MANILA, Philippines?Efren ?Bata? Reyes was doing the usual, playing pool around the Ermita area late Monday, but the billiards legend did not look his old cozy self.
As the king of RP billiards, the pool parlor is Bata?s second home, but the future Hall-of-Famer was ill at ease in his turf.
Bata, The Magician, was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Well, not exactly a fish out of water.
But when asked why he was at the Players? Den near the Malate Church, instead of the PICC, Bata fumbled.
He smiled his toothless smile then scratched his famous shaggy head.
Maybe he wanted to offer an excuse.
"Parang me gustong sabihin, pero hindi mapakali (He wanted to explain, but he appeared fussy.)? one observer noted.
It was the opening night of the World Ten Ball Championship that drew over 120 players from 40 countries.
Needless to say, as in past international tournaments hosted by the Billiards and Snooker Congress of the Philippines (BSCP), the finest and strongest world pool stars are in town.
It also goes without saying that, being an institution and national treasure, it was Bata?s duty to fight for flag and country.
Bata did not honor his patriotic duty because he has sided with a rival group of the BSCP that has effectively mounted a boycott of the ongoing World Ten Ball championship.
For the record, the BSCP had staged two successful World Pool Championships prior to hosting the World Ten Ball series that merited for the Philippines the label ?epicenter of world pool.?
Bata and his gang of top pool gunners, like Francisco ?Django? Bustamante and Ronnie Alcano, figured prominently in those two previous world tournaments.
But Django and Alcano, who happen to be in the stable of the BCSP rival group, together with other big names, are out of the big fight for the country.
Knowing Bata, he joined the boycott convinced of the badness of the BCSP as charged by the rival group.
However, if Bata had bothered to dig past the press releases, he would?ve realized that most the charges were petty at best.
The gravest accusation, the absconding of sponsorship funds from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor), has been properly denied and refuted.
In fact, Pagcor has remained the major sponsor of the current World Ten Ball series at the PICC.
Has Bata been used and exploited?
That?s for him to check, but Bata must be told that the lead man in this group he had sided with also allowed him to be tricked of millions in cash prizes by a pseudo impresario by the name of Kevin Trudeau.
Well, there are other issues, like the sacking of players, which could show that the BSCP is not exactly sinless.
But it?s galling how our devoted pool fans all over the land have been made hostage in this useless pool turf war.
You could feel the growing indignation over the absence of our celebrated pool heroes who should?ve been fighting for the country against tremendous challenge from all over the world.
No, they are not mad with Bata Reyes.
But these same fans are one in saying that Bata should?ve taken extra pains to live up to his legend.
If Manny Pacquiao would go out of his way, expose himself to danger to look for incredible challenges in order to bring honor to the Filipino, why is Bata sulking out there?
A recognized Asian hero, it?s odd how Bata was spending the night away from the battle scene where all the big international stars are mounting a challenge to Filipino pool greatness which he embodied.
It?s easy to say that Bata, just like all of us poor pool fans, have become collateral victims of this raging pool turf war.
At least, the BSCP has refused to panic to ensure that, with or without Bata, there will be magic shots and classic matches out there at the PICC within the week.
(ALL?S WELL: Rudy Salud reports that his dear friend, former Senator Ramon Revilla, has not been opened up after the legend from Cavite suffered a stroke. ?They just used a laser to clear a blood clot and he has been doing well, let?s all pray for his recovery? Salud says. Gerry Mayor of Lipa City hosted a simple birthday party yesterday, and it will be Mang Ramon Rivero?s turn to celebrate tomorrow the start of another fruitful year. The two birthday boys will be in a borrowed summer house in Barangay Pangao, Lipa, next Wednesday for a joint celebration and to plan the gift-giving for poor farm boys in the area this coming Christmas season.)