Relive the career highlights of Filipino pool legend Efren ‘Bata’ Reyes

Published January 17, 2021, 9:19 PM

by Carlo Anolin

Efren “Bata” Reyes (Photo by Ali Vicoy)

Contrary to the fake news circulating about the supposed death of Efren “Bata” Reyes, the Filipino billiards legend is very much alive and kicking.

Several videos showed proof that Reyes, a multi-titled world champion, is happily seen shooting pockets at a certain billiards place and watching an NBA game at home.

Read: Efren ‘Bata’ Reyes is alive and well

Bata is the winningest billiards player in Philippine sports history, eventually becoming the face of the sport and soon the mentor of the younger generation of national team hopefuls.

He has numerous accolades at hand, including 70 world titles and countless citations and awards from different sports entities, magazines, and organizations.

In the Philippines alone, Reyes has become the recipient of the Athlete of the Year Plum by the Philippine Sportswriters Association for three years. The PSA handed him the Lifetime Achievement Award in March last year before the coronavirus pandemic put the sporting world at a standstill.

Amid the hoax, the Manila Bulletin recalled the Top 5 appearances of the man known to be “The Magician” for his exemplary sportsmanship and unique playing style in billiards.

5. Latest Southeast Asian Games appearance

efren bata reyes
Efren ‘Bata’ Reyes of Philippines takes his turn against Vietnam’s Ngo Dinh Nai in men’s carom (1-cushion) semifinal at the Tent City of Manila Hotel in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games last December. (MB File Photo / Ali Vicoy)

Reyes tried to defy age when he joined the roster of the national billiards team for the 2019 Southeast Asian Games held in the Philippines in December.

Seeking his first gold medal in the biennial meet, Reyes represented the country in the men’s 1-cushion carom.

But the Pampanga-native icon settled for bronze after yielding to Vietnam’s Ngo Dinh Nai in the semifinals.

Beloved by many not only for his skills but also for his charismatic appeal, Bata proved that he’s not about to give up the sport easily despite rumors spreading about retirement due to poor eyesight and declining physical health.

4. Tokyo 9-Ball International Billiard Tournament /  Tokyo 9-Ball Championship

Bata bested 700 pool players who prepared for different events with a total purse of 100 million yen or 850,000 US dollars.

He defeated Dutch phenom Niels Feijen, 15-7, in the final to bag the biggest prize money at that point of his playing career.

3. Derby Classic domination

Perhaps, it is safe to say that he’s indeed the Derby King.

Bata became the overall champion, dubbed as the “Master of the Table,” for five times from 1999 to 2010. He dominated the one-pocket event on six occasions and ruled the nine-ball play twice.

His best showing in the Derby was in January 2005 in Louisville, Kentucky after finishing first both in one-pocket and 9-ball divisions plus the eventual Master of the Table honor to pocket around $62K, per

2. World Cup of Pool

The best of Philippine billiards emerged victorious in the inaugural World Cup of Pool when Bata and Franciso “Django” Bustamante teamed up against Team USA in 2006.

Sharing $30,000 each, Bata and Django bested American duo Earl Strickland and Rodney Morris in August 2006 with a 13-5 domination in Newport, Wales.

Three years later, in September 2009, the two Filipino legends returned stronger and partnered anew to defeat German tandem Ralf Souquet and Thorsten Homann in the final, 11-9, and haul  $60,000 prize money here at the SM City North Annex in Quezon City.

1. World 9-Ball Championship / World Pool Championship

Perhaps when Reyes won the World Pool Championship in 1999, it was when he cemented his legacy as one of the best Filipino athletes who brought honor to the Philippines while promoting the sport from the underground to the mainstream.

Reyes outclassed Taiwan’s Chang Hao-Ping, 17-8, in Cardiff, Wales to collect $60,000 (approximately P2.52 million at that time), which was arguably the biggest win of his career.

Bata also arranged a semifinal duel against compatriot and pal Django, taking a commanding 11-4 win en route to the final versus Chang.

After the momentous victory, Reyes, who was 45-year-old then, had vowed to buy a Honda CR-V for his beloved wife Susan.