Filipinos Eye Mt. Everest Again

By: Philip Nicosia

Filipino mountain climbers proved their mettle to the world in May 2006 when they reached the summit of Mt. Everest for the very first time. It was a major triumph for the Republic of the Philippines especially after getting comments that Filipinos won’t be able to make to the top because of a very dangerous situation. But then again, Filipinos are a tough breed and will do anything to achieve their dreams.

This confidence and strong desire to fulfill their goals are what made Filipinos victorious in the recent years in a variety of fields such as theater, singing, dancing, boxing and now, mountain climbing. This very huge achievement of the Filipino Mt. Everest Expedition made all citizens of the Philippines very proud of their mountain-climbing countrymen – Leo Oracion, Pastor Emata and Romeo Garduce. All eyes were glued to the television each day for updates since the start of their climb to the world’s tallest mountain until they reached the peak, descended back to camp and headed back home to their native land. The overwhelming support of Filipinos truly boosted the morale of the three climbers and their team.

Leo Oracion was the first Filipino to reach the top of the 8,848-meter tall Mt. Everest on May 17 and as per tradition, planted the Philippine flag. He was followed by Pastor Emata on May 18 and Romeo Garduce the following day. Of the three, Emata was considered the fastest climber to go up the mountain’s peak on that triumphant day in seven hours and 49 minutes.

The successful climb of the three Filipino men to Mt. Everest has inspired other climbers in the country wishing to conquer the famous mountain. In fact, this coming May 2007, three more Filipinos are scaling Mt. Everest but this time, they’re not men but women. They are Noelle Wenceslao, Carina Dayondon and Janet Belarmino, all Coast Guard officers. The three, with the rank of seawoman first class, will join the Philippine Mt. Everest Expedition to be led by Oracion and Emata on a so-called “unity climb” that will cover the north and south sides of the mountain. The three women made it to the team after a careful selection among more than a hundred mountain climbers. With high hopes, they are seen to become the first ASEAN women to reach Everest’s peak. Dayondon and Wenceslao actually made their own record-breaking accomplishment in June 2006 when they became the first Filipino women to scale Mt. McKinley in Denali Park in Alaska, considered the tallest mountain in North American and perhaps, the coldest.

This year’s unity climb scheduled in May will have two groups climbing from the different points at the base of Mt. Everest and eventually meeting at the peak. One group will start from the north in Tibet along the Rongvuk Glacier while the other group will climb from the south in Nepal passing through the Khumbu Glacier. Several climbers have attempted this type of climb but failed. The second climb of Filipinos to the world’s tallest summit will be done in time with the Chinese expedition which will bring the Olympic torch to the peak of Mt. Everest in a bid to promote the Beijing Olympics set in the year 2008.

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