WERE it not for Benjamin Joshua “Benjo” Gutierrez’ itch to rekindle his passion for cheerdancing, he would not have even been a Thomasian at all.
Gutierrez, UST Salinggawi Dance Troupe’s president and captain, originally wanted to spend more time with his family as a journalism freshman in the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) in Sta. Mesa, Manila but had a change of heart and enrolled in the University’s journalism program.
“I was already being recruited when I was still studying as a senior at the Taguig Science High School. My senior, Febelyn Balani, recruited me. I told myself before that I do not want to cheer,” Gutierrez told the Varsitarian. “I was already cheering for four years and it was all just an accident.”
Cheerleading was not exactly Gutierrez’s cup of tea, as he was mainly an athlete in track and field and basketball. He discovered the dance sport in his first year in high school but only attended practices whenever he felt like attending.
However, an unfortunate accident in practice changed the perspective of the 20-year-old toward the sport. Gutierrez failed to secure a flyer because he was hesitant to catch her. The incident prompted him to change his ways and dedicated himself to the craft. After graduation, Gutierrez decided to enroll in PUP but noticed something was missing from his system.
“I wanted to become an athlete again. When they (Salinggawi) held tryouts in UST, I was contacted by their PRO. I agreed since the journalism program there is okay. I knew it is better in UST. Journalism is really my dream course and UST is my dream school. I regret it that I did not grab the opportunity in the first place.”
Now the captain of the renowned Salinggawi, which is tied with the University of the Philippines as the winningest teams in UAAP cheerdance history with eight titles, Gutierrez knows he has a huge responsibility to tend to: reclaim the lost glory of the squad which last won the championship in 2006.
In Gutierrez’s first year, Salinggawi bounced back from its seventh-place finish in 2013, the worst in group history, by placing third in 2014 courtesy of a Chinese-inspired routine.
The following year, Gutierrez became an integral cog of the group’s African-themed showcase which landed them silver, Salinggawi’s highest finish since 2008.
The Bacoor, Cavite-native showed his toughness in the recent cheerdance tournament by shrugging off a freak injury, a massive cut in the forehead which needed five stitches. He suffered 13 days before the competition.
“The team cannot afford to lose me. If they would replace me, they would have to overhaul the entire routine,” Gutierrez said. “The doctors gave me a 10-day recovery period but I could not afford to start practicing that late. I insisted to remove my stitches earlier than recommended.”
As the leader of Salinggawi, Gutierrez knows the importance of his position, especially when Salinggawi coach Ramon Pagaduan IV is not around.
“’Pag wala ang coach, ikaw ang sasangga,” Gutierrez said.