THE NEXT “Bata” and “Django” are in the making for the Philippines.
It may have been delayed and bumped off its rightful track for decades but the country, at long last, is in line for the production of the next great cue artists to follow the footsteps of Efren “Bata” Reyes and Francisco “Django” Bustamante.
And that’s thanks to the birth of Sharks Billiards League, which is out to revive the long-dormant Philippine pool scene in partnership with Billiards Managers and Players Association of the Philippines (BMPAP).
Sharks has been launched last month behind the brainchild of billiards household name Perry Mariano along with sport godfathers Putch Puyat, Isaac Belmonte and Jonathan Sy of BMPAP, and new officials Eric Salud, Larry Lim, Jojo Sanchez, Doc Mon Aguirre and son of Perry, Hadley Mariano — all for a noble mission revitalizing the industry and its lost glory that was once lauded all over the world in the 90s-00s.
“Pool was the only sport that Filipinos dominate. Sadly, this is slowly being forgotten as we no longer have future players to continue what legends and champions put an indelible mark in the world pool”, said Mr. Hadley, a former collegiate varsity billiards player (La Salle Greenhills).
In a dominant stretch two decades ago, the Philippines served as the bastion of sports by harvesting a truckload of international titles behind Messrs. Reyes and Bustamante as well as other greats like Lee Van Corteza, Dennis Orcullo and Amang Parica.
The winning tradition carried over to the local scene with every street and sitio boasting regular tournaments, exhibition games and new talents after one another for a bustling Philippine billiard industry only to slow down in the new millennium — paving the way for rival countries to catch up and overtake the country eventually.
Slowly but surely though, the next generation has started to get back on track with Carlo Biado leading the way highlighted by his championship in the US Open.
Recently, Mr. Biado along with Johann Chua and Rubilen Amit ruled the 2022 Predator World Teams 10-Ball Championship while retaining supremacy in the Southeast Asian Games.
Now — more than ever — is the perfect time to double down on that momentum by discovering new talents and honing them to world champions as soon as possible.
“Sharks with the help of BMPAP wants to bring back the Philippines as the mecca of pool and re-establish our dominance. SHARKS is the future of Philippine billiards,” beamed tournament director Mr. Hadley as Sharks forged strategic alliances with Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte, Rep. Arnie Teves and a bevy of backers to keep the sport growing. — John Bryan Ulanday