Road to Gold

By: Raya Padilla

Have you ever had a dream so big that you had fears that it could swallow you whole? Have you ever felt the undying desire to accomplish something big? I think that every Povedan has felt something like this before, especially the ones who take the risk of joining any varsity. For the members of the Enciende team, we knew that risk taking and dream chasing were a few things to check off our bucket lists.

It all started on March 18, 2016. We were up to the crucial 2 minutes and 30 seconds of our last competition of the year. The National Dance Championship held at Mall of Asia (MOA) Arena was the very last performance for the Batch 2016 Seniors: Bela Cruz (captain), Marina Lugtu (co-captain), Andie Buan, Mikee Constantino and Ariana Murillo. Our team had joined this competition many years before, coming home with either no place at all or at least top 3 but never gold. But that day felt different. I felt the same fire burn on those bouncy blue mats, but the connection between my team mates and I was something I’ve never felt before. True enough, the team work and connection manifested in our run was able to earn us the coveted gold medal and the title for the national championship.

Little did we know that our dreams wouldn’t end there. On March 29 of the same year, the heads of the National Cheerleading Competition (NCC) forwarded an e-mail to our coaches stating that due to our championship in NDC 2016, we were chosen as the Philippine National Team for the Hip Hop division. We will join the International Cheer Union 2017 and The Dance Worlds 2017 to be held  in Disney World, Florida. As I read the text message on my cellphone screen, I felt the rush of excitement and pride. It was the first time that the team was given a chance to represent the whole country and this was an opportunity we weren’t going to miss. I knew that a lot of work had to be put in for the upcoming school year. I was set on the goal of leading the team to its success, the moment I was announced as captain. I wanted every minute of this competition to be memorable for the seniors, as it would be our last. 

The roster for the ICU team was picked by the hands of our Father. Each and every one of the girls serves a purpose, bringing what they can offer. With our individual strength we can only do so much, but together we are so much better. Training for worlds was a long journey. We endured 5 months of long training hours day in and day out. We started out with 6 fresh members, who were new to the competing team and 2 alumnae from Batch 2016. For what the new ones lacked in experience, they compensated in their passion and drive. We knew that with great dreams came great sacrifices and challenges. Some of us had injuries, and we also had copyright issues due to our music. We had to sacrifice competing in NDC 2017 so that we could focus and train for ICU. It was hard to accept for the seniors due to the fact that it would be our last national competition, but we believed that it was God’s voice telling us that He had better plans for us. Surely enough as things were to unfold, we slowly came to understand the reasons why. 

Aside from the training aspect, a lot of work had to be done to raise funds for our Orlando trip. We hosted a fundraising concert held in the Poveda Gym last April 8, 2017 entitled Siklab. This was all made possible by the school and the parents who worked hand in hand with the finances and logistics. Because of the concert, the team’s bond grew stronger. It prepared us for the feeling of performing in front of a large audience and it was very humbling to perform for our Alma Mater and most especially our families and friends who supported us since day one.

Days passed and before we knew it, we were on a plane to Orlando. Arriving at the Disney's All Stars Sports Resort felt like a dream. Being surrounded by cheerleaders and dancers wearing colorful team shirts and bows made us feel as if we were in a prestigious sports camp. We had managed to fight the jet lag and train on the football field, right next to the most renowned cheerleading and dance teams in the world. Amidst the scorching heat, we were able to survive training for hours under the sun. 

The competition proper for ICU 2017 was held in the Disney ESPN World Wide Sports Arena. We placed second in semi-finals and we earned the bronze medal in the finals. We experienced some issues and adversities that cost us a higher rank but we did not let it shatter our dreams of winning the gold. We still had one more chance to prove ourselves in the Dance Worlds. Instead of going to Disney World after ICU finals, we went straight to training. That little sacrifice earned us the first place in semi-finals and through God’s grace we eventually won the gold.

I woke up that day telling myself that we were going to get the world champion ring and I was even more determined to dance like it was my last. I was glad to feel that my team mates and I were on the same page and we carried that fire until the very last second on that stage together. I remembered every single bead of sweat that ran down my body for the last 5 months. I remembered the tears we’ve cried in every competition because we have never wanted anything so bad. I remembered every pep talk from our coaches and from my first ever captain. I remembered the people back at home, our families, our friends, the school and the rest of Enciende. I remembered NDC 2016 and what felt so different about that run. I remembered my promise to myself as a captain. I remembered the dreams we once whispered to the stars in the sky when we were just 13 years old. As those 2 minutes and 3 seconds were over, I felt as if a heavy weight was lifted off my shoulders knowing that every single second was dedicated to the 16 girls that I fought this fight with. I cared less about the rank that we were going to place because what was more important for me was to feel what we felt during that run. 

The truth is, the secret to being a champion is to see that, that gold is so much more than a trophy that is literally half my size and weight (I only stand 4 feet and 10 inches), but rather in the people that make the hardships worth it. Seeing it as only a bonus, God gave us so much more than what we asked for and to say a prayer of thanks could not even muster up our gratitude. The least we can really do is to continue this legacy that we have made for ourselves, with the best intentions.

Colossians 3:23, “With whatever we do, we do it with all our hearts.”  


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