The Philippines’s amazing women

Jun. 06, 2007

MANILA — Last May 16, history was made as three Pinays became the first Southeast Asian women to summit Mount Everest and the first women in the world to traverse the mountain from the North side to the South side. Filipinas Noelle Wenceslao, Carina Dayondon, and Janet Belarmino certainly made our country proud as they overcame numerous obstacles to reach the top of the highest mountain on earth.

During their expedition, the three Pinays had to bear with the unforgiving cold climate of the Himalaya range, tough trails, and climbing during nighttime. Apart from the physical challenges though, a big challenge for the girls during their three-month-climb was being away from their loved ones.

The means of communication made available to the girls while they were at Everest was the Smart Link satellite phone, a satellite-based service that provides incoming and outgoing voice services in areas without landline and cellular access. Smart Link was used to maintain close coordination between the girls and their different base camps, considering the teams complicated logistics that required them to update base camps from both the Nepal and Tibet side. Aside from using Smart Link to maintain close coordination with their different base camps, the girls were glad to be able to keep in touch with their family and friends all throughout the expedition.

Our SMART Link satellite phone was a vital communication tool for us, says Noelle, who was the first member of the team to reach the summit. There were several times during the expedition when we were unable to update our correspondents on the Tibet and Nepal Base Camps because our radios could not get a signal, but SMART Link pulled us through, she explained.

Noelle, whose inspiration during her climb was her mother who passed away last July due to a stroke, was accompanied by her father during the expedition. He climbed with us and stayed at the Nepal Base Camp, Noelle says. I used the satellite phone to call my sister in Manila. It was actually quite overwhelming for me to be able to talk to her all the way from Everest.

Im not too familiar with all these new gadgets and advancements in technology, so it was cool to be able to use the satellite phone during our trek, Noelle adds.

We started using our Smart Link satellite phone early on in the expedition, during the acclimatization, says Carina, referring to procedure where they had to adjust to the climate change in the Himalayas. Carina used SMART Link to call her family based in Bukidnon: her parents – who at first were worried when they discovered their daughters plans of climbing Everest, and her 13 siblings.

Having SMART Link made me feel close to home – In just a few seconds, I was able to talk to my family, shares Carina.

Janet had just given birth to her firstborn son Himalaya when she left to fulfill her dream to summit Mount Everest. He was only two months old then; it was really tough for me to leave, she admits.

During the expedition, Janet would call her husband Ricky Serdenia using Smart Link to check on him and the baby. I remember how Id ask my husband to give the phone to Himalaya. It was so touching for me every time Id hear him babbling his own baby language over the phone. Those times played a big role in encouraging me climb, Janet narrates.

Janets husband Ricky and her mother Emelinda recalls how relieved they would be every time Janet would call from Everest using Smart Link. I constanly worried about how shes doing pag tumatawag siya lagi kong sinasabi sa kanya, kung sobrang nahihirapan ka na, magsabi ka lang sa mga kasama mo, Ricky says. But shes a tough woman; up to now I still cant believe she was able to reach the summit! Im so proud of her, he exclaims.

Janets mother Emelinda shares her son-in-laws sentiments. Any mother would be worried if her daughter was in some far-away place; how much more that my daughter was actually climbing the worlds highest mountain? Which was why it was comforting for us to hear from them while they were at Everest, using the satellite phones, she shares.

I never dreamt that my daughter would climb Mount Everest. We come from the province and we do have mountains there, but theyre not at all like Everest, Emelinda says, sharing how it was inevitable for her to worry about her daughter after hearing so many unfortunate stories about people who were unable to reach the summit. Every call I received from her while she was at the expedition would assure me of how determined and focused my daughter is, she shared.

The girls, however, constantly points out how their victory at Everest should not be attributed to them being strong women. We succeeded not because were strong individually, but because we worked as a team, Janet says. We helped and encouraged each other. Aside from this, the three summiteers emphasized that the support of the whole Philippines sought them through, and most importantly, the encouragement of their loved ones back home while they pursued their dream of conquering Mount Everest. Which is why we believe SMART Link was an important instrument in our expedition, because it allowed us to stay connected to people back home.

We were sure of our loved ones full support for us way before we left for Everest, but to actually hear their voice while we were at the expedition and hear their words of encouragement iba parin yon, Carina expounds.

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