MANILA, Philippines – Nicolette Erica Ambulo cried when she learned that they had to shave their heads for the UAAP Cheerdance Competition.
However, she was convinced to do it all for the love and dedication to the University of the Philippines (UP) Pep Squad.
In an interview with ABS-CBNnews.com, Ambulo said it was really a huge sacrifice to let go of what’s generally considered a woman’s “crowning glory.”
“Honestly, when Coach Lala (Perena) showed us the hairstyle for this year's competition, isa ako sa mga umiyak talaga. But since I was convinced that it is for our piece and it is a tribute to Oble (Oblation), I agreed to have it shaved. It was a really big sacrifice, especially for us girls but our hair will grow back anyway,” she said.
Everyone eventually agreed to the plan. Ambulo said this only showed “how passionate and dedicated we really are to this sport to the point of shaving our heads.”
True enough, the UP Pep Squad surprised and wowed everyone at the SM Mall of Asia Arena with their hairstyle, which was only revealed on the day of the competition.
As such, Ambulo said it was really overwhelming that the squad won and was able to complete the three-peat during her first year in the competition lineup. Ambulo, who is currently a third-year student at the UP College of Education, said it was her first time to compete in the UAAP Cheerdance Competition.
“I feel so blessed and thankful to God because the team worked really hard for this. I myself worked so hard to have a spot in the competition line up. So everything is like a dream for me. I am so happy and overwhelmed with all the love and support given by the whole UP community,” she said.
|Photo by Eloi Hernandez
During training, the whole squad worked six hours day, five times a week since summer.
But Ambulo said everything was worth it.
And even when most of the UP community felt nervous that the UP Pep Squad might not clinch its third straight win after one of them fell in their last stunt, Ambulo said she remained confident.
“Honestly, I didn't feel nervous. I believe in our team. That fall in the last stunt did not affect the judges' impression... Pero laging nakatatak sa utak namin na kahit ano man mangyari, it was God's will and may reason kung bakit may laglag, kung bakit hindi flawless ang routine at kung bakit kami nanalo,” she said.
Apart from the three-peat, Ambulo was also named this year’s Samsung Stunner. With her newfound fame, the 19-year-old cheerleader said she has gotten more attention.
“I feel flattered... Some people are taking pictures with me and congratulating me but there are some poeple who still don't understand why we shaved our heads,” she said.
Asked if she feels awkward when people ask to have pictures taken with her, she said: “Since I was a kid, I always wanted to perform for people and be in front of the camera. I always pose and ask for my relatives to take photos of me. HAHA (I'm vain, I know.) So I guess I don't feel awkward or anything but I wouldn't say that I'm used to this.”
The story of how the UP Pep Squad’s costumes for the 2012 UAAP Cheerdance Competition were created is just as dramatic as the team’s performance.
Joel Acebuche only had 48 hours to design and complete the team’s costumes -- and it was no easy feat. The UP Pep Squad’s original costume was made of a material that was too flimsy to take the demands of their routine.
Asked what she thought of the last minute costume change, Ambulo said: “We really had a difficult time moving with our first costume. So we were greatly thankful that it was changed last minute. It may be simple but it was very comfy. The colors also symbolize the Oblation.”
Still it was added stress for the team as the costumes arrived just hours before the competition. While waiting for the costumes to arrive, Ambulo revealed they managed to make a joke out of the situation.
“Pumunta kami sa Arena at lahat kami walang costume na dala kasi isusunod nalang dun. Naglolokohan na lang kami ng teammates ko na magko-compete kami in our training clothes kasi nga baka hindi umabot 'yung mga costume. Total freedom nga eh. Haha,” she told ABS-CBNnews.com, referring to this year's theme of "Freedom."
Ambulo said she could never express how much grateful she is for the unconditional love shown by the UP community.
“Siyempre we feel very thankful sa lahat ng supporters ng UP hindi lang sa CDC. Thankful kami sa lahat ng mga nanonood ng games,” she said.
She said the supportive UP community has always been their motivation.
“Ito rin 'yung isa sa mga motivation namin na we need to work even harder in order to improve and to give the UP community a great performance. Important sa amin na mapasaya and mapaiyak sa magandang paraan ang mga nanunuod sa mga routine namin,” she said.
“Yun po talaga ang main goal. Makapagbigay saya sa mga taong nanunuod,” Ambulo added.
Photos from Nicolette Ambulo's Facebook account