Thursday, May 4, 2006

Feedback on “Everest”

Here are some reactions on last week’s column piece “Surfing Everest” that was partly about the efforts to conquer the killer peak by a team and an individual supported respectively by TV network giants ABS-CBN and GMA7. (The rest was about one adventurer’s Himalayan spiritual adventure.) I had expressed my concern about the “race”, what with two competing networks doing a continuing coverage of their respective climbers. And I dread seeing one making it and the other not making it. Or worse…

From Maloli K. Espinosa, vice president of ABS-CBN’s Government, Corporate Affairs and Public Relations

“We are writing in response to your column `Surfing Everest’ published (April 27). Please be informed that ABS-CBN’s commitment to support the first Philippine Mt. Everest expedition was arranged nearly two years ago with The Mountaineering Federation of the Philippines, headed by Transportation Undersecretary Arturo Valdez. The network has pledged, among others, a media campaign drive that will promote this quest.

“The decision was made based on two considerations: that it was a legitimate news story and, second, it was in line with the network's commitment to the coverage of momentous sporting events involving Filipino athletes.

“There was never any consideration of competing or racing with anybody. We had no knowledge of and hold nothing against the competitor's sponsorship of a similar expedition. This move is not about ratings but about ABS-CBN's initiative to let millions of Filipino viewers here abroad witness a once-in-a-lifetime adventure of their kababayans.

“ABS-CBN supports the Filipino’s endeavor and success, including the competitor's efforts. And in the spirit of giving moral support to all Filipino athletes, we wish Mr. Romi Garduce (supported by GMA-7) well and we wish him luck, as we do all other climbers making the attempt.

“ABS-CBN has already been at the forefront of historical milestones; being part of the Everest expedition once again illustrates the network's service to the Filipino people as it champions the cause of Philippine sports and highlights the achievements of our athletes as comparable to the best in the world.

“Thank you and may we continue supporting the Filipino team in conquering the highest peak in the world.”
From Luz de Leon of California:

“I read your column on the ABS-CBN/GMA race to Mt. Everest, and just a few days before I watched a somber documentary, `Everest, Killer Mountain’ on PBS which was about the 1996 tragedy that killed six to eight skilled climbers and Sherpa guides. They were caught in a storm and an avalanche on their way down.

“Anyone remotely connected to this project should see the film first. They do not know what they are getting into. No amount of TV ratings can compensate for the loss of lives and sufferings of survivors who end up without limbs, noses and other body parts for which we have no spares. My 2 cents.”

From Mario Santos:

“Your article is timely, I hope a lot of people were able to read it. From my readings on the Net, the GMA-7 representative was scheduled to conquer Everest this year. The ABS-CBN 2 team is supposed to go in 2007.

“When ABS learned that GMA was betting on the winning horse, they rushed their own team's schedule by one year. This is stupidity, and could be deadly.

“Another prime example of what ABS-CBN is: a creature so enamored of ratings that human life is cheap. The (game show) `Wowowee’ tragedy is another example—the victims had just been laid to rest when they resumed this show, allegedly to ‘help the people’, but which reminds me of Willie dancing on the victims' graves every time he does that show.

“I think the Department of Justice should push for the resolution of the `Wowowee’ case…as soon as possible.

“Because when something happens to the ABS-CBN Everest Team—and the one-year short cut is one big red flag which could mean something might happen—ABS-CBN would again be embroiled in another case. But then nothing gets resolved in this country…”

(Strong language deleted.-CPD)

Last year, the Pakistani Air Force did a dramatic rescue of Slovenian climber Tomas Humar who was trapped for six days on one of the highest peaks of the Himalayas. Humar was stalled by bad weather at about 20,000 feet on a narrow ledge on the Rupal face of Nanga Parbat, the world’s ninth highest peak. This renowned climber (1,500 ascents) tried to take a route never tried before since the peak was first scaled in 1953. He never made it to the top but at least he made it alive.

The rescue pilots couldn’t hope for much as the ledge was impossible to reach. It was the hand of God that did it, a rescuer said. A BBC report said that by the time the rescue effort was in motion, the Slovenian had run out of food, gas in his stove and radio batteries. He kept himself warm by digging snow but became increasingly cold, hungry and in danger of frostbite. At least he was not disoriented.

The only way to get to him was to throw a rope that he could tie around himself. The aircraft would then fly with the climber dangling from the aircraft.

The weather was so bad three attempts failed. The rescuers could not even drop food. The rope throwing did succeed, but had Humar failed to grab hold of the rope on the first try, the chopper would have gone back to base.

It was indeed the ``hand of God’’ that made possible Humar’s “insanely good luck” and the heroic efforts of men and their costly machine, the Pakistani Air Force Lama SA-3158, built to operate at high altitudes and holds the world record for the highest-ever helicopter flight at 12,441 meters.