WCOPA’s Gerry Mercado: Ushering world-class Pinoy performers onto the international stage

WCOPA’s Gerry Mercado: Ushering world-class Pinoy  performers onto the international stage

In July 2014, Filipinos once again proved that they possess world-class skill and talent in the performing arts.

On Friday, July 18, 11-year old Lloyd Montebon of Davao and the Xtreme Dancers duo of Raymark Alminasa (22) and Eddie Melody (23) from Koronadal were respectively crowned as the Junior and Senior Grand Champion Performers of the World at the recently concluded World Championships Of Performing Arts (WCOPA) Finals held in Downtown Los Angeles.

Lloyd Montebon and the Xtreme Dancers are two acts among the dozens of performers who comprised the Team Philippines 2014. They are also the latest additions to an elite group of Filipino WCOPA champions that include the likes of Jed Madela, Rhap Salazar, Marielle Mamaclay, and last year’s grand champions, Beverly Caimen and Aldeza Ianna Dela Torre.

Aside from the grand championship trophies, Team Philippines 2014 also raked in 105 gold, silver, and bronze medals in the different categories that the team members competed in.

Fruits of steadfast leadership

This success of Team Philippines can be attributed to the steadfast and persevering leadership of WCOPA PH National Director Gerry Mercado, who had been guiding the team since their first foray into the competition in 2005. Back then, Jed Madela bagged the Senior Grand Vocalist of the World and Senior Grand Champion Performer of the World title—a sign of brighter things to come.

Since then, Team Philippines has gone on to produce multiple Grand Champion Performers at WCOPA, a result of Gerry’s steadfast leadership and keen eye for talent. Recognized for his knack of producing quality talent for the competition, Gerry received back-to-back National Director of the Year awards at WCOPA in 2013 and 2014.

Notwithstanding the accolades that his team has received over the years, Gerry remains humble in his work, believing that there is more to WCOPA than just medals, certificates, and standing ovations. He said that the team’s impressive performance in WCOPA is an indication that Filipinos are, indeed, talented people who belong among the top in the world; and that he is only an instrument or a channel that helped in showcasing these talents.

More than just the medals

In an interview with Asian Journal, Gerry emphasized that the medals and recognitions that the talents receive by competing in WCOPA are only a portion of the entire experience.

Joining the annual international competition also holds educational, professional, and cultural values for the Filipino performers. WCOPA, the so-called Olympics for the world’s performing arts talents, offers more than just a medal and a certificate for its participants.

“WCOPA is important, not only because of the competition, but because of the education that [it imparts] through the boot camps, and workshops taught by the Hollywood greats,” Gerry said.

According to Gerry, the workshop instructors include Hollywood insiders and artists, many of whom have received trophies or nominations for prestigious awards bodies like the Emmys, Golden Globes, Grammys, and Oscars. Also, the experience of performing in front of an international audience and esteemed panel of judges can boost the confidence and stage presence of aspiring artists, allowing them to learn more and perfect their craft.

Furthermore, among those who follow and attend WCOPA are producers, talent scouts, and managers for various recording companies and Hollywood studios.  Even if an artist does not win any awards at the competition, he or she can still manage to capture the attention of any of these scouts and get a shot at an international career in Hollywood.

“Hopefully, in God’s time, we might have a Filipino artist from WCOPA to become the next big thing, like Bruno Mars,” Gerry said.

As we all know, the “Treasure” singer who recently headlined the 2014 Super Bowl half-time show is part-Filipino and is a source of pride for the

“I really know how we are able to produce such an artist,” Gerry added.

He pointed out that an artist only needs one hit song, or video, or modeling project to make it big in the international scene, just like Korean sensation Psy who popularized the 2013 dance craze, “Gangnam Style.”

If a Filipino manages to get signed by a major recording label or film company, and subsequently launch even just one hit song or movie, that could be the first step to superstardom.

“Psy has 1.1 billion hits on YouTube, and [non-Korean speakers] don’t event understand the lyrics. That’s the goal, one hit to launch a Filipino to stardom,” Gerry said.

And it could start at WCOPA, Gerry said.

“Which is why I emphasize it to our Team PH delegates that WCOPA is not the end goal, it is only the first of the many stepping stones than can lead to a successful and fruitful career in this industry,” he added.

Uplifting the Filipino brand

On the surface, WCOPA Team Philippines may seem to be driven only by its goal to discover and launch an artist in to stardom. However, in a greater scheme, Gerry believes that his program means so much more to the Filipino community.

According to Gerry, the performers—not just WCOPA’s Team PH, but all Filipino artists around the globe—are able to elevate the Filipino brand by excelling in their craft and making a name for themselves. With this positive impact towards a better image for the Filipinos, Team PH can help erase the stigma caused by negative stereotypes on Pinoys.

