i make no excuses for the fact that i have been a huge (but nevertheless silent) fan of the UP pep squad since i first watched them live in araneta in 2001. that was the same year they won a third consecutive championship in the annual UAAP cheerdance competition, before caving in to their own notions of innovation and creativity, and basically handing it over to the more traditional españa dancers (for five consecutive years). i love and support this team because these days when we're fumbling in all of the core UAAP sports, cheerdancing gets to be my only source of school pride. so i have been following with anxious anticipation the remaining days leading to this year's championship. i had actually tried to get myself tickets to the event, but as i hear, they were very quickly gone, scalpers made a killing, and the lines outside araneta on competition day were interminably long, so watching it live was out of the question. which is not to belittle the lengths i went to just to watch it. i quite literally walked for over 2 hours just to be able to see all 8 routines, with their requisite twists, tosses, tumbles, pyramids, and chants. let me explain why: as i have repeatedly said in this blog, i live alone, and continue to refuse to buy television. and since i had to be in the makati area that sunday, i decided to watch the competition in the gym. on a treadmill, with my ears plugged to a set of phones. i doubt whether i could just commandeer one of the sets and turn up the volume since that would disrupt the other patrons of the gym, so as not to appear that i was just idly occupying one of the treadmills (yes, it's spelled that way, without an h), i turned it on at a steady and leisurely pace of 4kph, and had my eyes glued to the LCD screen in front of me. i won't exactly call that pathetic, but then again, at least i was doing some form of exercise while watching TV. certainly beats sitting on a couch, eating fries. haha.
i loathed the days when nestlé sponsored the competition and required each of the teams to do a one-minute nestlé cheer in the middle of their routines, so when samsung took over the event, i was happy that at least, the only exposure they required was a patch on the performers' costumes. this year however, 3 dancers had to run around the blue competition mat carrying a samsung flag and perform a badly-rehearsed dance routine before the actual teams come in. so anyway, i was really just looking forward to seeing UP, FEU, UST and ADMU, because these are the only teams that really mattered. UST came in first and i was unimpressed. it was a clean routine, but with absolutely no wow. they seemed a bit limp, uninspired, without energy. it was as if they didn't want to win. and it started with the costume really.
UP followed and i was a bit baffled by their costume. there seemed to be some suggestive swirls, and what seemed to be alibata all around a flesh-colored suit, and the guys had mohawk haircuts. but the minute they started their routine, i couldn't help but gasp OMG! OMG! it wasn't as cleanly executed as UST's, but the level of difficulty was way out there, the stunts they performed invited very serious accidents. very good tumbling passes. it was just toss after toss after toss, and pyramid after pyramid. the transitions were quick and snappy, and maybe the camera angles were poorly chosen because the close-ups focused on some minor errors when in fact the total effect was astounding (when they raised the placards, it read: T-U-G-O-D UP). i could judge just by the screaming of the audience. so they went tribal this year, and it sort of worked. they'd done folk before and lost miserably, so it's great that they worked around a thrilling concept, and didn't sink into the novelty of the idea. i was just completely blown away, and the disappearing/appearing acts were totally unexpected. UP pep really made my day!
FEU actually did well until their final pyramid, which had a flyer crashing, and ateneo also had some great moves compounded by some difficulty, but seemed to lack a lot of energy. what really surprised me though was AdU. their courtside reporter remarked that adamson's pep squad will challenge that "powers to be", so i really had high expectations (chuckles). but their tosses were crazy dangerous, and also very unique, and that final pyramid was wow with several o's. haha. too bad one of their pyramids collapsed a second too early.
after around 8kms on the treadmill, they still weren't about to announce the winners. they had this dream team comprised of members from each of the squads, and seriously, they could have done without it. and they also had a special award: a samsung stunner to the prettiest cheerdancer. surprise surprise, it went to a member of the UP pep squad. i honestly thought one of the ateneo girls would win it. but that frances fleta is really cute! and humble too, like, does she even know she's beautiful? to think that i initially thought all of UP pep's members -- including the girls -- were more macho than me. haha.
even though UP did really well, i doubted the judging, beginning with UST winning 1st runner-up. a clean but boring routine shouldn't be rewarded since all teams could do that. but in the end, all that mattered to me was that my UP pep squad thumped the competition. hehe. congrats team. i can't help myself. i keep watching your routine over and over again. addicting. you make me proud. so who cares if we don't win the basketball crown? we have the best cheerdance group ever!