National University PEP Squad member prevails despite disability

National University PEP Squad member prevails despite disability

MANILA -In pyramid after pyramid as well as stunt after stunt National University Pep Squad base John Paul Laurence Cabido is showing that, despite not having an arm that is strong but he’s a vital element of the elite squad that has won the UAP Cheerdance competition in recent years.

Cabido popularly referred to in the lingo of “Longlong,” has an impairment to his hand but is one of the dancers is part of the NU Pep Squad relies on for lifting them at the top of the ladder in the upcoming Cheerdance UAAP Competition.

“Yung last coach namin,” coaches Ghicka Bernabe an, sinabihan isa. Kaya ako andito para mag-inspire ng ibang athlete na may kapansanan like me, para mas ma-motivate sila at ma-express kakayahan nila kahit may disability. Kaya di nila” an 21-year-old senior who is a team A base player, spoke to ABS-CBN News in an interview.

He went on: “Noon naalala ko may napanuod aka isang event ng athletics sa amin, bulag siya pero nagsisikap para mapakita sa mundo na kaya niya. Tumatak sa isip ko, Hindi lang ako ang naghihirap sa ganting sitwasyon may iba din.”

The NU Pep Squad surrendered the title of cheerleader in favor of the FEU Tamaraws last December. The Bulldogs however, are quickly rising from their loss, and are preparing to claim the crown they have been coveted for years.

According the the head trainer Gabriel Bajacan, part of the team who is already working hard is Cabido who isn’t only defying expectations of Bulldog cheerleaders, but setting the bar higher for the team.

“Ang pool ng NU Pep Squad are champions sa Palarong Pambansa. We always have a ranking, itong ranking magde-decide if you will be part of Team A. Pinakita niya kung may grades, straight A siya lahat… Siya pa nagtuturo ngayon sa bago,” Bajacan said.

He added: “Ngayon, ang team Namin is very strained because of the stunts Longlong did. Kasi napatunayan niya kaya niya difficult stunts as in difficult ones. ‘Bakit ikaw di mo kaya gawin if kumpleto kamay mo, braso mo?’ Kulang siya pero kaya niya buhatin.”

The athlete, who was a student at high school was approached by the school in 2019 because they believed his talent could help strengthen their team.

“We are trying to assist the kids in need, many of them come from provinces in the nasa laylayan society. We decided to assist this child too. Number one siya sa Palarong Pambansa. Lahat galing doon ng atlethe,”bakit ‘di mo, kukunin,”” Head coach said.

As with all Bulldogs The boy from General Santos is a gold medalist. He has even competed toe-to-toe with the Filipino Olympian Carlos Yulo.

“Noong elementary, nagsabi ate ko kay mama [na] gusto niya gymnastics. Hilig that ko is taekwando kasi father is dating kickboxer. Pero noong nakita ko si ate nagta-tumbling-tumbling, na-engganyo ako. Pag dating grade 2, regional meet pumasok ako. Noong 2012, nakalaban ko pa si Kuya Caloy. ‘Tas 2012-2018 sunod-sunod na ako gold medalist sa gymnastics. Tas after inviting ako NU can try the to train in the summer months,” the student added.

NU has established itself as an organization to reckon with following their success in seven of the UAAP’s last ten Cheerdance championships through their creative routines that challenge the boundaries of cheer dancing.

So, the base acknowledged that, despite being already on the mats at the university at that time of summer, he thought that joining the powerhouse group was just the distant goal he’d have to live through his sister who grew up as an Bulldog cheerleader.

“Madami na ako nasalihan na cheer dance competition. Pero hindi ako nag stustunts, tumbling lang ganon po. Kaya noong una, nakita ko hindi ako fit dito. Dahil more on stunts ito sa kamay. Nagbubuhat. Eh yung kamay ko hindi nakaka grip ng una,” he said.

However, Cabido quickly transformed what he considered impossible into routine after pulling off stunts he thought could only be done by more physically fit athletes.

“Pag pasok dito, pantay-pantay kami. Walang special treatment sa akin unless hindi ko na talaga kaya. Pero susubukan muna namin. Nagpapasalamatako sa mga trainer in the namin, and wala naman po say alam ako sa stunts. I’m grateful at the trainings and tinuruan,” the 21-year-old said.

“100 percent binibigay niya sa training. Hindi mo mapapansin disabled siya. Nakita is namin just like normal. Walang has a special treatment” coach Bajacan stated.

According to Bajacan and his National University, Cabido is altering the face of the cheer dancing community both on both mats and in the off-season.

“I would suggest other teams think about them too. Hindi hiwalay. Nakakadagdag siya. Hindi siya others o charity. Kaya niya makipagsabayan sa normal and mas magaling pa sa normal na katawan,” he said.

He added: “We want to experiment. We’re looking to be innovative. Every when we compete, we aim to introduce bago. As part of the NU Pep Squad in 2011 We want to create new stunts, develop a new technique, and a new pyramid, what does Philippines “di lang NU provide to the world.”

While “Longlong” will conquer the challenges both on and off the stage, he acknowledges that his physical limitations can make him feel a bit weighed down.

“Simula elementary, ang dami ko na-experience ng pang bully. Sa school, sa gymnast. Lalo na koong bata ako hindi ko pa mahandle. Masasakit. Ganyan kamay niya, hindi naman puwede, which is pinaka-masakit sa aking is yung word ‘pongkol,’ parang walang kamay,” he recalled.

According to Cabido regardless of how loud the slurs hurled at him his soft and kind words of his father will always be louder.

“Bago po ako nagpunta dito, sabi ni Papa walang impossible na matuto sa isang bagay na gusto mo makamit. Tulad ng [pagiging] gymnast. Una wala akong tiwala. But noong sinabihan ako ni Papa…”Eto be,” he tearfully said.

“Emotional ako pag napaguusapan si Papa. Simula ng nag Palarong Pambansa andyan si Papa. Hindi siya nawawala. Lagi siya nanunuod sakin, siya naniwala sa akin,” he added.

Cabido revealed that his desire to perform flawless stunts is not solely driven by the goal of the perfect score, but also by the determination to overcome the stigma that surrounds disabled people– just as his father believed that he could.

While Cabido won’t ever hear his dad’s cheers on the field, he wants to live out his father’s countless advice that changed his life in order to at the very least witness the echo of his father’s legacy through the people that he and in turn, inspires throughout the course of his journey.

“Pag may dream ka wag ka susuko. Keep learning mga bagong bagay, and then try to learn about the world of din,” he said.