UP Pep Squad costumes: Done in 48 hours

By Ivy Jean Vibar, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at Sep 24 2012 06:00 PM | Updated as of Sep 25 2012 10:49 PM

MANILA, Philippines -- The story of how the University of the Philippines (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.

Acebuche went straight to the SM Mall of Asia Arena from Divisoria on Saturday as aside from taking charge of the costumes, he was also tasked to do the team’s makeup.

“I have been doing the UP Pep Squad’s makeup for seven years,” he said.

The UP Pep Squad, performing their routine at the 2012 UAAP Cheerdance Competition. Photo by Mark Cristino for ABS-CBNnews.com

Costume change

It was only on Wednesday night, during the UP Pep Squad’s pep rally, when Acebuche was asked to design new costumes for the team.

“The UP Pep Squad’s coach texted me that they had a fashion emergency,” he said. “I thought it was minor—that their costumes (which were by a different designer) got ripped and needed to be repaired.”

When he got to the UP Gym, the UP Pep Squad told him that they needed different costumes. Their existing ones “would not work,” they told him, as the material was too flimsy to take the demands of their routine.

“The fabric was not that good. Hindi mesh iyong material sa design,” Acebuche said.

The Pep Squad’s original costumes were made from one-way spandex. Acebuche eventually decided to use two-way spandex for his designs, so that they would stand up to the team’s rigorous routine and stunts.

“‘Give us a design that can be done in two days’ time,’ sabi ng Pep. So at midnight, I was sketching. I thought of a sleeveless design so that when the group spread their arms, they would look like the Oblation,” Acebuche said.


In an interview on Umagang Kay Ganda, UP Pep Squad Assistant Coach Pio Opinaldo said their theme “Freedom” was inspired by the Oblation.

“Inspiration namin ay Oblation – service to university and giving yourself to the nation, kasama doon ay freedom, freedom of us to express ourselves,” he said on UKG Monday morning.

Acebuche designed the team’s costume to fit in with the theme. He sketched in trimming, piping and other details in the university colors to his sleeveless flesh-tone catsuit design. The leaves decorating the costumes were a last-minute addition.

His design was relatively simple, he said, because aside from time constraints, he believes that focus should be on the performers and their movements, not on the costume.

“On Thursday morning, I chose the fabrics, then asked my mananahi to make a prototype. In the afternoon, Coach Lala (UP Pep Squad head coach Lalaine Perena), brought one of the girls, who fitted the costume,” he said.

“I still felt that the costume was too bare, so I asked Coach Lala if I could put fig leaves on it, around the body.”

The unique leaf patterns in each Pep Squad member’s costume was due to time constraints, and were not intentional. “Basta huwag sa crotch area ang leaf, bahala na raw ako sa design,” Acebuche said.

Joel Acebuche's sketch of the UP Pep Squad's costume for the 2012 UAAP Cheerdance Competition. Photo by Perci Cendana, from the Acebuche Facebook page 


Acebuche arrived at the SM Mall of Asia Arena with the finished costumes on Saturday noon, two hours before the start of the Cheerdance Competition.

By the time he finished doing the makeup and costumes of the UP Pep Squad, the Far Eastern University squad was already performing.

"I felt so tired. Pagod, pressure from the 48 hours, naiiyak ako. I got so emotional due to all the tension,” he said.

“Afterwards, I was so proud kasi hindi mo mapapatawaran ang dedikasyon ng mga bagets na ito. Dedication to do what has to be done for UP’s sake.”

Humbling experience

Acebuche, an Art Studies major from UP Diliman, said he learned to sew from his mother. He started creating costumes for different university organizations in his college days, but his main thing then was makeup.

He put up his own clothing shop, which he has been running for 10 years, but he still does makeup for regular customers, such as Rep. Risa Hontiveros.

According to Acebuche, while designing the UP Pep Squad’s costumes was a unique experience for him, it was also still part of the job.

“What happened to the UP Pep Squad also happens to clients of mine, who ask me to make a new wedding gown because they don’t like what arrived from a designer in the US, for example,” he said.

“It was a humbling experience for me. It allowed me to pay back to the university, as an Iskolar ng Bayan.”