4 Pinoys to compete in singing contest in Hollywood

By Florante Catanus, ABS-CBN Middle East News Bureau correspondent

Posted at May 01 2013 09:25 AM | Updated as of May 02 2013 06:35 PM

The four WCOPA participants with their mentor, Dr. Ronnie Molina

AL-KHOBAR, Saudi Arabia – Four Filipinos based in Saudi Arabia are practicing hard as they are set to compete against the best singers in the world at the 17th Annual World Championships of the Performing Arts (WCOPA) in Los Angeles, California.

Airene Bautista of Ras Tanura, Gella Shekhinah Perez of Al-Khobar, Ann Rosette Mata of Riyadh and Jaypee Vega of Al-Khobar, passed the auditions conducted by Gerry Mercado, WCOPA National Director for Team Philippines 2013.

The four will be part of the Philippine delegation who will compete in the talent competition from July 12-21, 2013.

“I feel so happy because it’s my first time to compete in America. I thank my mom and dad for teaching me how to sing,” Bautista said.

“Pinangarap ko pong sumali sa WCOPA para manalo at saka para pumunta sa ibang bansa kagaya ng US,” Perez said.

Bautista, 9, and Perez, 10, will be competing in the Junior Category, while Mata, 17, and Vega, 40, will showcase their talent in the Senior Category.

“Ang nagtulak po sa akin sa competition na ito ay para magkaroon ng experience po at saka para po ipakita ‘yong talent ko sa buong mundo po,” Mata said.

“At first, ang ini-expect ko sa pagsali na ito is just to represent my country, Philippines, at para maipakita ko po ‘yung talent ko. At since nandito na po ako, siguro po the best thing to do is to get the gold,” Vega said.

The four will compete in different genres like pop, R&B, gospel, rock and Broadway.

Dr. Ronnie Molina, the talent scout of WCOPA in Saudi and founder and executive director of Filpop Club, is glad the four participants will represent the Philippines, not Saudi Arabia.

“Mas malaki ang pagbabago sa mga ipapadala natin sa WCOPA this year dahil dadalhin nila ang bandera ng Pilipinas at masusuportahan sila ng team Philippine. Isa pa, nagagalak din ako dahil may pambato tayo this year dahil last year wala tayong pinadala sa WCOPA,” Dr. Molina said.

In 2009, the Filipino Community in Eastern Saudi supported Kimverlie, the daughter of Dr. Molina, when she competed in WCOPA, under the banner of Saudi Arabia, for the first time. Molina bagged the “2009 Grand Champion Senior Vocalist of the World” title and became the third Filipino to win the major award at the WCOPA.

In 2005, Madela was the first Filipino to bag the title of “Grand Champion Vocalist of the World”, while 13-year-old Catherine Loria also brought home the “gold” in the Junior Category in 2008.

“May mga negative comments kaming natanggap before. Bakit daw represent ng anak kong si Kim ang Saudi at hindi ang Pilipinas. That time kasi yon lang ang paraan para makasali sa WCOPA. Although Kim represented the Filipino community in Saudi Arabia,” Dr. Molina added.

Dr. Molina also recounted that 2010 was a good year because Krizia Guttierrez won Gold medal in the semi-finals of junior category, Edwin Mercado won silver medal and Allisa Liangco and Lovely Salas went home with Bronze medal in the semi-finals of the senior category. Gutierrez and Mercado were from Al-Khobar while Salas and Liangco were from Jubail.

“Only Mikah Baler of Al-Khobar did not win in 2010 WCOPA but in 2011, Karla May Careon of Jeddah won gold in the semi-finals of the said competition,” Dr. Molina added.

Dr. Molina said that participating in WCOPA is no joke because it entails a lot of expenses. He said each participant will incur a total cost between US$ 8,500 to USD 10,000 (P350,000 to P400,000) which includes the entry fee, hotel accommodation, airfare, miscellaneous expenses and pocket money.

But he said the expenses are worth it because of the prestige of the competition, scholarships offered to the winners and the chance of being discovered by US talent managers.

“Isa pa, suportado sila ng team Philippine dahil bibigyan sila ng sulat ni Mr. Mercado para makapag-solicit sila dito sa Saudi, sa ating mga kababayan, at sa benevolent companies. So basically, ‘pag masipag sila mag-solicit they will not spend a single cent,” Dr. Molina said.