Sunday, September 02, 2007

Who is John? Why did John earn that recognition?

PAL, PALMC and John in (Na) Kaya ng Pinay

In the Philippine Airlines Mountaineering Club operations manual written in 1993, a tribute was written,“To John Fortes, who started it all, and to all those who followed the call of the mountains under the banner of the club, this volume is dedicated.”

Who is John? Why did John earn that recognition?

In November 1979, John was instrumental in setting up the mountaineering club, one of the first to be formalized in the Philippines when mountaineering was still an unfamiliar word. In the same manual, it cited the main purpose for organizing the club-to open up a new market for travelers on Philippine Air Lines by offering tours specializing in outdoor activities. With the passage of time, climbs continued not only for opening new market but now out of the pure love for the outdoors and the friendships created in these.

Now, about 27 years later, no longer was opening new market the priority of the airline and the club. It has now shifted towards 'responsible' climbs that sought to protect the ecology, and develop the balance between skill, adventure and fun.

Last May 2006, Philippine Airlines, both the flag carrier and the club found itself playing a familiar role it did when the club was organized. It contributed a crucial support to the historic first ascent of the Filipino to the highest point of the world.

Through its sponsorship of the First Filipino Mount Everest Expedition Team headed by Mr. Art Valdez (also a PALMCer), the dream of every mountaineer was realized.

A Filipino finally, in the person of Leo Oracion has stepped foot on the ultimate market, the world’s highest mountain in the grounds of Nepal.

The generous backing of the airlines and the club made possible by the Chairman of PALMC Mr. John Fortes set the momentum for the expedition to be launched and eventually succeed. Little did we know that this milestone opened a market for the Filipino.

This May 2007, the club and the airline followed up its interest on Mt. Everest assisting the successful attempt of the 3 Pinays Noelle Wenceslao, Carina Dayondon and Janet Bellarmino. The 3 Pinays made world records reaching the summit of Mt. Everest from Tibet early morning of 16 May 2007, the first women in the world to traverse from Tibet to Nepal. In that same expedition, PALMC introduced to its members and guests Nepal, the world’s trekking capital. Mr. John Fortes, Mr. Banny Hermanos and Mr. Dom Goduco, senior officers of the club led a contingent of Filipino trekkers to the Everest Base Camp. PALMC was first Filipino club to organize a climb to the base camp at 5,567 meters ASL. In those anxiety filled 25 days, we trekked not only with the club but with the nation.

After the awareness we created for Nepal, the next climbing season will surely be a different story. As we opened new possibilities for fellow Pinoy mountaineers to the grandeur of the world’s trekking capital, we members of the original support group to the “2007 Kaya ng Pinay Expedition” will remember that it was John who started it all for us. We share that fulfillment with the club and the national carrier, Philippine Airlines.

-Chito Razon

Un-updated PALMC site at

Fotos from the collections of Cesar Banares, Rico Cabusao, Larry Honoridez, Dom Goduco and Banny Hermanos

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