From the Publisher
By Mike Panozzo
Mike became editor of Billiards Digest in 1980 and liked it so much that he bought the company. He has served on the Billiard Congress of America board of directors and as president of the Billiard & Bowling Institute of America.
May: Wars of the World
Power plays. Fixed elections. Personal agendas. Murder?
The Illinois political system?
Or, closer to home, the old Professional Billiards Association? The United States Professional Poolplayers Association? The Billiard Congress of America? The Women's Professional Billiard Association?
No, proving that the U.S. billiard community doesn't own the trademark on political infighting, the most interesting knock-down, drag-out in pool is being waged in the Philippines! Remember when the Philippines was known primarily as a feeder system of sorts to the U.S. professional pool scene? When Jose Parica, then Efren Reyes and Rudolfo Luat first started coming to the U.S., the Philippines didn't even have an organized tournament system. The island country was known simply for producing the world's most dangerous talent, a cadre of free-stroking, fearless assassins who were raised gambling on virtually every game they played.
Then, as inexpensive travel and the internet continued to make the world smaller and smaller, and Filipino stars like Reyes and Francisco Bustamante began drawing national attention and bringing international honors to their homeland, promoters in the Philippines began to see potential in the sport at home. Star-studded international tournaments began finding their way to Manila. Media attention grew. So did demand.
Naturally, promoters and managers jockeyed to control the best players. And, just as predictable, fierce rivalries were born.
But now the battle has turned disturbingly ugly.
The key players in the Battle of the Philippines are Aristeo Puyat, whose family has been the patron of the Philippines' cue elite for more than 15 years and whose Billiard Mangers and Players Association of the Philippines (BMPAP) manages most of the country's top stars (Reyes, Bustamante and Alex Pagulayan among them), and Yen Makabenta, a producer of televised events and the leader of the national sports organization's recognized governing body, the Billiard and Snooker Congress of the Philippines (BSCP).
The latest saga (adeptly deconstructed by Ted Lerner in Breaking News, page 8) has Puyat gaining control of the BSCP board through a suspicious election. The validity of the elections is now being challenged in court. The story then took a disturbing turn when the BMPAP's spokesperson, Edwin Reyes, was gunned down in front of his home. Police have yet to determine whether Reyes' affiliation to the BMPAP had anything to do with his murder.
In the meantime, the Philippines (with Makabenta's Raya Sports producing) is preparing to stage two huge international events - the Philippines 10-Ball Open and the World Pool-Billiard Association (WPA)-sanctioned World 10-Ball Championship.
Not surprisingly, there is considerable angst among American and European players who are considering participation in those events.
Makabenta has assured players that both events will proceed unimpeded, but one has to wonder how the two sides' bitterness toward each other will play out once the events are set to begin. American players have every right to demand assurances that their participation will not exacerbate the problem, and that they will, most importantly, be safe.
We've endured more than our fair share of political battles in pool in the U.S., but not even the intriguing Men's Professional Billiard Association/WPBA marriage and divorce proceedings of the early '90s was as nasty and senseless as this ruckus appears to be. Hopefully, the power-hungry combatants in the Philippines will eventually come to this realization:
It's only a game.