Filipinos' Love For Billiards

Typical Filipino makeshift billiards table being used outdoors. Filipino males wear shorts and go sleeveless or shirtless because of the hot and humid weather.
Typical Filipino makeshift billiards table being used outdoors. Filipino males wear shorts and go sleeveless or shirtless because of the hot and humid weather.

Pinoys Love Billiards

Historians say that the Spaniards brought billiards among many other things to the Philippines. You do know that they had had a 333-year reign over most of the archipelago from the early 1500s to the late 1800s, right? Yes, making them probably the only Hispanic nation in their part of the world.

We are also told that the game of billiards came to North America around the mid 1500s and that the Spaniards also brought it there.

To me this is easy enough to believe, but for the Philippine Islands, I am not so sure.

You see many people in the Philippines, can trace their roots to people from Mainland Asia, other Malay cultures and from people from the Middle East, including India.

And of course, the Filipino natives back then had extensive contact with all those Asian cultures long before the Spaniards reached them in 1521.

And it is interesting that kids in the Philippines, at least back in the day, grew up playing an Indian inspired table-top ball-game played with pool-like cues known locally as “pool’ or “karambola” (probably derived from the word carrom, a similar game that has its roots in India, Pakistan and other areas in that region).

Now these so-called Philippine pool-tables are often-times home-made and are found beside sidewalk retail stores, in alleys, backyards, town plazas, flea markets, parking lots, inside beer bars and even in the middle of streets that have been closed to vehicular traffic.

I estimate, millions of kids in the Philippines, grew up playing this game.

And many do play it even after they have kids of their own, most times playing for money.

I am pretty sure they still do it today. And as far as I can remember, the way it is played is that players strike a puck with a cue stick and they take turns hitting small disks on a “pool-table” that they normally can rotate. It is also not hard to find these same players playing billiards on home-made tables.

Now, as these kids grow up, many of more skillful players move into real billiard halls to play and normally bet on the games as well, yes much like they have done for years on the “pool-tables”.

And so many of them can technically be professional amateurs, if there was ever a term.

Manila, 1970s

Now I remember in the Philippines, back in the 1970s, kids and teenagers still pass their time in billiards halls which at that time could be found everywhere. As a little kid, I use to watch older kids and grown men battle each other game after game after game. And I was utterly amazed.

I was more like an 80s kid myself. And I grew up riding my skateboard, playing pinball machines and the first generation video arcade games. But nonetheless, there was something about how I have seen it played there that made me like billiards even when it wasn’t really my game.

Amang Parica in action
Amang Parica in action

Billiards (Pool) King 1970s

In the 1950s, a seven year old Manila boy started playing billiards even though the cue sticks were taller than him and he was no taller than the billiards tables itself. But these did not stop this boy who was born Jose Parica in 1949 from playing the game that early in his life.

Parica became a legend in the in the 60s in the 70s as he probably had won all there was to win in terms of Philippine pool tournaments. But he or any Filipino pool player were still unknown outside of their island country.

In the United States, he is acknowledged as the Filipino who started the infamous “Filipino Invasion” of the game in that region. He first competed there in 1978. By the 1980s, he became known as “the King”, “the Legend” or the “Giant Killer”. But in the Philippines he will forever be known simply as “Amang” (a Tagalog term of endearment for an elder male).

In the 1980s, he was soon joined in the American circuit by other world-class and younger Filipino players and thus the “Filipino Invasion” was in full swing.

“Amang” is now over 60 years old but is still very much active in international competitions and is still adding to the many titles he has won in five decades of playing billiards. Parica has won about a 100 tournaments in the U.S.A., 13 in Japan and three in the Philippines.

Jose “Amang” Parica was inducted to the One Pocket Hall of Fame in Indiana. Parica lead the stellar class of 2010 inductees, which include the late Rudolf “Fats” Wanderone and Glenn “Piggy Banks” Rogers. Today, the game’s enthusiasts, still regard Parica as one of the most devastating offensive weapons in billiards. He became World Player of the Year in 1997 and was the first player to shoot a perfect game of 1,000 points, no misses and no scratches. He managed to this under in a World Record in 9-Ball race-to-11 format.

Bata Reyes doing what he does best
Bata Reyes doing what he does best

The Magician 1980s

Now the main group of the Filipino Invasion team went full swing in the mid 1980s. And in the forefront was a man nicknamed “Bata” (this time a Tagalog term of endearment for a young kid).

