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‘Gawi aims for all the marbles at stake

By Anthony Divinagracia Posted Sep 14th 2013

The UST Salinggawi Dance Troupe hopes to finally re-enter the Top 3, or better yet, reclaim the title it last won in 2006 and re-baptize itself as the league's winningest squad.

It was not a performance worthy of a championship.

Or to put it more bluntly, at least a runner-up finish.

Dan Dimaculangan knew University of Santo Tomas (UST) was bound to miss the podium once more as soon as the Salinggawi Dance Troupe completed its routine in last year’s UAAP Cheerdance competition.  

“Our goal before we performed then was just to perfect the routine. Ever since rehearsals and trainings we we’re not able to execute it well,” the two-year captain of UST’s premier dance group recalled.  “Hindi na namin iniisip kung matalo or manalo basta ma-perfect lang namin yung routine.”

But perfection was not on ‘Gawi’s side that day as its Samba-inspired routine hobbled in terms of synchronization and execution despite wrapping the Thomasian crowd in a festive bind.

From marking, to doings, to stunts and overall impact, ‘Gawi’s previous ensemble underscored more of the “how” than the “wow”. With that, Dimaculangan and company felt returning to the Top 3 was oddly impossible, if not brazenly unthinkable, as soon as the last member left the blue mat.

“Di na rin kami nag-expect ng kahit Top 4. We felt na baka mas mababa pa compared sa mga previous years,” Dimaculangan said of ‘Gawi’s eventual fourth-place finish last year.

With the difficulty and complexity of their performance raised notches higher, not to mention the vast improvement of the field, Dimaculangan admitted a Top 3 result for the eight-time UAAP cheerdance champions was not as automatic as before.

“Mas mataaas and degree of difficulty ng routine namin last year kumpara nung 2011. Nahirapan kami talaga, since hindi kami masyadong sanay sa mas mahihirap na stunts na strictly pang-cheerdance.”

Cheer-leading elements like gymnastics, pyramids, and tosses were given more weight, putting a dent of the more dance-oriented ‘Gawi’s Top 3 bid.

No disappointment

Yet while disappointment reduced the Thomasian faithful to a lump of collective quiet inside the MOA Arena, ‘Gawi oddly blabbered in relief – and achievement.

“Sobrang masaya pa rin kami nung time na yun. ‘Di man namin na-perfect yung routine ang mahalaga mag-enjoy kami pati yung crowd. ‘Di na namin in-expect na magpe-place kami to think na marami kaming errors,” DImaculangan said.

Regret hardly gate-crashed their dugout of emotions as well, Dimaculangan stressed.

“Di kami nalungkot, wala kaming pinagsisihan despite not performing all our stunts perfectly as expected,” he said. “Normal lang na may mga negative feedbacks. We just take them positively para sa mga next performances makatulong ito sa amin.”

Moving on this year, DImaculangan hopes this positive vibe among them will boost their renewed campaign to land in the Top 3 and eventually their ninth title overall.

“Mas kundsyon kami na mag-compete ngayon. Mas ready kami compared last year,” he said.

As early as summer, ‘Gawi began its conditioning drill. By June, they started practicing their stunts and the routine itself in mid-July.

“Since last August, were in the polishing stage. We see to it that every detail of our performance was well crafted and coordinated,” Dimaculangan said. “We’ve again raised the degree of difficulty of our performance.”

Given more to organize and conceptualize, ‘Gawi coach Ramon Pagaduan IV, who entered the scene midway through the team’s preparation last year, has now fully laid his system and principles among his wards.

“Mas kilala kami ni coach ngayon. Mas alam niya yung strengths and weakness namin. Mas alam niya kung ano yung ipapagawa sa amin,” Dimaculangan stressed.

Good rookies

Of its 25 competing members, 17 are first-time competitors. But Dimaculangan is unfazed of the inexperience factor, owing to a better rookie class this season.

“Yung mga bago ngayon skilled na talaga sila. Pumasok sila sa team na magaling na sila, lalo na sa gymnastics and cheerleading. Kami namang mga veterans pumasok kami before di pa naman kami ganoon kagaling,” Dimaculangan said. “Pero since matagal na kami sa team mas confident na kaming mag-perform.”

Nerves though will still be an issue among their rookies, the ‘Gawi captain admitted.

“Iba pa rin yung crowd ng cheerdance so mas nakakakaba. Pero  kaya naman iwasan yung (kaba), basta paulit-ulit yung routine at masanay kami na mag-perform as a group sa harap ng maraming tao. We veterans will also be there to help them (rookies) out.”

Now tied with defending champion University of the Philippines (UP) Pep Squad, Dimaculangan expects the pressure to hit mercurial levels on Sunday as ‘Gawi and its archrival UP gun for their ninth overall crown and become the league’s winningest squad.

Last season’s runners up Far Eastern University and National University are also vying for places in the Top 3.

“Lahat ng teams nagi-improve every year. Lahat in-expect namin na malakas. I think magiging balanse yung competition ngayon,” Dimaculangan said.

And ‘Gawi’s performance on Sunday?

“It will be fierce and fastive. It will be more powerful and captivating. The crowd will be surprised.”

Hopefully it will now be worthy of all the marbles at stake.