RUBILEN AMIT'S stellar career on the cues stretches back nearly a decade. Her list of hardware has been impressive, including numerous Southeast Asian Games medals and a sheaf of world championships.
But beyond her dominant run, Amit also wants to grow the female billiards scene.
As she knows very well, this is a tall order.
“Before pa talaga, even when I started playing, I’ve always wanted to pave the way for women’s pool. So for me at that time, I thought winning will pave the way, but I noticed that even if there are tournaments, kaunti lang sumasali,” said Amit.
“Even amateur tournaments nga, kaunti lang sumasali because they’re always against the men players. So sabi ko, ‘Mukhang I need to have a more active role!'”
Before the pandemic, Amit tried offering free lessons for women, regardless of age. She could only offer two hours per week, as her schedule was packed as a professional athlete.
Then, the world went into lockdown.
“So pandemic happened, sabi ko, ‘Mukhang kailangan I should do more,'" she recalled. "So eto na, before the SEA Games, I spoke with [fellow billiards pro] Ren [De Vera], sabi ko ‘I plan on having women tournaments!’ But before ang iniisip ko was dati pa kasi meron talagang club tournaments for men. Sabi ko, ‘Baka pwedeng isali yung women, na separate sa men and I’ll provide the trophy and prize money na humble amount lang.'"
But De Vera had a much better idea. What if, he said, they start a tournament and name it the Amit Cup?
The Amit Cup is more than just a competition, says Rubilen Amit
For the first edition of her eponymous tournament, Rubilen Amit was in Hanoi for the SEA Games. Still, she followed the goings-on from afar.
“Yung fist tournament, there were 24 participants, which is at that time ang sabi namin, ‘Ang dami!’ Na-excite ako and then when I came back [from Hanoi], ang sabi ko kay Ren, ‘Let’s hold another one in June!’. Pero ang balak namin, every after two months, dahil praktikal.”
The number of competitors grew from there. In June, 33 signed up. Then, in August, 56 readied their cues.
“Sabi ko, ‘I think we’re doing something. I think it’s something na dapat natin seryosohin!'"
The thing with billiards, careers last longer. Just take a look at Efren “Bata” Reyes and Django Bustamante. But even so, Amit knows that there needs to be a steady stream of competitors to keep the scene alive, especially in the women's side. Wouldn’t enhancing the female scene add to her competition? Rubilen doesn’t see it that way.
“Aang kailangan kasi natin ngayon is more players to represent the country," said Amit. "Kumbaga kailangan natin magtulungan and I’m more than happy to inspire. Kumbaga hindi ako nagfo-focus sa kalaban.”
In fact, during her welcoming message in the Amit Cup, she acknowledged the people who came before her and emphasized how they inspired her, including Joy Samonte and Joanna Dy.
“I called them on stage to acknowledge them na kaya gusto kong tumulong kase sila yung tumulong sa akin. So I really want a culture na yung mga babae, nagtutulungan," she said at the conclusion of the tournament.
It's this same 'bayanihan' culture that she wants to pass on.
“Tingnan mo," she said, gesturing at the competition. "Ang daming babae ang sumasali. And nakakatuwa, we have a group chat and everyone is active, everyone is excited, tapos we’re helping out each other.
"So more than competition it’s really about the culture.”
Amit's next goal? To bring her billiards cup to the provinces. The competitor lineups may be Manila-centric now, "pero sa tingin ko kung dadalhin ito sa provinces, marami pang madi-discover.”