UP MedRhythmics Emerge as First Ever Step UP Manila Champions

By Lordom Grecia (Class 2021)

Last Saturday, April 14, the UP Manila Indayog Dance Varsity held the first ever Step UP Manila at the new UPM Sports Science and Wellness Center’s (SSWC) basketball court.

The event was part of the celebration of UPM Fiesta in partnership with the UP Manila University Student Council.

UP College of Medicine’s own Alvek Ecaldre (Class 2022) and Angie Lopez from the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) hosted the event, as five dance groups from the different colleges competed for the Step UP Manila championship.

First to perform was The UP MedRhythmics (MRX), consisting of Maga Estonilo (Class 2018), Yasmin Salces, Dan Concepcion, Paul Perez, Ven Ponce, and David Magpantay (Class 2020), Hazel Lapitan, James De Las Alas, and Mikee Empleo (Class 2021), Mutya Matimtim (Class 2022), and Steph Paredes (Class 2023). The team was led by coach and choreographer Alvek Ecaldre and co-coach Juno Sumatra (Class 2021). They opened the competition with a fierce and polished routine to a medley of “16 Shots” (Stefflon Don), “Make It Bunx Up” (DeeWunn), and a remix of “Shape of You” (Ed Sheeran).

Up next was the Public Health Artists’ Circle (PHAC) from the College of Public Health, who showcased anl all-female group with an elegant routine to Alessia Cara’s “Scars to Your Beautiful”, with a powerful message of self-love reflected in their costumes as well.

UP Pharmakinetics Dance Society (Pharmakinetics) from the College of Pharmacy went next, with a theme of “Biyaheng Tough” conveyed through a routine that was both playfully fun and pleasantly heartwarming to a medley of OPM songs that captured the audience’s attention.

Next was CAMP Synergy from the College of Allied Medical Professions, who danced to a medley of “16 Shots” (Stefflon Don), “Who Run the World” (Beyoncé), “She Nuh Wha” (LeftSide), “Ignition” (R. Kelly), and Bashment.

Last to perform was UPM CAS SinAg, with an energetic performance and a “hypebeast” theme to a medley that included “Nadarang” (Shanti Dope) and “Panda” (Skusta Clee).

The panel of judges consisted of Justin Archiemedes Baladad, JP Ponla, and Deseree Mangulabnan. Justin Archiemedes Baladad is a member of the Philippine Allstars and the Unschooled Dance Crew. He served as coach of Indayog for Ego Supreme Crew Wars 2016, and is currently the head coach of University of Perpetual Help Molino. JP Ponla is a senior member and resident choreographer of Addlib, Face and Runway champion of the House of Mizrahi’s Kiki Ball, and Vogue and Performance winner of Naughty or Nice Ball. Deseree Mangulabnan is an Indayog alumna and is currently a dance artist from Rock*Well, who will be the first group to represent the Philippines in DanceStar in Croatia. She is also a lecturer in UPM CAS, and a researcher in Dance at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

The esteemed judges were no doubt challenged by the excellent performances from all the competing teams. After the team performances, audience members participated in a freestyle dance battle, followed by a performance from Indayog, and finally a special showcase from the judges where they performed freestyle and flaunted their skills.

Before the competition winners were announced, special awards were given. The People’s Choice Award, based on the most number of likes of the Indayog Facebook page and the group photo of the participating team, was awarded to MRX. Romeo Ramirez of Pharmakinetics was then awarded Best Performer. The final special award, Best Costume, was given to MRX as well.

MRX receiving their Best in Costume Award. They also earned the People’s Choice Award.
In photo: (back row, L-R) Judge Deseree Mangulabnan, Juno Sumatra (2021), David Magpantay (2020),
Paul Perez (2020), Maga Estonilo (2018), James De Las Alas (2021), judges JP Ponla and Justin Baladad, and Indayog adviser Joey Ogatis. (front row, L-R) Steph Paredes (2023), Mutya Matimtim (2022), Mikee Empleo (2021), Ven Ponce (2020), Yasmin Salces (2020), Hazel Lapitan (2021), Dan Concepcion (2020), and Alvek Ecaldre (2022).Photo courtesy of Axl Caesar Ofrecio.

It was a tight race for the championship. SinAg finished 2nd Runner-Up, while Pharmakinetics came in as 1st Runner-Up. MRX was able to edge out Pharmakinetics by a third of a point to emerge as the champions. In addition to trophies for all the podium finishers, they also received cash prizes worth PHP 1,000, PHP 3,000, and PHP 7,000 for the 2nd Runner-Up, 1st Runner-Up, and Champion, respectively.

According to Indayog Junior President Jana Negre (Class 2021), they organized Step UP Manila with the hope of starting something new in the UPM community and as a way of promoting camaraderie and healthy competition among the dancers in the university. They hope to continue the endeavor as an annual event in the years to come.

Many thanks go to Jana Negre, Juno Sumatra, and Elijah Corpus (all Class 2021) for the details in this article. Photos courtesy of Axl Caesar Ofrecio.

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