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Bata, Django strut wares at Bilibid

Francisco "Django" Bustamante sets up the table for his trick shot as Efren "Bata" Reyes looks on.

MANILA, Philippines – “If you don’t make this shot, you’re staying behind,” teased Django Bustamante.

Colleague Efren “Bata” Reyes smiled, rubbed chalk on his cue stick, and sank his trademark “SMB” trick shot as the huge crowd at the Sigue Sigue Sputnik compound at the New Bilibid Prison roared in approval.

The two world-class billiards players made their long-planned exhibition games inside the New Bilibid Prison, Muntinlupa last Saturday, April 23, where they played with and against the eight best cue artists from the penitentiary.

“Efren saw some of the pictures that I would post on my Facebook wall about our sports program here at New Bilibid,” related Philippine Sports Commission Commissioner Jose Luis “Jolly” Gomez during the opening address to the officials and inmates of the national penitentiary at the Sigue Sigue Sputnik compound.

“And he told me that he would very much like to get involved in our events. So here he is along with another of our world-class athletes, Django Bustamante,” he added.

The PSC organized a two-week prison-wide billiards tournament wherein eight inmates emerged as champions in their different groups for the right to compete against as well as alongside the two billiards legends.

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“Activities like sports keep the morale high and people out of trouble,” added Anthony Omega, chief of the Sports and Recreation Office of the Bureau of Corrections. “The various sports programs we introduce keep people fit and give them hope of being good at something. Hopefully, it will help in the betterment of their lives."

“It’s a dream come true for not only me but for all of us,” said inmate Amadito Salditos, who took part in the exhibition.

It ended in truly dream-like fashion as Salditos defeated a rather unlucky Bata Reyes, who scratched twice, losing 3-0. Bustamante had an easier time dispatching inmate Joven Geron, 3-1.

In doubles competition, Bustamante and Ellan Del Rosario teamed up for a 3-0 win over Reyes and Richard Roque. Bata and Django then treated the crowds to several trick shots.

The two billiards legends later moved over to the Batang City Jail compound where they played with and against Marlow De Guzman and Alfredo Requiz. Inside the sweltering hot and jam-packed basketball court, the two, though visibly sweating, never ceased smiling.

“The court is only packed like this for basketball games and Manny Pacquiao. And now, Bata and Django,” pointed out De Guzman. “The entire Bilibid came out to watch them play."

“If our presence here provided some momentary joy and hope for these people to change and rehabilitate their lives then it’s all good,” enthused Bustamante, who regaled the crowds with his stories and huge victories alongside Reyes against the world’s best. “I’ve never had so much fun in my life.”

For his part, Reyes was happy. “It was hot,” said the man they call “the Magician” in the vernacular. “But the smiles on people’s faces. The cheers. It was worth it.”

More than the event, Joven Geron received some valuable advice from Reyes.

“He said that I am good at billiards and should I get out, I should not only make good choices in life but also work on my game to become a professional billiards player. Not too many people offer words of hope but he did. And it means a lot to me,” he said.

Each inmate hurdled anywhere from 10 to 20 other contestants to reach the dream exhibition matches.

“I would only see Bata and Django on television or read about them in the newspaper,” said Del Rosario. “Who would have thought I would get to see them, play against them here inside Bilibid?"

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