A member of the University of the Philippines Mountaineers, Janet Belarmino is an excellent sport climber, a lawn tennis coach, and a champion triathlete. But even though Janet considers being a consistent winner in the Philippine and Hong Kong legs of the AXN adventure races as one of her many achievements, she says nothing compared to the experience of giving birth. On December 10, 2006, Janet gave birth to her son Himalaya. “He’s my greatest inspiration and motivation, especially in climbing Mt. Everest. [But even while] he made me value life more, [he also made me] realize that there’s more to life than Everest.” Now a happy and contented wife and mother, Janet espouses a balanced life.
Every accomplishment has since then been linked to her son. After spending three long months in the mountains for the Everest expedition, she was so eager to see her son that when she was finally came home and held baby Himalaya in her arms, she felt success was never sweeter. “I was with my teammates when we were welcomed by our families. I knew then I’d achieved true success because I had stood on the top of the world and had come back alive to be with my husband Ricky and my son.” And after that experience, Janet has remained “happy, satisfied, and inspired in my life. I feel so blessed that I also want to share these blessings to other people in any way I can.”
A prized member of the Philippine Dragon Boat team, Noelle Wenceslao has long been a fixture in the AXN races locally and in Hong Kong. But for this expert biker and extreme adventure athlete, Noelle’s biggest triumph came when she and two other Pinays reached the summit of Mt. Everest on May 16, 2007. “It was the first Woman Traverse/ASEAN women in the history of Mt. Everest, accomplished together with my Summit teammates Carina Dayondon and Janet Bellarmino... At the basecamp were our expedition leaders Art Valdez and John Fortes, basecamp managers (and first Filipino Summiteers) Leo Oracion and Pastour Emata, our expedition physician Ted Esguerra (a.k.a. Rescue One), logistics and research Fred Jamili and the Philippine Airlines Mountaineering Club (PALMC), including my father dearest, Peewee Wenceslao,” she recalls as though it were only yesterday.
Noelle’s experiences have proved to her how perseverance, teamwork, and prayer enabled her to succeed in pursuing her passions. She considers becoming a part of this all-Filipino team a feat. “The team accomplished what we once thought was impossible.” More than anything else, reaching the peak of Everest “made me proud to be Filipino.” In her own words, “All the sacrifices would be worth it if it permits us Filipinos to believe in ourselves again.”
Carina Dayondon, who hails from Cagayan de Oro City, is a formidable sport climber. It wasn’t the cash, but the sense of accomplishment, that truly enabled her to pursue climbing Mt. Everest, secure in the knowledge that her family would not go hungry as she pursued training for her dream. “I felt I was right in chasing my dream of climbing Everest,” she says.
Apart from conquering Everest, Carina considers graduating from college an achievement. “I encountered a lot of problems that made it seem I’d never be able to finish my studies,” she says. But Carina has always been determined, and she credits this as part of her success. “It’s all about having passion, perseverance, faith in the Lord, and working hard, of course.” Carina still looks for more things to do and more dreams to achieve. “I’m full of energy and very idealistic, and I hope I’ll always retain my youthful spirit and active lifestyle.”
(First published in Marie Claire, November 2007; Photo by Sara Black)