Whenever one watches a game of the Ateneo Blue Eagles in the Universities Athletics Association of the Philippines, it is impossible not to notice the banging of the drums, the melody of the brass instruments, beautiful girls in uniform, along with the men who lift and toss them, and the men in glossy jackets (and a girl with them this year) who seem to never run out of energy. They lead the Ateneo faithful in cheering. They are also known as the “Sixth Man” and “The Force Behind One Big Fight”. Collectively, they are known as the Blue Babble Battalion.
The Blue Babble Battalion is the official organized cheering entity of the Ateneo de Manila University. It is the oldest in the country, celebrating its 95th anniversary this coming 2015. It is considered as a varsity team, joining competitions such as the UAAP Cheerdance Competition and others. The Babble, as they are known, has 4 units namely; the Battalion, the Band, the Cheerdancers and the Lifters, and the Brass band. The Babble goes to most of the competitions of most of Ateneo’s sports teams, with the exception of swimming (due to the lack of funds) and Chess (Where a cheering section is not allowed).
I was once a member of the Battalion, way back in 2009. I was immersed to the Babble culture once I was in. Nearly 4 years have passed and it’s not exactly the same. Many things may have remained the same but a few things are different. It is as if it’s not the same culture anymore. I have learned this by observing the game between the Ateneo Blue Booters and the UP Fighting Maroons.
It was not my first time to watch the UAAP football games. I have done so many times both as a spectator and as a member of the Battalion. It was also not my first time to see them in the finals. I have seen them fight against the FEU Tamaraws in 2008, where the defending champion Blue Booters failed to annex their four straight crowns. It was however, my first time to watch them clinch the title. Never have I seen so many people watching the game. It was every bit of a championship battle. It was also special because it was dubbed the “Battle of Katipunan”, where these two neighbors slug it out to become kings.
I was able to catch them from pregame up until the end where the Blue Booters won 4-2 on penalties. Here were some of the things I observed:
– All the units gather as one before the game
– The respective units have their own huddle
– There is a female in the traditionally all-male Battalion
– The cheering and the banging starts way before kick-off
– One person relays the signals to everyone
– Everyone acts as one
– The cheering is non-stop, even at halftime where the teams playing are resting and strategizing
– Even at the height of the moment, the Babble refrains from any profane language and jeering (though some members of the crowd were doing it)
– The Babble is eager to do courtesy cheers with the UP pep squad (UP cheers GO ATENEO and Ateneo cheers UNIBERSIDAD NG PILIPINAS)
My former teammate, and outgoing co-captain Josef Acero, was my informant and briefed me about the new system, and answered some questions I may have had. First, he explained to me why there is a female member in the Battaltion (the most glaring question I had). He said that she originally wanted to be a cheerdancer, but she wanted to be more involved in making the crowd cheer. She did not want to dance and move like they do but she wanted to be part of the team since she has the fortitude and willingness to be a Battalion member. She also beat out several men who are literally bigger and stronger than her. She may not have a very loud voice but her heart is just as big, if not bigger, than most of the aspirants at that time. As for the hand signals and the synchronization, I had some idea because this was used for as long as I remember. But Josef added that the synchronization was because of diligent and tireless training. Babble strives for perfection, whether cheering for one sports team or competing as a sports team. It was also brought by the camaraderie that the team has; the people within the team are friends and they get each other. I asked about the courtesy cheering and he said that it is being done even in basketball, since these 2 schools have respect for each other as academic institutions and athletic adversaries. Part of the discipline also means not going overboard, meaning their job is to raise the morale of Ateneo, not bring down the morale of UP.
Being at the game was unlike any other experience. The atmosphere and the euphoria was something that no amount of survey would be able to sufficiently record. A survey can record every others reaction to the game, but that would be relative and impersonal. The championship and the celebration are two of the things that you should be there to appreciate all the drama and the glory. The interview was more helpful since the questions and observations I had in mind were not quantifiable. It was truly an experience for me as a spectator and as a former Sixth Man.
Credits go to the owner
Eriko dela Cruz
4 BS Life Sciences