Rhaki Roj Constantino, 13, breaks barriers in billiards

Rhaki Roj Constantino
Rhaki Roj ConstantinoPhoto from Victory Zamdoanga del Sur Facebook page

IN A male-dominated arena of cue sports, a young prodigy from Zamboanga del Sur is breaking stereotypes and redefining what it means to be a champion.

Rhaki Roj Constantino, a 13-year-old upcoming Grade 8 student from Molave Vocational Technical School, is making a name for herself in the competitive world of billiards.

As a member of Wilde Blu Juniors, a non-profit cue sports team, Constantino stands out not just for her skill but also for her determination to excel against opponents of all ages and genders.

Constantino’s journey began in the most unexpected of times -- during the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020.

At the age of nine, while the world was locked down and everyone was confined to their homes, Constantino found the opportunity to explore and cultivate a new passion.

Her father, a billiard player himself, inspired her to try the sport and he became her first coach and mentor.

What started as a simple family pastime soon became a serious commitment for Constantino, as she dedicated herself to mastering the game.

Together with her father, the young Constantino spent countless hours perfecting her skills that transformed her initial curiosity into a formidable talent.

The young athlete’s dedication to the sport saw her traveling to Manila to participate in different tournaments and competitions, serving as a testament to her resolve to compete at the highest levels.

At 11 years old, Constantino’s hard work paid off when she joined the 10-Ball Manny Pacquiao International Tournament.

In a nail-biting match, she triumphed over Boots Augusto of Cebu with a score of 7-6, which marked the beginning of her series of remarkable achievements.

Her win against someone of the opposite gender and with a huge age gap testifies that age and gender were no barriers to her success.

Constantino’s list of accolades continued to grow as she participated in numerous tournaments across the country.

Her achievements include top placements in prestigious events like the AMIT 9-Ball Cup, Predator Knight Shot 9-Ball Cup, and various regional competitions.

One of Constantino’s most memorable triumphs came at the Zamboanga Peninsula Regional Athletics Association (ZPRAA) 2024, where she secured gold medals in both the 8-ball and 9-ball billiards events in the girls’ category. This secured her ticket for the upcoming Palarong Pambansa 2024.

Despite being the youngest contender, she showcased her extraordinary talent skills, and fervent passion, outclassing her rivals with a stunning performance.

Reflecting on this achievement, Constantino expressed her joy and ambition, saying: “Kasi pangarap ko pong magbitbit ng torch sa darating na Palarong Pambansa.” And with her debut appearance at the Palarong Pambansa, which will be held in Cebu City this July, she is one step closer to realizing her dreams.

However, Constantino’s journey has not been without its challenges. As a young female player in a sport dominated by men, she has faced her share of discrimination.

Her opponents often underestimated her, viewing her as an easy win. But Constantino used these biases as fuel for her competitive spirit that then turned her hesitations into motivations.

Each match became an opportunity to prove her detractors wrong and her strength only grew stronger in every game.

The road to success in cue sports is demanding, and Constantino is no stranger to the physical and mental exhaustion that comes with it.

Yet, she remains undeterred, driven by her dedication and the unwavering support of her family and friends.

Her father’s guidance and the encouragement from her sponsors and team have been pivotal in her journey as they helped her overcome obstacles and stay focused on her goals.

Constantino is more than just a rising star in cue sports; she is a beacon of inspiration for young athletes, especially girls who aspire to break into fields where they are often underrepresented.

Her story is a powerful reminder that with passion, dedication, and a supportive community, no dream is too big. As she prepares for the Palarong Pambansa 2024, Constantino’s journey continues to inspire and her determination to become a world champion remains as constant as ever. (Chamie Grado and Lyra Sembrero, UP Tacloban interns)

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