Thursday, November 07, 2013

Fair Play: Will DepEd move boost PHL billiards?

(This Fair Play column came out in Sun.Star Cebu's Nov. 7 edition)
WALA man gud tay bilyar sa mga eskwelahan, puro ra mga tambay magduwa."

That was what veteran billiards player Leonardo "Dodong" Andam said when asked why Chinese Taipei was a growing threat in world pool and its players were slowly dominating tournaments.

That was in 2005, about the time when a 16-year-old from Chinese Taipei won the world 9-ball title.

Warren Kiamco echoed Andam's sentiment and said pool in the Philippines isn't considered a sport by parents, who admonish their kids if they spend time in the pool halls.

"Pang-tambay na duwa," or it's a bum's game.

In Taiwan, it's taught in schools.

But that weakness is also the strength of Philippine pool and Taiwan's strength is also its weakness.   The fact that pool is taught under a formal curriculum in Taiwan is one of the reason why their players and play are boring.

"Murag mga robot," one of the veterans of that Sun.Star Superbalita 9-Ball tournament said.

For Pinoys who learned the game in dodgy pool halls populated by tambays, and with pool tables that almost touch each other, it's a different experience, one full of experiments, fancy shots and shots taken on your weak hand.

In the early 2000s, or late 90s, commentators were surprised at how Pinoy players deftly take behind-the-back shots or with the opposite hand, instead of using the bridge.  The Pinoy pool culture dictated that.

Take a look at an ordinary pool hall, if a player decides to use the bridge, he'd be ridiculed.  A hall of 10 tables normally has only one bridge, and the time spent to look for one is deem wasted, hence the jeer," Ayaw pud seryosoha dong!"

The result? A generation of players who can take almost any shot imaginable without the bridge.

There’s also a Magician in every pool player here, and we even have a term for that, “tira-pataka.”

Even Efren Reyes himself said he learned to play well by observing ordinary players, some of whom, when snookered behind the ball, would resort to “tira-pataka.”

Oftentimes, that “tira-pataka” would result to a seemingly impossible shot and Efren would try to copy that, hence earning the reputation of being a Magician with a cuestick.

With pool now a part of the Philippine school sports calendar, we are going to have a new generation of players, albeit one that will learn the game under a different set-up.

But I’m sure, these new guys will still have that flare that is Pinoy pool.

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