The Lion roars in 2006 BSCP National Pool Championship

MANILA, PHILIPPINES - Alex "the Lion" Pagulayan sealed last night (August 20) his status as Number 1 in Philippine pool with a masterful 13-6 victory over Gandy Valle in the finals of the 2006 BSCP National Pool Championship here at the Ninoy Aquino Stadium.

With the victory, Pagulayan became the first to be officially proclaimed as Filipino national pool champion by the Billiards & Snooker Congress of the Philippines.

The 28-years-old Cabagan, Isabela native playing under the stable of RP billiards Patron Aristeo "Putch" Puyat adds the title to a long list that now includes the 2004 World Pool Championship, the 2005 US Open Championship, and three gold medals in the December 2005 SEA Games. He also took home a cool P1 million in prize money.

Pagulayan was undefeated throughout the tournament. And he showed why throughout the race-to-13 match.

From the start, the finals looked destined to be a duel of finesse and guile as both players employed the soft break and turned to safety plays at the first sign of shot difficulty.

The race was tight in the early going. The first six racks were evenly split between the two. Pagulayan then took the next two racks, the last through his second break-and-runout. But Valle answered back after Pagulayan recorded a dry break in the 9th rack.

With a chance to tie in the 12th rack, Valle bobbled the 5 ball in a right corner pocket. That proved decisive. Pagulayan cleared the table and then spurted ahead to 10-5 as he took full command with controlled breaks, fine pattern play and awesome shotmaking.

That spelled the end for Valle. He managed to win only one of the next four racks. In the final rack, Pagulayan applied the soft break once again and the balls broke beautifully at his bidding. He ran out with ease, and even kidded around with his good friend and opponent when three balls just remained between him and the title.

With his second place finish, Valle took home P500,000 and renewed admiration for his poise and consistency in tournament play. He had much to be proud about in his performance in the 2006 NPC. Up to his match with Pagulayan, he was undefeated in six straight matches. He brought down such big names as Antonio Gabica, Dennis "Surigao" Orcullo and Ronato "Calamba" Alcano. Orcullo was seeded second in the tournament; he wound up in fifth place.

While in the end Pagulayan became the big story of the tournament, there were plenty of other stirring stories that marked this first BSCP National Pool Championship. Among these are:

The emergence in a national tournament and nationwide TV of new teenage pool talent in the country. Seven players 18 years and below took part, and all showed the motions and shotmaking of a pro. Renemar David, the 16-year-old champion of Ilocos Sur, made it to the latter stages of the tournament.

The rise of a new generation of pool players to the summit of Philippine pool. Players in their 20s and 30s are now firmly at the top. Besides Pagulayan, they include Orcullo, Valle, Alcano, Jeffrey de Luna, Antonio Gabica, Ramil Gallego, Jharome Pena, Leonardo Didal, Jundel Mazon, Roland Garcia, Mario Tolentino and Russian Petiza. All of them finished in the top 16 of the 2006 NPC. They have proven it night after night in Metro Manila's premier billiard parlors. And now they have proven it in the first and only national tournament staged in the country this year.

Philippine pool's veteran luminaries are still resilient and strong. Parica, Ramil "Bebeng" Gallego, Rodolfo "Boy Samson" Luat and other veterans showed their class in the tournament, with some falling only in hill-hill matches. One veteran, Jimmy Cheng, now 54, has made a spectacular comeback here.