For so long, National University was the true-to-life underdog of the UAAP Cheerdance Competition. The squad was often written off and no one expected the side to even make the podium, no less compete for one.
It was not until NU Pep took into its folds a familiar foe in Far Eastern University alumna Ghicka Bernabe as its head coach.
And as the saying goes, the rest was history.
Fittingly, the run started when NU hosted UAAP Season 75 with an Alladin-inspired routine for its first-ever podium finish, just behind cheerdance royalties University of the Philippines and FEU.
And just the year after, the squad captured a breakthrough championship and from there, three more consecutive titles followed, cementing NU as the new “top dog” in the league.
“Siguro wala ng emotion akong mailalabas ngayon kundi happiness, kasi since ito yung last season ko and I’ve been working with the NU Pep Squad for 12 years. And with the 12 years, out of nine seasons, nakakuha tayo ng seven championships at two podium fnishes,” Bernabe shared.
“Siguro yung happiness ko ngayon, mas malaki pa sa arena. Ganun siya, kasi at least, kung last season ko man, hindi ko nabigo ang bawat supporter, lahat ng umaasa sa NU Pep Squad na kayang-kayang ibalik ‘yung (championship) trophy na to sa NU.”
The soon-to-be-married Bernabe said, “I’m so happy that lahat ng plinano, lahat nang bagaya na pinractice, lahat ng taong nakapaligid sa ‘kin, they are destined to be with me sa journey na ‘to with the NU Pep Squad.”
It was an unexpected road for Bernabe as she had not seen herself leading a squad, more so, putting it in the spotlight like what she had done with the now seven-time champions.
“Yung seven championships na nabigay natin sa university, I believe achievement ‘yon. It’s a milestone for me, kasi before I don’t consider myself na mag-coach na this long — 12 years na matagal talaga.
“Hindi ko lang siguro nakita yung sarili ko at first na magco-coach ako. Pero nung time na nakikita ko na ‘yung improvement, kinakaya naman natin na mag-champion, I’m just so grateful to the management na nagtiwala sa ‘kin kasi isa ako sa pinaka-simpleng cheerleader before nung college ako,” Bernabe shared.
The architect that built this cheer dynasty could probably pass it on to another builder, but Bernabe made sure it was a strong foundation for the years to come.