WCOPA WINNER: Arjay Espartero shows the medals and plaque he won from the recent World Championship of Performing Arts held in Long Beach, California last July.  (Photo by Celeste Anna R. Formoso)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- When Arjay Espartero went to Long Beach, California on July 4 to join the World Championship of Performing Arts (WCOPA), all he had was trust in his ability as a vocal soloist and the longing to bring honor to his country and the province of Palawan.

WCOPA is no joke. It is touted to be an Olympic-style international competition for aspiring performers and entertainers. Every year, more than 2,500 singers, musicians, dancers, variety artists, actors, and models from at least 63 countries compete against one another to win medals in various categories.

Espartero, 33, who in his youth had to deal with making charcoal out of abandoned wood trunks to earn a living with his poor family in Narra town in the southern part of the province, is the first Palaweño to take home four medals and a plaque from the WCOPA international meet held on July 6-15 in California.

He won a silver medal for his contemporary rendition of the song “Bridge Over Troubled Water”, another silver for Josh Groban’s Latin song “Un Giorno Per Noi”, and gold for his version of the country song “Home” by Michael Buble. He also received a plaque as WCOPA Contemporary Division Winner for singing.

Espartero likewise took home a bronze for captivating judges in the formal modeling category.

He said he was introduced to the WCOPA by a friend who thought he has a chance to be selected to join the Philippine team and represent Palawan.

“Nagkaroon ng audition last September 2017 na sinalihan ko. So ‘yon, I’m so happy dahil sa dami ng nag-audition, isa ako sa mga nakapasa. More than 5,000 ang nag-audition all over the Philippines para sa WCOPA at 500 lang ang nakapasa (There was an audition in September 2017. I joined, and I’m so happy because out of all those who auditioned, I passed. More than 5,000 auditioned all over the Philippines for the WCOPA and only 500 were selected),” he said Thursday.

Espartero did not expect to win any medal in the worldwide competition.
Though kind and ready to make friends with competitors, every contender in the WCOPA desired nothing except to win, no matter what.

“Lahat ng nandoon talagang magagaling. Kung baga yong pinakamagaling na ata sa mga bansa nila. Pero masayang-masaya ako kasi nakapagdala ako ng karangalan sa bansa natin, dito sa Palawan, at sa hometown ko sa Narra (Everyone who was there were all talented. They’re their countries’ best. But I am very happy that I was able to bring honor to our country, to Palawan, and to my hometown Narra),” he said.

“Ang gusto ko lang, maiahon ang pamilya ko sa kahirapan sa pamamagitan ng talento ko. Kahit paano, gusto ko mabigyan ko sila ng magandang buhay kasi talagang lumaki kami sa hirap. Gusto ko rin makapag-inspire ng ibang mga Palaweño na hindi hadlang ang kahirapan para maabot mo ang gusto mong marating (What I really long for is to lift my family out of poverty through my talent. As much as possible, I want to give them a good life because we grew up really poor. I also want to inspire other Palaweños that poverty is not a limitation, that it is not a hindrance to what they want to achieve in life),” he said.

Espartero’s singing career, coupled with good looks and height, has already attracted talent scouts who are willing to help him break into the showbiz industry. A record producer has also expressed interest for him to make an album.

In the following days, he would be preparing to join artist Jed Madela, the first Filipino to be inducted into the Hall of Fame of the WCOPA, in his out-of-town shows and concerts.

"Nagpapasalamat ako sa mga tumulong sa akin para makapunta sa competition sa California. Malaki ang tulong niyo sa pag-abot ko ng aking pangarap (I am thankful to the people who helped me get to California. Your help for me to reach my dream is so great)," the Narra artist said. (PNA)