MANILA, Philippines – In 2017, the NU Pep Squad was on top of the world of cheerdancing. The powerhouse crew was gunning for a rare UAAP Cheerdance Competition title five-peat and stood as heavy favorites to actually do it in Season 80.
However, that all came crashing down – quite literally – on the day of the competition itself.
What was expected to be a masterful performance of ridiculous tosses, pyramids and stunts turned into an avalanche of errors, much to the delight of fans from other schools who wanted to see the five-peat denied.
And indeed, the five-peat was not meant to happen for NU. Not only did they crash on the mats, but they also tumbled out of the podium as the underdog Adamson Pep Squad seized the crown.
Despite the humiliating fifth-place finish, everyone expected the elite program to bounce back, and that’s exactly what they did for Season 81.
On Saturday, November 17, a hungry NU Pep Squad reemerged, back with the feared error-free form they were famous for. Wearing skull-like makeup, floral dresses and sombreros inspired by Mexico’s Day of the Dead, the stars of Sampaloc rose back from the ashes and cruised to their fifth cheerdance title in 6 years.
Towering pyramids, synchronized stunts, crisp dance moves, you name it, NU got it all for you.
You could almost feel that they trained for this since the day after last year’s contest. However, according to head coach Ghicka Bernabe, that wasn’t the case at all.
“Last year’s experience was very memorable kasi bago nag-aral ng pyramids and stunts ang una namin inaral after that scenario is how to move on and accept,” she said. “Kasi mahirap mag-bagong routine kung ang mindset ay in denial kami.”
(Last year’s experience was very memorable because before we trained for pyramids and stunts, we first learned after that scenario is how to move on and accept. Because it’s difficult to train for a new routine when our mindset is still in denial.)
“For how many months, before we conceptualized a routine together with coaches, we first healed ourselves emotionally and physically,” she continued.
Before NU’s rise at the turn of the decade, only the UST Salinggawi Dance Troupe from 2002 to 2006 had been five-peat champions. However, instead of moping over the lost opportunity, NU focused instead on attaining perfection.
“Di kami nag-commit ng any deduction kasi one point malaki nagagawa no’n,” the multi-titled coach said. (We didn’t commit any deductions because a lot can happen with one point.)
Indeed, the points mattered this season, down to the decimals.
Former champion Adamson snuck into the podium as the second runner-up after garnering 638.5 points. Fourth-place UST was behind by merely 0.5 point.
As for NU’s captain Kevin Lacbong, he felt that the pressure was on them to deliver the comeback because they simply had no more reasons not to do so.
“Nakakahiya na kung walang mababalik,” said the fourth-year student. “Binibingay na lahat, kami na lang kulang. Perform kaming maayos, mag-aral nang mabuti and nabibgyan ng members namin ng support nila all-out.”
(It’s already embarrassing if we couldn’t give back. We’re given everything, it’s up to us to deliver. If we perform and study well, our members are given all-out support.)
“Pagkain, condo… iilang athlete lang nakakaranas no’n sa UAAP,” he continued. “Managers namin, scholarships, coaches, kung ano skill na meron kami, hinasa kami.”
(Food, condo units… only a few athletes experience that in the UAAP. Managers, scholarships, coaches, whatever skill we have, we are honed.)
Indeed, for an established program like NU Pep, one year away from the spotlight is too much.
“Tama na isang pinahiram namin sa kanila,” Lacbong said. “Tama na yun, amin na ulit.”
(It’s enough that we lent one to them. That’s enough, it’s ours again.) – Rappler.com