In this chapter of our lives, we get to see some of the people that we have known fade against the backdrop of time. We made some endearing promises to some of those people and with them being unexpectedly gone, a void within our hearts grows as the promises that we made will never be fulfilled anymore because they won’t be there to witness it being fulfilled anymore. With them being gone, their hopes to you that initially pushed you forward suddenly began to drag you back.
Before I begin to write about this painful and final chapter of my tenure as president of UP Pool Club, I would like to share some fond memories I had with a friend of mine for the last four years who had fought bravely in battle against cancer. With him finally yielding to mortality, I am more at guilt and in regrets of not even being able to show him the graceful fruits of the seeds that we have planted. As a friend, I think that I have not done enough to meet his expectations on me, into becoming a premier pool player and into leading the organization that he enlisted himself in, to sustainable and commendable progress.
Within a span of a year, I lost the three people who gave their utmost support. Kuya Cirilo “Jun” Rosaceña Jr., the manager of the billiard and bowling hall who believed in my potentials in pool, passed away last year February 2015. My grandmother, Ofelia L. Cunanan, who supported me in my passion on pool, passed away last July 2015. Yet it was to Rogie that I was most aggrieved, because within him lies our hopes, his family’s hopes and his friends hopes in him, hopes which were wasted because of his sudden passing.
I first got to meet Rogie around June 2012, a month before UP Pool Club was founded. It was in this time of the sem that the classes were still in the introduction stages and were being dismissed ridiculously early. Evolving into a daily habit, I immediately went to the UPAA Bowling and Billiards Hall, common known as UP Alumni Center, to play. There was this dark-skinned person – who I mistook as Kiefer Ravena – watching meticulously from afar on the way I play. With his presence being known, he approached me, and then challenged me to a pool match. I was dumbfounded for it was my first time to be one the receiving end of one of my habits – randomly challenge people to a pool match. Before setting the balls, I asked him what pool discipline that we should play. He said that he wanted to play rotation. Now, it dawned to me that this guy had some background, because rotation is the game being played in the money games on the rural areas and was generally unpopular to the beginners who only know either 8-ball – more known to them as stripes and solids – or 9-ball.
In that match, I played easy on him, testing out the limits of my shot-making. And then I missed a ball. It was then I witnessed his potting (in American terms, pocketing) abilities, although natural, still not honed. He pulled off some difficult pots. I was backed against the wall, now needing all of the remaining balls to be able to steal the win from him. But lucky for me, his poor positional play came into light as he snookered himself behind a ball. He tried for a kick shot, but his shot left an open table for me to run-out. I pulled off some ridiculous positional shots to clear the remaining balls. The rack left him dazzled and excited at the same time. I, on the other hand, acknowledged my opponent and his potentials. We shook hands and asked each other’s name. He said that his name was Rogie. But that was not it. He expressed his intent into learning positional play from me.
When UP Pool Club was founded, he was the second person – after Gabe who happened to be Rogie’s teammate in the football varsity and was my apprentice also in billiards – that I recruited into the newly founded org. The founders were given the first four slots (001 – Joshua Agar; 002 – Jann Penny Clavecilla; 003 – Michael Frank Vizconde; 004 – Beam Joseph Arada). The fifth slot was on Penny’s recruit. Gabe was the sixth. Rogie was the seventh and so on.
All of us founders acknowledged Rogie’s potential, however we understood that we must not impede his football career with our insistence of having him formally trained as it is to others on their academics. But I was the one who was more determined on the four. I kept trying to convince him to participate in our tournaments. Every tournament, he expressed his intent in participating, however due to random schedule conflicts, he was unable to do so.
I talked to him and I learned that he was not from a well-off family. He came from the Province of Masbate, one of the poorest provinces in the Philippines, where its economy lies on either fishing or agriculture which was controlled by the hacienderos there. He battled against the poverty at his home and accepted the varsity scholarship that UP offered to him. He was accepted into UP that way – not through the UPCAT. But his hardships did not stop there. The free meals provided by UPAA – which later notoriously ceased – were never enough and he had to spend some of his already insufficient monthly allowance in buying two packs of Pancit Canton on the nearest food stall along the Ylanan road. Upon disclosure of his way of living, I ceased from obligating him to join, although he was now the one who kept expressing intents to join the pool tournaments.
Seeing Rogie and his way of living reminded me of the general situation of our varsity players. I believe that they should be at least be given a star treatment among UP Students just to give there more than of a personally-induced motivation to pursue victory and glory in the competitions that they were playing in. However, due to pessimism and defeating imbued in the minds of the UP Students in our athletic pursuits (statements like “Bawi na lang tayo sa Acads”) and also due to the focused hyping of the Cheerdance Competitions (statements like “Bawi na lang tayo sa CDC”), most of our athletes were deprived of even general recognition among students, of being able to raise the banner of our university, proving our versatility, not to be limitedly recognized on academics alone.
It is an understatement if I am to describe Rogie as hardworking. Apart from the gruelling practice sessions on football in the mornings at UP Track Oval, he dedicated almost all of his spare time practising, even under the heat of the sun at noon, as if practising was his way of temporarily forgetting the hardships back at his home and in UP. Most of the times, he practices alone in the shade southern portion of the Track Oval, just right by the parking lot of the UP Bahay ng Alumni. Although he was practising, he never forgets to greet people passing by, especially his acquaintances and friends. He gives time for chats to them.
