Philippine Billiards Fails to take it’s cue in 2007

MANILA, Philippines -- Philippine billiards should have taken its cue from a fruitful 2006. Instead, the year 2007 became the calendar equivalent of scratches and dry breaks.

Ironically, the year got off on the right foot for the country's pool sharks with Efren "Bata" Reyes leading a 1-2-3 finish for the Philippines in the Derby City Classic Master of the Table Bonus last January in Louisville, Kentucky.

Compatriots Rodolfo "Boy Samson" Luat and Francisco "Django" Bustamante completed the Filipino trinity.

But everything seemed to spiral downward from thereon.

From the nation-hopping Asian Tour series to the prestigious World Pool Championship, Philippine bets struggled mightily against a foreign field that used to be cowed by their presence alone.

Ronnie Alcano gave the Philippines its brightest spot, winning the World 8-ball title in March, allowing him to hold at the same time world titles in both 8- and 9-ball events.

It was actually the second 8-ball crown for the 34-year-old lanky cue artist from Laguna.

Reyes, considered by many as the greatest pool player of all time, was the first Filipino to hold the world 8-ball title and the world 9-ball crown at the same time.

Alcano, who battled charges of child abuse in the middle of the year, also won the 8-ball event in the 24th Southeast Asian Games.

Rubilen Amit also made her mark in the international scene, finishing second in the Women's World 9-Ball Championship in Tao Yuan, Taipei, Taiwan. She lost to Xiao-Ting Pan of China in the finals to settle for the $10,000 runner-up prize.

Still, Amit created the biggest stir in the tournament when she claimed the scalp of five-time champion Allison Fisher and two-time winner Ga-Young Kim of South Korea in the early rounds.

Despite the success of Alcano and Amit, billiards fans had their eyes on the Asian Tour and the World Pool Championship that the country was going to host.

Wiped out

As it turned out, there was little to look forward to.

After sweeping the tour last year, the Filipinos failed to win a single leg this time.

The country sent its best players in the nation-hopping tour although Reyes, a multiple leg and three-time overall tour champion, didn't join along with Bustamante because of sponsorship clashes.

The two are endorsers of the San Miguel Corp., a rival company of Guinness -- the tour's title sponsor this year.

Lee Vann Corteza bowed to Chang Jung-ling, 5-11, in the opening leg at the Sultan Hotel in Jakarta, Indonesia.

They met again in the tour's grand final at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Bali, Indonesia with Jung reasserting his supremacy over Corteza, 11-8.

In between the Indonesia stops, the Filipinos failed to even reach the finals of the tour they dominated in the first four years.

"I don't know what hit us in the tour," said BSCP president Ernesto "Ernie" Fajardo. "I guess the law of averages caught up with us."

In the WPC, the talented Filipino pool players had no problem reaching the hill in major tournaments all season.

But they somehow found it hard to go over it.


A new name rose in the WPC when Roberto Gomez, nicknamed Superman, eliminated one favored foreign foe after another to reach the finals of the tournament and hoist the Filipino hopes of a victory on home soil.

In his path stood Englishman Daryl Peach.

If ever there was any omen pointing to a disastrous finish, it was one seemingly trivial fact: Peach is a dead ringer for Superman arch nemesis Lex Luthor.

Gomez lost a nervy final, 17-15, one where it became apparent that the winner would be the competitor with the least mistakes.

"The nerves got the better of me," admitted Gomez. "I felt bad because I know that I let my countrymen down. But I'll make sure to make up for it in future events."

Perhaps the person who mirrored RP billiards' failures the most was the legendary Reyes.

The long-time icon of the sport everywhere in the world failed to make a dent after a strong run last year.

He was on fire last year, winning two legs and the overall championship in the Asian Tour, and claiming the title and the $500,000 top prize in the International Pool Tour.

He also combined with Bustamante to top the inaugural World Cup of Pool.

But nagging pains on his fingers and occasional shaking of hands proved too much to handle for the game's living legend.

He crashed out in the first round of the knockout phase in the WPC. He and Bustamante also bowed to eventual winners Li He-wen and Fu Jian-bo of China in the quarterfinals of the World Cup of Pool.

Billiards officials can only hope that next year will be a rosier one for the sport.