“Because It Is There”

(Basic 07 – Research Your Topic / Competent Communication Manual, May 25, 2006, Kimberly-Clark Phils)


Oracion, Emata, Garduce: three Filipinos who have made headlines just very recently.  Do you know them?  If you have been tuning in to the news lately, these three names spell triumph.  They’re the first Filipinos to climb the highest peak on earth, Mount Everest.  As any mountaineer can attest, climbing Mount Everest is a very dangerous undertaking.  The most frequent kind of death is sudden and shocking, a drop from a wall of ice, a fall into a deep crevice, or the biggest killer of all, being buried alive in an avalanche.  Practically one in every ten climbers never return and there have been more than 2000 climbers thus far.  The fact that these 3 Filipinos had limited experience in snow and ice climbing made their feats even more admirable.


But why climb the highest peak?  In 1923, George Mallory, a British national, announced his plan to climb Mount Everest – the very first attempt.  After being pestered by journalists for his reasons, he answered the famous line “Because it is there”.  The following year, in 1924, he made his climb to Everest.  He did not return. 

The very first successful attempt to climb Everest happened in 1953 when Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay reached the summit.  Hillary is a New Zealander while Tenzing was a Sherpa from Nepal.Sherpas are an ethnic group in Northeast Nepal.  Sherpas have become mountaineering legends and heroes.  In expeditions, they have been relied on for carrying supplies, cooking, setting up camps, fixing ropes and as mountain guides.


Setting up expeditions is quite a tremendous task - and expensive as well.  The Filipino mountaineers were lucky in that although they did not have much financial support from the government, they had corporate sponsors. 

The tandem Oracion and Emata had ABS/CBN while Garduce was backed-up by the rival-network GMA7Actually, with the way the local channels have covered the news, it was quite clear, who was sponsoring which mountaineer – as I have found out.

Yes, faced with the sense of national pride, the networks were still battling it out - for the ratings.  It is rather sad though, that none of them mentioned the little known fact that the famous Sherpa, Norgay Tenzing had a daughter named Nima Tenzing who married a Filipino and lived here in the Philippines.


Has it really come to this?  Has Mount Everest become commercialized?  Even among mountaineers in an expedition, there is contrast in beliefs.  Among the westerners, there is personal glory-seeking, dreams of heroic adventurism – to explore, to conquer.  For some wealthy individuals, they could actually rent-an-expedition for $60,000 minimum and then brag they made it to Everest.  The eastern belief, on the other hand, is one of awe and sanctity.  The Sherpas of Nepal see Everest as a sacred mountain and I believe there is similar sentiment among Asian cultures. 

I remember when Mount Pinatubo erupted, my fellow Capampangans from the lowlands asked the displaced Aetas “Where will you live now?  You do not own land.”  To which the Aetas replied “We do not own the land, the land owns us.  For how can we own something that will outlive us?”  The Aetas believe that Pinatubo is the home of the god Apu Namalyari – the Great Provider.  By the same token, the Sherpas believe that Everest, which is known to them as Sagarmatha, is the “Forehead of the Sky”.  In Tibet, it is known as Chomolungma, meaning “Mother of the Universe”.

The Sherpas believe in the sacredness of Mount Everest and they forbid bad behavior in expeditions.  No excessive alcohol drinking, no rowdy behavior and no sex.  Yes, no sex.In some expeditions there are males and females and the Sherpas would occasionally rattle and shake the tents when they suspect couples having sex.  They say it will invite bad weather or snowstorms in the slopes which increase the risk tremendously in climbing.


Inspite of these differences in beliefs, it is still every mountaineer’s dream to climb the highest peak.  Oracion, Emata and Garduce have inspired us to think that it is not an impossible dream.  We all have our mountains to climb.  Our own ambitions, our own aspirations.  How about you?  What is your Mount Everest?  Or more importantly, what drives you to climb your mountain?  Could it be as simple as what George Mallory once said “Because it is there?”