Tibet mountain group certifies Abenojar was 1st Pinoy on Everest
- Rainier Allan Ronda () - May 30, 2006 - 12:00am
Dale Abenojar is the first Filipino to reach the summit of Mt. Everest — on its Tibet side.

That’s according to a certificate issued by the Mountaineering Association of Tibet of the Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China.

The certificate shows Abenojar reached the altitude of 8,844.43 meters, Mt. Everest’s summit, at 10:45 a.m. on May 15.

This indicates that he reached the peak of the world’s tallest mountain a good two days ahead of Heracleo Oracion of the First Philippine Mount Everest Expedition (FPMEE) team, who was earlier announced to be the first to do so last May 17. Oracion, Erwin Emata, and Romeo Garduce reached the summit of Mt. Everest on its Nepal side.

The certificate as well as photographs of Abenojar at the summit were sent to The STAR by Robin Mendoza, a supporter of Abenojar who had gone to Kathmandu in Nepal to help the climber set the record straight.

Mendoza said he arrived at the Kathmandu International Airport on May 25 from Bangkok, Thailand and was met by Abenojar and his camp manager, Ram Krishna Tripathi. They went straight to Hotel Manang in Paknajol, Thamel in the same city.

"After checking in, we met Tshiring Jangbu Sherpa, one of Dale Abenojar’s Everest guides and... were introduced to Jeevan Shrestha, the secretary of Elisabeth Hawley, a respected American chronicler of Mt. Everest. She has taken into account hundreds of expeditions in Nepal and Tibet each year for more or less four decades," Mendoza said.

He said Shrestha arranged a meeting to interview Abenojar’s guide on the details of his team’s Everest expedition.

"The interview is part of an effort to account all the factual and circumstantial details of the climbing expedition of all Everest climbers. A report of an official list is expected to come out every end of each climbing season in Nepal. On the other hand, a climber can submit to the process only on a voluntary basis," Mendoza said.

He added that Abenojar’s "arrival photo" is a "‘statement’ that we have submitted to a respected and independent ‘third-party’ authority" — namely Hawley — to establish Abenojar’s feat.

The Standing Committee of China’s Tibet Autonomous Regional People’s Congress enforced in July 2004 "The Rules on Administration of Foreigners’ Mountaineering in Tibet."

The rules were the first of its kind drawn up by Tibet, and state that anyone who comes for mountain-climbing, expedition, skiing, gliding or rock-climbing at a mountain peak over 5,500 meters above the sea level in Tibet or at the border of Tibet should get clearance and certification from the Tibet Mountaineering Association. Abenojar made his climb from the Tibet side and falls under the jurisdiction of the TMA.

Since 1980, Tibet has opened 44 mountain peaks to foreigners and received nearly 6,000 mountaineers from 26 countries.
Coming home
Lisa, Abenojar’s wife, said while she welcomed the issuance of the certificate, she already believed it was her husband who could really lay claim to the honor since she got a call from him last May 15.

"Kahit dati pa naman, alam ko na na siya talaga ang nauna sa taas ng Mt. Everest (Even before, I knew that he was really the first Filipino to reach Mt. Everest)," she told The STAR yesterday.

"What I’m praying for now is that Dale comes home safe and sound," she added.

It was learned that Abenojar was recuperating from frostbite on his left big toe suffered during his climb. Many climbers have lost their lives attempting to reach the peak of Everest.

Lisa said her husband regularly had his frostbitten toe checked but doctors already declared that there was no need for the toe to be amputated.

Aside from the frostbitten toe, Lisa said that her husband — at least in her opinion — should gain back several pounds that he lost during his climb of Mt. Everest, judging from his photos she received through e-mail.

"He looks thin. He lost a lot of weight," she said.

Lisa said her husband, who may come home next week, has been calling her regularly over the past few weeks.

"He sounds okay naman. He sounds excited and happy. Kuwento siya ng kuwento (He keeps telling me) about his climb," she said.

Lisa said Mendoza was among the many people who silently supported her husband’s equally silent expedition to climb Mt. Everest.

She said many people also gave expressions of support that encouraged Abenojar in his quest.

Dale, an adventure sportsman and businessman who engages in the buying and selling of cars, first gained fame when he accomplished the feat of being the first to drive a vehicle, a Land Rover, to the top of Mt. Pinatubo several years ago.

Lisa said her husband was also the first to declare his intention to climb Mt. Everest in 1994, in a bid to be the first Filipino to plant the Philippine flag on top of the mountain.

Abenojar was said to have climbed Mt. Everest through the northern route, said to be the more difficult route.
Dampened mood
Abenojar’s certification may have dampened the mood for the homecoming today of Oracion and his six teammates from the FPMEE, which includes Emata, said to be the second Filipino to reach Mt. Everest’s peak.

Supporters and fans of Oracion and the FPMEE have reportedly prepared a warm "heroes’ welcome" for the team when they arrive via Philippine Airlines flight PR 731 that is scheduled to arrive at 6 p.m. tonight.

Former President Fidel Ramos is expected to welcome the team. A press conference has been scheduled at the Presidential Lounge of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 2, where Oracion and Emata will recount their experiences.

Officials from the team’s sponsors will be on hand to welcome the FPMEE members, headed by former transport undersecretary Arturo Valdez. Other members of the team are Dr. Ted Esguerra, Jong Narciso, JB Añonuevo and Fred Jamili, who served as their support team at the Mt. Everest base camp.

From the airport, the team will proceed to ABS-CBN headquarters in Quezon City for a series of television interviews.

On Wednesday, a motorcade will be held from Manila to the central business district of Makati starting at 2 p.m. to honor the team. There will also be a street party at Baywalk along Roxas Boulevard.

Mark Parlade of Stratworks, the FPMEE’s public relations coordinator, said they will be pushing through with their festivities honoring Oracion and Emata as first and second Filipinos on top of Mt. Everest.

Told of Abenojar’s certificate, Parlade said it was not absolute proof of his claim.

"That’s not all that’s needed to prove that you summited. There’s photos and videos. And several international Mt. Everest mountaineering associations had already recognized Oracion as the first Filipino to reach the summit," Parlade told The STAR.

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