The moment he learned about Lydia de Vega’s passing, Brix Flores rummaged through his files in his Cebu residence looking for the many pictures of himself and the fabulous lady he had befriended almost four decades ago.
It didn’t take long for Flores to find one.
The colored photo, though faded after being kept in storage for so long, was shot during the awarding rites for the medalists of the 1986 Seoul Asian Games.
Flores, barely out of his teens, had bagged the boxing bronze medal in the bantamweight class and sat beside De Vega in the photo that was taken at the Century Park Sheraton.
De Vega, who passed away late Wednesday at age 57, was the darling of Seoul since she had retained the Asian century title in another dazzling performance.
“We’ve been friends since the the 1980s,” Flores told Daily Tribune from Mandaue City.
Flores was a part of a breed of new talent Gintong Alay recruited to beef up the national pool and he and De Vega first met sometime in 1984 at Teacher’s Camp in Baguio City.
“She was already the fastest woman in Asia by the time I met her and she remained simple and kind. She doesn’t have any attitude problem,” Flores said.
“We constantly saw each other at the oval during training and she was just Diay, always approachable and unselfish.”
Before Seoul, Flores and De Vega were together when a batch athletes were sent to the United States to train.
“We spent two weeks in California, which was their (track and field) venue for training camp while we (boxing team) flew to Florida.”
The last time Flores saw and met De Vega, it was during the 1994 Palarong Pambansa in Cebu.
After that brief meeting, the communication lines became a bit blurred until social media came along.
“During the pandemic, she was doing online selling and that’s when we hooked up again,” Flores, who had a short-lived pro career.
As the country mourns her death, there’s one thing that Flores will spend time with in the coming days apart from his job of training young boxers in his modest gym.
“I know we still have lots of pictures together during our national team days while training in the US.”
You bet that once Flores sees them, he’d pause for a moment and say a little prayer for his beloved friend.