Racing for more smiles

By Danielle Macadangdang

Following the success of Smile Train’s Team EMPOWER in last year’s Cobra Ironman in Cebu, the nonprofit organization for cleft lip and palate, has gathered once again the former and current athletes of the team for the upcoming Ironman event in Subic. 

Team EMPOWER’s unprecedented effort in the Cebu race in 2017 was able to raise enough funds to perform at least 100 surgeries in the Philippines. 

“We recognize that more people want to contribute their time and talents for good causes. Through Smile Train Team EMPOWER, athletes can continue to do what they love most, and in the process, create a brighter future for children born with clefts,” said Smile Train Philippines country director Kimmy Coseteng-Flaviano.

Racing in June are former beauty queen and Smile Train Philippines’ celebrity ambassador Carlene Aguilar-Ocampo, neurosurgeon Dr. Levi Maliwat, and endurance racers Riz Estrada and Sheila Gagui. They will race together with Rojan Pajarin who was born with cleft lip and palate.

Smile Train’s officials and Team EMPOWER (from left) Coach Bing Benares, Smile Train Philippines country director Kimmy Coseteng-Flaviano, Andres Philip Mayol, Rojan Pajarin, Carlene Aguilar-Ocampo, Dr. Levi Maliwat, and Dr. Gene Tiongco
Pajarin shared he was bullied because of his condition; he hid behind the shadows and refrained from socializing with others. His experience with Smile Train, however, has opened his eyes to more opportunities and to becoming an inspiration to others. He trains hard to help put a smile on others’ faces. 

“To the extent of what I saw, I encourage everyone with clefts to go out there and not be shy. There are many things that you can do. Continue to do what you think is right and what you think will help you—us,” Pajarin shared with Manila Standard. 

Much like Pajarin, some of the triathletes joining this year are eager to help empower the beneficiaries of Smile Train. 

“Sometimes the conditions are rough—it’s too cold, it’s too hot. But they say the reason they were able to finish the race was because they were not doing it for them, they were doing it for Smile Train,” shared Coseteng-Flaviano.

Team EMPOWER is a global endurance fundraising program of Smile Train. It gives athletes all around the world the opportunity to make their race count by providing high quality surgery and comprehensive cleft care for children. Since 2013, Team EMPOWER has helped more than 14,700 children. 

Visit to know more about Smile Train’s global efforts.

Topics: Smile Train , Team EMPOWER , Cobra Ironman , Kimmy Coseteng-Flaviano , Carlene Aguilar-Ocampo
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