Despite Facing Controversy, The Lion Roars in Cebu Open

Alex Pagulayan

Despite facing controversy, Alex "The Lion" Pagulayan nailed his first major local tournament this year by besting 2006 Doha Asian games 9-ball gold and 8-ball silver medallist Antonio "Ga-Ga" Gabica (13-10) in the finals to emerge over-all champion in the just concluded 2007 Cebu Open late Sunday at the SM Cebu Trade Hall in Cebu City.

The 29-year-old Toronto based Filipino-Canadian Pagulayan, who hails from Cabagan, Isabela received the top prize of P160,000 for his superb performance.

"Despite the controversy I am facing right now, I'll just play my very best to win the Cebu Open." Pagulayan said in a long distance interview yesterday before taking his flight going back to Manila from a brief Cebu soujurn.

Pagulayan earlier disposed of rising star Mike "Choke" Takayama (11-7) in the semi-final round to arrange a titular showdown with Gabica, also the 2002 Cebu Open champion, winner over reigning national open champion and all Japan championship winner Lee Vann "The Slayer" Corteza (11-8).

Gabica received the runner-up prize worth P80,000, Corteza took home third prize of P40,000 while the 18-year-old Takayama, one of the dark horses in this event won fourth prize of P20,000.

Pagulayan is also planning to form an Association for the billiard and snooker welfare, "That's my next plan if I come back in Manila," he said to the local media in Cebu. Pagulayan got the support of 80 percent of the cue artists including pool maestro Efren "Bata" Reyes and former world no.1 Francisco "Django" Bustamante.

Before the main draw of annual Cebu Open, one of the richest 9-ball tour in Visayas, the 2004 World Pool Champion and 2005 US Open 9-Ball Champion Pagulayan was replaced by Jeffrey de Luna in the upcoming Guinness Shanghai event. Pagulayan was accused of conduct unbecoming in the Guinness Singapore leg according to the decision of Billiard and Snooker Congress of the Philippines (BSCP).

Pagulayan, who is the 2007 Japan Open ruler and 2007 World Summit of Pool kingpin was seen clowning in his semi-final loss to Mindanao-born Malaysian Ibrahim Bin Amir in Guinness Singapore leg last July 16.

Thus, Pagulayan will not seeing action when the fifth and final leg of Guinness 9-ball tour gets going on August 3 to 5 at the Shanghai Hotel in Shanghai, China.

The four man Philippine team are now De Luna, Corteza, double world champion Ronato "Volcano" Alcano, 2007 Oslo, Norway Battle of Scandinavia 9-ball king Roberto "Pinoy Superman" Gomez.