MANILA, PHILIPPINES - A sarimanok-inspired routine highlighted by acrobatic stunts propelled Far Eastern University on top of the UAAP cheerdance competition where perennial standout University of Santo Tomas failed to make it to the podium for the first time in years.
The FEU Cheering Squad, boasting of two members of the national gymnastics team, ruled the popular collegiate championship for the first time in 11 years with a score of 86.1 percent, ending a string of runner-up finishes in the last six seasons.
?We wanted to show a flawless execution,? said choreographer Jaqueline Alolor after FEU copped the crown in front of a 20,000-strong crowd at the Araneta Coliseum.
?After several years of being second or third place, we decided to adopt the sarimanok concept because it?s a bird that soars high.?
?We trained for this for almost five months,? said FEU captain Ven-Mar Cudog, whose squad also pocketed the P225,000 top prize.
Alolor said that they have been practicing since summer and expects FEU to remain a contender next year since only two of its current members are set to graduate this schoolyear.
Half of the 25-member cheering squad are gymnasts, two of them members of the national gymnastics team, according to Alolor.
The Ateneo Blue Babble Battalion, fourth in the last two years, emerged as the surprise runner-up with 83.4 percent following a number most remembered for its aerial moonwalk and Broadway-inspired dance.
?We wanted to nail our routine and surpass our past runs,? said Ateneo cheerdance captain Sari Campos.
Ateneo narrowly beat out traditional powerhouse University of the Philippines Pep Squad, the 2007-2008 champion that wound up third with 83.1 percent.
The UST Salinggawi Dance Troupe, the league?s most successful cheerdance group with eight crowns, fell to fourth with 81 percent despite showcasing unique stunts that included a moving pyramid and a circular walk.
Dr. Sylvia Chua, president and founder of the Cheerleading Association of the Philippines, led the panel of judges composed of Powerdance artistic director Douglas Nierras, Pilipinas Cheerleading Federation president Evan Alvia, Joy Garcia Valenton of the Gymnastics Association of the Philippines and Ai Hasegawa of the Foundation of Japan Cheerleading Association.
FEU, which last won the title in 1998, bagged its second overall crown since the league introduced the competition in 1994.With a report by Izah Morales