Sunday, May 07, 2006
And the winner is...Leo Oracion. Everyone's now talking about the first Filipino to make it to the top of the world's highest peak. It all started when four Filipino climbers went for their dream, the other three are Romy Garduce, Erwin "Pastor" Emata, and Dale Abenojar (who's claiming he was ahead of Oracion but has no proof yet).
A month ago, Studio 23's Vince Rodriguez who has been reporting from Everest Base Camp, told the Philippine Team about media reports that the Everest climb is
turning into a race for the 1st Filipino to reach the top. But Emata dismissed
this and said, "Everest should be approached with respect. On Sagarmatha (Nepalese
name for Everest), you do not race against anyone. It is between you and the mountain. If she allows you to summit, you are lucky. You should never say you will conquer her, because in the end she will always win."
I've always wondered why they want to climb Everest. Some of them say it's a personal goal, and since this is the first ever Filipino attempt, it's also for the country. But when your life is on the line, any normal person would think it's crazy. But these people are extra-ordinary and they simply don't want to exist. They say you don't feel more alive than when death stares you in the face.
I obviously don't have a first-hand knowledge of climbing the world's highest mountain. I've read the popular "Into Thin Air" by veteran climber John Krakauer some years back and I remember reading how she can be so unpredictable, even the world's best climbers fall to her prey. After all, you cannot control mother nature. Krakauer says he was lucky he survived one of Everest's deadliest storms.
But what if he didn't live to tell the tale? What if, just like the others, his body vanished underneath the snow? Would it still be worth it? Or would he have died in vain?
I recently saw Brokeback Mountain and apart from the story, I was moved by its breathtaking scenery. Set in Wyoming and Texas amidst a sweeping landscape of snowcapped mountains and hills and lakes and all these shapes. Never mind if two macho cowboys were passionately kissing. The bottomline is it's a rare, incredible love story you wouldn't want to happen to you but you get moved by it anyway.
But Brokeback mountain, unlike Everest, is not there. It doesn't exist. It did in the movie though. Because for Jack Twist, Heath Ledger's lover, it's all he lived for. The memories they shared on that mountain were all they've got. Better to have your own Brokeback mountain than nothing at all. I wonder how the mountain took it, a silent witness, to a tragic love-affair.
Mount Everest, on the other hand, continues to reign the Earth. A living witness to the deaths and triumphs of all those who want to conquer her even if some climbers refuse to use the word, "conquer", because in the end, she will always win. Maybe, but I don't think even the world's greatest mountain will ever conquer the human spirit. People who attempt to climb her year after year are not made of matter. They're made of the stuff that lives and dies and flies. If Everest has a soul, it's all the people who gave their lives to her.
Which brings me back to the question, if a climber dies attempting to climb Everest, did he die in vain? Maybe Romy or Dale or Leo or Pastor can answer the question.
As for me, and maybe for the rest of us, we have our own "Everest" to conquer. I don't know where my journey ends. I just hope and pray I can make it to the top and die happy. (This article has been published in The Philippine Star, May 18, 2006)