Efren “Bata” Reyes earned the moniker “The Magician” among pool players because of his seemingly impossible trick shots. Reyes owned the distinction of being the first player to win world championships in two different disciplines in pool.
Reyes’ jolly persona, characterized by his patented toothless smile, endeared him to Filipino sports fans. And though his skills may have diminished with age, Reyes will always be “The Magician” among Pinoys.
Bata, a winner of over 70 international titles, admitted that age has taken its toll on his prowess.
“Siyempre habang tumatanda ka nagbabago mga tira hindi naman kamukha dati na ‘yung mga tira mo magaganda, pero ngayon marami nang pagbabago dahil sa sakit ng katawan siyempre hindi mo nagagawa ‘yung dating nagagawa mo (Of course your shots were not as good as they used to be when you get older. There are many things I could no longer do because of body aches),” Reyes told The Manila Times.
Reyes was straightforward when asked if he has seen his skills in the current generation of cue artists.
“Alam mo maraming magagaling dito sa atin — kahit saan — mga bata, foreigner or mga Chinese, mga taga ibang lugar. Mas marami dito sa atin pero hindi ko alam kung parehas sila ng kamukha ko o hindi — pero kung sa galing marami (We have many good local players — even in other places there are many good players, foreigners, Chinese — but I’m not sure if they have the same skills as mine),” Reyes said.
Reyes advised young players who want to follow in his footsteps to develop tenacity and to play for the Philippines.
“Ang maipapayo ko sa mga gustong maging legend din o mga magagaling na player kailangan pagbutihin n’yo lang asikasuhin lang ‘yung paglalaro. Ilaban n’yo lang ‘yung Pilipinas. Siyempre kailangan magpakundisyon nang husto. Hindi pwede ‘yung may sakit-sakit sa katawan na ngayon na nararamdaman ko, dapat wala sila nito (What I can advised to those who want to become a legend or a good player is to polish their game and play for the Philippines. They need to condition their bodies. They must not have an aching frailty body like the one I have now),” Reyes said.
With his trademark humor, Reyes said he hoped that a statue would be built for him someday.
“Well, siyempre dapat kailangan lagi na meron silang picture, kamukha ngayon, ang daming kuha nang kuha ng picture — maaalala nila ako lagi habang hawak nila ‘yung mga picture nila kung meron pang nakakakita — kung meron ding mga estatwa baka meron din ako doon maalalala nila ako (People took a lot of photos of me and they will always remember me because of those pictures — people can also remember me if a statue was built for me).”
At 65, Bata is still eager to represent the Philippines in international competitions.
“Habang may galing ako at my tira, lagi kong i-represent itong bansa natin. Simula pagkabata, simula paglaro ko ng bilyar, ni-represent ko na itong Pilipinas, lagi ko itong dala-dala. Siyempre nanggaling din ako dito, mas gusto ko na rin dito mamalagi kaysa sa ibang bansa. Kaya pagdating dito, itong Pilipinas na ito, lagi mong dala para sa atin din (As long as I have skills I will represent the Philippines. I’ve been representing our country since my career began and I want to stay here. I hope young players are also eager to represent our country in international contests; it’s for our own good),” Reyes said.