The UAAP community was incomplete in last year’s Cheerdance Competition, as the University of the Philippines Pep Squad decided to boycott the contest.
However, the eight-time champions made a welcome return in this year’s festivities. And no one was more pleased to see them perform again than their mentors.
“Masaya ‘ko para mga bata, kasi nabigyan sila ng chance to compete,” coach NJ Antonio shared. “Na-showcase nila ‘yung galing nila. Napakita nila ‘yung pinag-trabahuhan nila for the whole year.”
“Siyempre, masarap pa rin,” added co-captain Megan Mendoza.
“After all that time, it still feels great to perform for the UP community cause they’ve always, always been there for us.”
The road to the competition was not easy, as the squad has to essentially start from scratch. UP Pep currently have 17 rookies on their roster, and, according to Antonio, most of them do not have backgrounds in stunts or gymnastics.
“Hindi lang medyo marami, more than half sa kanila bago. Karamihan diyan, sabihin nating 90 percent, hindi talaga cheering yung bcajground nila nung high school sila. Pumunta sila sa UP, may experience pero hindi high level. Tinuruan pa namin sila ng tumbling, magbuhat, magpabuhat.”
Despite finishing in just sixth place — the lowest UP Pep have finished since joining the tournament — seeing these CDC neophytes deliver was elation to the UP Pep coaches.
“So, yung pinakita nilang performance, lamang na lamang yung kalaban iyon terms of yung skills nila — elite gymnasts yung mga yan eh, na kahit papa’no, naka-deliver pa rin yung UP Pep Squad,” the former team captain shared.
“Sobrang gaan ng feeling, sobrang sarap. ‘Di man siya yung perfect run, pero masaya kami,” added co-captain Thea Obanil.
“Yun yung mas nagma-matter – yung nafi-feel ng teammates ko.”
Before the competition, people who had seen the routine felt something was lacking in the piece for Saturday night. Antonio begged to differ, explaining that they had gone for something safe and up to the level of their members.
“Hindi naman kasi basta-basta madali magbigay ng mahirap na routine. Unang-una, iisipin mo yung safety ng mga pinasasayaw mo. Hindi naman habambuhay ‘yung ginagawa nila,” the mentor said. “Yung injury, baka maging permanente pa yun,” Antonio said.
“Iniingatan namin sila and at the same time, bibigay namin sa kanila ‘yung kaya nilang gawin.”
With the confidence that the rookies gained from the experience, the coaches and the whole UP community hope the squad will continue to improve and return to the signature moves for which they are known.
“Sana, sana. Ganun naman palagi yung goal namin,” Antonio optimistically stated. “Pero nakadepende pa rin yan sa tao. Hindi naman yan pantay-pantay na ‘pag tinuruan mo, gagaling. Pero, yan ang trabaho namin.
“Pagtatrabahuhan namin na gumaling sila, not the fastest was possible, but the safest way possible.”