Practice for the NRW Bollywood final began for us last Saturday, and it was clear from the beginning that Alexis, Vanessa, and I were all going to need a lot of work. Alexis didn’t know the main choreography; Vanessa didn’t make her armlines sharp enough; and I didn’t have enough time. Kenneth, our team leader, broke up with his girlfriend that same night of our first practice, and was distracted and lost.
We seemed to be a team destined to lose badly. By Wednesday evening, we hadn’t completed any new choreography for the beginning and ending of the number. As for music, we hadn’t even decided which tracks to use, much less how to mix them. Thank God Mader Fhe, the Ortigas Group X Coordinator, stepped in and handled the situation. She and two other dance instructors (Arnel and Mong) choreographed our intro and transitions, which enabled us to concentrate on polishing the moves. I decided to handle the music mixing myself using a laptop and some software.
We began practice on Thursday evening at 10pm at the Ortigas branch then left at 12am to have a little something to eat at the i-Stop on the ground floor of the building before heading to my house for some more practice. Then Mama texted me to inform me that Lolo was gone and that she and Papa were going to the hospital. I just felt disconnected, but knew that I was only going to get in the way if I went to the hospital with them. Also, I had the rest of the team to think about. We had already spent so much time and energy (the three instructors were helping us gratis), and I didn’t want to let anyone down. So, practice continued at our house until 4am Friday morning, even without Mader and Arnel around.
With one day left until the competition, we were all physically and mentally worn out. We somehow found it in ourselves to shop for our costumes that evening and drag ourselves back to the gym to practice. We were headed back to my house for more practice at 1am when Alexis decided that she needed to go home to sleep. So, the last few hours leading into Saturday morning it was just Vanessa, Ken, Mong, and me working on the final few eights, trying to stretch the routine so we could make the 5-minute minimum time limit. (Yes, we are crammers and jammers.) We finally finished everything — or so we thought — at 6am.
After an hour and a half of sleep, I headed back to the gym to meet with Mader and Alexis to show them the completed routine. Mader made some last-minute adjustments to the flooring transition choreo, which I tried to commit to memory. Ken and Vanessa arrived a little later and we finalized the music; I burned two CDs containing the mix.
Then I had to rush off to La Paz Funeraria to attend my grandfather’s cremation; they were only waiting for me to arrive before they sent his remains off into the flames. I sat there, feeling numb and wondering if I was a bad person for not bawling my eyes out like Marielle was doing. Thirty minutes later, I was back in my car on my way to SM North EDSA. It was 1pm; we had two hours until the competition started.
Mader did our hair and make-up, and then we got into our costumes before our final run-through. I was running on pure adrenaline at that point (not having eaten anything since breakfast), and tension was high. My teammates and I had a bit of drama when I, exasperated, rolled my eyes and someone took it personally. Mader had to calm us down, tell us to work together, to help each other.
And then we went out on stage. To my surprise we did better than I expected, and I was glad we didn’t prove to be embarrassments to our branch. After all, we were chosen as the team because we were supposedly the best they had to offer.
Third prize went to Team Manila, second prize went to Team Metro East, and first prize was no surprise: Team ABS-CBN collected the P100,000 worth of Nike gift certificates. Still, Mader (and my Mama, who came to support me) was very proud of us, and I think the experience was worth all the sweat, tears, and bruising. I’d do it again.
If there’s anything I regret, it’s the fact that I wasn’t at home with my family when my paternal grandfather passed away. But I’m sure that he would have wanted me to honor my commitment to the Fitness First Ortigas team. That was who he was, my grandfather: the dutiful soldier to the end.