(First of a series)
OTHER than the centerpiece event of men’s basketball, the ever trendy, highly-awaited cheerdance competition serves as another major attraction in every UAAP season.
And this year won’t be any different as a jampacked crowd is expected to fill in the Mall of Asia Arena on Sunday when seven cheerdance squads try to stop University of the Philippines from winning a fourth consecutive championship.
The UP Pep Squad bagged a third consecutive title last season, besting the tough challenge of Far Eastern University and the surprise package that was National University.
The Diliman-based school is aiming to break a tie with University of Santo Tomas and become the most successful team in the 19-year history of the competition. The two have eight titles each.
Here's a Spin.ph preview of what to expect this season.
UST Salinggawi Dance Troupe
The once proud champions are out to turn criticism into a major motivation as they look to regain the title they last won in 2006 yet.
After finishing fourth last year, the celebrated Salinggawi Dance Troupe has been labeled as 'has-beens' by critics who claim the team's glory days are behind them.
That, however, has served to fan the desire of this new generation of Salinggawi performers.
“Masakit sa amin na masabihan na 'di na gaanong magaling ang 'Gawi’ pero tina-try namin ang best na mag-step up," said third-year member Mike Ohashi.
"Ginagawa na lang naming motivation 'yung mga negative comments na nababasa namin sa Facebook and other social networking sites. Ina-accept na lang namin, iniisip na lang namin na for the positive 'yung mga negative comments," he added.
Although tied with UP Pep Squad for the most number of cheerdance titles at eight, UST’s Salinggawi still holds the distinction as the team with the longest reign at five, from 2002 to 2006.
The 19-year-old Ohashi, a travel management student, believes being the lone dance squad in the competition is the biggest advantage UST has over the rest of the field.
And he vows Salinggawi will make the Thomasian community proud again.
"Mapapa-wow sila," he said. "Mas mataas na 'yung level of difficulty namin than last year.”
Ateneo Blue Babble Batallion
Despite bringing back just nine veterans from last year's team, Ateneo, as always, is ready to live up to its 'One Big Fight' call.
Although aiming for a podium finish remains high on their list, the Katipunan-based cheerleaders are focused more on improving as a team.
“Hindi naman sa hindi namin goal 'yun (podium finish), pero we're really focusing on what's within, 'yung system namin to become better as a team,” said fourth-year performer Arielle Escalona.
Despite having a rookie-laden team of dancers, the 21-year-old communications major said heart and camaraderie is what's making the Babble Batallion stand out.
“We really can't expect a lot from them (rookies) especially kung wala silang background, pero fight pa rin 'yung Ateneo," she said. “Ang strength namin is 'yung heart and 'yung bonding namin.”
"Hindi matatanggal 'yung brotherhood and sisterhood sa isang team. Kung meron ka noon, ang dali na lang mag-work and that's what I'm proud of sa team namin," she added.
Ateneo finished sixth last year.