CAN Manny Pacquiao save Philippine pool from the doldrums?
The Philippines was once considered the hotbed of pool, hosting world championships and several other major international tournaments – be it sanctioned by the World Pool-Billiard Association or plainly invitational events joined in by world champions.
Over the last 16 years, the country witnessed the emergence of Filipinos becoming world champions – Efren “Bata” Reyes (1999 World 9-Ball, 2004 World 8-Ball), Alex Pagulayan (2004 World 9-Ball), Ronnie Alcano (2006 World 9-Ball, 2007 World 8-Ball), Rubilen Amit (2009, 2013 World 10-Ball), Francisco “Django” Bustamante (2010 World 9-Ball), and Dennis Orcollo (2011 World 8-Ball).
But just like in other sports, politics interfered with the growth of the sport considered one of the most popular for Pinoys.
There was a time when pool houses in the metropolis were almost everywhere, brought about by the success of Reyes and Co.
But the Philippines has yet to produce another male champion since Orcollo won in 2011. And the lack of a clear program from the Billiards and Snooker Congress of the Philippines, which has been in turmoil following the continuous power struggle among its leaders, may have contributed to this.
No major WPA-sanctioned events were held since 2011, and the last time was the World Ten Ball Championship, presented by Raja Sports. In 2008, the group of Yen Makabenta was able to bring in the World Ten Ball Championship and owned the license of holding such an event over the next five years.
But the boycott made by handlers of crack pool players such as Reyes, Bustamante, Orcollo, Lee Van Corteza, Gandy Valle and other rising stars, among others, tarnished the luster of pool’s richest event, where $400,000 was at stake during the inaugural staging of the WTBC in 2008 at the World Trade Center.
Suddenly, sponsors shied away from supporting the event, even if it was a world-sanctioned tournament.
For four years, Philippine pool is in a hiatus, but local cue artists and enthusiasts can now look forward to the revival of the sport made possible by boxing icon Manny Pacquiao.
Sports needs heroes and a hero like Pacquiao could revitalize the dying sport that was once active, alive and successful.
Pacquiao has partnered with the World Pool Association in the staging of the World Ten Ball Championship (a ranking tour event that brings in past and present champions and the top 32 players from all over the world) beginning Feb. 15 at the SM Convention Center in General Santos City. Participants will dispute the total prize fund of $200,000, with the champion taking home the lion’s share of $40,000.
Filipino cue artists have been longing for this. Now, they’re bracing for the revival of Philippine pool — and possibly the making of future world champions and the staging of more world championship events.
And it took a world champion to bring in a world championship event in the Philippines. Way to go, Manny.