Friday, March 09, 2007

Down to Earth

Down to Earth with Pastour Emata

Erwin “Pastour” Emata was the second undisputed Filipino to step at the roof of the world on 18 May 2006, Thursday at 5:30 a.m. (7:30 a.m. Philippine time), next to Leo Oracion. His famous words while raising the flag at 29,035 feet ASL were "Ang lamig-lamig dito!"

But what is he really like? I was at close range with Pastour for the first time 8 March 2007 at the send off party of the Kaya ng Pinay: The All-Filipina Team Everest at the Megamall parking lot. After a short warm up introduction, Pastour casually postured like any other moutaineers I climb with: talkative, pilyo, filosopo, funny and down to earth.

While our conversation was drowned out by the blaring vocals of Hanna of the Session Road, Pastour gamely narrated relevant incidences leading to the completion of his mission, to reach the top of Everest and to return back alive.

For a co-mountaineer whose realm of experience is limited to the tropics, one listens with awe as to what the man who made history has to say. Cathy Buelva, friend of Pastour’s fellow Everest climber Larry Honoridez validated if not prompted some replies.

Photo courtesy of Mae Cruz

The happiest moment was not when I reached the summit but when I was safely secured at the base camp. “Dala kasi ng takot noong nakita ko na may namamatay pala talaga rito.” Fear seeped in when he was at the Khumbo Ice Fall because the probability of death was no longer a concept but an actual possibility. 3 of the 5 sherpas in their entourage were buried by a collapsing glacier.

I persevered. Aside from the skills, it was the “lakas na loob” that drove me to the top and the assurance that there was a team supporting me.

Leo trekking to the peak first was a team decision. He was the strongest, I was just the fastest. My follow through and schedule to ascent were a collaborative decision. It called for some sacrifice. “Di pumasok sa loob ko na historical yung moment na yon. Ang iniisip ko makababa sa base camp.”
To successfully reach the top, one must establish a trusting relationship with your Sherpa. It’s a one on one affair with Pemba. “Ang buhay ko nasa Sherpa. Katabi ko siya matulog noon pa man sa training. Sa kanya ko pinagkatiwala ang buhay ko.”

Receiving the accolade after our historic moment is a familiar situation for me. As I have been recognized for winning adventure race, the feeling is the same except that this was on a larger scale. “Pa kaway-kaway din.”

The peak of Everest is granted not to everyone. All the forces must align to allow you to step foot at the peak: God, the weather, the circumstances, one’s skill and capability, the team and the resources. As in any mountain, one should truly be deserving to attain it. To Pastour, his exposure as an adventure race was what built up his endurance, a necessary physical element to scale Everest. “Maraming hirap ang dinaanan namin sa mga Alphine training. Malaking tulong ang ginawa ng pagiging Adventure Racer ko sa pag build up ng aking endurance.”

Now post 18 May 2006, having acclimatized back to the reality of day-to-day living in Davao and preparing for the first Filipina Everest climb, he faces two personal challenges: narrating his experience to non-mountaineers and providing for his family. The difficulty of the climb is hard to relay to the urban professionals who have not gasped for breathe in a mountain or in a race. One must have climbed a cardiac ridge to relate with the difficulty the team went through. “Ang pinakamadaling ikinukwento ko ay kung anong nararamdaman ko, walang technical.”

The greater challenge I face is not the next mountain I’ll climb but how to provide for my growing family. Pastor’s sources of income prior to Everest were as a mountain guide to Apo and as a professional participant to Adventure Racing where his drive to win was the prize money. Today post Everest, his regular income comes from the Philippine Coast Guard where he was appointed as petty officer third class. “Sana man lang sa bawat pag sign ko ng autograph, magbibigay ng piso, uihay na ang pamilya ko.”

Fame has its price. When my eldest son sent me off for the Pinay Kaya Mo Expedition, he said, “‘tay balik ka na sa inyo?” “Nalungkot ako!”

The success story of of the Filipino stepping foot at the roof of the world is an inspiration. While we may not physically conquer the highest point on earth, the strains we face as urban warriors are alike. Like climbing a mountain, the sames values particularly the belief in ourselves and aligments are needed to propel us to survive and to succeed. That is what I found out from Pastour. They are not exclusive to Pastour nor to Leo nor Romy. They are within reach even to us ordinary mortals struggling with our own private Everests’.

(Disclaimer: Di pa po nababasa ni Pastour.)

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