FRANCISCO 'Django' Bustamante is one of the legends of billiards, having put the Philippines on the world pool map with his glowing exploits overseas with good friend Efren 'Bata' Reyes.
On the way to carving a niche as one of the top billiards players in history, Bustamante had to make his mark against some of the toughest players in the sport.
SPIN.ph recently caught up with Bustamante who gave us the top three opponents he ever faced.
Archer's name was the first that came to mind for Bustamente when posed the question.
"Dahil siya ang pinakamagaling sa Amerika," said Bustamante of Archer, who was named Player of the Decade of the 1990s by Billiards Digest and was a two-time world 9-ball champion.
Aside from the American's shotmaking skills, Bustamante said he was impressed with Archer's work ethic.
"Sila, talagang todo ensayo. Kapag tournament, magpa-practice sila six to eight hours. Pinaghahandaan talaga nila," said Bustamante.
"Ganoon din kami."
Bustamante had a memorable finale against Strickland in the 2002 World Pool Championship in Cardiff, Wales just days after the Filipino icon learned about the death of his daughter back home.
He bowed to the American, 17-15.
American Strickland was known for his brash attitude while playing but Bustamante said he was bothered by it, saying he was more concerned about his skills rather than his persona.
"Mayabang talaga. Gustong gusto ng tao, minsan ayaw ng tao. Wala kang magagawa kasi ganun siya. Kung minsan, kapag halimbawa, hindi puwedeng magsalita, lumalapit kami sa tournament director kasi kapag pinagbigyan mo siya, lalo siyang mag-iingay," said Bustamante.
Efren 'Bata' Reyes
Bustamante had memorable duels with Reyes, including one in the semifinals of the 1999 World Pool Championship which Reyes eventually won. They also had several team-ups in different competitions such as the World Cup of Pool, and even in the Southeast Asian Games and the Asian Games.
Bustamante and Reyes are good friends, yet the former admitted the later was the one opponent he feared the most.
"'Yan ang kinakatakutan ko nung araw. Mahirap kalaban sa mesa 'yan," said Bustamante.