Bata, Django, Manalo skip 2005 Manila Sea Games

NEW YORK, NEW YORK---The country's bid to sweep the gold medals in the pool competition of the coming 2005 Manila Southeast Asian Games took a jolting blow after three key figures in the so-called “Dream Team” pulled out a few weeks before the competition.

Efren “Bata” Reyes, Francisco “Django” Bustamante and Marlon " Marvelous" Manalo begged off from the call of national duty after getting invitation to play in the money-rich US$ 1 Million total pot prize International Pool Tour (IPT) dubbed as "King of the Hill" tournament starting Nov. 30 to December 4, 2005 at the Orlando Convention Center in Florida, USA.

The event offers a total pot of $1-million, with the champion getting $200,000.

But money doesn't have the monopoly of argument in their case.

Billiards and Snooker Congress of the Philippines (BSCP) president Ernesto "Ernie" Fajardo told that Reyes and Bustamante have long been sending feelers of their intent to give up their slots in the national team.

"Efren told me before that he has a problem in with his eyes and he doesn't want to shame our country in the SEA Games.” Fajardo said.

Reyes first admitted his handicap during the World Pool Championship in Kaoshsiung, Taiwan where he failed to advance into the knockout round for the first time.

"It's very hard to me to see especially in a long shot situation,” he said then in Filipino.

In the ongoing Philippine 9-Ball Open, Reyes made an early exit after losing his first two matches. It's his worst showing in a national open tournament using a double elimination format.

Bustamante, on the other hand, is complaining of a nagging pain on his right elbow.

"You will see Django using a soft break now". said Fajardo. "He told me that their is an instant situation when he decided to stop in the middle of the game because the pain of his elbow,” added Fajardo.

Fajardo on the other hand understands the situation of Manalo.

"Marlon already told me before that it's hard to skip in the said prestigious IPT event,” Fajardo said.

“It's his first time that Marlon is invited in the said IPT event and besides he already carrying the Philippine flag many times in the SEAG and already contribute Gold medals many times in the past.”

Despite the setback, Fajardo sees no reason to push the panic button.

“We have a very deep pool of talent. Alex Pagulayan will now be the leader of the team and we're confident that he'll be up to the task,” Fajardo said.

Pagulayan, the reigning US Open champion and a native of Cabagan, Isabela will be carrying the country's colors in the biennial meet for the first time.

In a seperate interview, the 29-years-old Manalo, a Jose Rizal University (JRU) Mandaluyong City AB Economics graduate said "It is a big opportunity to my other co-billiard player that will replace my slot".

The other members of the team are Dennis "Surigao" Orcullo, Ramil "Bebeng" Gallego, Antonio "Ga-Ga" Gabica, Lee Vann Corteza, Warren "Warrior" Kiamco, Ronnie "Calamba" Alcano and Leonardo “Dodong Dadiangas” Andam.