By Yvette Morales
Known for their awe-inducing stunts and innovative routines, the UP Pep Squad hopes to clinch a four-peat and a ninth title on Sunday.
Through a YouTube video tagged as the official UP Pep Squad “spoiler,” Via Bayabas, who claims to be a former UP pep member herself, made a prediction on this year’s UP Pep Squad theme for the UAAP Cheerdance Competition (CDC). Consulting a garden gnome she calls “Piccolo,” Bayabas predicted that it will be something about animals, particularly those in the Chinese zodiac.
Last year, Bayabas predicted that the theme will be “Frida,” which was a play on the squad’s actual theme, freedom.
Since the UP Pep Squad won its first championship in 1999, the team never failed to surprise the audience with its ingenious themes. Clinching the top spot after only a year in the competition proved the team’s potential – now, they have grown to be a crowd favorite.
A timeline of UP Pep Squad CDC themes
Dressed in sleeveless maroon-and-gray hoodies and pants with pompoms and flags, the UP Pep Squad bagged its first title, headed by Coach Lalaine Perena.
Their routines were quite simple, focusing on hand gestures and choreographies such as high kicks, back rolls, cartwheels and splits, among others.
Formations like the double triangle, double diagonal line are seen more often than pyramids.
The traditional spelling of school initials was also present in the squad’s routine.
The Oblation pose, which has grown to be a trademark, closed the performance. The sea of maroon yelled one of the classic cheers for the pep squad, “U-nibersidad ng Pi-li-pi-nas” with such passion and school pride.
WATCH: UP Pep Squad’s 1999 routine
Still with the classic pompoms and triangle flags, the Squad won a back-to-back through more complex formations and movements, like inverted splits and leg-lifting.
Most of the movements were floor work. However, the audience went wild seeing the taekwondo-inspired segment of the routine.
There was a segment when the squad’s drummers made a pause, allowing the performers to provide their own rhythm though claps and taps.
WATCH: UP Pep Squad’s 2000 routine
As the 2001 commentator said, for UP, “winning is a habit.”
UP Pep Squad won its first three-peat, and this set the new standards of cheerdance routines as they opened with simultaneous back flips and a three-layered pyramid.
The UP Pep Squad yet had more innovations for the audience, as they used sticks in lieu of traditional flags.
It was ended with a series of throws and a pyramid, with the third layer doing the inverted split.
WATCH: UP Pep Squad’s 2001 routine
UP pep squad dethroned 5-peat champion UST Salinggawi Dance Troupe (SDT) through a black and maroon motif.
It maintained the momentum through a series of death-defying throws and complex pyramids.
The liftings were accompanied by the upbeat song Girlfriend by Avril Lavigne.
The pep squad impressed the audience by the series of tumblings made by the dancers while crossing the arena.
Another goose-bumper was the slow motion of the classic Oblation pose.
Female cheer dancers proved that the pompoms are not yet obsolete. They used the classic tool in a dance choreography mixed with tumblings and floor work.
By the end of the cheerdance number, the pompoms were left on the ground forming “UP.”
WATCH: UP Pep Squad’s 2007 routine
Amongst the Araneta Coliseum crowd of 23,000, the sea of maroon dominated the crowd.
The year 2008 was another back-to-back win for the UP pep squad. Flags with the words “TRIBO” and “SUGOD” at the back revealed the tribal theme of the routine.
With few defects and some falls, the pep squad continued to wow the audience through high throws and complex pyramids.
As in 2007, the red and green pompoms spelled “UP” after the red and green flag passed by. It was accompanied by an almost-nude Oblation.
WATCH: UP Pep Squad’s 2008 routine
Emerging with a fiesta theme, the UP Pep went “Hala bira” as they snatched their crown back from the Tamaraws.
The team seemed more vigorous this year, as they performed quicker movements and engaged in fast-paced transitions. Even the spelling of “UP” was done in an instant.
The routine was the same pyramids and formations, just with the slightest variations. An inverted spit as the flier never fails to capture the audience’s (and probably the judges’) attention.
Ati-atihan and Maskara Festival were among the inspirations of the fiesta theme.
WATCH: UP Pep Squad’s 2010 routine
It was UP Pep’s squad’s third back-to-back win.
The hair-play started as the Pep Squad surprised the audience with bleached blonde hairs, inspired by Madonna.
Three-layer pyramids were not something new to the team; however, it gets more complex each year.
The series of tumblings were more fast-paced, still having the same wow factor from the audience.
The fliers seemed to literally fly to get to the top layer, as the crowd drowned in enthusiasm. Also, the one-foot support of the fliers while on top is definitely something to recognize.
The Oblation pose concluded the routine.
However, the cheerdance competition title was not the only one that the pep squad brought home. They also bagged the gold medal in a new event: the stunts competition. Pep squad member Nesza Salvador also emerged as the Samsung Stunner, a special award courtesy of the sponsor.
WATCH: UP Pep Squad’s 2011 routine
As the UP tradition suggests, “’pag may sablay, may tagumpay.”
Although last year’s Samsung stunner Nesza Salvador ended the routine with a noticeable fall, the much-anticipated three-peat for the “Pep Squad ng Bayan” was achieved in bald heads and minimalist outfits.
It was UP Pep Squad’s eight title, putting it on tie with UST’s SDT.
The oblation was the overall theme of the routine, suggesting freedom and equality.
As the previous year, UP also brought home all the gold medals that were given in the competition.
WATCH: UP Pep Squad’s 2012 routine
In the words of American football player Joe Namath, “If you’re not gonna go all the way, why go at all?”Even if the fans run out of ideas, the Pep Squad ng Bayan never will, making sure that they have given more than their best for their beloved Maroons.
As for those who patiently waited despite the weather, possible security threats and the classes for the following day, they only had one thing to say: the UP Pep Squad is worth lining for.