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UE Pep Squad: Going All In

By Paolo Mariano Posted Sep 10th 2013

With new coaches helping out, the UE Pep Squad goes for redemption this year.

Even though University of the East (UE) is already out of Final Four contention in the men’s basketball tournament, the UE Pep Squad is still pumped up to take home the crown in the UAAP Cheerdance Competition (CDC) this Sunday at the Mall of Asia Arena.

After finishing sixth last season and seventh in 2011, redemption is the lone battle-cry of the crew from Recto.

"We didn’t expect a high finish last season since the team was mostly composed of rookies. Kaya this time, babawi kami (That’s why this time, we want to redeem ourselves)," said team captain Rafaela Martin.

Well, the composition of the team didn’t exactly change as the Ped Squad is still composed mostly of neophytes—18 of them to be exact compared to only seven holdovers.

Even their coaches are new to the UAAP: Gibson Alegre, formerly of Philippine Christian University and Carlo de Ocampo, formerly of Jose Rizal University. But their unfamiliarity with the CDC may just be a blessing in disguise as they can pull off surprises that fans have yet to see.

"Although we still have many rookies, our coaches have really pushed us to get out of our comfort zone. They extended our skills and talents," said Martin. "Last year kasi, nag-focus ‘yung coach namin dun lang sa kaya namin. Ngayon, ‘yung akala naming ‘di namin kaya, magagawa pala basta maturo nang maayos (Last year, our coach focused only on our strengths. But now, we’re doing things we thought we couldn’t do, it’s all about the proper teaching)."

The UE Pep Squad drew flak from some observers last year as the members sported blonde hairdos, allegedly ripping off the University of the Philippines Pep Squad in 2011. Overall, it was a ho-hum showing as well, only managing 79.8 points from the judges.

In fact, perhaps the most memorable part of the performance was UE courtside reporter Katz Salao mistakenly screaming "University of the Philippines!" instead of "University of the East!" in the team's introduction.

But as they say, learn from mistakes.

"We’re confident this year because we’ve really prepared well. We finished our routine early and we’ve been training since summer,” said Martin, who shared that they’ve been practicing six hours a day from Monday to Sunday this month.

Asked what their theme will be, she declined to disclose any details. As a clue, she only gave one word: hotness.

UE has yet to win the CDC crown. Its highest ranking in the annual spectacle is a first runner-up finish way back in 2002. Still, this doesn’t dampen the group’s spirits, especially with the way the members have dedicated themselves to the tournament.

"Gusto naming tapusin ‘yung sinimulan namin. Ayaw namin sayangin ‘yung effort, ‘yung hirap, ‘yung puyat, ‘yung sacrifices namin sa klase. Nandito na kami, gawin na naming maganda ‘yung performance (We want to finish what we started. We don’t want our efforts, hardships, and sacrifices to go to waste. We’re already here, there’s no turning back)," said Martin. "We can assure you, we’ll be competing with all our hearts."