“What the fuck am I doing here?”
“Why am I standing here, holding this stupid goddamn flag, at the summit of some goddamn mountain? What’s my point? What have I achieved? What have I solved?”
Truly frightening, bothering questions. Especially if you’d remember you’d risked life and limb just to get to that point. Especially if you’d peel off all the layers of “motherhood statements” politicians back home had been slathering on the climb. You listen to them and you’d be seduced into thinking that climbing this mountain is all worth it; after all, in a country with almost no staggering scientific or cultural achievement, we’ve always been edgy to glorify every bit of scrap that comes our way, even pedestrian ones.
I have nothing against climbing mountains per se, but I have something about people climbing a really tall mountain and not admitting they’re doing it just for the heck of it, and not for some country’s glory.
I’ve always maintained that mountain climbing in itself is patently, baldly stupid. In my personal book, I can always agree to climb something that might kill me—but only if you’d show me the point. I won’t climb that just for the heck of it. At least, give me a goal besides merely reaching the summit and skirting avalanches. You want to reach the summit, for example, because you’re contacting alien life forms from Cygni 66. Or because you’d get your grandfather’s millions only if you could prove you could bring home Jimmy Hoffa's frozen dick.
On the other hand, I think it’s equally perverse to make that climb and rationalize it to death; as if these climbers are in a panic to lend their act some semblance of a panacea, to dress it up to make it seem like a solution to some unbridgeable abyss, some impossible problem.
Why couldn’t they just do a George Mallory and admit they’re climbing it “because it’s there,” period. Why do we always feel like we owe it to some invisible majority to rationalize every stupid, personal, and selfish thing we do and embellish it with cloying lines like, “We’re doing it for the country.”
Come on. Although I’m sure there’s somebody somewhere who would be glad to buy that crap, I’d still choose the classic route: Sell that to the marines.
And why am I going ballistic on a Wednesday afternoon?
Because last week, three Filipinos reached the summit of Mt. Everest amid much fanfare. And although the whole event was not as dramatic as the TV networks would have wanted it to seem, I believe the truth is more colorful.
The first two climbers were backed by a local network called ABS-CBN; the third one, Garduce, was backed by a rival network called GMA.
I’d often find myself laughing whenever the two TV stations would report on their bets in the early days of the preparation. ABS-CBN had my favorite hobby-horse, Abner Mercado, reporting from Nepal; and GMA had Jiggy Manicad. The funny thing was, for ABS-CBN, GMA’s Garduce didn’t exist; nobody would even mention the guy. I don’t remember Abner Mercado even saying something as bland as, “And here's the latest news on the 'other' climber: Garduce was caught wearing split-crotch panties!"
On the other hand, for GMA, the group called First Philippine Expedition was a funny myth you told your campmates around a bonfire to warm things up.
[Everest Poster Boy: "The Power of Handsome"]
Simply put, the two networks mutually denied the efforts of each other. If that’s not ugly, revolting, and cheap, I don’t know what is. In fact, they only began “acknowledging” each other’s boys when Oracion, for instance, reached the summit first.
Besides, I really don’t see the point of all the fuss. If a man without legs could climb it in a flourish, what are our three Filipinos (one of which is called “robot” because, friends say, he’s “superhumanly indefatigable”) and their backers so happy about?
If you took a knife and cut the whole thing down to size, what you’d see are the two rival networks pushing these happy people around as part of their little “ratings war.” But I have to be clear that I have no problem with Big Corp “pushing pawns”—because if I’d work for them, I’d also do the same; I have no conscience. But what I’m harping on is that they could have done it better; they could have injected a little more drama.
Here’s what I think should have happened with the Everest adventure:
Garduce reaches the summit as the third one to do so. He’s already secretly bitter about it, but it turned out to be worse because upon reaching the mountaintop, he found a small note from the two ABS-CBN boys that says, “Garduce! You’re Third! LOL!!!”
So Garduce fumes and climbs down faster than an avalanche. When he finds Oracion and Ermata at base camp laughing about “that note” and the fact that nobody really cares about third placers, Garduce totally loses his marbles. He looks around, sees the legless New Zealand guy holding his spare metal leg, grabs the metal leg, and uses it to slug ABS-CBN’s boys in the head. Abner Mercado, seeing that GMA’s Jiggy Manicad is about to join in the fray armed with his rolled-up “reporter’s notebook,” jumps on the whole bunch and uses his full weight to trap everybody under his armpits.
Everybody realizes that violence is bad when they all get a mighty whiff of Abner’s evil effluvium.
The end. They all go home to meet with Carlo Caparas for the movie rights. I leave it to Carlo’s genius to come up with an amazing movie title. Or maybe the two networks’ hacks could turn it into primetime soap, which I think is great, although it’s tough guessing where they’d fit Angel Locsin in the whole thing.
THREE FILIPINOS CLIMB MT EVEREST
LEGLESS MAN CLIMBS ON TOP OF THE WORLD