By Leobert Julian A. de la Peña
A woman of courage who weathered the storm.
A woman of dedication who poured all that’s left in her in order to survive.
A fighter. A mentor. A role model. That’s what coach Flora Navales is.
A staple in the world of taekwondo in Iloilo City and Western Visayas, coach Navales is a multi-awarded athlete both nationally and internationally.
Testament to this is her inclusion in the Philippine national team training pool in 2016 when they represented the country in Korea.
The amiable black-belter did not only participate but brought home a silver medal for the Philippines after impressing during the Team Creative Poomsae category of the competition.
In retrospect to her career, a young Navales used to turn on the television during the timeslot of the classic action movies.
Upon clicking the TV remote, the bubbly young Navales used to jump in excitement whenever Japanese action star Cynthia Luster appeared on the screen.
Amazed by how she executes her acrobatic scenes in her action movies, Navales became Luster’s no.1 fan and was always fascinated with the martial arts in her movies.
However, she did not jump immediately into MMA but saw her first love for sports in volleyball. Coach Navales was one of the players in the team when she was still in Mindanao, specifically in Atanacia Logronio Sigapud Elementary school.
Coach Navales’ life changed forever when she was a high school student in Iligan City when she became a taekwondo varsity player under her first-ever mentor, Robert Mendoza.
She immediately fell in love with taekwondo and put in all of her efforts and time in the sport, knowing that someday, she can hit like her idol, Cynthia Luster.
Navales did not stop and even improved in the sport and qualified in the prestigious Palarong Pambansa when she was in junior high school.
Wanting to earn a better life and at the same time pursue her taekwondo career, Navales moved to the City of Love not knowing what to expect and prepared herself for whatever she might face.
The Palarong Pambansa qualifier then found the perfect college for her after trying out as a bantamweight in Central Philippine University under coach Alan Diasnes.
Her terrific performance was the main reason why the CPU Golden Lions hand-picked her for the varsity team and was the start of something spectacular for Navales.
Her tertiary career was the start of her peak in taekwondo, qualifying in almost every tournament she joined; from the Regional PRISAA, UNIGAMES, to the National PRISAA.
When asked what the biggest moments of her career was, Navales said that it was during the 2011 UNIGAMES where she was able to clinch the bronze medal and outlasted all the top jins from all over the PH.
As Navales was about to graduate from her B.A. in Political Science and Public Administration course in 2014, questions started to surround her if she will pursue her passion in the sport.
After months of contemplating the situation and the pros and cons, Navales fully committed to entering the realm of taekwondo for good.
In 2015, Navales became an official taekwondo instructor under the famous Diasnes gym and acquired her black belt 2nd dan rank.
As the years went, her experiences also molded coach Flora to become one of the top taekwondo personalities not only in Iloilo but also in the Philippines.
From 2017-2019, her taekwondo success didn’t stop after making it once again into the PH national team training pool and had stints in USA and Korea.
Perhaps two of her most masterful achievements were emerging as the world’s best during the 2018 competition in Los Angeles (Standard Poomsae) and Korea (Mixed Pair Masters category).
Until now, coach Navales is still the same girl who idolized Cynthia Luster. She is still the same girl who wants to win in life no matter how hard it takes.
“Now that I am already a taekwondo coach. Gusto ko gd nga maka create impact sa life sang mga students ko and the attitude of staying positive. I want to set an example to them and as much as possible, discipline will always rise above anything else. I want them to get better every day through my influence not only as a coach but also as a person,” coach Navales said in an exclusive interview with the Daily Guardian.
It will always be the kick and the pad.
Wherever, whenever, coach Navales will always find her way to a taekwondo gym because the sport will forever be embedded in her heart as a true taekwondo champion.
“I am happy with all my achievements. However, I still got a lot to prove. I am only starting. I have bigger plans not only for myself but for the whole sport,” added coach Navales.