What makes the UP Pep Squad champion again

What a breathing respite from stark reality!

It is a sweet victory that merits changing the running headlines about the Quirino Grandstand tragedy where eight Hongkong nationals were hostaged and killed, rising dengue cases and demoralized UP Men’s Basketball Team.

The UP Pep Squad won the 2010 Cheerdance Competition held at the full-packed Araneta Coliseum last Sunday to the cheering of more than 22,000 fans – the biggest crowd so far – filling to the brim, with hundreds standing for hours.

Garnering  440. 90 points and besting seven universities, the UP Pep Squad wowed the audience with their four-tiered Ati-atihan-Panagbenga-Maskara-Higantes fiesta theme executed in flawless pyramids, stunts, tosses and dance steps. Strong Samurai-themed FEU Pep Squad came in second at 421.40 points; Fierce tiger-themed UST Salinggawi Dance Troupe scored 407.50 points placing third.

UP Pep Squad, earning the moniker Pep Squad ng Bayan and recently, Sunflower  Kids, deserves accolade and recognition for their bravado, resilience and creativity. Living up to their name Pep, their background music Kapayapaan of the 90s-reggae Tropical Depression, has pepped the country up (the people they reach, at least).

UP Pep Squad Coach Lalaine Juarez-Perena, a Filipiniana dancer in her student days, is a genius with depth. Her idea of sunflower pompoms, coupled with an apt well-mixed choreography, depicts a glimmer of hope happily danced by smiling Peppers. The country is in exceptional time that this call for “kapayapaan” is a welcome respite to the doldrums of everyday life.

Her Assistant Coach Nino Jose Antonio, the person behind the Peppers’ happy faces as he constantly boosts their morale while putting bandages on injured knees and ice packs on bruises, is commitment and passion rolled into one. He also tames the wild in every youth and transforms their energies to exuberance and vigor.

Behind those happy faces of the UP Pep Squad members are stories of individual and collective battles, like every ordinary Filipino citizen, which each tries to overcome – and has succeeded so far – for the moment. While they are different persons with different backgrounds and skills, they manage to connect to each other in a teamwork that far exceeded others.

The UP community, families, fans and friends have also pitched in. Much like the fiesta spirit, volunteers cut the colorful banderitas that were waved during the Sunday competition. Families of Peppers shelled out their share for the Peppers’ shoes and others. Peppers themselves made their own pompoms and masks. Fans and friends have been constantly helping the team with food and kind words, also cheering them up.

The spirit of going beyond winning has been achieved. The UP Pep Squad did it cheerily – again. (Gloria Esguerra Melencio)

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