Essay: An open letter to Filipino mountaineers abroad

Peter Tuazon climbing Mt. Hood, Oregon in 2010

by Gideon Lasco

It is hard to be away from home, but we Filipinos have an intrepid spirit that has taken us in all the corners of the world, in search for a better life for ourselves and our families. For whatever reason – to study, to work, to be with loved ones or to travel and experience the many wonders of our planet – more than a tenth of our population – millions of our countrymen – are spread across the globe. Many more are born abroad – citizens elsewhere but still inexorably Filipino. This is part and parcel of our contemporary situation as a nation.

Many mountaineers are part of this global Filipino community. I know this because I have met some of you in my own journeys, corresponded with you online, and I have seen your pictures – whether in snowy peaks of Alaska or desert hills of Arabia. Whether you are in Singapore looking at the next Malaysia peak to climb, in the US looking for the next national park to visit, or in Japan looking at train timetables to craft your next itinerary, it warms my heart to see my kababayans exploring the world.

And I write to you to express my support to what you are doing.

Nicolas Villareal and fellow Pinoy hikers in Northern Italy

When you climb, and indeed when you form clubs or groups of Pinoys to climb mountains, you reaffirm your belongingness to a community of Filipinos who love the outdoors. You have never really left us. And when you bring our flag to the peaks of this world, you join the chorus of a proud song, one that sings of our determination to be free. let the mountains be our arena of standing proud with the rest of world. Let no one look down on any Filipino, let alone when he is standing on the summit!

There is also an educational value in climbing mountains, and I see this as important because we have much to learn from other countries. Definitely we will have our own national destiny and I am against the glorification of things just because they are abroad. Not all imported goods are good, but some are – and we have to absorb the best of what they can offer us. The way nations treat their national parks, their trails, their mountains- these should give us ideas on how to protect and preserve our own mountains.

Sonny Ongkiko exploring Malham Cove, Yorkshire Dales, United Kingdom

Also, by making friends with fellow climbers from other countries, we are able to build friendships that will in a larger scale translate to a better image for our country . It is not the flag that represents our country, but our own selves. This should be a challenge to everyone who climbs abroad: whatever you do will be a reflection of our nation.

Whenever I meet Filipinos abroad, one of the questions I ask is this: What do you miss the most in the Philippines? In Nepal, some of the Pinays spoke of how sorely they miss daing (dried fish); others spoke lovingly of adobo, of the funny commercials, the beaches, and many more things that make up our culture and our land. For a Filipino mountaineer, I’m sure you will miss our very own mountains, because they are the cradles of our adventurous spirits, and homes of our memories. To those Filipinos who have never seen their homeland, and have never seen our mountains, perhaps there is a longing for you to come home and climb the peaks of our homeland.

Sonia Auld at the summit of Rendezvous Peak, Alaska

But there are mountains out there, too, with their own beauty. Indeed, there is no point arguing about which is better, the Philippine mountains or those abroad. Comparison means little in a world where the really important things are incomparable. A more important virtue is the ability to appreciate all forms of beauty. So, may you find beauty in the seasons as they come and go, in the snow and ice, as well as the rocks and rain, the sands, the heat and the cold.

I am confident that Rizal, too, hiked abroad, for in Chapter 6 of Noli Me Tangere, Ibarra says, reminiscing about his stay in Europe:

A veces me perdia por los senderos de las montañas…
(Sometimes when I wander in the trails of the mountains…)

Surely he learned something from those wanderings! Whatever it is that you learn, wherever you are, may you always have the country in mind and in heart.

To all the Filipinos abroad who continue to climb mountains in all the corners of the world: I salute you. Keep climbing, and carry our flag with pride!

Gideon Lasco
Los Banos, Laguna
June 26, 2013

The blogger at the summit of Pic de l’Aliga at the Spanish Pyrenees

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5 Comments on "Essay: An open letter to Filipino mountaineers abroad"

10 years 9 months ago

this post is indeed inspirational especially for those who dearly miss the country. keep climbing and keep writing. Its like im following a romantic story of a mountaineer and his mountains. Surely, there isnt exclusivity in a mountaineer and mountain dating 🙂

10 years 11 months ago

sana makaakyat uli tau mga ka muonteneer…

10 years 11 months ago

Partylist system is for the underprivileged sector. Better forward your suggestion to DOT.

10 years 11 months ago

Greetings from Mongolia, Doc! Thanks for this very encouraging & touching piece. Really thought-provoking, especially where you said: "It is not the flag that represents our country, but our own selves…Whatever you do will be a reflection of our nation." Will keep this in mind. Btw, it is now spring here so I get to wear my Pinoy Mountaineer shirts outdoors :-). Miss you all, the Snow Mountain Taiwan 2012 group. Warm regards!

10 years 11 months ago

Beautiful piece. If there has to be a party list group to represent local mountaineers, recreational hikers and environmentalists in Congress Dr. Lasco, I believe is the best person to lead it. Building trails and maintaining existing ones and providing certain services to hikers will encourage the young and not-so-young people to regularly go outside and enjoy the outdoors. We need to develop our trail systems that follow certain standards and this can only be done through legislation.