Cheering UP with passion
Sold-out crowd. Jam-packed arena. Wild, thunderous cheering. Heart-stopping flips and stunts.
For the first time, I got lucky enough to get a courtside seat at the very popular UAAP Cheerdance Competition. Netizens, just like the crowd in the live competition, have their own list of top three as I do, but let’s not get into that circus. At the end of the day, viewers got inspired and entertained by the grace and athleticism of all the participants.
My favorite University of the Philippines Pep Squad or UP Pep has an army of fans because they use the annual fest as a venue to impart a message. While I was close to the action, I was seated on the side and didn’t see the big heart they formed in their last pyramid. Despite not seeing all the presentation highlights, the performance still gave me goosebumps.
The creativity of the UP Pep and their athleticism never fail to surprise and entertain not only during competition but even at halftime. Again, I was in the MOA Arena last September 13 when they fused acrobatics and yoga for a strong halftime performance shown here from photos by Darren Bendanillo.
A veteran cheerdance team formed in 1994, UP Pep has won several competitions here and abroad and Professor Lalaine Rosenda Juarez-Pereña has coached the team since 1998.We caught up with coach Lalaine and asked her a few questions:
THE PHILIPPINE STAR: What is the common passion that binds members of UP Pep into one cohesive team?
COACH LALAINE JUAREZ PERENA: At first, for most of them, it’s their passion for dancing and cheerleading. But as they stay in the succeeding years, I’d like to believe that they’ve become even more passionate with their love for UP Pep Squad as a family and truly growing in love with our alma matter, therefore developing that sense of pride and being one in giving our full service to our beloved university, our UP naming mahal (we love). I think for most of us, every Isko and Iska Pep somehow becomes emotional every time we sing our school hymn.
Whether you are in competition or just a regular half-time, I notice that UP Pep prepares well-choreographed numbers most worthy of competition performance. That I’m sure is not a requirement. Why do you prepare well for every halftime presentation?
The UP Pep Squad members are not just athletes but performers as well. We make it a point to make our training program as varied and unique as possible because we want to showcase the versatility of each member and our team as a whole. My motto for them is always giving the UP community and our audience the best offering, nothing less. We owe it to every single person watching us perform.
How does the UP Pep pass on the legacy of excellence year to year, generation to generation?
Every UP Pep member who graduates always finds his/her way back to our training venue every so often. The UP Pep alumni are such a strong bond. Together with the great support of our advisers and our coaching staff as well, they are the ones who make sure our legacy of excellence is kept and maintained, and every current member of the squad who witnesses this aspires to keep such legacy and be part of it.
When did your cheering supremacy start and how?
I don’t think we can consider ourselves “supreme” in cheerleading; we still have a lot to develop, it’s a continuous learning process. Especially since our members/students come and go, you get to handle totally different people every three or four years with totally different skills that you have to adjust to. I guess I’m just considered one of the oldest coaches in the business and being here, staying here for so long already, 17 years and counting, makes it look like we are “supreme” ... but we are not.
What regimen does a Pep squad member do in terms of physical conditioning and skills training?
We give them different warm-up activities every day before we go into the basic cheerleading skills, gymnastics, and stunting. They are given core conditioning, aerobics, yoga, jazz class, contemporary dance, classical ballet, hip-hop, and other conditioning workouts. Plus, of course, different specific weight programs in the gym.
How do you prevent injuries from occurring especially with the daring stunts?
Accidents really do happen, and much as we do our best and consider everything to prioritize safety, it still happens. But there are things we can control like preparing the muscles well before the strenuous activity with proper and correct warm-up, and making sure we give them the proper technique before executing any skill or stunt. It’s not just a matter of telling them to do this or that, we prepare their bodies and their minds as well, with the technique needed for them to be able to achieve the specific skill or stunt.
What are the three most important values that distinguish UP Pep from other squads?
I can’t totally claim that these are values that distinguish us from other squads, but these are the important values we try to instill in each member wanting to join our team. One, that they are not here to expect benefits that they will receive from the university, but instead, they are the ones who will be giving their services to the university. Two, no matter how cliche it sounds, they are role models to every Isko and Iska. They are “special” student-athletes and therefore they have a big responsibility. Three, that a 100% commitment is needed to be able to stay in the team, both mind and heart fully prepared to accept the challenges and that it won’t be easy.
What’s next for UP Pep?
After the UAAP CDC, there is no rest for UP Pep for we are representing the Philippines in the 8th Cheerleading World Competition in Berlin, Germany on Nov. 21 to 22. This is under the umbrella of the International Federation of Cheerleading. We will have eight entries in five categories, namely team cheer mix, team cheer all-female, group stunts mix (two entries), group stunts all-female (two entries), and partner stunts (two entries).
Best of luck, UP Pep, win their hearts in Berlin!
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