Everybody loves Pep Squad ng Bayan. Year after year, the performance of the University of the Philippines Varsity Pep Squad (UP Pep Squad) easily becomes the highlight of the Cheerdance Competition (CDC) by the eight-school University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP), whether it’s because of the team’s consistent podium finish for twenty straight years, or its standout theme and unique costumes.
According to UP Pep Squad Head Coach and Assistant Professor Lalaine Pereña of the UP College of Human Kinetics, she usually comes up with the Squad theme after brainstorming with the coaching staff and creative head Juan Carlos Soriano. The initial idea comes from Pereña and is developed by the creative head who then presents the same to the rest of the coaching staff. The inspiration for it varies, sometimes “with just the snap of a finger” and sometimes months after the most recent competition.
The 2015 routine of “Utak Puso” holds a special place in Pereña’s heart. “The whole concept was put together using all our hearts and minds. It was dedicated to all UP athletes who train with all their might for UP Nating Mahal,” the head coach recalled.
The UP Pep Squad was founded in 1994. It was preceded by an all-male UP Cheering Squad and the UP Rah-Rah Girls. Here is a quick stroll down memory lane with the most recent performances of the UP Pep Squad.
In 2007, UP dethroned the reigning champion, the UST Salinggawi Dance Troupe, with a “rock” theme that then team captain Andrea Gonzales described as unique and gloomy, but in a fun, exciting way as accentuated by the team’s matching maroon and black leather outfits. The next year, the Squad donned tribal costumes for the tribo theme, while 2009’s theme featured the life of an Iskolar ng Bayan with familiar images such as bluebooks and the Ikot jeep.
2010 saw the UP Pep Squad as cheerdance champions again, with its fiesta-inspired theme complete with sunflowers, banderitas, and upbeat Filipino music such as “Kapayapaan” by Tropical Depression.
With another head-turning routine featuring bleached hair and the music of Madonna, UP Pep were back-to-back champions in the 2011 CDC. This was effortlessly turned into a three-peat the following year, with shaved heads and an ode to freedom—a value cherished by the entire UP community.
The defending champions settled for runner-up in the 2013 edition of the competition with disco balls in hand and a party theme. The same podium finish was awarded to UP Pep in 2014 when they made a statement on equality with the #PantayPantay routine and reversed roles by having female members lift the male ones while wearing rainbows on their chests.
The two most recent outings for the UP Pep are 2015’s “Utak Puso” routine which was an ode to UP athletes and 2017’s #KwentongIsko “Maroon Ako Isko” routine as UP’s comeback performance after skipping the CDC in 2016.
The UP Pep Squad has consistently broken barriers and set the standards for creativity in the CDC. The UP community is definitely looking forward to the Pep Squad ng Bayan as it proudly represents the maroon and green on the UAAP stage again.
[The author would like to thank Prof. Lalaine Pereña, Miguel Mondragon, and Rod Ralph Zantua for their assistance in this piece.]
Read the online UP Forum April-June 2018 Vol. 19 No. 2 issue in full here.