The advent of social media has made it easier than ever for Filipinos around the world to highlight the successes of their kababayans in the field of performing arts.

Call for support

And it is because of this higher purpose of creating positive PR for the Philippines that Filipinos in Los Angeles are very eager to extend help to WCOPA Team PH. Gerry described the outpouring of support as “heartfelt.”

This year, Team PH received support from the LA-based Philippine Consulate General and the Department of Tourism (DoT) attaché. Gerry said that he consulted with Consul General Leo Herrera-Lim, who was more than willing to provide a sample roadmap to making Team PH financially sustainable in future competitions. The DoT attaché sponsored some meals for the delegates during their stay at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles.

Aside from the government agencies, other members of the Filipino community—like Darna Umayam and Henry Sanchez, among others—have graciously extended their resources, financial or otherwise, to help the team during their stay in LA.

However, Gerry said that while “very little needs to be done in preparing an artist to be at the top of his game,” owing to their sheer skill and talent, the real challenge lies in getting them to actually fly to the United States, which costs a lot of money.

“We have may talented Filipinos who are poor, but they could not afford the costs of going to America. So we really need to solicit sponsorships, grants, and other similar means of assistance so that we can bring them here to WCOPA,” Gerry said.

Which is why he is eager to explore other avenues to raise funds for the team, be it locally in the Philippines, or here in the States.

“Their money will be put to good use,” Gerry said in Tagalog.

Considering that WCOPA Team PH plays a big role in elevating Filipinos of the international stage, anyone who supports them will be helping not only the individual artists, but the Filipino community as a whole.

“It would go not only to the artists who are in need, but also towards promoting the Philippines, and towards the education and professional growth of the children,” Gerry said.

WCOPA 2014

Medalists of Team Philippines

Team Philippines came in strong this year at the World Championships of Performing Arts (WCOPA), raking in as many as 105 medals in various categories throughout the competition.

While only two acts went on to be named Grand Champion Performers of the World, the rest of Team Philippines were equally impressive in their own right.

The medalists for WCOPA Team Philippines 2014 are:

Raymark Alminasa & Eddie Melody (Xtreme Dancers) – Sr. Grand Champion Performer of the World, 2 Gold medals

Lloyd Edisonne Montebon – Jr. Grand Champion Performer of the World, 3 Gold and 2 Silver medals

Jayrah Kaye Adeva – 1 Silver and 1 Bronze medal

Jojemar Santiago – 4 Silver medals

Kimberly Gragasin – 2 Silver and 2 Bronze medals

Maria Patricia Justine Veluz – 1 Gold and 2 Silver medals

Mary Danielle T. Mercado – 1 Gold medal

Rajmeet Kour Kumar – 1 Bronze medal

Rod Danielle Caralde – 1 Gold, 1 Silver, and 3 Bronze medals

Sofia Therese Ferrer – 1 Silver and 2 Bronze medals

Al Frenz Morales – 1 Silver and 2 Bronze medals

Angela Aguilar – 1 Silver and 3 Bronze medals

Anna Kathryn Dela Cruz – 3 Silver medals

Cecilia Famador – 1 Gold and 2 Bronze medals

Charlie Pagaran – 3 Silver and 2 Bronze medals

Daryl Christian Reynes – 2 Gold, 1 Silver, and 2 Bronze medals

Dominador Limon III – 1 Silver and 2 Bronze medals

Edgar Agovida – 2 Silver medals

Fatima Louise Rance – 1 Silver medal

Filxgmir Moneva – 1 Gold and 1 Silver medal

Albert Krizlynne Galino – 3 Silver and 2 Bronze medals

Kim Christopher Recio – 1 Silver and 2 Bronze medals

Krisna Pia Valdez – 2 Silver medals

Kristia Julia Marie Banda – 4 Gold and 1 Silver medal

Manilyn Reyes – 2 Gold, 1 Silver, and 1 Bronze medal

Mark John Magno – 1 Gold, 3 Silver, and 1 Bronze medal

Mary Rose Palasigue – 2 Gold, and 3 Silver medals

Melissa Cordero – 1 Silver medal

Randy De Silva – 1 Gold, 1 Silver, and 1 Bronze medal

Reydan Buenagua – 1 Gold, 3 Silver, and 1 Bronze medal

Wincel Mae Portugal – 1 Bronze medal

Christian Bahaya, Darwin Deane B. Divino, Joemark Tumala, & John Rey Estudillo (Y-Fi group) – 4 Gold, and 1 Silver medal

(LA Midweek August 27, 2014 MDWK pg. 2)

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