Let me start this piece by saying that I have nothing, nothing, but utmost respect for all cheerleaders/dancers everywhere. Beyond the stereotype they show on TV about these individuals being snobbish and bitchy, you have a group who are physically strong and mentally focused. Being part of such a team entails countless hours of training and practice, numerous injuries and a great many doubts of your own skills and capabilities. For an event such as UAAP Cheer Dance Competition, all of the things I mentioned will be tripled if not quadrupled.
And this leads me to the core of my piece, the recently concluded 2012 UAAP Cheer Dance Competition. To be quite honest, when I was in college in UP Manila (a long time ago), I don’t recall ever getting excited about this competition. I probably didn’t even know it existed. I existed in my own little bubble of college, busy with figuring out how to cram a huge amount of knowledge into my little brain. I don’t remember when I started being aware of UAAP but I’m glad that somehow I found out about it. Because I love watching performances. Performances that will make you breathless, awestruck, and because you’re part of a university, incredibly proud too.
Before we go any further, please be informed that I am not an expert in cheerleading, gymnastics, dancing and the like. I don’t know much about the history of the UAAP (read: had my own little college bubble.) This piece is all about my observations as a spectator and a proud member of the University of the Philippines community.
The first school to perform was Adamson University. The only thing I know about Adamson is that it is along Taft Avenue, the area of U.N. (LRT 1) and that I have friends who have gone to this school. That’s about it. Anyway, I liked their performance. It was decently executed and synchronized. I didn’t like their uniform though. The color blue made them blend with the performance area. Most of the music they used were K-pop (dear to my heart) which made me wonder why they didn’t borrow fashion ideas from the K-pop stars (read: edgy clothes from 2NE1, crazy hair extensions from Big Bang, etc.) Yeah, AdU could’ve gone all K-pop on us because precision movements are also a hallmark of K-pop choreography. I’m sure K-pop crazy Pinoys, majority of which are highschool to college level, wouldn’t have minded.
Next up is La Salle University. La Lasalle is also along Taft Avenue, in the Vito Cruz area (LRT 1.) It is near my elementary and high school – St. Scholastica’s College and has the reputation of having some of the wealthiest students around. Personally, La Sallistas have always struck me as kick ass smart people with a knack for business (hence, the wealth.) As for their performance, they threw punches – literally. The concept was centered around boxing with technical requirements mixed up with really good boxing punches and footwork. Their costume on the other hand, just didn’t do anything for me. Sure you have your boxing gloves, and boxing boots and something that resembled a title belt but pull that off in forest green and white with some patterns thrown. Fifty shades of green, perhaps? All in all, La Salle gave a solid performance with enough energy to make the routine interesting. And that portion with five girls having one foot anchored by a corresponding guy and the other foot up supported by the girl next to them (sorry, no technical terms) was amazing! Animo La Salle!
In the third spot is National University. Now, I do apologize, but I have no idea where National University is located. I can hazard a guess that it’s also along the University Belt but that’s what Google is for. According to Wikipedia, National University boasts an impressive history, alumni and has had majority of its shares bought by SM Group of Companies. It is also a founding member of the University Athletic Association of the Philippines a.k.a UAAP. Well, well, well. Sorry, I still don’t know where it’s located. On to its pep squad’s performance. Loved the costume, loved the theme. Why? Because every single one of them looked like they were attending a ball – a Disney ball to be exact. And I am a certified Disney lover. It was also quite fun to recognize Disney music and lyrics lurking beneath the hulking tones of hiphop, pop and electronic music. They also had some really great stunts such as that awesome pyramid with one girl doing a spread-eagle handstand (sorry, best term I could come up with) at the center or the five simultaneous basket tosses. I wish they did more partner choreography (being in a Disney ball and everything) like have members dance a spot of waltz or quickstep. The only thing I didn’t like was the frantic pace the music and choreography took from the middle to the end of the performance. It caused performers to lose the gracefulness of movements and in a Disney Ball, that’s one thing you should not do.
Far Eastern University is located in Morayta, right in between the crazy and youthful area of Espana and the traditional and religious area of Quiapo. If the location of the school is anything to go by, I’d say FEU students would have to be street-wise and street-tough. Pretty much in line with their theme for the UAAP competition – the wild! And unleash their wild side they did! Their performance was fanstastic! Given that there were some very minor errors, it did not detract from their insanely and wildly entertaining performance! From their neatly executed stunts to their strongly held poses, the Tamaraws were in it to win it! That piece of choreography with the members pretty much moving around on all fours (read: extended knees and elbows) was scary and beautiful at the same time. The time they built columns and arches (it was a pyramid that didn’t look like a pyramid) was strong and well executed. And don’t even get me started on their costume. Creativity and expertise was employed in mixing together green-yellow animal print, little hidden pockets with a secret tamaraw tail, a smart pull-off top and amazing Tamaraw head dress just made the entire performance even more memorable. Their performance was so good, I was afraid they were going to win (that’s the Iska in me talking.) Two thumbs way up for FEU for their superb performance and heartfelt congratulations for consistently making the podium!
