MANILA, MAY 10, 2006 (STAR) Weather-permitting, it would be just a matter of time before the first Philippine Mt. Everest Expedition team would conquer the world’s highest peak.

Team leader Art Valdez said Tuesday that top climbers Leo Oracion and Pastor Emata are currently acclimatizing themselves on Camp 3 in preparation for their big climb on Camp 4 at 7, 906 meters or 26, 032 feet in the next few days.

"Barring bad weather, the two will have a good crack at the summit soon," said Valdez, adding that the critical days would be around the second week of May.

Valdez, who made the update from freezing tundra of the Himalayan Khumbu region in Mt. Everest, said Oracion and Pastor actually came down from Mt. Everest Camp 3 at 6,828 meters or 22,376 feet Monday and succeeded in clipping their fixed ropes.

By this time, Valdez hoped that the members of the other expedition teams have also succeeded in fixing more ropes from Camp 2 to 3 and finally to Camp 4.

To give Oracion and Emata a much-needed rest and at the same time to replenish their energies, Valdez had asked the duo on Monday to go down to Dingboche, which is 4,340 meters, from the Everest Base Camp (EBC), which is 5,355 meters, and take three to four days of rest.

At Dingboche, the weather is warmer and there is more oxygen,according to Valdez.

Camp 2 now serves as the team’s advance base camp, where they have stashed high altitude equipment and food supplies.

Oracion and Emata would continue acclimatizing at Camp 3 then return to Camp 2 following the climbing rule of "climb high, sleep low" while hoping for a good weather.

Valdez also said that Oracion and Emata’s Sherpas have high praises for the two climbers, saying they have started to look like and climb as expertly and as fast as the Sherpas themselves.

He added that the First Philippine Mt. Everest Team’s physician, Dr. Ted Esguerra, also of the Philippine Coast Guard, has become the most popular figure in the mountain, attending to the climbers of other expedition teams who fell sick after being exposed to the extreme cold.

RP 9-ball offers P1M, World Pool slots The Philippine Star 05/10/2006

The honor, prestige and bragging rights of being the first official national champion — and the P1 million top prize to go with it — will be at stake in the Philippine 9-ball Championship on Aug. 4-19 at the Ninoy Aquino Stadium.

A total of 64 of the country’s top cue artists are expected to battle it out in the event sanctioned and organized by the Billiards and Snooker Congress of the Philippines, BSCP officials announced yesterday at the PSA forum at the Pantalan Restaurant function room in Manila.

"This the first time that the BSCP is conducting an official tournament to crown a national champion," said BSCP chairman Yen Makabenta, who appeared in the session sponsored by the Manila Sports Council and Pagcor together with BSCP president Ernie Fajardo and secretary-general Julius Nidea.

"Before this, we only had exhibition tournaments organized by private promoters, and they were not truly representative and comprehensive," Makabenta added.

Fajardo said the event, which also serves as the country’s dress rehearsal for the World Pool Championship, has a lot more to offer to the campaigning billiards players.

"The tournament will send the champion and runner-up to the 2006 World Pool Championship that will held at the Philippine International Convention Center in November. It also serves as one of the BSCP’s criteria for the national team to the Doha Asian Games in December," Fajardo said.

On the other hand, Nidea said the RP-9 Ball Championship was conceived so that not only the established stars such as Efren "Bata" Reyes, Alex "The Lion" Pagulayan and Francisco "Django" Bustamante would shine, but also enable the promising players to show their mettle.

Patterned after the US 9-ball Open, Nidea said that the 64 players go through a double-round elimination stage, which will also include a losers’ and a winners’ bracket.

"What makes this format exciting is that all 64 players will be slugging it out from the very beginning until we finally come up with a true national champion," Makabenta said.

The BSCP officials said the country’s top 12 players, based on their performance in international and national tournaments, will be invited to the event and awarded the proper seedings.

Then another 30 slots will be made up of what in billiards parlance is described as the "pang-primera, pang-segunda and panercera (Groups 1, 2 and 3)" players in the country," they said.

Another 10 slots will be allotted to recognized provincial and regional champions while the remaining 12 slots will be contested in a qualifying tournament two weeks before the RP 9-ball championship, they added.

A total pot of P2 million, considered once of the biggest in local billiards competition, will be up for grabs, with the P1 million to the champion, P500,000 to the second placer, and P150,000 each for third and fourth place.

In the event that the winner and runner-up of the blue-ribbon tourney are already seeded to the World 9-ball tourney, Makabenta said that the next two will automatically gain entry into the Manila world championship.

"As much as possible, we would like as much opportunity to our local players to vie in the World Championship," said Makabenta, whose Raya Sports has won the rights to stage the "Olympics" of billiards.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved