Frayna recalls hard road to become PH’s Woman Chess Grandmaster

Rhadyz B. Barcia
Frayna recalls hard road to become PH’s Woman Chess Grandmaster
Janelle Mae Frayna, the Philippines' first Woman Chess Grandmaster, wants to encourage fellow chess players to pursue their dreams and not give up despite the difficulties

LEGAZPI CITY, Philippines – Janelle Mae Frayna, 20, returned to her hometown in Legazpi, Albay for the first time since becoming the Philippines’ first Woman Chess Grandmaster.

Frayna spent a night with her family after her historic feat at the 42nd World Chess Olympiad in Baku, Azerbaijan last September 11.

Accompanied by her coach Jayson Gonzales, Frayna set foot at the Legazpi City hall on Monday, September 26, following the hero’s welcome given by Mayor Noel Rosal, where she was given P50,000 cash assistance for her thorough training.

Students from elementary to secondary levels lined up on the streets to greet and welcome the first-ever Filipina chess grandmaster.

In her acceptance speech, Frayna expressed gratitude to her mother, Sonia Frayna, an employee of the city’s planning and development office, as well as the city mayor for helping her since the beginning of her journey.

“I’m totally grateful to my mom for her untiring support and to Mayor Noel Rosal for his continual assistance to my family since the beginning of my trainings and competition,” she said.   

Frayna also thanked her coach for supporting her dreams.

“To my coach Jayson Gonzales, thank you for believing in me, because without you I will not be a grandmaster,” Frayna said.  

Recalling difficulties

Frayna recalled her difficulties before achieving the WGM title, such as riding non-airconditioned buses from Legazpi to Manila and staying nights at the bus terminal before heading to the competition venue.

She also recalled the days when she and her mother stayed in a motel to be able to relax and prepare for the competition.

Janelle Frayna receives cash incentive for her training. Photo by Rhaydz B. Barcia

Frayna said that she’s happy to share her struggles to encourage children and her fellow chess players to pursue their dreams despite the difficulties. 

“My mom was always asking support from Mayor Rosal to pursue my dreams. She accompanied me in all national competitions. We stayed 24 hours in a bus terminal in Manila, and when lucky, we stayed in a motel to relax for a while, but when our time was over we went to a fast food restaurant [to freshen up],” she said.

“Whatever the challenges you are facing just go on, don’t lose hope. Continue your passion and training. Do not let your setbacks ruin your hopes and dreams,” she added.

For his part, Gonzales said that it was Frayna’s determination and passion for chess that was exceptional.

The Philippines will not have its first woman chess grandmaster if Gonzales did not reconsider his decision to train Frayna.

“At first I rejected her because she is a woman, considering that all chess competitors were males. But I changed my mind when I noticed that she possesses an exceptional determination and passion for chess, and [was] willing to be trained further despite the hardship, unlike others who even cheated during the course of training,” he said.

Gonzales narrated that even at a young age, Frayna was already reading chess books to be better at her game.

During the course of trainings, Gonzales said that he kept pushing Frayna not to give up on her dreams.

“I’m always telling Janelle to stand up from her losses; never give up from failures and trials to follow her dreams as there is no shortcut to success…Year after year she is improving,” Gonzales said.     

Frayna’s feat has earned a commendation from the Sangguniang Panlungsod of Legazpi City, where Frayna was praised for bringing honor and prestige not just to the city but to the entire country.

Mayor Rosal said that the city government is scouting for another Frayna to follow in her footsteps and excel in the field of mental and scientific sports.

“We are looking for another Janelle. We invited Janelle to go back in Legazpi City along with her coach Jayson Gonzalez next month to play with [the] best children in the field of chess to train and produce future champions,” Rosal said.  

Frayna also received a congressional commendation through House Resolution 334 filed by Albay 2nd District Representative Joey Salceda.

Proudly representing the Philippines

At the World Chess Olympiads in Azerbaijan, Frayna drew with International Master Davaademberel Nomin-Erdene of Mongolia, and amassed the required 6.0 points on 4 wins, 4 draws and one loss.

Frayna became an international chess grandmaster at an even younger age than Eugene Torre, the first Filipino International Grandmaster who won the title in 1974 in Nice, France, at age 22.

Frayna said she is now preparing for the Asian chess competition in 2017, in order to qualify for the World Women Championship in 2018. Asked if other countries have offered to train her for the global chess competition, Frayna said she will not abandon her home country.

“The Philippines invested in me. I will not serve or represent other countries except my country. Sir Jayson Gonzales told me to always represent the Philippines despite the lack of support,” she said.

Gonzales, who served as Frayna’s personal trainer and coach at the Far Eastern University for 6 years, also said Frayna is a priority of the Philippine Sports Commission and the Chess Federation Organization.

Gonzales said that after Frayna’s graduation, she will be competing in Europe next year to qualify for the world chess competition in 2018. But before that, Frayna needs to defeat remarkable grandmasters in other countries including male players. Her toughest competitors in 2017 are chess grandmasters from Mongolia, Vietnam, and Indonesia.

Frayna is set to meet President Rodrigo Duterte in Malacañang next week, where she hopes to gain government support. –

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