bad experiences,” Reynes said. “I have no regrets because I really did my best and each song was offered to God.”