Johnson's Pure Essentials Teen Cheer Competition 2001

It's the girls' time to shine 
By Walter Ang
November 28, 2001
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Mobs greeted me at all three gates of the Araneta Coliseum. Parents were screaming at guards because they were not being allowed in for the Johnson's Pure Essentials Teen Cheer Competition.

I waited for the crowd to disappear before going in. When I asked one of the women at the gate, she muttered something about it being "standing room only" inside.

The oath of sportsmanship was already underway when I entered. If anyone had doubts that cheerleading was an actual sport, s/he should go to a competition like this to be convinced otherwise. It is not just a sport, but a difficult one at that! After a nationwide elimination search, 13 schools finally made it to the coliseum that day. Young women dressed in their school colors whipped up a storm as they performed their repertoire?they danced, they cheered, they yelled, they flew. And, boy, did they ever fly!

The Sisters of Mary School girls were the daintiest of the bunch, looking very lithe in their elegant costumes. Their 10-minute presentation incorporated rhythmic gymnastics routines, including a swaying stunt (or human pyramid to us noncheerleaders). The result was graceful and unique, but lacked the expected and necessary spunk and punch for a cheering competition.

Assumption College (AC) had good energy, used interesting music like "Moulin Rouge's" "Cancancan" song and was the only school that had flawless musical segues. It also had the scariest looking spotters and bases?these are the guys who lift and throw the girls into the air. Those guys looked like they were forced-fed steroids and testosterone! Bases get stepped on a lot and have to lift bodies, while spotters have to be quick on their toes to catch falling bodies.

Winners all
The AC girls were my bet for second runner up, but Poveda Learning Center took that one with its sharp and fun choreography as well as clean stunts and great basket tosses (3-4 bases throwing a "flier" into the air.)

School of the Holy Spirit was first runner up with its great ability to dance in sync aided by clean and sharp choreography. The girls had the healthiest glow among all the contestants and had an infectious, perky energy. One cheerleader looked like Gabrielle Union from the movie "Bring It On" from certain angles. Her mouth was opened wide in a smile from the moment she stepped on the floor until her team left.

Miriam College delivered on all the criteria used to judge the competition. It showed off its assets with dynamic and creative choreography that incorporated technique and skills. The girls danced in sync and the presentation made good use of everyone on the team?not just highlighting the fliers. They also had a strong background cheering squad that had dynamic choreography as well. All these factors combined to assure them of the grand prize. MC also won for cutest costume although it seemed to me De La Salle Zobel's costumes were cuter, with the nifty stylized letter Z in front.

We've got spirit
Other schools lost points for being unable to make clean stunts. Usually the bases and climbers (the girls on the tippy-top of the stunts) were bunched up together and slow on the lifts. And the dismounts were clumsy and didn't' have enough of a snap?some of the more creative dismounts even had girls blowing kisses before falling off the top. Elpidio Quirino High School relied too much on their fliers and climbers (although very impressive) and didn't have enough on choreography.

Colegio de Sta. Cecilia seemed to have too many spotters. This made their climbers seems less able since there were so many people waiting to catch them if they ever fell. But everyone was impressed when the CDSC girls had one leg in the air when their music conked out. And we all know the drill when the music stops: you freeze wherever you are. Troopers that they were, the girls had their legs up there for the longest time and endured it all.

Interesting to note was O.B. Montessori's rotating stunt and Pedro E. Diaz High School's use of Hotdog's (a band from ancient times) "Bongga Ka `Day" to end their presentation. Yes to using more original Filipino music next time, please!

Overall, the schools gave performances that showed a high level of commitment and effort. The girls performed stunts, twisted their bodies this way and that, fell on occasion but always scrambled back up?all this with a smile permanently attached to their faces! It was remarkable to see climbers dance on top of a base's shoulders or hand like it was the simplest thing in the world to do.

And you have to hand to those hardy bases who lifted and threw with all their might. It's tough to be in high school, no question. And to have hours and hours worth of practice and pressure added to your list of things to do is no joke.

It was great to see the fantastic support of parents, siblings, schoolmates and friends. Girls usually have to take a back seat to the boys in interschool sports competitions, so this was a great way for them to take centerstage for a change. Having private and public schools on one playing filed was also a good idea. However, one can't help but notice the economic differences?materials for costumes, props used and even the physical build of the girls. I don't need to tell you which girls had more "energy reserves" in their bodies.

Perhaps there should be a budget ceiling for costumes and props next time just to help even the playing field a little bit more. Or maybe they could come up with "public-private sister schools" teams to compete next time. It could help drive home the objective of friendship, exchange of ideas and sharing and all that.