When the National University Pep Squad received the championship trophy for the UAAP Season 81 Cheerdance Competition, tears flowed and hugs were shared. It was as if it were the first time they had won it.
“Parang ito yung first championship namin. Nasa cloud nine kami,” shared NU Pep head coach Ghicka Bernabe, who has won the four championships prior.
“Dati di sila nananalo, laging bottom,” added the product of Far Eastern University. “Mapasama ka lang sa top three nun, overwhelming na.
“Yun nag-champion, para siyang panaginip.”
After falling to a tie for fourth and fifth place a season ago, Bernabe made sure to settle her troops.
Besides their usual practices, she kept them grounded. The team’s core were still made to perform during the halftime breaks of the NU Bulldogs’ games – a practice they’d let go years ago. Moreover, after being the antagonists of the other schools in the last five years, Bernabe gave the team a situational drill, inviting Nationalians to cheer and boo NU Pep during their practices.
And it made the team hungrier than ever.
“Hindi ko ma-express ang nararamdaman namin. Overwhelming talaga,” said Team Captain Kevin Lacbong, a fourth-year BS Physical Education student.
“Sobrang proud ko sa team namin dahil sobrang hirap ng pinagdaanan natin.”
It did not help that their five-peat hopes were shattered last year. The loss served as motivation to put on a flawless routine that was inspired by the movie ‘Coco’.
“Tama na! Isa yung pinahiram namin sa kanila. Tama na yun, amin na ulit!”
Besides wanting to regain the crown, NU Pep wanted to repay everything their team manager Mark Gaw has given to them.
“Araw araw may pagkain kami, condo, iilang atleta lang ang nakakaranas nun sa UAAP,” a grateful Lacbong expressed. “Pati scholarship at coaches meron!
“Hinahasa nila kami para wala na kaming rason para matalo.”
Having already experienced the lowest of lows, NU Pep vow that they will remain hungry the rest of the way.
“Itong team na ito, hindi lang best sa Philippines, best in Asia. Sobrang lakas ng team na ‘to,” he declared.
“Kailangan lagi kaming hungry and humble.”