Many refer to him as “The Magician” but there’s isn’t really any magic involved, only world-class skills. These skills helped him to 70 international titles. Maybe along the way, you heard of him. The man, the myth, the living legend: Efren ‘Bata’ Reyes.
A Classic Pinoy Story
‘Bata’ was born to a poor family in a small town in Pampanga. He is the fifth of nine children. They lived in a small house without electricity and running water. He lived there until the age of 5, when his family relocated to Manila.
Young Efren began hanging around pool clubs, particularly his uncle’s pool hall Lucky 13. He keenly observed older players, working as a host, and having fun at the vacant tables. Since there was already one Efren playing at Lucky 13, the regulars began referring to the younger one as Efren Bata. And it didn’t take long for “Efren the Kid” to outperform big Efren and all the other adults at Lucky 13.
In his early years, he only played for financial gain. But as destiny would have it, he became the top player in the Philippines at the ripe age of 20. For the ambitious Bata, this wasn’t enough. What he wanted was to up his hustle and get some serious cash for his family. And the world of billiards did not see him coming.
Prime Efren ‘Bata’ Reyes wasn’t set to become the best, not really. He just wanted to make a reliable living out of billiards, enough to take care of his family. But this drive to make a living did fuel his skills to defeat most of the opponents he faced. Reyes holds 70 world titles and countless citations and awards from different sports entities, magazines, and organizations. In familiar terms, he is the Manny Pacquiao of billiards.
We will not list every single competition he has won because that would take a while. There’s a Wikipedia entry for that. What we would rather do is concentrate on the lessons every Filipino can learn from Bata’s story. The main one being that you can overcome nearly any obstacle you meet if you just put your mind to it. Perhaps this is also the mindset of the most renowned Philippine athletes today. Names like EJ Obiena and Hidilyn Diaz come to mind – both have made us so proud on a global level.
Where is Efren ‘Bata’ Reyes now?
Reyes rarely plays competitive pool in his late years. Though he’s so revered and worshipped in the world of pool that he continues to be invited to tournaments as a guest.
At age 68, he has made a significant contribution to the development of the nation’s billiards program.
Bata currently resides in Angeles, Pampanga, where he enjoys spending time with his family and grandchildren. He reportedly gave Nichole, his granddaughter, a pool table as a gift because he has seen her potential in billiards.
Regarding the sport’s future, Efren humbly looks to the next generation to carry the torch for the country: “Maraming mga bata na magdadala at itutuloy ang billiards para sa amin at para sa akin. Siguro ako, tapos na ako sa billiards, dapat gampanan nila at asikasuhin nila ang paglalaro. Kailangan gawin nila yung nangyari at ginawa ko,” he said.
Words of wisdom for PH athletes
“Sa mga kasamahan kong atleta at sa mga nais maging atleta, ang dapat nating gawin ay magkaroon ng disiplina, dedikasyon, at focus sa isport na napili natin bilang career. Kasama na dito ang puspusang pagsasanay at walang takot na humarap sa kalaban,” Reyes said in his speech during the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Awards way back in 2020.
“Pagkatapos nating matamo ang tagumpay, manatili pa rin tayong maging humble o mapagkumbaba sa ating buhay,” he also added.
There really is no magic in Efren ‘Bata’ Reyes, just pure humility and the dedication to work really hard.
Maraming salamat, Bata.