FRANCISCO 'Django' Bustamante needs no introduction as far as his billiards exploits are concerned. A cue master with a career spanning three decades, Bustamante is widely considered to be one of the greatest. Despite a mantelpiece full of trophies, the 49-year-old strives for more success. With the resilience he’s shown last year, it’s easy to find inspiration.
Bustamante topped four tournaments last year, not least of which was a trophy that’s eluded him for the best part of the last decade: the World 9-ball pool championship held in Qatar. In July 2010, he was also elected to the Billiard Congress of America’s Hall of Fame, the second Filipino to be enshrined.
He describes his recent achievements as more of a long journey that finally ended. “Sa dami ng tournament na sinalihan ko, napakaimportante nung World Pool Championship. Karangalan ‘yan eh, major tournament. Eto ‘yung hindi ko makuha-kuha, sabi ko nga, ‘Ano bang meron ito at parang ang bigat-bigat sa akin ng tournament na ito?’ Halos lahat naman ng tournament na sinalihan ko pareho din naman ‘yung mga player at tinatalo ko naman sila,” Bustamante says. “Sabi ko nga, dadating din ang time na makukuha ko rin itong title na ito at ‘yun nga nangyari ‘yung sa Qatar.”
Living proof that you’ll need equal amounts of patience, perseverance, and faith to reach your goals, Bustamante tells how you, too can hit the break hard and rack up some victories of your own.
NEVER STOP LEARNING
Bustamante’s humble beginnings in the sport during his teens shaped the way he perceives learning. “Nag-start ako maglaro sa Tarlac City, may restaurant kasi ‘yung kapatid ko, na ang katabi ay bilyaran. Nag-spotter ako doon, tapos nagpra-practice, araw-araw kong ginawa ‘yun hanggang sa natuto ako,” he recalls.
He believes that you should constantly practice your craft, in order to achieve your desired results. The game of billiards demands a close to perfect game, something he understands very well. “Sa larong ito hindi ka pwedeng magkamali, dahil dito kapag nangkamali ka, hindi ka na makakatira,” he says.
Bustamante also sees the silver lining of the dark clouds in his way. The times when you lose, he says, are the times when you sit down and take notes. “S’yempre, aral sa’yo [ang pagkatalo]. Pag natalo ka, isipin mo kung bakit ka natalo, kung bakit ka nagkamali at ‘yun ang [baguhin] mo.”
ALWAYS TEST YOURSELF
Aside from being a sponge, Bustamante says the best way to improve is to seek out tougher challenges.
“Kailangan din yung magkaroon ka ng experience, lumaban ka sa mas magaling sa’yo. Nanonood ako ng magagaling, sumasali sa mga tournament minsan doon kami nakakakita ng ibang mga tira, at lumalaban ako. At least nadadagdagan ang kaalaman ko,” he says.
This attitude applies to most of your daily situations. In your weekly hoops game, guard the best player on the opposing team. At the office, submit your reports before their deadlines. At the gym, try to push your limits and make the most out of the workout each time. Stepping up improves your confidence in future situations and sure beats staying on the sidelines.
WORK WITH YOUR NERVES
You’d expect a savvy veteran like Bustamante who’s won tournaments left and right, to be calm and composed come game time. He reveals though that the nerves still get to him every time he hits the tables. To quash his anxiety, he turns to his long trusted pre-game rituals.
“Yung preparation ko, ‘yung pahinga, natutulog ng maaga, tapos konting lakad. Pag nasa tournament ako, naglalakad ako, nire-relax ko ‘yung sarili ko. Para ‘pag dating ko sa laro, malakas ang pakiramdam ko. S’yempre kailangan lagi kang fresh,” he says.
And surprisingly, science agrees to the soothing power of a few strides. According to a study by the University of Essex in the UK, just five minutes of open-air exercise drastically improves your mood and self-esteem. Add that to adequate rest and you’ll be able alert and sharp for any task at hand.
BRUSH OFF SETBACKS
Bustamante admits that the elusiveness of the World 9-ball crown has at times challenged his focus. “Naisip ko rin na baka hindi ako naukol sa World Pool Championship dahil, andun na ako sa finals, minsan malapit na, nasa top four na ako hindi ko pa rin makuha,” he says.
In 2002, he reached the tournament final in Cardiff, Wales but it coincided with the death of his months-old daughter. Such experiences, however, shaped his resolve. “Tuwing magkakaroon ng World Pool Championship, naalala ko ‘yung anak ko, pero ‘di ko na iniisip kasi mawawalan ako ng lakas eh. Kaya inaalis ko muna sa isip ko tutal nangyari na at wala na akong magagawa, todo focus na lang ako sa tournament,” he adds.
Instead, he keeps a positive mindset especially during tournament preparations. “Iba rin kasi ang pakiramdam ng World Pool Championship, madaming nanonood at live [sa TV, kaya] practice lang, inaalis ko na ‘yung pressure kasi ‘pag ‘di mo ginawa ‘yun hindi ka makakapag-concentrate lalo.”
SHARE YOUR KNOWLEDGE
Bustamante acknowledges that his success wasn’t without people who helped him along the way.
“Lahat ng natutunan ko, napulot ko lang din sa ibang tao, halos galing din sa ibang player,” he humbly says.
In the recent Asian Games, that netted the Philippines a gold and a silver medal from billiards, Bustamante went with the team as a coach. He says it’s his way of paying it forward for his personal blessings. “Kami naman eh medyo nagkakaedad na, may mga kabataan na dumadating ngayon, s’yempre ‘yung nalalaman ko, ipapamahagi ko din sa kanila,” he says.
With such a grateful attitude towards his life, the man they call Django is a shoo-in for the word 'legend.' Thing is, he’s not done adding feats to his story just yet.