Pagulayan whips Gallego to bag $20,000

Ish Caparras, Josie Limkaichiong, Alex Pagulayan and George Arnaiz

DUMAGUETE CITY---Alex Pagulayan, Negros Champion. Banking on his experience and international exposure, Pagulayan added that description to his growing list of billiards honors by outclassing compatriot Ramil "Bebeng" Gallego, 13-9, Saturday night in the All-Filipino finals of the Negros Oriental International 9-Ball Championships at the Dumaguete Convention Center in Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental here.

The 28-year-old Pagulayan, fondly called "The Lion" in the world of pool from Puyat Sports clawed back from a 2-4 deficit clustered seven straight racks to seize a comfortable 9-4 lead in the race-to13, alternate break format to pocket the $20,000 top prize of the tournament jointly organized by the Negros Billiard Stable and Puyat Sports and will be aired on Solar Sports from Nov.22-29.

A five-time Japan champion, Gallego playing under the banner of Negros Billiard Stable (NBS) settled for the runner-up prize of $10,000 in the event presented by businessman Julio "Jun-Jun" Sy Jr, owner of KOPIKO 3-In-1 coffee, Altus Communication, TAO and distributor of NOKIA Philippines and San Miguel Corporation in close cooperation with Negros Oriental Governor Emilio Macias II, Negros Oriental 1 st district representative Josie Limkaichiong of La Libertad and 2nd district rep.George Arnaiz.

Pagulayan and Gallego, also each received Nokia 7710 phones courtesy of businessman Julio "Jun-Jun" Sy Jr.

"I was so very cautious all-throughout because I knew Bebeng (Gallego) is also good, a very tough opponent especially in the TV table final matches, but of course besides experience I had a better luck and he was not doing well in the end game after his magnificent performance at the start of the game," the Cabagan, Isabela native Pagulayan, the 2004 World Pool champion, said.

Although the match looked easy in the final canto, "The Lion" said he was not in top form at the start of the game when Gallego took a 4-2 commanding lead after winning the opening lag.

Negros Billiard Stable (NBS) coach/ manager Christopher Palses lauded Pagulayan's major title feat, "He played a true World Champion last night (Saturday), he is the man ," said Palses who needed to travel four hours by land going back to his headquarters in Bacolod City from Dumaguete City.

Earlier in the night, Pagulayan trounced another NBS bet Elmer Haya, 11-5, in the semi-final round to arrange a titular showdown with Gallego, winner over fellow NBS ace Jarry Pelayo, 11-4.

Losing semi-finalist Pelayo and Haya, both unheralded player brought home $5,000 each.

Down from 8-11, Gallego had a chance to close the match at 9-11 count in the nineteen racks after Pagulayan's dry break but failed to capitalize. From there, Pagulayan never looked back as he ran-out the final rack for a 13-9 victory.
"He is good it is just that I played much better," added Pagulayan, also the 2005 US Open champion.

Gallego admitted later learning much from Pagulayan, saying he really lost to a better player.

"I learned a lot from Alex [Pagulayan]. He taught me also and I really lost to a much better player," admitted Gallego, whose victims in the weeklong tourney included BSCP founding chairman Edgar Acaba, 9-8, Rodolfo "Boy Samson" Luat, 9-8, European no.1 player Konstantin Stepanov of Russia, 9-1, ex-US Open champion Corey Deuel of the United States, 9-5, 1996 World 9-Ball Champion Ralf Souquet of Germany, 9-6, and current National Open Champion Lee Vann Corteza, 9-6, in the loser's bracket.

Gallego, who also posted an 11-0 run in this year's US Open in Virginia only lost here in Dumaguete City against Haya in an 8-9 heart-breaking lost in the opening round last Wednesday.

The Negros Oriental International 9-Ball Championships was the biggest-ever international standard event in the Visayas and outside Metro Manila which featured some of the world's best that includes a total of nine (9) World Pool Champions headed by Pagulayan, Efren "Bata" Reyes, Ronato Alcano of the Philippines, Johnny Archer of the United States, Ralf Souquet and Thorsten Hohmann of Germany, Wu Chia-ching of Taiwan, Kunihiko Takahashi of Japan and Mika Immonen of Finland.