In a statement, New Zealand Prime Minister called Sir Edmund a colossus, a “heroic figure who not only ‘knocked’ off Everest but lived a life of determination, humility, and generosity.” His Sherpa guide deserves equal accolade for risking his own life and limb for that pioneering effort of scaling the roof of the world.
Yet I don’t know if those words would be enough to describe the two for proving to the world the immense capacity of the human spirit. At the same time, however, their shared feat already speaks for itself. For it has encouraged – until now – several other adventurous souls to challenge the height and sub-freezing temperature of the Himalayas’ greatest natural wonder.
Undeniably, the others who have also reached the Everest summit possess(ed) an athleticism equal to that of Hillary and Norgay. But the one thing that separates the two from the rest is that they were the first. It was they who showed the way and the will to
carry out what was deemed impossible. Their feat has served not only as a statement of courage but also as an assurance to doubters that it can be done.
Dozens followed in their footsteps with the eagerness of miners flocking to an uncharted land where somebody has stumbled upon a mountain of gold. And while they may share the gold among themselves the luster belongs to Hillary and Norgay alone.
That is the problem of being just next in line. One can always say “I did it,” but only the pioneer has the luxury of saying “I did it first.” Nobody else may savor again the ecstasy, the golden moment, of conquest. Yes, only those who came first are the real conquerors in that their feat will always cast a giant shadow over those who came in second, third and down the line to tread a beaten path.
The ones who are next in line can only find consolation in reinventing the word ‘first’ – first Asian, first Southeast Asian, first woman, and of course, first Filipino and first Filipina. And thanks or no thanks to TV networks that hyped up their climb for the sake of ratings, the Filipinos and Filipinas who scaled Everest managed to get their own shot at momentary stardom before fading back into obscurity, the memory of their achievement now but a lonely footnote to a book on the pages of which shine the
unforgettable names of Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, the true conquerors of Mount Everest. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno received in 1987 the Jose W. Diokno Award for winning in a national editorial writing contest sponsored by Ang Pahayagang Malaya and the family of the late senator.)