Not all blondes were created equal. Some become cheerdance champions.
In addition to the rigors of training, they had to go through hell and back just to be blondes. Hydrogen peroxide is used to strip the natural color of the hair in an “irreversible chemical reaction.”
This process involves nine whole hours in the salon, open scalp roots, three coatings of bleach and dye, and a lot of pain. Multiply the pain by 30 squad members and you have an estimate of the guts and dedication of the UP Pep Squad which won the 2011 UAAP Cheerdance championship last Saturday, its second consecutive title.
Coach Lalaine Perena has been the mastermind behind UP’s themes for as long as the squad can remember. This year’s theme was all about striking poses, being material girls, bringing down the house in about four minutes and being as fabulously blonde as pop icon Madonna. Complete with the conical boobs.
"I chose the theme right after last year’s competition," Perena said. The idea dawned on her immediately after they won the crown last year. "She’s my favorite artist!" She had her doubts about making her team go blonde but decided to go all the way.
"You have got to be kidding me," was the initial reaction of the entire UP Pep Squad when Perena told them of the drastic color change they were going to be making to their locks. "Kala namin pwede color lang but then she said she wanted it bleached. We had no choice. We were scared and excited at the same time," said Fel Sison, a member of the team.
When the decision to dye their hair was finalized, the squad slowly turned blonde, five dancers at a time. Sison recounts that when they booked their appointments at a salon, they were fighting for the first few slots. “The earlier you got it done, the earlier you could color it back.” However, after the victory, they are considering keeping it a little longer.
The 2011 Cheerdance Competition trended worldwide on Twitter Saturday and with about 21,000 people at the Araneta Coliseum to support their university cheering squads. The UP Pep Squad swept the entire competition as they won the back-to-back championships, were crowned the inaugural champions of the group stunts category and one of their own, Nesza Salvador, won the much-anticipated Samsung Stunner award.
The DLSU Animo Squad placed second and everyone applauded cheerleader Aiana Lontoc for dancing until the end despite dislocating her elbow in the middle of the performance. The FEU Cheering Squad was third.
"All we wanted was a solid and perfect run, and I also wanted a kick-ass show for UP," said pep squad member Carlito Serrano. "After our routine, I felt that we did just that and more." True enough, they had a flawless run and they won all the awards.
During the announcement of winners, when all the participants were in their respective places on the floor, hands held and in prayer, Perena was nowhere to be found. You would have to search the crowd to see a blonde lady who looked like she should be on the floor together with the rest of the Madonnas. She does this every year and when asked why she prefers to stay in her seat, she replied “Sila naman yon, sila yung nagpagod kaya moment nila iyon. They are the most deserving people to be there and receive that award.”
The UP Pep Squad received 340,000 pesos as prize money but nothing is certain yet as to how it will be spent. The squad is hoping to buy themselves new training mats.
There are 11 members on the squad who are either graduating or unsure of coming back to the team next year. This could be the most number of people leaving in one batch that Perena has handled. When it comes to defending the crown, the champion coach is most definitely not worried. “I do get sad whenever one of them graduates,” she says. “But no one is indispensable. We coaches always work on the strengths of our members. We adjust to their maximum level and we have a good training program. I know kahit sinong sumali sa amin, kaya namin pagalingin.”
Coach Lala already has a theme in mind for next year and when I asked her to give me a tiny hint, she replied “‘Di pwedeng sabihin.”