University of the East was the fifth performer in the competition. Located in roughly the same area as FEU so I would guess that students there are just as street-wise and street-tough only this time, they’re involved in Medicine. The only people I know from UE are physical therapists and doctors, so go figure. Anyway, the UE pep squad was said to be channelling the Immortals but in my opinion, they didn’t channel enough. In fact, their performance lacked the power of the gods so much so that it seemed unoriginal and boring. So, where did they go wrong? Let’s start with that mistake of a courtside reporter who called out for the University of the Philippines when she should be calling out for the University of the East. Seriously?! Did you not practice enough or does the letter E seem like a letter P to you? Next point, the hair. Blond was sooo last year. 2011 UP Pep Squad to be more specific. Seriously? Out of all the colors in the world, you choose blond. And no, blond on top with brown at the bottom and a beehive hairstyle does not make it fresh and new. Next, lose the cape. It would’ve made sense if they were re-enacting a scene from 300 but immortals don’t need red capes to be powerful. They just are. A lot of moves were weakly executed, the performers looked tired and the entire performance lacked power and energy. I am sure the team did their best but as a spectator, I didn’t feel buoyed up, excited or entertained. I was simply waiting for it to end.
The oldest University in the Philippines, University of Sto. Tomas came next, bringing Brazil with them. The school is located in Espana, known for its sprawling grounds, enormous field (sometimes lake, depending on the season) and its 400-year old history. I have friends from UST and almost became a Tomasian myself so I’d have to say, for an oldie, Uste is pretty cool (wink, wink!) As I said earlier, UST Salinggawi dancers brought Brazil with them, at least their version of what I suspect is a Mardi Gras carnival. The routine itself was solid, safe and some glaring but minor errors. I liked the stunt where a guy pretty much whips a girl over his head using her own, stretched out leg as leverage (read: don’t know the technical term for it.) That move was something I didn’t notice other squads did and it made for a nice difficult-looking move. But if you look at the theme, safe and carnival just doesn’t go well together. Their costumes looked like it was a mesh between fire and sunflowers. Come on, we’re talking about Brazil, land of the samba, teeny weeny bikinis and the huge crazy carnival. And sunflowers with flowery head dresses and a Latina looking cheer dancer is the best you can come up with? Since we’re on the topic of dance, I also wondered by the sashaying of hips, so common in Latin dances (read: Brazilian samba), was absent in the routine. The music didn’t sound Carnival-ish to me when you could’ve easily gotten songs from Shakira, Ricky Martin or Marc Anthony. Not the strongest performance is my vote for this delivery.
Ateneo de Manila University performed next. I remember my Mom telling me that the Ateneo campus along Katipunan smelled like cologne and that only two things kept me from continuing there was that it was too far and tuition fees were too high for our budget. As such I bade Ateneo goodbye and made friends with Ateneans instead. Majority of the Ateneans I’ve encountered had good manners, geeky (in a good way) and have a way (a long winded) way with words. As a result, I get along with them pretty well. The Blue Babble Battalion’s (told you they have a way with words) theme was based on Voltes V. Yes, one of the first animes any child of the eighties and nineties would’ve encountered. Way before all other fast paced robot animes that have invaded Philippine television, there was “Voolltesss Fiiivaaahhh!” So anyway, their costumes fit the theme but the color blue (again!) just makes them blend with the floor. It’s a good thing they had white tights on and those creepy white masks which distinguished the performers during their movements. I like how the performers just seemed to be flying into their next position and the girl held up by a corresponding guy at the beginning of the routine was wonderful and strong. They had many strong moments within the performance but with minor spills too. The assembled Voltes V robot was nostalgic and fantastic. To top it off, there was that hilarious encounter with a Blue Eagle basketball player who so explicitly states “Syempre kelangan talunin nila lahat bago sila makapasok dun sa top” (Of course they would have to win over all other teams before they can get to the top spot.) Duh. All in all, a good bid for the top spot.
And now, University of the Philippines. Majority of the performers, if not all, attend UP Diliman but suffice it to say that when it comes to cheerdancing, UP is UP, no matter what campus. This school has many things to be proud and the UP Pep Squad is one of them. With “Make8Happen” and “3-peat” as a rally cry, the Iskolars ng Bayan went out to prove why they are often dubbed as the best of the best. While other squads were seen milling around the waiting area, the UP squad added to the anticipation by staying out of sight until their actual performance. People were excited for what they had in store as their short blond hair and flawless routine in 2011 simply raised the bar in the competition. And jaw dropping surprise was what people got. When I saw the squad, the first word that came to mind was androgyny. And that was because you couldn’t tell the females from the males. Every single one of them had “semi-kal” or buzz cut hair. Every one of them was wearing the same flesh hued bodysuit. Only when you get over your initial surprise over their outrageous haircut that you appreciate the message it sends. In fact, whoever conceptualized the squad’s theme had a very strong political and social message to send out. From the cry of “Freedom” to the androgynous look to the call for all other participating schools done within the routine, the message I received is one of equality, solidarity and responsibility. Leave it to UP to bring activism in the UAAP CDC. Neat lines, flawless execution (except for that one fall at the end), precise formation and an abundance of the Oblation pose (which incidentally means giving oneself to the country) brings to the forefront what UP is all about – honing the best in you so that you can return it your countrymen. And the fact that the UP Squad donated their hair to make wigs for cancer patients just seems to seal the deal.
Needless to say, UP won their 3-peat bid for the top spot with the feral FEU in 1st place and Disney Ball-going NU getting the 2nd. I enjoyed watching the performance and once again reiterate my respect and admiration for all who participated in this event and for all other athletes training hard for their respective event. Most of all, congratulations to the UP Pep Squad for a victory that was well deserved! Sa uulitin! =)