Banner Year for RP Billiards

PHILIPPINE Billiards enjoyed its finest year in 2006.

Almost all of the big international tournaments were captured by Filipinos including the World Pool Championship, the most prestigious 9-ball tournament there is.

But unlike in the past where the likes of Efren “Bata” Reyes, Alex “The Lion” Pagulayan and Francisco “Django” Bustamante would carry the load for RP billiards, this year saw the rise of a number of talents, most of whom came from the stable of Ceferino "Perry" Mariano and his Bugsy's Promotions.

Ronato “ Ronnie Calamba” Alcano was crowned World Pool king at the Philippine International Convention Center last month while Antonio “Gaga” Gabica bagged a 9-ball gold and an 8-ball silver in the 15th Asian Games in Doha, Qatar a couple of weeks back.

The biggest stars, however, are still Bata and Django who topped the inaugural World Cup of Pool by demolishing the tandem of Earl “The Pearl” Strickland and Rodney “Rocket” Morris of the United States (13-5) in the finals and pocketed the top prize of $60,000 in South Wales, England last August. Two weeks later, Bata stunned the world by topping the International Pool Tour World Open 8-Ball Championship and claimed the $500,000 prize, the richest purse in billiards history.

At the US Open in September, veteran campaigner Rodolfo “Boy Samson” Luat lost to American John Schmidt in the final round to settle for runner-up honors and the $15,000 purse. He also placed second in the Derby City 9-Ball.

Luat, however, dominated the Kaohsiung leg of the 2006 SMB Asian Tour. The Jakarta and Ho Chi Minh stops went to Reyes while the Bangkok leg was won by Ramil “Bebeng” Gallego.

Jeffrey "The Bull" de Luna, meanwhile, became the latest toast of RP billiards when he bagged the silver in the 9-ball event of the 15th Asian Games after bowing to Gabica, 7-11.

In a recent interview, longtime billiards patron Aristeo “Putch” Puyat said, “Marami na talagang magagaling sa bilyar na papalit kina Efren (Reyes) at Django (Bustamante) in the future. (Many rising star Filipino pool will replace Efren (Reyes) and Django (Bustamante) in the future in the likes of Dennis (Orcollo), Ronnie (Alcano), Marlon (Manalo) and Alex (Pagulayan among others). Nandiyan na sina Dennis (Orcullo), Ronnie (Alcano), Marlon (Manalo) Alex (Pagulayan) among others.”

Of the names Puyat had mentioned, the most likely to challenge Bata in the near future is Dennis “Surigao” Orcullo.

Orcullo finished the year at number five in the money list behind Reyes, who leads the list for the third straight year now.

Orcullo, acknowledged as RP's money game king, beat Niels “Terminator” Feijen of the Netherlands in the finals to rule the 2006 World Pool League last October in Warsaw, Poland.

“Si Dennis (Orcullo) ang No. 1 sa money game play sa ating bansa pero walang titulo. Buti naman at nanalo siya sa World Pool League para masasabi na rin natin siyang isang world champ (Dennis (Orcollo) is the most feared no.1 money game player in the country. Unfortunate he doesn't have a title yet. But thanks he won the World Pool Leaque at least he can claim he is a world champion now.),” said Bugsy promotion head Ceferino “Perry” Mariano.

Orcullo topped three other major international tournaments this year: the 43rd Annual Reno Open, the 9-Ball Bar Table Tournament and the 8-Ball Bar Table Championship. Marlon “Marvelous” Manalo nearly won the biggest paycheck of his career in August but bowed to Thorsten "The Hitmann" Hohmann of Germany, 7-8, in the final match of the IPT North American Open 8-Ball. Manalo settled for the $99,000 purse while Hohmann, second placer in the 2006 money list, went home $350,000 richer.

The Philippines, indeed, is a force to reckon with in the world of pool this year. And, by the looks of it, things are not about to change in 2007.

World Pool Championship - Ronato Alcano ($100,000)
IPT World Open 8-Ball Championship - Efren Reyes ($500,000)
2006 Derby City Classic One-Pocket Championship - Efren Reyes($11,000)
World Cup of Pool - Reyes & Bustamante ($60,000)
World pool League - Dennis Orcullo ($20,000)
43rd Annual Reno Open - Dennis Orcullo ($12,000)
World (9-Ball) Championship Bar Table Tournament - Dennis Orcullo ($12,000)
US Bar Table Championship, 8-Ball - Dennis Orcullo ($10,000)
39th All Japan Championships, - Lee van Corteza ($20,000)
Japan Open 9-Ball Billiards - Antonio Lining ($10,000)
A-Mild Billiard Bali International Open - Francisco Bustamante ($15,000)
Philippine 9-ball Open - Francisco Bustamante ($10,000)
BSCP National Pool Championship - Alex Pagulayan ($20,000)

SMB Asian 9-ball: GRANDSLAM
SMB Asian 9-Ball Tour Jakarta Leg - Efren Reyes ($10,000)
SMB Asian 9-Ball Tour Kaohsiung Leg - Rodolfo Luat ($10,000)
SMB Asian 9-Ball Tour Bangkok Leg - Ramil Gallego ($10,000)
SMB Asian 9-Ball Tour HO CHI MINH CITY Leg - Efren Reyes ($10,000)

15th Asian Game 9-ball singles, GOLD - Antonio Gabica
15th Asian Game 8-ball singles, SILVER - Antonio Gabica
15th Asian Game 9-ball singles, SILVER - Jeff De Luna

IPT North American Open 8-ball, Runner-up - Marlon Manalo ($99,000)
31st US Open, Runner-up - Rodolfo Luat ($15,000)
World Pool Masters, Runner-up - Alex Pagulayan ($10,000)
Derby City 9-Ball Division, Runner-up- Rodolfo Luat ($8,000)