Friday, June 01, 2007

3 Girls, 3 Stories, 1 Message: Kaya ng Pinay!

When Noelle Wenceslao, Carina Dayondon and Janet Belarmino became the first Southeast Asian women to summit Mt. Everest and the first women in the world to traverse Mt. Everest from the North side to the South side, Himalaya didn’t seem to care.

The country was rejoicing, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo sent a congratulatory message, and the Philippine Coast Guard prepared a heroes welcome for the three summiteers who had just been promoted from seawoman first class to petty officer third class.

Himalaya, though, remains clueless. After all, he’s only five months old. His mommy Janet left two months ago to pursue her dream of conquering the world’s highest peak, and she did so with a heavy heart.

In an article published on the Kathmandu Post titled "Mom of five-month-old atop Everest," Janet was quoted as saying, "I decided to leave him, as I was too focused on the mountain. I believed there was a greater cause behind my decision."

Noelle, on the other hand, brought her loved one with her to the summit, a picture of her mother. Her mom passed away last year due to a stroke. She was on her way to the airport to pick up Noelle when she had the attack. Noelle had just arrived after successfully climbing Mt. Denali in Alaska, the highest mountain in North America. She was waiting at the airport, when she got the call that her mom was rushed to the hospital. By the time Noelle arrived there, it was already too late.

Carina is one of 14 siblings who grew up in Bukidnon. Her family didn’t want her to join the Everest team because of the obvious danger. They also relied on her as the family breadwinner. But Carina was determined to sacrifice to achieve a greater goal.

The Dayondon family apparently had nothing to worry about. According to ABS-CBN correspondent Vince Rodriguez who chronicled the journey on, Carina was even singing on the summit!

According to the blog, two hours before reaching the summit, the team radioed Advance Base Camp to give an update on their location. During the call, Carina sang in the radio an excerpt from the song Kaya ng Pinay, composed by team doctor Ted Esguerra.

On hearing her singing, Everest summiteer Pastor Emata, who was at ABC, radioed back, "Carina, I bet you’re singing because you’re scared."

Carina’s response was, "Excuse me!" But things are different back home. Their families may support their goals and trust they know what they’re doing — but they can’t completely take away their loved ones’ apprehension, the fear that something bad may happen.

Ricky Serdenia, husband of Janet Belarmino-Serdenia, couldn’t hold back his tears when he heard the news his wife had reached the summit. You’d think that Ricky, being a member of the Philippine Dragonboat Federation, would be cool under pressure.

He admits though, it’s not easy when you’re the one left behind.

"Himalaya, your mom has reached the summit," he softly told his baby while crying. "I’m so happy but I also worry about her everyday. I try not to think about it by being with friends, keeping myself busy. Sometimes I fear Himalaya may not see his mom again. But I trust in God and I believe in Janet."

Himalaya was just chuckling and making cute baby sounds while his father wept.

This May, more than 300 people are estimated to have reached the summit of Mt. Everest. Critics have said that the mountain has become so commercialized, anyone with time, money and a bit of guts can reach the top.

So what makes the Pinays’ achievement so special? They could have swum across the Pacific, they could have aimed to reach the North Pole — it wasn’t about the summit of Everest per se. The mountain is simply an allegory, a very tough one at that, for achieving what people think is impossible. That if we set our minds to it and unite in a common cause, we can climb whatever heights and reach whatever distance we imagine.

Like Leo Oracion, Pastor Emata and Romy Garduce before them, the women have again made the country proud. The message is loud and clear, yes, the Filipina can, Kaya ng Pinay! And they didn’t just do it for themselves, but for all the Filipinas around the world struggling to conquer their own mountains.

And even if Himalaya doesn’t understand yet why his mom left, one day when he grows up, he’ll realize the meaning of his mother’s sacrifice. Indeed, Mommy Janet knows best, there is a greater cause.

Not even all the money in the world can match the legacy Himalaya will pass on to his children and his children’s children. A legacy of hope, faith and triumph of the human spirit.

(This article was published in The Philippine Star, May 31, 2007)


BENJIE said...

Another pride for our country, dahil sa tatlo nating kababayan na pinay na nakarating sa summit ng Mt. Everest, They made us to be proud as a Filipino.... Good job....

And to you NiƱa, I hope you will continue your blog site, sana one time ma features mo naman yung mga kababayan natin dito sa Middle East, specially here in Saudi Arabia, kung makikita nyo at makakusap man lang and iba nating kababayan dito masasabi mo na dakila sila.... Thanks again and keep up the good work...

Saudi Arabia.

Richard Lionheart said...

Love it!

Anonymous said...

wow that article is so good.. i love the way you report in abs-cbn keep up the good work and more power to abs-cbn... and lastly ang ganda mo pala sa personal!!

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Commonwealth High School
Kathleen Joy Nastasha G. Reyes