UP Pep Squad scores ‘3-peat’By Jasmine W. Payo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
The University of the Philippine Pep Squad rode on the theme of freedom and equality. But there’s still no equaling the Maroons on the cheerdance floor.
Paying homage to the university’s iconic Oblation, the UP Pep Squad showcased another visual feast to capture its third straight championship in the UAAP Cheerdance Competition yesterday in front of a lively crowd of 19,509 at the jampacked Mall of Asia Arena.
“We started with the Oblation, the symbol of our university, and we showed a lot of stunts that were of international level,” said Laurence Martin Bautista, one of the senior members of the UP Pep Squad.
With the entire dance crew bravely sporting shaved heads, UP pulled off a near perfect, technically tough routine highlighted by three pyramid formations.
But unlike their flashy Madonna-inspired routine last year, the Maroons came out simply garbed with nude-toned unitards trimmed by the UP colors of maroon and green.
We’re not afraid
“We wanted to show that we’re a free university, we’re not afraid of anything that we even shaved our heads,” said Bautista. “Even the idea for the costume, we wanted it to be as simple as possible.”
“We were initially scared of shaving our heads, especially the girls, who were hesitant,” added Bautista, noting that the members donated their hair for wigs to be used by alopecia patients.
The Maroons copped their eighth overall crown, tying University of Santo Tomas for the most number of titles in the event.
Far Eastern University, flashing a jungle-inspired routine, clinched runner-up honors to cop a podium finish for the 10th straight season.
UP, which duplicated its ‘three-peat’ feat from 1999 to 2001, pocketed the P340,00 grand prize, while FEU picked up a P200,000 consolation prize.
National University crashed into the top three for the first time, bagging second runner-up honors with a performance built around the theme of royalty.
“This is the first time for NU in the history of cheerdance,” said NU coach Ghicka Bernabe. “We’re so proud. We promise to give an even better fight next year.”
UP reigned the entire competition as the Maroons also bagged the crown in the Group Stunts, a side show of lifts and tosses, and cheerdancer Nicolette Erica Ambulo copped the Samsung Stunner award.
But the Maroons admitted that they felt slightly worried when a section of their final formation collapsed, the only miscue in an otherwise perfect run.
“The competition is about perfection, so we felt a bit scared,” said Bautista. “But we just decided to trust and believe that everyone saw the difficulty of our stunts and transitions. We think the international judges saw that.”
“We’re happy with our performance and we didn’t blame anyone,” said UP co-captain Trixie Segundo.
The UST Salinggawi Dance Troupe, who once reigned for five straight years starting in 2002, failed to finish in the top three for the second time in four years.
UST finished fourth, followed by La Salle, Ateneo, Adamson and University of the East.
Both FEU and NU also settled for runner-up finishes in the Group Stunts.
Four international experts served as Cheerdance judges led by Huang Yu Chun, president of the Chinese Taipei Cheerleading Federation.
United States All-Star Federation safety/legality judge Joe Jackson, Chameleon Dance Theater associate director Manuel Malonzo, international judge Julien Leblond and Romania’s Women’s Gymnastics of the Municipal Sports Club coach Janna Eftimiu completed the five-man panel.
Judging the Stunts event were Ronald Suva, Alejandro Leyson Mendelebar and Lydia Sangkula.
The victory also gave UP something to cheer about after another heartbreaking run in the men’s basketball tournament where the Maroons finished dead-last with a 1-13 record.
Bautista said the Maroons prepared for their routine as early as summer of this year.
“We’ve been preparing for a long time, some were even worried because 50 to 60 percent of our members are new,” said Bautista.
He added that international exposure helped the team, noting that UP also captured third place in the World Cheerleading Championship in Hong Kong last November 2011.
Judging was based on dance technique, jumps and tumblings, tosses, lifts and stunts, pyramids, choreography and synchronization.