Efren “Bata” Reyes was born a few years after “Amang” and for the longest times, they were the top two players in the Philippines.

In international competitions, “Bata” is known as “the Magician” and this was probably because of the seemingly magical shots that he can pull off at just the right time.

Reyes, along with the other "Filipino invasion" players, revolutionized the way the game of pool is played by introducing pinpoint precision kicking (going into a rail with the cue ball and then hitting an object ball). Reyes' ability to "kick safe" and to kick balls into intended pockets is legendary. This and many more amazing abilities made him “the Magician".

“Bata” Reyes was enshrined in the Billiard Congress of America Hall of Fame in 2003 and is still very much active as one of the top players in the world. Reyes is a two-time world champion and is widely considered to be one of the all-time greats in the games of nine-ball and one-pocket. Reyes had won and is still winning or in the hunt in money-rich tournaments around the world and this had made him one of the most profitable players of the game around. He has topped the AZ Billiards Money in 2001, 2002, 2004, 2005 and 2006, setting the record in 2006 by earning the most in a single year.

Django Bustamante playing his behind the back shot
Django Bustamante playing his behind the back shot

Bustie or Django 1990s

The third player that lead the Filipino invasion was Francisco “Django” Bustamante. His nickname came from the 1960s movie of the same title.

“Django” is the youngest of the three and become a real world name in the sport in the early 1990s. His latest title was bagging the 2010 World 9 Ball Championship held in Doha in Qatar.

Like “Bata” Reyes, “Django” Bustamante was inducted into the Billiard Congress of America's Hall Of Fame was in 2003. He also holds the world record for having the most powerful break shot: 43 miles per hour. And he is still at the top of his game.

Francisco "Django" Bustamante made the front page of Inside Pool magazine, in 2002.

The Invasion Continues

So no longer an American Invasion, the Filipino players have now invaded the world.

Among many others, here is a short-list of the Filipino Top Players in the world today and some notable accomplishments.

Ronato Alcano

  • 2007 WPA World Eight-ball Champion
  • 2006 WPA World Nine-ball Champion

Lee Van Corteza

  • 2004 WPA Asian Nine-ball Champion

Warren Kiamco

  • Runner-up three times, WPA Asian Nine-ball

Antonio Lining

  • 2006 Japan Open Nine-ball Champion

Rodolfo Luat

  • 2006 Taiwan Leg, Asian Nine-ball Tour Champion
  • 2000 Viking Nine-ball Tour Stop 27 Champion
  • 1999 Northwest Nine-ball Champion
  • 1996 Camel World Open Nine-ball Champion

Marlon Manalo

  • 2006 Runner-up, IPT North American Open 8-Ball
  • 2005 Texas Hold Em Billiards Champion
  • 2005 NJ 14.1 Champion
  • 2005 Hard Times 9-ball Champion
  • 2005 Reno Open Champion
  • 2004 Runner-up, World 8-Ball
  • 2000 Asian Snooker, Champion

Dennis Orcollo

  • 2006 World (9-Ball) Championship Bar Table Tournament Champion
  • 2006 US Bar Table Championship, 8-Ball Champion
  • 2006 43rd Annual Reno Open Champion
  • 2006 Hard Times Summer Jamboree (9 Ball Division) Champion
  • 2006 Runner-up, Hard Times Summer Jamboree (One Pocket Division)

Alex Pagulayan

  • 2005 Derby City Classic Ten-ball Ring Game Champion
  • 2005 SML Entertainment Nine-ball Champion
  • 2004 WPA World Nine-ball Champion
  • 2003 Joss Tour Grand Final Winner
  • 2002 World Pool Trickshot Champion

Santos Sambajon

  • 2005 Skins Billiards Champion
  • 2004 World Summit of Pool Champion

And still a few others, among them:
Jeffrey de Luna, Roland Garcia, Roberto Gomez, Ramil Gallego, Jundel Mazon, Edwin Monta, Gandy Valle.

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Comments 2 comments

PoolCueStuff1 profile image

PoolCueStuff1 6 years ago

This is some great information. A good history on some of the top players.

http://poolcuestuff.com


J@ps profile image

J@ps 6 years ago from Southern California Author

Thanks PoolCueStuff.

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