Last updated 03:43am (Mla time) 03/19/2007
MANILA, Philippines -- In their backpacks are mountain gear, winter
clothes and prayers.
Out to prove that the Filipino woman can do it, the trio of Carina
Dayondon, Janet Belarmino and Noelle Wenceslao flew to Thailand on
Sunday en route to Nepal for the most challenging expedition of their
lives -- to climb the 29,035-foot Mount Everest, the world's tallest peak.
"Kaya ng Pinay. Hindi tayo pahuhuli. Pwede tayo makasabay (The
Filipina can do it. We won't be left behind. We will be with the rest
of them)," the 28-year-old Belarmino said.
"We may be different from men, but we are equal."
Wenceslao, 27, sounded equally confident in a talk with the Philippine
Daily Inquirer minutes before boarding the team's Bangkok-bound flight.
"We are not different from other Filipinas. We are normal Filipinas.
We don't have special skills, special talents, or special anything. We
just want to show that we are normal people who [like others] ride the
jeep, but we can dare to do something that seems impossible and we
will make it possible," said Wenceslao.
The team plans to train for a month and a half in high-altitude
conditions before making the assault on Everest's snow-shrouded
summit, sometime in May.
It was also in May last year that three other Filipino mountaineers
made history by conquering the forbidding mountain. They did it one
after the other.
The three were Leo Oracion, who began his assault on May 13 and
reached the summit on May 17, Erwin Emata (May 15-18) and Romeo
Garduce (May 14-19).
Another mountaineer, Dale Abenojar, claimed to have successfully
climbed the Everest a few days before Oracion did. But some members of
the Filipino mountaineering community doubted his claim.
Sendoff from FVR
Oracion and Emata left with the all-woman summit team on the Bangkok
flight. They will act as expedition leaders and will stay at the
Everest base camp to direct the climb of the three Filipinas.
Expedition physician Ted Esguerra also joined the group and would be
on medical duty throughout the summit attempt.
Former President Fidel Ramos, an avid supporter of the Everest team,
gave the group a sendoff at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
Ramos, who turned 79 Sunday, also gave a birthday treat to the team by
handing them a cash donation.
From Thailand, the team will change planes for the Nepalese capital of
Katmandu. They will then travel to the Solu Khumbu area in Nepal for
two weeks of acclimatization, and then move to the Everest base camp
for another month of adapting to the mountain's weather, Belarmino said.
Proving their mettle
The three women, all from the Philippine Coast Guard, have taken up
mountaineering lessons in India and New Zealand and have already shown
their mettle at mountain climbing, having scaled the sixth tallest
mountain in the world, Mount Cho-Oyu.
Located 28 km west of Everest, Cho-Oyu -- at 26,906 feet -- is about
2,100 feet lower than the Everest.
"Compared to us last year, I am more confident that they can do it
because they have an edge over us in terms of training," Emata said.
He also said that the three women had trained at higher altitudes than
he and Oracion did before the two of them conquered the Everest last year.
"So they have exposure, which is supposed to be the proper training
prior to Everest … That's why we are more confident about them."
Besides guiding the expedition, Emata and Oracion will serve as their
female counterparts' inspiration to succeed.
"They did it and they did it even if everything was not well," said
Belarmino. "They got through difficulties … They gave us advice and we
became inspired by their dedication to climb. We have the same goals,
and if they did it, we can do it too."
Since 1922, a total of 186 climbers have perished in their assault of
The first time anyone conquered the Everest was on May 29, 1953 when
New Zealander Edmund Hillary and his sherpa (guide) Tenzing Norgay
reached the summit. With a report from Inquirer Research
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