By Hanna Lourdes Malubag

Contented. That was me when I was still preparing for my second Awitan. Although dancing was my first love, in Chorale, I was with my closest, dearest friends since high school, harmonizing with amazing singers and finishing with perfectly-blended notes. But I was waiting for the day that I would be able to dance.

On my first Engg Week during my second year, I auditioned to be part of ALCHEMES’ Indakan Team. The days went by and our one and only perfect run was during the performance night. I got overwhelmed by the whole deal and, considering what they say about the incoming academic year, I wanted out. But I couldn’t leave dancing completely, so my friend and I promised to ourselves that we will come back on our graduating year.

My fifth and final year came and I was ready to fulfill my promise. I was excited and got even more so when I learned that a lot of my batchmates were participating too. They were also telling me about all these underclassmen who I didn’t know were into dancing as well. I couldn’t wait to start.

Funny thing is, I’ve somehow forgotten how hard it was practicing for a competition. It was fun and we were laughing and enjoying ourselves during rehearsals. But come nighttime, I’d feel the pain on my thighs, my back and my arms. Worse still in the morning when it’s hard to walk, climb stairs and continue practicing.

It started off easy. Eight counts, another eight and then another. We were eager and confident with each set of eights but then the song played for the first time and we fumbled our way through it, shocked at how fast everything should be.

It became tiring especially when we had to learn the floor work. Bruises started to appear on both our knees, on the heels of our hands, arms, everywhere. We had friction burns and sore muscles.

It was challenging but we persevered.

There were times though when emotions got the better of us. Few days before the competition, some of us were crying and getting pissed off. We were tensed and a mess. People kept running late or didn’t come at all. We were having a hard time cleaning up our routine.

It didn’t help that we were having second thoughts on our theme. We were hearing about how everyone else were doing flashy, Great Gatsby-ish numbers while we were scouring Divisoria for the most decent duster and coveralls we could dance in while our support team was making a poso and a 2D sari-sari store. We were construction workers and labanderas to their Jay’s and Daisy’s. Despite all these, we shared the one thought. What sets us apart will be our legacy.

We did it the way ALCHEMES would do it. By making a difference. By breaking free.

Come performance night, we walked in our white shoes, dusters and white bandanas. All the while, the competition were adorned in glitters, feathers and all sorts of things. I didn’t feel nervous at all while waiting for our turn, holding the small white basin containing my laundry props. I knew what we’re gonna do was something great. That more than making the crowd cheer for us, we were trying to impart a message. We were trying to make them see something bigger than our routine.

The dance that we had a hard time finishing with the same level of energy throughout its course seemed to end rather quickly. Maybe it was because we were enjoying so much, dancing until our throats were dry and our bodies drenched in sweat that we didn’t notice we’re already done. Hearing the cheers pumped our adrenaline so high, I had a hard time stopping myself from smiling even during the parts when the song’s requiring us to look distressed.

Right after our dance, we were going crazy with the high of a great run. We were rehashing each of our personal highlights and disbelief of how surreal it was that we got such a wonderful reaction from the audience. No one was tired despite the tell-tale sheen of sweat on our faces. No one cared about the pain of doing swastika on our already black and blue knees.

We only cared that we were happy and we made our choreographer, our organization and ourselves proud.

We made such a lasting impression that even the host was referring to our routine again and again until the announcement of winners. We got Best Overall Production and got a podium finish of 1st Runner Up only 0.4 points shy of being proclaimed the champion.

I am overwhelmed that we got to win awards in Indakan on my last Engg Week, a first of our organization in this Night Event. I can only be grateful that I was part of this year’s very creative and inspired routine and proud to be a member of this amazing group fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to dance for an advocacy.

Dancing for the entertainment of the people you hold dear. Easy. Dancing to hear the crowds cheer. Easy. But dancing to send a message? Now, that’s a challenge! A challenge we accepted and managed to overcome.

I’m glad I fulfilled my promise. I got tired and emotional but, in the end, I’m happy and my heart’s swelling with pride. We may be the least glamorous of all the contestants. We might have been just labanderas but I won’t have it any other way.

UP ALCHEMES’ Indakan 2015 performance video below:

Photo credit: Camilla Libunao
Video credit: Camilla Libunao/ Eloisa GreƱas