Billiards was Rogie’s second passion after football. When he passes by the billiard hall and sees me playing there, he would allot some time just for him to play for free against me, who was generous enough to shoulder the expenses of the table rent to myself. I also wanted a practice partner to play with. He always complained that I was being too serious when I was playing him, unlike the others. I told him that other than the Class A members; it was to him that I next felt challenged. My efforts were futile in correcting his stance. Rogie was stubborn and insistent into learning positional play alone, on how and when to use certain type of spins. I tried to force him into leaning closer to the cue stick with his chin barely above the cue stick. He said that he was having difficulties in sight at that posture and preferred to place his head 2 feet above the cue stick instead. It must have frustrated him, my insistence. Later, I would have to learn myself that it was indeed difficult to change from what was already accustomed with.
He was my tournament favourite into winning the inaugural UP Pool Masters, an exclusive tournament for non-Class A players and members, held in October 2014. Most of the participants were already throwing a fit of having Rogie participate because they were no match against him. But he backed out in the last minute because he knew that he would make the tournament draw complicated if he were to join. He also backed out in the last minute of the memorial tournament dedicated to Kuya Jun. It was the last tournament held by UP Pool Club as the Alumni Center was reduced to ashes months later on June 30, 2015. It was around this time that I got to meet Rogie again. As usual, he was at his spot on the track oval, practising alone. We exchanged greetings. I stopped to have a chat, wanting to check upon the members after the first. We both lamented over the loss of the billiard hall. I then remembered that the Alumni Hostel – where he lived – was also vacated, displacing him and the other occupants. I asked him where he currently resides. He said that he resides now in the Acacia Residence Hall – the most expensive of all UP Dormitories. To relieve my worries, he assured me that somebody was helping him with his expenses and gave me the typical: “nakakaraos at ok naman.” Before ending out chat, I invited him to play billiards again – this time in Village B. He refused, saying that he had to practice. Before leaving, I asked him when would be the next season of competitions. He said, “Matagal pa.”
Two months after that fateful meeting, he was diagnosed of Rhadomyosarcoma, a rare type of skeletal muscle cancer. His medical condition was made known to the public. His colleagues and teammates put up fund-raising events to help him with his medical expenses. I find myself guilty of not being able to participate in those events or even contributing for his medical expenses. Out of guilt, I checked on him through Gabe. Gabe assured me that Rogie was doing well with his medications. The next thing that I would know on Rogie was regrettably… his death.
In remembering Rogie, I have three more anecdotes on him that I want to share. The first one was when I was training Sophia Lu, now an instructor in the Political Science department of UP Manila, around October 2012. He was so enchanted by Sophie’s beauty and figure to the point that he acted like the devil in my ear, tempting me to seize the opportunity. But I kept telling him and myself: “Professional tayo, professional tayo. Walang malisya.” After the training session with Sophie, Rogie kept me bugging about her. When the regrets have indeed sunk in, it was Rogie who kept reminding me of it, every single meeting. A month before being diagnosed with his disease, I also met him waiting for a bus to Ortigas late at night at the Central Ave. bus station. We took the same bus and chatted for a while. Again, it was about Sophie and the training sessions that we had. It proves that men will always be men.
The second one was about his personal cue stick that he brought from Masbate. He carried it around for while even though the leather tip was missing, rendering it useless. I told him to buy a leather tip for it and I would be the one placing it. I was being stingy that time and he felt it so he refused. Months later, I bought dozens of leather tips and I offered to put one on his cue stick, now for free. But he failed to present his cue stick. I presumed that he sold it because of his insufficiency of his finances.
The third one was in the final of the 2013 UP Sem-ender Pool Tournament, where I, as the defending champion, had my co-founder and rival Michael Vizconde as my opponent. Rogie came to watch. He arrived when I was surging to be 7-4 in the Race-to-13 match. Around the same time, Michael’s girlfriend, Jessica Junio, who is now an instructor in UP Institute of Civil Engineering – who was my crush back then – unexpectedly came to root for Michael. Rogie witnessed how my concentration crumbled as I gave away my 3-rack lead. I kept dropping hints on Rogie on how I lost my concentration because of JeJu. We both laughed in the process, irritating Michael, making him play a wild miss to remind me to gather myself, ever determined to beat me at my best. With that, I regained my momentum and led 12-9, one rack away from retaining the title. During the following four racks, I always faltered on the final three balls. I lost the final four racks and Rogie marvelled on the comeback pulled by Michael. Rogie was the first one to send his commiserations to me. I tried not to talk about it and I asked him to update his contact details in the organization’s database. Before leaving that night, he left these remarks: “Vini-video-han kasi eh. Kabado ka pala kapag may camera” – referring to Jeju who was recording the crucial moments of the match.
Rogie witnessed the pivotal moments of my billiard career in UP personally. Others only got to know it from the word of mouth or from announcements, but it was Rogie who got them better into seeing them personally. That is why I am more gutted with his death than others. I lost a colleague. Maybe in the future, when I get to play the big matches, I will get to see his silhouette from the corner of my eye. I knew he will be watching now, from afar.
Farewell, my friend, Rogie A. Maglinas (February 6, 1996-February 2, 2016)