Filipinos Stun Taiwanese Cue Stars

A Philippine pool team minus acknowledged superstars Efren "Bata" Reyes, Francisco "Django" Bustamante and Alex "The Lion" Pagulayan stunned Taiwan's hotshots on the opening day of a three-day showdown titled ‘Pride & Glory" at the Octagon Hall of Robinson's Galeria, taking a 4-1 lead in the battle for the top team prize of $40,000 or some P2.2 million with the losers earning a tidy sum of $20,000 or P1.1 million.

Only 2000 World Pool Champion Fong Pang Chao, the "Cool Killer" who lost a breathtaking 11-10 quarter final match to Pagulayan in the recent championship in Taipei won his match, defeating Filipino snooker ace Marlon Manalo 9-7 in the nightcap. Manalo who emerged as the "Giant Killer" in Taipei with marvelous victories over Yang, Bustamante and Reyes, played well at the start to go ahead 3-0 against Chao before the balls stopped rolling his way, enabling the cool and calculating Chao to fight back and salvage some pride for the Taiwanese although the glory certainly belonged to the Filipinos who carried the colors of Solar Sports, organizers of the three-day meet which was telecast "live" on the Solar Sports cable channel from 2:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. as well as on RPN 9 on free TV from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Antonio "Nikoy" Lining, despite the pressure of a 45 second shot clock which doesn't suit his slow, deliberate game, started the Filipinos campaign with the lefty scoring a stunning 9-7 victory over Taiwanese sensation Ching-Shun Yang, two-time winner of an Asian Games gold medal, World All Stars Pro Tour champion and a star of the San Miguel Asian 9-Ball Tour. Antonio Gabica put the Filipinos further ahead with a 9-1 rout of the "Little Monster: Po Cheng Kuo who also lost to Pagulayan in the semi finals in Taipei 11-4 after shocking temperamental Earl Strickland 11-8.

Gande Valle played well when it mattered most and capitalized on the poor break of Che-Wei Fu the APBU Asian 9-ball champion to win 9-5 although the Taiwanese strung together four racks in a row when all seemed lost to come to within one rack at 6-5. But Valle refused to be rattled and settled down to eventually win 9-5 even as the Taiwanese appeared to be somewhat unsettled by the way the table played and the atmosphere at the venue itself.

Young Dennis Orcullo who had a scintillating start in the last World Pool Championship but fell apart in the most crucial stage of the knockout phase losing to Pei-Wei Chang recovered his bearings to avenge that defeat to Chang who was runner-up to Pagulayan in Taipei in a classic battle. Orcullo showed no mercy as he routed Chang 9-3 to give the Filipinos a 4-0 lead before Fong Pang Chao, the finest player in Taiwan on a consistent basis pulled one back by beating Manalo to end the opening day with the Filipinos well ahead 4 matches to 1.