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07-24-2002, 10:59 PM
Column One

Django a big winner in defeat

DJANGO Bustamante will never be the next Efren ‘Bata’ Reyes. So perish the thought that Bustamante may well turn out to be the Second Coming of Bata.

Bustamante doesn’t have Reyes’ charisma, which has been largely credited for billiards’ astounding rise in popularity over the years. Neither does he have Bata’s disarming smile, which has graced everything from sports pages to magazines to billboards to TV commercials.

So don’t expect Django, as popular and as visible as he is now following his dramatic run to the finals in the last World Pool Championship, to be selling McDonald’s hamburgers and ice creams or San Miguel’s world-famous beer in the near future.

Don’t expect to see Bustamante in a television commercial, scratching his head, feigning ignorance before blurting out, ‘Can I call a friend?’

If Reyes gave Philippine billiards a face – a smiling and charming face if I may add, Bustamante gave the sport its most rivetting story over the last fortnight in faraway Cardiff, Wales when he endured a great personal tragedy and did the nation proud.

Django is nothing like Reyes, really. He is your typical pool shark, looking aloof and indifferent and cold-blooded during matches. Eyebrows forever burrowed, hair as greasy as Pat Riley’s and those piercing eyes – more like his namesake’s from the old, wild west.

But when Django lowered his guard for one moment in Cardiff, dropped that facade and gave people a peek of Django the man, the father, they finally began to appreciate his true greatness.

Although he doesn’t possess Bata’s legendary command of the cue ball, Bustamante’s pocketing is clearly a lot more flawless, and his break as powerful and as deadly as anyone else’s in the game today.


to see Django display those skills while dealing with the death of his daughter made it even more remarkable.

As colleague Tito Talao pointed out, anyone who at one time or another had wrapped a loving arm around a beautiful child surely understood the personal torment Bustamante endured in Cardiff upon learning of young Mariell’s death.

What more if that seven-month child happened to be your only daughter – a daughter Bustamante and his wife Mila waited seven years for.

“Hindi nga raw nakatulog ng dalawang araw si Django sa Cardiff,” recounted a friend. “Wala raw ginawa sa gabi kundi umiyak ng umiyak.”
(translation: He could not sleep or do anything for two nights but just cry, then cry.)

That Django was able to rise above that tragedy, gather himself together and will himself through a tough draw all the way to the championship spoke volumes of the man’s character — and it showed us that there is a lot about this man we don’t know.

Notwithstanding the loss to Earl Strickland in the finals, the lowest point of Django’s life became his shining moment.

So Django may never be the next Bata. He may never be able to sell ice creams and hamburger and he may never be a pitchman for anything. But he represents the future of Philippine billiards after the era of the great Efren, and thanks to him the future looks bright.

More than those glorious moments on the green-pelt table and the silver medal, that’s the biggest gift Django brought home from Cardiff.