Cue story: from beer crates to golden podium

Mark Escarlote on Jun 09, 2015 04:34 PM
Cue story: from beer crates to golden podium
Fausto Albert Centeno and daughter 28th Singapore Southeast Asian Games women's 9-ball gold medalist Chezka Centeno.

SINGAPORE --- From standing on top of beer crates to stepping up to the tallest podium, Chezka Centeno’s billiards career has gone a long way.

The 15-year-old cue artist from Zamboanga City became the youngest billiards player in Philippine history to win a gold medal in the Southeast Asian Games.

Centeno beat compatriot and former women’s world pool champion Rubilen Amit, 7-5, in the All-Pinay 9–ball singles finals Tuesday afternoon in the 28th edition of the biennial meet at the OCBC Arena Hall 4 here for the 10th gold medal overall of the Philippines.

The SEA Games rookie raced to an early 3-0 lead before Amit, also the silver medalist of the event two years ago in Myanmar.

Amit tied the match after eight racks but Centeno took three of the next four racks to take the gold.

“Happy po ako,” said the shy Centeno, who is now ahead on their head-to-head, 2-1. “Medyo malas din si Ate Rubilen.”

The roomies in their billeting Pan Pacific Hotel said that the night after their semifinals win the never talked about their championship match.

“Wala po (kaming pinag-usapan). Nagi-internet lang po ako. Si Ate Rubilen natulog kaagad,” she said.

Winning a gold medal in the SEA Games for Centeno is a dream come true especially for a young Chavacano girl.

Centeno, now under a home study program to give time to her commitments in the sport, started playing at the tender age of five, stacking beer crates and using it as a stand to reach the pool table to pass time while helping her father, Fausto Albert, attend to their “bilyaran”.

“Negosyo ko kasi bilyaran sa Zamboanga. Wala akong kasamang magbantay kaya yan ang kasama kong magbantay,” the family patriarch said while talking to reporters as ushers direct his daughter, who was then accompanied by his wife, to the awarding room.

“Five years old pa lang yan, nagpupunta na kami sa bilayaran naming. Kasi medyo malayo ang bilyaran sa bahay namin,” he continued. “Siya ang kasama ko lagi, umaga pa lang hanggang madaling-araw. Pumapatong pa yan sa case ng beer para maglaro.”

“Then nu’ng nag-eight years old siya may lumapit sa amin na bilyarista na puwede raw si Chezka na palaruin sa local tournament kaya sinali namin,” he added. “Tapos nanalo man si Chezka. Hindi first pero may place ba, third place ata yun. Then doon na nagsimula ang suporta namin.”

At the age of 11, Fausto entered his daughter to the then newly revived Philippine National Games in Bacolod four years ago where she finished third.

The year after, Centeno brought her skills to the Big City in the staging of the women’s world 10-ball where she got into the top 16.

After winning double-gold medals in the Palarong Pambansain Laguna last year, Centeno went to Manila and won a gold medal in 10-ball competition of the PNG.

“June yata yun noong tinawagan ako ni Sir (Bong) Ilagan (president of the Billiards and Snooker Congress of the Philippines) na nasa lineup na raw si Chezka (ng national team),” said the father of Chezka, who ruled last year’s Junior Billiards Championship in Taiwan.

Fausto said that though his business is renting billiards table for vegetable dealers and market workers, he don’t play the sport.

“Naku hindi (ako naglalaro),” he said. “Yung lugar namin bagsakan ng gulay kaya yun ang business namin. Maraming tao kasi.”

Fausto said that when Chezka started playing he only had two tables for rent but now has expanded to 15 tables.

“Yung iba pinare-renta ko rin sa mga barangay,” he added.

With his father tackling with billiards table only for business purpose, then who influenced this child prodigy?

“(Ang kalaro niya dun) yung mga matatanda doon na bilyarista. Yung mga nandoon na mga lalaki,” Fausto answered.            







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