Sunday, May 21, 2006

The Filipino Spirit and the Mighty Everest

Filipinos are known for their resiliency and perseverance. We are a race deeply accustomed to struggles and challenges. As my friendly socialists would explain, we were born not with silver spoon in our mouths but with hammer and scythe in our hands. This character was magnified when three of our kababayans reached the highest peak on earth. After a year of intense training and preparations, Oracion, Emmata and Garduce finally reached one of their highest dreams--to step on the summit of Mount Everest. This achievement reveals important things about the Filipino spirit.

First, with the power of will and faith in God, Filipinos can be at par with other nations. Everyone united in prayer for the safety of the three travelers. Second, we can never veer away from the concept of “camaraderie and cooperation cum humility” as the three mountaineers have expressed and shown in their interviews. No one dared to claim the honor of who’s the first one to reach the mountain's summit. For them, everything was a product of “team effort”. Third, the victory of our "kababayans” will always be considered as the victory of the Filipino people in general. We have tasted the glory of triumph through the achievements of our heroes, dead and living. Everyone rejoiced for the success of our three beloved mountaineers. A great heroes’ welcome was only appropriate.


Amidst the national celebration were sad observations that many people failed to notice. The Mt. Everest expedition did not escape the notoriety of the media in capitalizing on people’s achievements. Garduce was the one who was highly-profiled by the broadcast media, particularly GMA-7 (since the station was one of the major sponsors of the mountaineer). The people expected that Garduce was the one who would lead the Philippine team in climbing the Everest. His acclimatization adventures and interviews were constantly aired by GMA 7 and watched by many. Lo and behold, Leo Oracion and Pastour Emata, who lacked the glamour of publicity, were the first ones to reach the peak. Garduce’s mother was quite disappointed with the scenario since Garduce has been groomed as the one who has the most illustrious career as a mountaineer among the three. He has climbed some of the highest peaks in the world. The most recent of which was his exploits in the mountains of Alaska. Indeed, those who were first can be last and those who were last can be first.

Another mountaineer, Dale Abenojar, had been out of the radar of the public because he started his adventure without the full support and blessings of the Philippine government. He became a “lone ranger” mountaineer who chose to work with an international mountaineering agency than to join the Philippine team in its noble quest. His wife claimed that he was the first Filipino to reach the peak of Everest on May 15. But Abenojar has yet to convince the Filipino people that he was indeed the first Filipino who accomplished that feat. I could smell an issue waiting to be answered by all mountaineers when they come back from Nepal and begin to tell their various stories.

I believe that man’s achievements must always be ascribed to His creator. The Bible declares that in Him we live, and move, and have our being (Acts 17:28). The strength of man emanates from the divine strength of God. All the greatest achievements in history were handiworks of God because He is the God of history (Isaiah 41:4).

In one scene of the Oscar award-winning film, Chariots of Fire, Eric Liddel quoted what he believed was the secret of his strength and success in running. He read Isaiah 40:28-310: Have you not known? Have you not heard, that the everlasting God, Jehovah, the Creator of the ends of the earth, does not grow weak or weary? There is no searching of His understanding. He gives power to the weary; and to him with no vigor; He increases strength. Even the young shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall; but those who wait on Jehovah shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

Words by prophet Jeremiah remind us that man must never glory in his wisdom and strength but rather always recognize the majesty and power of God: So says the Lord, Do not let the wise glory in his wisdom, nor let the mighty glory in his might; do not let the rich glory in his riches; but let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord, doing kindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth; for in these I delight, says Jehovah (Jeremiah
9:23-24).

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