By Gloria Esguerra Melencio
Next to basketball or even surpassing it, cheerleading can be said as a sport that has its fans trouping to sports coliseum, arena, auditorium and wherever the pep squad teams where. Like basketball fans, more than 20,000 cheerleading fans scream their lungs out and jump up from their seats– usually when they see their favorite pep team – be it the UP Varsity Pep Squad, the UST Salinggawi Dance Troupe or the FEU Pep Squad – the three perennial rivals to the University Athletics Association of the Philippines (UAAP) Cheerdance Competition.
Dark horses who may steal the championship are the Ateneo Blue Babble Battalion, UE Pep Squad, NU Pep Squad, DLSU Animo Pep Squad, and Adamson Pep Squad.
Tickets had already been sold out a week before this 72nd UAAP season’s Cheerdance Competition. For one to be able to buy a precious ticket to the competition scheduled today, September 13, one has to queue in a long line for five hours – longer than reviewing for an exam or cramming for a report!
I could not believe it myself had not students told me of their sweet sacrifice just to be able to watch live this cheer sport. At the Shopping Center inside the UP campus in Diliman, students started lining up from as early as 6:30 am to be able to buy a ticket by 11:30 am.
Call it resourcefulness and ingenuity for commercial sponsors. Some companies offer free tickets for two if one buys a cellphone load worth Php 500. Students bite it because they know tickets are running out.
Maybe, founder Dr. Regino Ylanan, PE professor of the University of the Philippines that began the sport in 1924 and who had fought commercialism, must be turning in his grave right now. Said professor protested against the filing of the papers of incorporation with the then Bureau of Commerce in 1930 to maintain independence of the group composed of UP, National University and UST.
UST, the five-time champion in cheerdance competition until 2006, sided with UP at that time. The National Cheerleading Athletics Association (NCAA) was thus formed with the three universities coming in as members. Later in 1936, faces changed and the NCAA members became six with Ateneo, Letran, La Salle, Jose Rizal College, Mapua and San Beda College vying for the title.
No one can deny that cheerleading as a sport is a crowd drawer for everyone – rich or poor – not only in Metro-Manila in Luzon but also in the Visayas and Mindanao. Cheerleaders who are known for their gymnastic skills, individual stunts and group pyramids have always been admired for their courage, discipline and teamwork.
A US study says that cheerleading is one of the five sports which is prone to injuries. An athlete’s fall may cause a permanent injury or disability. But other athletes debunk the study saying that all athletes in any sport must be prepared for any injury that may come.
Nevertheless, the exuberance of youth and dynamism of the team make any pep squad stand out in any school around the country.
There is this cheermania currently sending goose bumps and fiery excitement to the Philippines’ colleges and universities.