Waraynon non-profit in US offers talents for a cause
LOS ANGELES — A deep appreciation for culture, music and fellowship was what started, in 2013, the Waraynon Initiative Network (WIN), a non-profit organization that celebrates and preserves Philippine heritage through the arts.
Many members of the organization are from families hailing from the Leyte, Samar and Biliran islands of the Philippines, collectively known as Region 8. The group had been gathering for activities, shows and events celebrating the unique “Waray” culture.
“Our love of singing and performing gave us the idea to have an organization where we can professionally play and sing in concerts, aside from parties and churches,” shared Melvin Corpin, a founder of WIN and head maestro of the group.
The goals of the organization quickly changed when, in November 2013, super Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) struck a majority of islands in Region 8, with the hardest hit being Tacloban City. Thousands of families across Southern Philippines/Eastern Visayas were affected and displaced, and over 6,000 people were killed by the tropical storm.
“When the typhoon hit, we realized our organization had an even greater purpose,” Corpin saId. “When we got together, we each shared our vision of wanting to help others, especially those of us who still have family in Leyte and in the Philippines. We want to bring them a message of hope.”
WIN’s mission soon became WIN ARTS, or “Arts Rendering Their Services.” With the help of its talented orchestra, dancers and chorale singers, the all-volunteer charity began putting together an original music and dance production, with a cause close to home.
Merging performances with the urgent desire to help their homeland, WIN ARTS held its very first benefit concert in 2014, to raise funds for the victims of Typhoon Haiyan. The mellow-sounding debut show, entitled “Ha Imo La” (meaning “For You Alone” in Waray), raised $15,000 for disaster relief.
Following the success of the first show, WIN hosted its second benefit concert in July 2015, themed “Lamrag: Ray of Light.” The colorful show echoed the hopeful, resilient spirit of Waraynons several years after the devastating typhoon.
“The concerts are a culmination of our main goal of promoting cultural heritage, and also as a means to fundraise and help our community,” said Dulce Culdac, WIN vice president for support services and recruitment.
“It’s special because you never hear about a regional orchestra from the Philippines. What’s really unique about this orchestra is that all of the kids involved are children of Waraynon parents from the same region,” shared Maxinne Vergara, a board member and performer in the WIN orchestra.
Since its founding three years ago, WIN has organized restoration and livelihood projects, fundraising efforts and relief goods collections. Members of the organization have also traveled to Tacloban in January 2015, to perform with the Palo Ambassadors Orchestra for Pope Francis’ historic visit to the typhoon-struck region.
“We are all Filipino heritage, but sometimes [Waraynons] get overlooked from the Tagalog/Luzon languages,” said Tess Agner, co-Vice President of project implementation and marketing. “As Waraynons from Leyte, east and west Samar, and Biliran, we also have our own special heritage. About 90 percent of our orchestra comes from Leyte.”
Orchestra member Germaine Kempis also noted, “It’s nice to know that we are doing this for our families back at home. Even though I can’t physically be there, I’m still doing all the best I can to help.”
Next summer, the group is planning its first-ever medical mission to provide surgical and dental services to affected areas in Tacloban City.
“Filipinos are resilient,” added Corpin. “We are not only hospitable; we are survivors…we will always support one another because that is what the Filipino does.”
Centered on its commitment to help Waraynons and raise funds for the medical mission, WIN is hosting its third benefit concert—entitled “Halad: Offering”—on Saturday, July 23 at the Barnsdall Gallery Theatre in Hollywood. The show’s proceeds and tax-deductable donations will directly support WIN efforts and operations.
Featuring performances by the WIN orchestra, chorale and dancers and the world-renowned Leyte Kalipayan Dance Company, the “Halad” show promises a variety of live musical entertainment, with special guests and performances. [email protected]
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