by Jason Mercene
Heading to one of the highly anticipated event in the UAAP Calendar, the University of the Philippines Pep Squad’s mind and heart (utak at puso) is ready for another breathtaking and bar-raising performance as they gun to reclaim the cheerdance crown.
The consistent podium finisher UP Pep Squad, now led by Captains Cam Lagmay, Lara Limjap and co-captain Louie Castro, is on a mission to delight the crowd and judges right from the get go as they perform first in the Mall of Asia Arena on Saturday, October 3.
“Medyo pressure rin sa amin yun pero hindi namin masyado iniisip yung pressure kasi ayaw namin yun ang makasira sa buong routine na gagawin namin (We try not to think about the pressure because it might ruin the routine) ,” said Castro as they are expected to set the bar high for the rest of the schools.
He added, “[Ang] gusto lang namin gawin, mag-enjoy, ma-perform nang maayos, at mapakita namin sa UP community, sa lahat ng tao na perfect ang gagawin namin. (We want to enjoy, perform properly, and show to the UP community and to the whole people what we will do.)”
The squad is vying to get their ninth title, which also have six runner-up and five third place finishes under their belt.
After a groundbreaking performance last season to campaign for equality, this year’s routine from the winningest pep squad will feature homage to student-athletes.
“We draw inspiration from the school. It’s our main job kasi that the athletes are supported, not UAAP [cheerdance competition] lang naman ang focus namin. We are the backbone of support to the UP community so that drives us to be good at what we do,” Lagmay said.
Known for their creativity, innovation, and ‘angas’ on the cheerdance mat, the UP Pep captains disclosed they have adjusted parts of their routine to National Cheerleading Competition (NCC) standard, which is handling the UAAP CDC.
“Medyo nilagyan namin ng mas maraming technique in terms sa choreography, sa dances, since yung criteria for judging naman has 50 percent dance I think so medyo inimprove namin yung dances for this year (We added some techniques in choreography and dances since the criteria for judging is 50 percent for these. I think we focused on the improvement of our dances this year),” said Limjap.
“While adjusting to that, we are still keeping the UP flavor. We are still keeping what UP pep is known for. Our creativity, our nice form, our performance level,” assured Lagmay.
In terms of their hairstyle, Lagmay teases: “Meron at meron naman niyan, and it’s gonna be crazier than ever. And syempre lagi kami magpapauso ng bago. Expect din ng UP na syempre hindi naman kami magpapakita ng hindi maganda ang itsura (It’s gonna be crazier than ever. We always start a trend. They should expect that UP won’t show up in our worst light.)”
Composed of mainly junior and senior students, the 25-crew member of the UP Pep have been preparing for redemption since they fell short last season against the back-to-back champion National University Pep Squad.
“Siguro mental, physical, emotional preparation since after last year’s competition. Siguro a year and a half nagpre-prepare na (We’ve been preparing mentally, physically, and emotionally after last year’s competition. We are preparing for a year and a half already),” said Limjap who also admitted they had to cut some practices to give way for UAAP opening ceremony preparations. The pyramids and stunts were then formed and polished four months coming to the big event.
As UP Pep bids for another title-deserving performance, Limjap also pointed out their main challenge is to drive their cheerdance skills into a whole new level.
“I think the challenge for all the teams is to improve every year. We really had to level up in terms of skills so it became a challenge for us, it’s not the normal things, the regular things we do. It’s a bit harder. Our main challenge is to achieve a high level of difficulty,” she said.
Aside from maintaining their physical core in check by going regularly to gym, Lagmay added they have intensified their stunts with focus on twisting mounts and dismounts.
While setting their goal for the championship, Limjap said they are treating every school as rivals for the major prize this year.
“You can never expect especially now, cheerleading is big in the Philippines and the teams show different stunts during halftime a so everyone is a contender, but most especially ourselves,” she said.
For co-captain Castro, the fighting spirit of the team will be tested once again.
“Now that malapit na ang competition, crunch time talaga so may times na pagod na pagod kami from the games and stuff kasi naghahalf time kami pero fight pa rin (Now that the competition gets nearer, it’s already crunchy time for us. There are times that we are so tired because we perform in the halftime of the games. But, we will still fight.),” he said.
When asked about one last message for the UP community, he can only utter these words.
“Babawi kami, babalik namin yung korona dito sa Diliman. Ang hirap magpromise pero push!”