I was at Araneta on Sunday, along with almost 21,000 other people, screaming at the top of my lungs and high on school pride as I watched the UAAP Cheerdance Competition. I had been looking forward to the CDC ever since I entered UP in June, thrilled as I was about the stories of the euphoria that rushed through the stands whenever UP’s famed Pep Squad performed.
I even lined up in the University Gymnasium’s parking lot on Tuesday afternoon, not leaving the line even when the rain suddenly decided to pour, but they ran out of tickets to sell before I was even able to get into the gym. (I had also heard about the fabled Cheerdance tickets, which always sold out in one day.) The nice people of Globe Telecom’s Social Media Team had tickets to give out, though, so I ended up watching the cheerdance competition live and for free!
The CDC was my first UAAP experience, and it was shocking. My companions and I walked into the section of the coliseum reserved for UP and found that it was packed to the gills—he General Admission section, especially—so we looked for seats in the neighboring sections. We ended up in a block of chairs sandwiched right between the University of the East and Adamson University. As soon as I sat down, the auditory assault began—snare drums beating incessantly, holy shit, this is wild, I’m going to come out of here deaf, are the Four Horsemen here yet, it’s the freaking end of the world!
Soon, the routines began, and I clapped when I felt it polite to, taunting loudly at every little failure.
Then, it was UP’s turn.
Imagine us, a crowd of six Iskos, dressed in maroon and white, seated in a sea of Adamson blue, with patches of UE Red nearby. The UP crowd roared.
We stood up and yelled. Shouted. Screamed. Broke frontiers in human vocals. UP FIGHT!
At the beginning only we were on our feet, sharing the UP spirit with our comrades two sections over. But when the UP Pep Squad took to the floor and started their routine, everyone else stood up too, and I was quite surprised to notice, when I took my eyes off the performance floor for a few seconds, that everyone else in the arena—from Ateneo to UST—was standing up and shouting, too. Everyone seemed to have decided to throw school pride out the window, at least for five minutes—we were that good. UP Pep did what it does best: electrify a crowd, no matter what color they cheered for. I couldn’t help but turn around, face the sea of Adamson supporters in the seats behind me, and shout defiantly, “UP, BABY!” No one seemed to notice me. All their mouths were agape, and all their eyes were pinned on the nation’s scholars dancing in center court.
The end of UP’s routine was met with a roar that echoed across the building, and that didn’t come from UP alone. Araneta was clearly impressed.
While we waited for the announcement, the snare-beating began again, each school cheering over each other. When UST yelled, ‚”Go, USTE! Go, USTE! Go, USTE!” the UP crowd went with them, even following their trademark hand gesture. Then DLSU screamed “Animo La Salle!”; Ateneo shouted “One Big Fight”!; Adamson said ‚”Push on to win” or whatever. When they were done we went, ‚”U-NIBERSIDAD! NG PILIPINAS!” School pride. My friend Amiel, a Sociology major, would call it “collective effervescence”.
But when it was announced that UST was 2nd runner-up, the atmosphere completely changed, and all the other schools, save for the defending champions FEU, began to yell a familiar chant:
U-NIBERSIDAD! NG PILIPINAS!
I had to laugh. Everyone affirmed what I, and probably everyone else from UP, knew the moment UP Pep finished their routine: we were going to take back the crown that belonged to us.
And so, while the commercials played on TV, a lopsided shouting match broke out in the Big Dome: FEU yapped on about their being tamaraws or whatever, and everyone clapped along politely. Then, when they were done, everyone cleared their throats, UP’s drums started beating, and UP, Ateneo, La Salle, UST, UE, AdU, and NU screamed, with fists shaking at FEU:
UP! UP! UP! UP!
U-NIBERSIDAD! NG PILIPINAS!
And when we were done, FEU waved their yellow handkerchiefs in the air. Save the Tamaraws!
UP! UP! UP! UP!
Other schools’ drums were hit to the beat of UP’s iconic chant.
U-NIBERSIDAD! NG PILIPINAS! MATATAPANG! MATATALINO!
The commercial break was over, and Boom Gonzales opened the envelope and read the results: FEU takes second place.
Any doubt that still remained as to the outcome of the competition evaporated at that instant. And then, even before FEU’s Pep Squad was finished with their photo-ops, the winner was officially announced.
THEY’RE BACK ON TOP—THE UNIVERSITY OF THE PHILIPPINES.
The whole coliseum erupted in jubilation as everyone shared in the victory of UP.
And then, the chant broke out again, and all of Araneta joined: U-NIBERSIDAD! NG PILIPINAS!
After the initial euphoria died down and the stadium cleared a little, UP’s supporters, who were scattered all around the arena, raised fisted right hands—another iconic symbol of the university and its liberal culture.
I’ve said it before: I have seen few sights more breathtaking, more awe-inspiring, than a swarm of maroon and white and proudly raised fists. SCHOOL PRIDE. UP FIGHT. We sang “UP Naming Mahal” our fists shaking in unison as we did. It was one of those moments that really make you feel proud to be called an Iskolar ng Bayan.
“Mabuhay ang pag-asa ng bayan,” we sang. And after that, one more time: U-NIBERSIDAD! NG PILIPINAS! The feeling of being part of UP’s grand, time-tested culture is something I can only give to you in the form of a ticket to the UAAP Cheerdance Competition. (Or a Form 5, but no matter how long you queue or how much money you fork over, you won’t be able to get one.)
I walked away from Araneta with a crumpled “Let’s go, UP!” sign, a newfound respect for my sense of hearing, and a whole new shitload of school pride. UP FIGHT!
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My thanks again to Andre Montejo of Globe Telecom’s Social Media Team for my ticket to the CDC!