NAY PYI TAW - Iris Ranola has been motivated enough to do good in the billiards competitions of the 27th Southeast Asian Games.
More so now.
With no less than the words of her recently-departed father ringing in her mind, Ranola starts her title-retention campaign in the 9-ball pool singles Saturday at the Wunna Theikdi Stadium.
Efren “Bata” Reyes and Francisco dela Cruz also see action at the start of the carom one-cushion, while world champion Rubilen Amit is also entered in the 9-ball singles, which start with the quarterfinals at 9 a.m., proceeding with the semifinals at 1 p.m. and ending with the finals starting at 3 p.m.
It is Ranola who is under the microscope the most, however, due to the fresh tragic chapter in her life.
But she is now armed with a steelier resolve.
“Ang sinabi niya sa akin last time na magkita kami, ‘Lumaro ka,’” reminisced Ranola. “Kaya tatapusin ko ito (competitions) at ang bawat laro ko i-de-dedicate ko sa kanya.”
Delegation officials here have offered a mass for Ranola’s father at 5 p.m. Friday and are arranging for her to take an earlier return flight to Manila and then Zamboanga City so she could make her father’s burial on Dec. 23.
Emilio Ranola passed away following a 12-year-long bout with throat cancer last Wednesday, while Iris and the rest of her 6-member team were on their way here. When the sad news reached her Thursday morning, she was devastated.
It was her father, a no mean cue artist back home, who introduced her to the sport at a very young age and the roots immediately took hold.
“Binubuhat niya ako, inilalagay niya ako sa mesa, tapos kalahati lang ng tako kaya kong hawakan,” related Iris, the second of two daughters.
“Hanggang lumaki ako, siya lang sa pamilya namin ang naging walang problema sa paglalaro ko ng bilyar. Iyung ate ko, mother ko, ayaw. Pero siya in-encourage talaga niya ako.”
That spur has resulted in several titles for Ranola, including SEA Games gold medals in both the 8- and 9-ball singles two years ago in Indonesia.
The 8-ball singles is not included in this year’s calendar, but the 10-ball singles is. That is also included in Ranola’s crosshairs.
“Pipilitin ko talagang manalo… para sa father ko,” said Ranola.