When the San Beda College Alabang junior varsity pep squad flew to Tokyo in 2013 to compete in the Cheerleading Asia Open International Championships for the first time, it had little expectations of winning. For the team, the opportunity to represent the school and the country in a competition abroad was an honor in itself.
Little did the team members know that they would end up victors, after two of the sub-teams won silver and bronze in the All-Female Group Stunts category.
Fast-forward to 2015: the San Beda girls are gearing up for the senior youth cheerdance division of the All Japan Cheer Dance Championships (AJCC).
The AJCC is different in the sense that its focus is dance; and San Beda is the only overseas team joining the competition.
“The Japanese Cheer Dance Federation really looked up to our local federation,” said coach Ajjie Mendelebar, “because we’re very active in promoting cheerdance and cheerleading in the Philippines. We are actually the only overseas team that was invited. It’s very exclusive.”
The team has always been a strong contender in the local cheerleading scene. Apart from its powerful stunts and cheers, its members have also stood out with their dances.
With strong and lively pieces—this year’s Women’s National Collegiate Athletic Association (WNCAA) routine finished off with a Michael Jackson segment—the team has become the one to beat, dance-wise.
But of course, this isn’t the same as doing an all-dance routine, which is what the AJCC requires.
“Cheerdance is a big adjustment, since we’re not used to doing ballet,” said team member Ysabel de la Cruz. “We had a hard time learning [the more advanced steps], but it’s been really fun because it’s really different when you just dance.”
Coach Ajjie pointed out: “Since last year I’ve already been incorporating dance into the drills. I think it helped a lot, because they have the basic concepts.
“They love to dance, so it’s a plus. It’s easy because they’re game for anything, they’re willing to learn, they’re cooperative, and if they don’t understand something they will ask questions and listen to everything I tell them.”
Alexandra Oropesa, a junior member, added: “Our background in cheerleading helped with the movements and the jumps. We’re also more physically fit than if we didn’t do cheerleading.”
The girls admitted that since it is their second time to compete in Japan, there are certain expectations that they have to live up to.
“When there are international competitions, usually the school teams win, so dapat kami rin,” said another team member, Reijean Caraig.
“There’s pressure because Japan will look at us and think that it should be different because we’re the only overseas team. So they will focus on us,” Ysabel added.
“How the Japanese will see our performance… is how they will see Philippine cheerdancing… and the whole Philippines,” Alexandra opined.
Despite the pressure, the team wants to learn from the Japanese teams while giving its best. “It’s about more than just winning,” said coach Ajjie. “It’s about exposure, experience… I also want the girls to enjoy it while it lasts.”
The All-Japan Cheer Dance Championship will be held today, Sept. 26, at the Yoyogi Stadium in Tokyo, Japan. The San Beda College Alabang junior varsity pep squad will be representing the Philippines in the senior youth cheerdance and doubles divisions.
Photography Raymond Cauilan Styling Luis Carlo San Juan Assitant styling Krista Rodriguez and Geli delos Reyes Makeup and hairstyleSari Campos for Makeup Forever, Jet Babas and Miko Dacanay