Gabica Wins Philippine Open 9-Ball Title

Antonio “ Ga Ga” Gabica, who describes himself as being “strong of heart” clearly demonstrated his inner strength to rout young Dennis “Surigao” Orcullo 17-6 to win the Philippine Open 9-Ball Championship at the Casino Filipino amphitheater near the international airport in Paranaque. Metro Manila late Saturday.

The tournament sponsored by Motolite, a battery brand synonymous with billiards, boxing and basketball, was staged by Solar Sports and telecast “live” over its cable network and on prime time over RPN 9, a free television network before a good crowd of pool enthusiasts.

Gabica, the soft spoken star who lets his cue do the talking, played some awesome pool throughout the tournament with his break being the key to success. Gabica entered the finals with a rousing 11-5 victory over lanky Ronnie Alcano in the semi finals while Orcullo edged veteran Ramil Gallego 11-9. Gabica continued his near flawless run behind a classic break to jump to a 5-0 lead after Orcullo failed to run out an open table in the second rack.

Orcullo pulled one back in the sixth frame before Gabica put on a sizzling run, winning eleven straight racks to move to the hill on a 16-1 count as Orcullo sat in his chair and watched helplessly much of the time. With the championship safely tucked away, Gabica appeared to falter for a moment allowing Orcullo to make a run of his own to delay what appeared to be the inevitable at 16-6 before Gabica finally ended the young Orcullo's misery by taking the 23rd rack for a final score-line of 17-6 to pocket the top prize of P500,000 or about $9,000. Orcullo went home with P200,000 or about $3,500 while Gallego who was the top seed and Alcano, a five time winner on the Joss NE Tour in the US each went home with P100,000 or around $1,750.

Gabica's run of eleven straight racks bettered the 9-0 run of Gallego who whipped the winner of the Pioneer Epoxy “Most Promising Player” award, Russian “ Bobby” Petiza 9-0 in the round of 16.

In a post match interview Gabica said his “confidence level was high” throughout the tournament, adding that in pool “its important to trust your instincts to avoid errors.” Orcullo for his part conceded “it really wasn't for me.” Orcullo was scheduled to fly to Japan for the Tokyo 9-Ball Open even as disaster struck another entry, Warrem Kiamco whose passport and an expensive watch were stolen from his home while he was competing. Kiamco appealed to the robbers to return his passport because it was no good to them and said they could keep the watch valued at around $200.

In the last World Pool Championship in Chinese-Taipei, Gabica entered the round of 64 where he was ousted by Japan's Satoshi Kawabata 9-4 while Orcullo went all the way to the round of 16 before being beaten by eventual runner-up Pei Wei Chang who lost to Alex "The Lion" Pagulayan in an epic final. The 32 year old Gabica was a semi finalist in the Tokyo Open last year and won the 2002 GBC Tokyo 9-Ball Open.