MANILA - A year ago, members of the National University Pep Squad were a picture of pain and agony as they were denied for a rare five-peat and even a podium finish.
But staying true to returning with vengeance, the NU Pep Squad unraveled jaw-dropping stunts anew and a flawless "Coco"-inspired routine to reclaim the title they held for four long years.
According to head coach Ghicka Bernabe, the road to redemption did not start immediately with a rigid training and polishing their moves and pyramids but rather a time off from practice to let the wounds heal first.
"Nag-stop kami [after last year's contest] kasi sabi namin nakaka-burn-out ang training. Nagkikita kami just to eat, just to play sa gym," Bernabe admitted. "No training muna, somehow makalimot muna."
But the time off needed by the team to patch all the scars of the painful fourth-place finish went until summer of 2018.
"Bago nag-aral ng pyramids and stunts, ang una naming inaral after that scenario is how to move on and acceptance kasi mahirap mag bagong routine kung ang mindset ay in denial kami," she said.
"Stage muna ng acceptance and how to move on para gumaling kami sa susunod na training namin."
During the half year break, Bernabe revealed her members started to own up from their mistakes during the 2017 under the sea-themed performance.
"Dapat honest lahat. Dapat walang guilt na ikaw nagkamali last year. With that scenario, 'di kami magsisisi ng members, sa coaches, sa management kung may pagkukulang," the multi-titled coach said. "Naging honest kami sa isa't isa."
After summer, the NU coaching staff saw the team were beginning to redeem their composure and move forward, and they knew that time they were ready to prepare for their fightback.
"After that competition [UAAP], we did not join NCC. Focus lang sa UAAP. Ayaw namin ng distraction. Nakita naman namin, na-observe ng bawat isa na nag-transform. Hindi na sila nalulungkot," Bernabe said.
Entering the MOA Arena on Saturday, there was only one thing in NU's mind -- to regain the glory they lost.
"Tama na 'yung isang beses na ipinahiram namin sa kanila 'yung title. Amin na ulit," NU captain Kevin Lacbong told the press.
Bernabe also said team did not allow frustrations to come into their head, going to Season 81's competition as it merges with anger. She told NU only brought determination and hunger for fifth title in the last six years.
The Sampaloc-based squad made sure they won't experience the same fate they had the previous edition.
"Gutom na gutom, uhaw na uhaw, gustong bumawi," Bernabe stressed. "Ayaw na namin maramdaman ang nangyari last year, painful 'yun."
But if there's one good thing Bernabe had from the loss -- "sobrang minahal ko 'yung team ngayon."
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