Call it a Super Saturday for the Pep Squad of the University of the Philippines.
Nesza Isabel Salvador suffered a glaring lifting blunder in the finale but UP, as expected, clinched the UAAP Season 75 cheerdance competition title and gained their second ‘three-peat’ at the packed MOA Arena.
After a superb Madonna-inspired performance last season, the Pep Squad members shaved their heads this time and thrilled the crowd of 19,509 with a near-flawless, freedom-themed routine.
It was the fourth title in the last five years and eighth overall–highlighted by their reign in 1999-2001, for UP, enabling them to tie the University of Santo Tomas Salinggawi Dance Troupe’s title haul since the event’s inception in 1994.
“Basically for UP, gusto namin ipakita sa ibang schools na we’re a free university,” stated Lawrence Martin Bautista, the team’s former co-captain. “Wala kaming kinatatakutan an gang mga UP students, malaya kami.”
More than just extending their dominance in the one of the most-sought events in the collegiate calendar, the Fighting Maroons, handled by coach Lala Perena, are also doing their share for a charitable cause.
“Nagkataon na Alopecia Awareness Month rin kaya ido-donate rin namin ‘yung mga buhok para sa mga patients. Gusto namin magbigay ng inspirasyon na kahit walang buhok, pwedng maging strong at confident,” added Bautista, now on his fifth and final year.
Bautista claimed UP’s current team is composed mainly by new faces “but we’re able to prove them (critics) wrong dahil kaya rin ng mga bago (sa team).” The FEU Cheering Squad, who ruled the event in 2009 and finished third last year, showcased a smooth, jungle-themed performance but that proved not enough to get the judges’ nod, settling for the bridesmaid finish while taking home P200,000.
Emerging as this year’s biggest surprise was host National University, thanks to a Disney-themed performance that gave the Bulldogs the second runner-up trophy–their first podium finish–and a P140, 000 worth of check.
The UP Pep Squad also copped the stunts’ competition crown, with FEU and NU settling for second and third spots, respectively.
The bubbly Nicolette Ericka Ambulo emerged as this year’s Samsung Stunner to complete the big day for the UP faithful.
The UST Salinggawi Dance Troupe, which demonstrated a Brazilian-themed routine, endured another lackluster year, finishing fourth while the La Salle Animo Squad, which pulled off a stunning first runner-up finish last season, flaunted a boxing-inspired act but ended at fifth.
Rounding out the rankings in the centerpiece event were the Ateneo Blue Babble Battalion (Anime-inspired), Adamson (K-Pop-themed), and the UE Pep Squad (Blondie 2.0).
Serving as the event’s panel of judges were Yu Chun Huang, president of the Chinese-Taipei Cheerleading Federation; Joe Jackson, USASF Safety/Legality judge; Manuel Malonzo, associate director of Chameleon Dance Theater; Julien Leblond, president of the Indonesian Cheerleading Community, and; Luminita “Janna” Eftimiu, coach of the Women’s Gymnastics of the Municipal Sports of Onesti, Bacau, Romania.
The judges based their scores on the following criteria: dance technique (10-20 points), jumps and tumblings (10-15), tosses (10-15), lifts and stunts (10-15), pyramids (10-15 points), and choreography/synchronization (6-10).