16 OCTOBER 2022, MANILA, PHILIPPINES — To raise money for Smile Train, the largest cleft-focused organization in the world, through its local affiliate, Smile Train Philippines, New York-based artist Rommel Rico, also known as “Virrco,” launched a limited-edition line of bags in honor of World Smile Day®—a day dedicated to smiles and deeds of kindness celebrated by people everywhere.
The former nurse who is now a visual artist wanted to “ship” the concept of “art-to-cause” by developing a line of bags that will enable customers to make a meaningful donation to a worthwhile cause. The proceeds from the sale of the limited edition Virrco Bags will benefit Smile Train to support initiatives that assist programs for children with cleft.
According to the most recent data from Smile Train, a baby is born with a cleft somewhere in the globe every three minutes. About 5,000 infants are thought to be born with cleft palates each year in the Philippines.
Quality cleft care and treatment is essential for the health and wellbeing of children with cleft lip or cleft palate because these children may experience difficulties with eating, breathing, speaking, and many choose to skip school due to bullying. This may affect their chances of finding stable employment.
Kimmy Coseteng-Flaviano, Southeast Asia Vice President of Smile Train lauded Virrco for the initiative, highlighting the difficulties faced by cleft patients especially at the height of the pandemic.
“This initiative comes at such an opportune time as we have seen an increase in the number of children with clefts who were not able to receive treatment throughout the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns. Through the Virrco bags, consumers can contribute and help bring new smiles and second chances at life for the patients we serve. Smile Train would like to thank Mr. Rico for sharing his time and talent to the cleft community,” Coseteng-Flaviano said.
In New York, where Virrco later found his love for art and painting, he was working as a physical therapist prior to the start of the Virrco Bags brand. He uses his distinctive approach to capture the fervor of Filipino women in the modern world and to represent their enthusiasm in his works.
Virrco is known to render artful renditions to subjects like frontliners, people living with HIV, and other notable causes in his work, with his first official breakthrough exhibit titled “One Eyed Women” was launched in December 2021 at the MetLive Atrium in Pasay City.
Virrco bags are available for orders at https://www.virrco.net/ and on Virrco’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/virrcoart.
For more information about Smile Train’s global efforts and to donate, please visit smiletrain.org. To leam more about Smile Train’s local programs in the Philippines, please visit smiletrain.ph, follow Smile Train Philippines on Twitter and Instagram @SmileTrainPh, and like us on Facebook at @SmileTrainPhilippines.