THE SALINGGAWI Dance Troupe (SDT) is perhaps the most popular pep squad in the country, an eight-time champion in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) Cheerdance Competition, and a 45-year-old dance group that is rooted on its culture of excellence and grace.

But the dance troupe has become more and more remote from its original identity—as a folk dance group.

On Aug. 13, 1994, the first UAAP cheerdance competition was held as sideshow to basketball. All teams were rookies except for two pep squads: Ateneo Blue Babble Battalion and De La Salle University Pep Squad.

The University’s folk dance group, Salinggawi (Salin ng Dating Gawi), represented UST. Oddly enough, it took the first championship to España, and since then the folk dance group has established a big name in collegiate cheerdance competition.

Former Salinggawi dancer and current Ballet Manila artistic director Osias Barroso recalled that during his four-year stint in the dance troupe, many members were also professional dancers outside the University, which added to the credibility of the dance troupe.

The group, headed by Rene Hofilena, was trained in two genres—folk and jazz.

“We trained in modern jazz,” said Barroso. “I think Salinggawi was very popular because its dancers were truly dedicated, plus we had high regard for Rene and the senior dancers of Salinggawi. There was hierarchy.”

When Salinggawi coach Ramon Pagaduan IV replaced coach Ryan Silva in 2012, SDT adviser Edna Sanchez stressed that what set the Salinggawi from the other cheering squads was that it was a cultural group following tradtion and old ways of doing things.

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“That culture makes us different from the rest of the dance troupes,” Sanchez said in a previous interview with the Varsitarian. “We almost got someone from Bobcats, but the culture needed to be upheld.”

Salinggawi has a tradition of hiring only an alumnus of the dance troupe as coach. 

Loss of identity

But the eight-time UAAP cheerdance competition champion has been experiencing a title drought since 2007 and the glory days of the most popular dance troupe in Philippine collegiate association may now be over.

In the past UAAP competitions, SDT has not found a winning formula. Last year it presented a Brazilian-inspired routine; the other year it tried a Dominican-inspired theme. Neither seems to have worked successfully as Salinggawi did not secure a place in the Top 3.

Years have passed and Salinggawi is now more of a cheerdance group rather than a cultural group.

Barroso said that Salinggawi has simply lost its identity.

“A good dance troupe should follow tradition but must still be versatile enough,” Barroso said. “For instance, the Ballet Manila Company led by Lisa Macuja and myself is trained under the vaganova Russian method that is our strength and tradition. Since we have one style, our company has an identity.” Juan Carlos D. Moreno And Nikka Lavinia G. Valenzuela

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