The UAAP Cheerdance in retrospect

By Gerry Plaza

The air in the stadium is heated and intense.

Two quarters pass and everyone remains excited and befuddled, depending on which side you are on, on what transpired. But then suddenly, you hear drums playing that familiar beat and a group of men and women in outfits that spring our senses up with school colors make that grand entrance in unison.

You all stand up and shout to the top of your lungs.

They yell, scream and gyrate to the beat of the fabled school cheer—and all who share the same colors just blissfully follow. That indeed is the magic of the cheering squad, one important winning element in college basketball very much emphasized in the last 22 seasons of the UAAP. Those two decades when the cheering squad itself became the focal point of all the action—and, quite deservingly, being cheered on to victory by their appreciative schoolmates and followers.

The UAAP Cheerdance Competition shows a different kind of athleticism in college sports—teamwork, agility, grace, and determination all in a difficult display of perfect physical harmony and orchestration.

1994-1996

Recognizing this important ingredient to boosting the school spirit, the UAAP first introduced the cheerdance as a separate competition. Called the “Jollibee Chi-Cheer Kayo Challenge,” the UST Salinggawi Dance Troupe became the first champion in 1994, and took home the title in the next two years for its first three-peat. The DLSU Pep Squad would land in second spot in 1994 and 1995, while UP, represented by the UP Filipiniana Dance Troupe, became runner-up in 1996.

1998

The UAAP skipped the cheerdance wars in 1997 but continued hostilities the next year with the title “Nestlé Crunch Ice Cream Cheering Competition.” Defending champions UST decided not to join the tournament, with the FEU Pep Squad clinching its first title. DLSU Pep Squad finished second, while UP, now bannered by its Varsity Pep Squad, ended up at third.

1999-2001

In 1999, UST marked its return to the Cheerdance Competition hoping to reclaim its lost glory. But, it had to contend with the new dominant force, the UP Pep Squad. The Diliman-based cheerleaders waylaid UST for two straight years, and eventually scored a three-peat in 2001 with Adamson University as runners-up.

2002

Faced with humiliating losses in the previous three seasons, UST decided that enough was enough. It had to blazingly scorch the court with impressive, never-before- seen moves to really bring the title back to Espana. And true enough, UST rose from its hibernation and wrestled the title back from UP, pushing their cheerdance rivals to third place. UE, in its first moment of glory, soared to second place.

2003-2006

In the midst of its five-year hold of the Cheerdance Competition championship, UST by introducing the awe-inspiring, stunning routine that changed the course of the yearly tilt. The buwis-buhay “Helicopter” stunt truly took the nation by storm, and became truly indicative of how the school lorded over the pack. It then copped its second three-peat over UP and FEU. UST would then emerge as champions for the next two seasons to complete the first and only five-peat.

2007-2008

Attempting what could have been a six-peat, hosts UST would have achieved a dynasty difficult to bring down. But guess who came to topple it over, age-old rivals UP. With Samsung taking over as sponsor, the Cheerdance Competition in 2007 belonged to the UP Pep Squad as it dealt the Salinggawi a heartbreaking loss. The UP Pep Squad would then repeat next year as back-to-back titlists again fending off their Espana rivals.

2009

After a decade of having rivals UP and UST each having their own respective runs at the Cheerdance Competition title, it was time that FEU broke that duopoly. While it last held the title in 1998, without UST in contention, FEU now had the guts and glory in facing the cheering giants and slayed them with an impeccable routine—the Sarimanok, which left all in an utter visual daze. Ateneo's Blue Babble Battalion, for the first time, landed on the podium at second with its “Moonwalk” routine, and UP at third.

2010-2011

The next year saw the UP Pep Squad emerge as champions once more over familiar opponents FEU (Second) and UST (Third). But in 2011, UP performed what became its most memorable routine still deeply etched in cheerdance enthusiasts' minds. Its “Blonde Ambition” number paid tribute to Queen of Pop Madonna, all with impressive dance moves depicting the ageless entertainer complete with everyone in the Pep Squad, yes, donning blonde hair. The routine gave the Diliman cheerleaders a back-to-back title anew. DLSU's Pep Squad returned to the podium after 13 years at second place, and FEU, third.

2012

After the Blonde Ambition routine, UP Pep Squad thought of something radical and revolutionary that would have them achieve their second three-peat. While it did achieve memorably visual with all the members shaving off their heads, what truly made their routine remarkable and unforgettable was having role shifts emphasizing gender equality. It was the women cheerleaders who were lifting their male counterparts in a spine-tingling number that gave Diliman their well-deserved three-peat.

2013-2015

With UST, UP, FEU dominating two decades of the Cheerdance Competition, another school emerged as a giant. Athletically bolstered National University now became the force to reckon with, not only in the main sports competitions like basketball and volleyball, but in the much ballyhooed cheerdance wars. With an “Arabian Nights” routine, the NU Pep Squad emphatically noted the changing of the guards in 2013 by winning the championship over the UP Pep Squad.

NU would then repeat in 2014 with a Native American routine also over UP, while bagging the latest title in a controversy-marred competition last year over UST.

This year, NU remains as the team to beat.