Limited-edition bags launched to raise funds for Smile Train

16 OCTOBER 2022, MANILA, PHILIPPINES — The world's largest cleft-focused organization, Smile Train, through its local affiliate, Smile Train Philippines, launched a limited-edition line of bags in honor of World Smile Day®, a day dedicated to smiles and deeds of kindness that is observed by people everywhere. Rommel Rico, also known as "Virrco," a New York-based artist, created the bags.

The nurse-turned-visual artist wanted to “ship” the idea of “art-to-cause”. In order to fund programs that serve children with clefts, Smile Train will receive the proceeds from the sale of the limited edition Virrco Bags, allowing shoppers to support a worthwhile cause.

Based on the latest data from Smile Train, every three minutes, a baby is born with a cleft somewhere in the world. In the Philippines, it is estimated that there are about 5,000 babies born with a cleft every single year. 

For their health and wellbeing, children with cleft lip or palate need quality care and treatment because they may struggle to breathe, eat, or speak, and many of them avoid going to school due to bullying. This can make it more difficult for them to find stable employment and may also affect their chances of doing so.

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. Consumers may help by purchasing Virrco bags, which will help us provide the patients we care for new smiles and second chances at life. For giving of his time and expertise to the cleft community, Mr. Rico is gratefully acknowledged by Smile Train, according to Coseteng-Flaviano.

When Virrco rediscovered his love for art and painting, he was working as a physical therapist in New York prior to the introduction of the Virrco Bags. He incorporates his distinctive technique of portraying the passion of Filipino women in his paintings, conveying their fortitude and unwavering spirit in the modern environment.

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 and on Virrco’s Facebook page at 

For more information about Smile Train’s global efforts and to donate, please visit To leam more about Smile Train’s local programs in the Philippines, please visit, follow Smile Train Philippines on Twitter and Instagram @SmileTrainPh, and like us on Facebook at @SmileTrainPhilippines.

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